In the run up to the 2011 general elections, many magazines and newspapers predicted that the Presidential elections scheduled for April 2011 would be very violent. A month later, the outcome was about a thousand persons, mainly youths between the ages of 18 and 25, massacred by irate supporters of General Muhammad Buhari, the main challenger of President Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential run-up. Although the Federal Government established a Committee to look into the causes of the 2011 post-election crisis, the masterminds were never brought to justice – portraying the existent dominant ‘culture of impunity’ in Nigeria. In simple words, some people in Nigeria are above the law.
Once again the most populous nation in Africa is on the march to another general election; and from all indications, the 2015 polls may yet become the bloodiest in the political history of Nigeria. The rumblings within the ruling party over the one term agreement – purportedly signed by the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, – and the utterances of some members of the opposition, disgruntled with the widespread corruption, the economic and social situation, the growing insecurity across the country, enhanced by their greed for power and the inherent material benefits associated with holding the higher political offices in the country, leave no one in doubt that post election violence is imminent for 2015.
The infighting in the PDP
Some governors from the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), mainly the ones from the North, have been alleging that President Jonathan, a southerner from the volatile oil-rich Niger Delta, signed an agreement to serve as President for only one term and not to seek re-election in 2015, giving a free-way for a Northern candidate to replace him . However, it appears that the President is not willing to honour the pact if at all it existed.
It has been widely discussed and rumoured that the Northern faction within the PDP, which strongly supported Jonathan’s re-election in 2011, might withdraw support for the incumbent President in favour of a Northern Muslim candidate. Apart from the ‘one-term agreement’ issue there are other factors which indicate such outcome: the widespread corruption and religious violence are alienating Nigerians, mostly northerners, who witness lack of economic development, high levels of unemployment, lack of positive future perspectives and the failure by government in protecting the lives of innocent civilians. All of this is fed with the will by Northern politicians to allocate political power once again to the North, thus feeding private interests of politicians, and thus gaining power over economic affairs and collecting material benefits – since independence political office has been closely linked to attaining economic/materia benefits in Nigeria.
The danger of the infighting within the ruling party may play out as follows. If the President is forced out of office unceremoniously by the Northern governors, his kinsmen may resume their militancy in the creeks at the level witnessed in the last decade. Such development will definitely scale down, or even shut-down,Nigeria’s oil production which, in turn, will inevitably slow down and cripple the economy of the country. As a result, the federal government may be forced to send in troops to the Niger Delta in order to quell the rebellion, in the same way as the military dictatorship that preceded the 1999 re-instating of democracy in the country did. If so the situation may unravel.
The South answers back
Niger Delta militants have been appeased by a fragile amnesty – in its essence a buy-off – which has of late been weakened, giving rise to renewed criminal activities. In addition, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), an umbrella group made up of several ethnically-formed smaller groups in the region, about which experts differ regarding if it is still active or if it is now a defunct organization working solely as an idea, has recently expressed its resentment towards Federal Government’s (FG) intention to consider granting amnesty to Boko Haram (BH), the Muslim militant group, which has been attacking Christians and Muslims alike – according to media and government sources, the death toll is already over one thousand. MEND has threatened to pay in the same coin, i.e., by bombing mosques and killing innocent Muslims. As a matter of fact, reprisals of this kind have already been reported in Kaduna.
Moreover, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the separatist Igbo-dominated organization, may feel tempted to take advantage of the situation and speeds its way towards declaring the creation of the Republic of Biafra. After the March 18 2013, bombings at a bus car park in Kano, which killed many people – the bulk of the victims were Christians – MASSOB declared that tolerance was running out and if violence towards their kin continues, action must be taken.
Now, this sort of action would most likely be to attack and expel Muslims from the South-East. Such development, alike MEND’s threat, would only enrage Muslims and, in a way legitimize BH’s actions in the eyes of Muslim Northerners, politicians and civilians.
Therefore, to see Goodluck Jonathan being replaced by a Muslim candidate, coupled with forgiving thoughts towards BH, regardless of their bloody activities towards a specific target (the bulk of its victim have been Christians), might bring memories of the path to the Nigerian Civil-War, in which thousands of Christians, mainly Igbo ethnics, were targeted by civilian mobs and national security agencies all across Nigeria. Those memories will specially affect MASSOB members, thus proving to be a sort of ‘wake-up call’ to Southerners, namely from the South-South and South-East.
An explosive mixture can result from this events. With dwindling oil revenues and its armed forces fighting in seven states in the North and also on two fronts in the creeks and rainforest regions of the south, Nigeria may yet be facing the greatest threat to its existence as a single unified country since the Nigerian Civil-War almost half a century ago.
The Buhari Factor and Opposition Candidates
In the event that PDP high officials are able to settle their differences and present President Goodluck Jonathan as their Presidential candidate, and if the massive killings by Boko Haram do not provoke violent ‘pay-back’ by the Southerners, the greatest threat to Nigeria becomes the speculative main challenger of the incumbent President. Every sign points out that General Muhammadu Buhari – who ruled the country between 1983 and 1985 – will be the challenger, backed by the recently formed mega-party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), resulting from the merge by the main four opposition parties – representing the South-East, South-West and North. This despite the fact that the APC is still divided on who to support for the elections.
General Muhammadu Buhari has made it clear that any future elections failing in electing him as President will be inevitably flawed, irrespective of whether such elections are considered free and fair by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), over which the former military ruler seems to have no confidence. Thus it would be difficult to see how he would accept any result from that body.
Moreover, with millions of die-hard fanatics of his, the former strongman seems very confident of getting his way. Otherwise, according to him, Nigeria risks an Arab spring of some sort. In 2012, Buhari gave a dire warning of what would happen in 2015: ”If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood”. The General’s statement is very obvious. Therefore, one can conclude that, if Buhari is not elected there will be a bloody revolution, likely to trigger anarchy among the political elite.
Nigerians should brace up for the worst in case Buhari is not elected. To make things worse, General Buhari is not the only politician making threats. Lai Mohammed, Dino Melaye , Ahmad Yerima are among many who have threatened violence one way or the other. And as if to buttress their threats some politicians are stockpiling arms in huge quantities, while some are courting favour from Boko Haram.
We might see once again crowds engaging in communal and even inter-ethnic/religious violence. Politicians, in the same way as they did in previous elections, will use their favourite method of gaining power: what Chinua Achebe defines as the ‘rent-a-crowd’ method. In other words, impoverished youths, mostly in the North, are paid and armed by politicians, with the goal to attack opposing sides and thus provide politicians with increased leverage and power over others. This is where Boko Haram comes into play; it has the man-power and luring capacity, which makes it a powerful ally for any northern politician who wants to surpass others in the political marathon.