By Sunny Awhefeada
Adversity is an uncommon teacher. Embedded in the lessons offered by adversity is a rare kind of wisdom attributable only to philosophers.
Adversity confers on the victim the equanimity that comes with profound and pure thought. It elevates the mind as it cultures the tongue. Those old enough during the crises occasioned by the June 12, 1993 election can attest to how adversity turned the undeclared winner of that election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, into a philosopher who minted quotable quotes and wise sayings that aggregate philosophical concepts. Had Abiola survived and had time to write about his discursive engagement with the June 12 struggle, his submissions would have integrated him into the rank of global thought leaders. Such was the effect of political adversity on Abiola that his signature boisterous character gave way to a distilled mind, sober mien and mouth. Abiola’s predicament was not personal, but it was a Pan-Nigerian dilemma that didn’t yield the anticipated result.
Abiola and many well-meaning Nigerians who signed in for the struggle had envisaged it as a watershed that will consolidate our march to nationhood. Sadly, that march was aborted because of propensity to collective self-subversion. Those on whom mandate were conferred jumped ship and others who had no sense of conviction couldn’t survive the season of sacrifice and jumped at the gravy train.
The struggle ended with Nigerians as the vanquished.
The recent presidential election was another June 12 in a different but similar context of our historical evolution and national agony. June 12 was a Pan-Nigerian manifestation of an ideal that threatened a decadent order that thwarted our march to nationhood for thirty years. That decadent order still subsists in a more virulent nature. The last presidential election threatened that decadence, but it fought back and those who hoist its flag and represent its morbid tendencies had a field day.
Although, the February 25 presidential election was not annulled like June 12, it turned out as a negation of popular mandate as represented by the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Mr. Peter Obi. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced a winner in Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but he was INEC’s winner and not the people’s winner. Obi won the people like Abiola did thirty years ago. The difference is that while the military orchestrated Abiola’s predicament at gun point, Obi’s denial took place in civvy street with a stroke of the pen. It thus happened that Nigeria was once again betrayed. Sadly, those who betrayed her a few Saturdays ago had been in the trenches to fight the cause of June 12 three decades earlier.
When the tentative steps that led to the elections of February 25 began a year ago, there were mixed feelings embedded in hopes and impediments in equal measures. The popular thinking driven by optimism was anchored on a number of factors especially the assurance and readiness by INEC to deliver a free and fair election. It was also thought that twenty-four years into the present democratic order we should be able to look back and get things right.
What was more? There is a mass of the millennials who were bent on changing the course of their country’s history.
Again, there were two remarkable men that the populace hoped the two leading political parties will throw up as presidential candidates in Peter Obi and Yemi Osibanjo.
Both men are brilliant, critical and creative, politically tested and have all it takes to take Nigeria to the next destination of greatness in our quest for nationhood. But then a fear gnawed at the soul of the nation. That fear stems from our predilection to always sabotage our dreams when they are about to materialize. The reality of that fear not only played out, but it ensured that another hope was betrayed in the outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
The road that led here was occasioned by factors that border on benighted selfishness which is antithetical to patriotism and nationalism. First was the unpatriotic aloofness of President Muhammadu Buhari in the course of his outgoing administration. As president, he neither inspired patriotism nor courage. Although, he made a few statements attributable to statesmen, he couldn’t match his words with action. For that, many of his close associates saw Nigeria as an object to be cannibalized according to their fancies.
They put their personal interest over that of the nation. With a president that was monumentally ineffectual and without a vision for Nigeria, those in the corridors of power schemed for the retrogression of Nigeria. They recruited their ilk from around the country and across political and religious divides. They teamed up and undid Nigeria for the umpteenth time.
The glimmer of hope that made hearts light at a point was the possibility of the APC fielding Professor Yemi Osibanjo as its presidential candidate while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will put forth Peter Obi. Both men have their ideals and grand vision for Nigeria. In their failure lies the failure of Nigeria. Somehow, money and strong arm tactics relegated Osibanjo to the rear as the cloak and dagger gang of Tinubu held sway. In the PDP, the character of Nyesom Wike who played the goblin unsettled what was taken for granted.
The PDP wanted the presidency to come to the South, the South-East, in particular. But an over conceited Wike had some funny ideas. He also wanted to be president. He went on to launch his ambition by first unhinging the PDP. The feud between him and his old protégé, Uche Secondus, has its roots here. Other party leaders seeing Wike as a bull in a China shop moved to save the party by drafting Atiku Abubakar who they saw as the only force who could stop Wike.
That was how the quest for Southern presidency ended in the PDP.
Seeing that the PDP had reneged on the idea of Southern presidency, Peter Obi left and pitched tent with the Labour Party (LP). He was at first given no chance of survival. He was jeered and told that he had no structure, but he told them that the people were his structure.
He evolved a programme of action encapsulating his vision for a new Nigeria. His message resonated across the land. The youths, especially, found succor in what he was offering and they joined his wagon of hope.
It soon became a movement. Those who told him that he had no structure got panicked and ate their words. Opinion poll after opinion poll put him ahead as the one favouerd to win the presidential election. Group after group endorsed his candidacy and what has now become known as the “Obidient Movement” with “obidient” deriving from his name “Obi” took the nation by storm. The party logo made up of a man, woman and child soon creatively took the visual narrative of “papa, mama and pickin” and it resonated with the hoi polloi.
Many Nigerians were upbeat that come what may, a new order was at hand. But that was not to be. The election came and Obi lost. Hope and rebirth lost. Nigeria lost. INEC has since declared Tinubu as the winner. But to the people, Tinubu didn’t win. Hence his camp couldn’t jubilate. Thieves do not openly celebrate their loot. Tinubu didn’t win because as Peter Obi said in Arise Television interview, “to win is to win the people”.
The wisdom which only adversity confers inspired Obi to make that statement. Tinubu didn’t win the people. A lot of underhand dealings took place and again Nigeria happened to the election. Tomorrow, Saturday 18 March, we shall again troop out to vote in the governorship and House of Assembly election. The outcome of the presidential election has taken the shine out of tomorrow’s election. The people do not know what manner or magnitude of electoral heist lay in wait tomorrow.
Rogues of yesterday are feigning to be change agents today. The people should reject them. We must not give up on our quest to build our country. Our present ordeals should be seen as necessary lessons that will sustain us “on that day that sets us free”. Yes, that day when we shall enshrine Obi’s submission of “to win is to win the people” in our hearts as a creed.