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Nigeria 2015: Servicing the instruments of war

Ahead of the 2015 elections, Nigeria's political elites are mired in exchanges of bitter criticism and accusations.

Last updated: 06 Aug 2014 14:19
Casmir Igbokwe

Casmir Igbokwe is editor of The Union, Nigeria's daily newspaper.
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Muhammadu Buhari recently survived an attack on his convoy in Kaduna [AP]

Former Nigerian head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari, is a war veteran. Even as a retired soldier and now an opposition politician, the man still has some form of romance with war.

After losing the 2011 presidential election, this All Progressives Congress (APC) party chieftain became angry with the electoral system. He reportedly said that if what happened in 2011 should happen in 2015, "by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood."

In Nigeria these days, elections seem to be presented in war terms. We all remember former President Olusegun Obasanjo describing the process as a do-or-die affair and it seems that Nigerian politicians are working towards proving him right yet again.

The 2015 general and presidential elections are some six months away and yet the drumbeats of war are already echoing in different parts of the country.

Power struggles

Just a few weeks ago, Buhari warned, "Our country has gone through several rough patches, but never before have I seen a Nigerian President declare war on his own country as we are seeing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian President deploy federal institutions in the service of partisanship as we are witnessing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian President utilise the common wealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, all in the name of politics."

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The former head of state was reacting to the removal and threats to remove some state governors who belong to the main opposition party, the APC. In July, lawmakers from the northeastern state of Adamawa removed the state governor, Murtala Nyako, based on an investigation of alleged financial misconduct.

A probe was also launched by some legislators in Nasarawa State who threatened to remove the state governor, Tanko Al-Makura; the move did not succeed, as accusations against him were dismissed by the panel tasked with the investigation. Tensions over Nyako and Al-Makura's probes rose and now there are also rumours that plans are afoot to remove other opposition governors.

Although the two probes were hinged on gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds, opposition leaders strongly believe that the presidency and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are the unseen hands manipulating the lawmakers.

The Nigerian president and head of PDP has denied this charge, and in response his spokesman, Reuben Abati, announced, "President Jonathan has never at any time ordered that any Nigerian should be kidnapped or that anyone should be crated and forcefully transported in violation of decent norms of governance."

This was a veiled reference to the failed attempt in 1984 to smuggle in a crate the-then exiled former transport minister, Umaru Dikko, from London to Nigeria to face corruption charges. Buhari was the military head of state then.

The idea of crating former politicians to face charges died with Umaru Dikko.  

The real issue today is Boko Haram and both sides seem to conveniently use the group for their own conspiracy theories.

The PDP believes that the opposition uses the dreaded Islamist group to cause confusion and make the government look incapable of governance.

The APC believes the ruling party is using the terrorists to destabilise the north, the stronghold of the opposition party, in order to gain political advantage in the forthcoming elections.

As an APC spokesperson, Mr Osita Okechukwu, reportedly put it, "The worst of Boko Haram attacks are carried out in areas where the PDP is afraid of losing."

Last month, Buhari cheated death when a suicide bomber suspected to be a Boko Haram member attacked his convoy in Kaduna, northwest Nigeria. He strongly believes the incident was a clear assassination attempt on his life and most of his party members seem to agree with him. As expected, they point fingers at the PDP-controlled federal government.

At the same time some pro-government people believe that Buhari masterminded the alleged assassination attempt to attract public sympathy and paint President Jonathan as a bad leader.

This exchange of allegations is clearly ridiculous, to say the least. Buhari couldn't have arranged his own assassination. After all he had condemned Boko Haram and the group had threatened him directly before the incident. It is equally implausible that the government planned to kill him and sent a suicide bomber for the task.

Accusations and counter-accusations

Some politicians are merely capitalising on the poor security situation in the country to achieve political gains.

Their accusations and counter-accusations have become a pastime. In Osun, southwest Nigeria, the PDP claimed that its governorship campaign train came under attack at a rally in the Ilesa area of the state recently.

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The APC followed suit with a petition to President Jonathan, alleging plot to kill one of its governors - Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State.

The party further alleged that troops sent to provide security for the June 21 governorship election in Ekiti State also harassed and intimidated the opposition.

Ironically, the federal government deployed troops during the governorship election in Edo State in July 2012. That year the opposition governor, Adams Oshiomhole, not only won the election but also commended the Federal Government for deploying troops to maintain law and order.

For now, the PDP appears to be gaining ground over the opposition. Since it changed its national chairman in January, the ruling party has been reaping good fortunes.

Some strong opposition leaders have defected to the party, including the former governor of Sokoto state, Attahiru Bafarawa; former governor of Kano state, Ibrahim Shekarau; former military administrator of Lagos state, Buba Marwa and former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff.

Currently, the PDP controls 20 states while the APC controls 14. In the governorship election held last June in the southwestern state of Ekiti - a supposed stronghold of the opposition - the PDP won.

More cross-carpeting and tension will follow when President Jonathan formally declares his intention to run for the 2015 presidential race. Some Niger Delta warlords have threatened that it's either him or nobody else. 

But some northern leaders, who believe that it is the turn of the north to take the presidency, are ready to do anything to stop him.

So far, the two main parties have deployed what has been termed "stomach infrastructure" to outwit each other. Occasionally, they dole out gift items, especially foodstuff such as rice, to gullible citizens to win support. 

Besides, some politicians indulge in ritual practices to win elections. Each time a major election approaches, as in 2015, there is usually an increase in cases of ritual killings in different parts of the country.   

In all this, only a few politicians have the interest of the masses at heart, while the rest of them struggle to grab power for their selfish interests.

Casmir Igbokwe is editor of The Union, Nigeria's daily newspaper.

Follow him on Twitter: @CashIgbokwe 

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The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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