HARD NEWS, Newspaper Column

Election Date – Revolution In My Head

By M. Babajide-Alabi

It is no longer news that the hitherto scheduled and anticipated 2015 Nigeria General Elections did not hold yesterday. Instead Nigerians went out joyously to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We did not vote, but the day was not wasted. Lovers were all over the town. Husbands and wives “feigned” love as they present their spouses with flowers, cards and chocolates. To them, love should only be “expressed” once a year on Valentine’s Day. And for some wives, yesterday was no different, as their husbands still “played away game” with the excuse of official “duties”. To these set of people, they would have preferred the election held, so as to keep the husbands indoors. But it never happened.

Generally, it is a relief that when the election holds in six weeks’ time, there would not be any “clash of interests” between “voting” and “loving” as it would have happened yesterday had the election gone ahead. In six weeks, it shall be purely election.

Valentine Day aside. There have been reactions from Nigerians on the shift in the election date as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). These reactions ranged from, on the part of some Nigerians, disappointment, to disillusionment by politicians and obvious lack of preparations on the part of the electoral agency. Thinking about the reactions, one cannot but wonder if the government, security agencies and INEC had envisaged an easy passage for them as they are getting now. The reaction, has, to say the least, been very controlled and cautious.

Based on the initial reactions of a few notable politicians, nouveau progressives and “extremists” political analysts cum “vindictive” blogs, when the kite of date change was first flown by the National Security Adviser, the government must have expected a “violent” reaction. The opposite seems to be the case.

Prior to the official announcement last week and immediately before the Council of State meeting there were unconfirmed rumours of a change of date on the social and traditional media. The opposition groups took up the rumour, “redressed” it, publicised it adequately and thereafter went to town with various conspiracy theories about the shift of date. Mostly the conclusion was that the incumbent government was planning to use the postponement as an excuse to extend its stay in power. Some Nigerians bought this “logic”.

The opposition had a field day, as the supporters of the change of date rather than engage in war of words kept quiet and seemed “silently” pushing ahead with the idea. The polity was heated up, as the seed of distrust, for whatever reason the election date might be changed, was sown in the minds of Nigerians, while the opposition “watered” it to germinate.

As usual, some of the politicians and “wannabe” progressives/civil rights apprentices seized the opportunity to position themselves, according to them, on the side of the masses against any reason INEC could be considering a postponement. They spoke on behalf of the masses and categorically stated that Nigerians will not accept any proposal of change of date of the elections. They became the voices of the people.
On the backdrop of this emerged “great” political analysts and commentators. On local, national and international television stations, they were there “shooting” down any excuse INEC might be thinking of using for the postponement. On social media, their messages became viral while giving them more confidence to kick INEC and the government in the backside.

To some of them, any proposed change in the date should be dropped because going ahead with it will automatically “sound the death knell for the country Nigeria”. The conspiracy theorists believed Nigeria cannot survive beyond the February 14th date should INEC go ahead and shift the date.

It was quite interesting to read the various opinions of these “analysts”. Some are educated Nigerians who, rather than subject the idea to thorough examination, were beclouded by their biases and therefore could not see beyond the “Valentine date”. They started the revolution songs. They quoted copiously from notable civil rights leaders while in their heads, they imagined themselves calling the revolution “shot” with the track of the legend Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” playing in the background.

They canvassed revolution in Nigeria. Not the type that happens in the head of buyer, but the violent type. The ordinary man on the street was just amused by the antics of the opposition groups. They could not suppress their giggles when some of these politicians and political analysts calling for revolution are more influenced by personal gains than the national interests. However, the politicians and analysts/commentators were not joking.

They warned that the scale of the Nigerian revolution would put to shame the Arab Springs of a few years ago. To them, the time is ripe for a revolution to take place in the country as a way out of the “mess” we are in. They warned, not just a revolution but a bloody one. The ordinary Nigerians scratched their heads and wondered why this over the top reaction on the change of date. They said aloud that it had happened before and heaven did not fall. So, why now?

The analysts thought they could read the minds of ordinary Nigerians, but was wrong. The cry for revolution was not seconded at all. The masses reasoned that Nigeria’s problems can be solved via ballot boxes and not through “Aluta” revolution.

A friend of mine piqued by their actions wrote in the social media the feelings of majority of Nigerians. He said some of the people calling for revolution had not ever engaged in street fight in their life time. But they are now leading the call for revolution.

This, to me and many Nigerians summed up the feelings of ordinary men and women on the streets. They are not bothered about when the elections are held, as long as it holds and they are able to exercise their rights. Nigerians are wiser than the tactics of these rabble-rousers.

Little wonder why there was no violence after INEC chairman officially announced the postponement of the elections? Nigerians know a revolution is a mass, spontaneous action of the people and not crafty ploy of a few self-centred individuals or groups; the same set of people who are part of the problems that solution is being sought for.

Published in Sunday Vanguard of February 15th 2015.

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