On February 7, 2015, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), formally announced the postponement of the 2015 general elections confirming speculations that have been going round Nigeria’s political landscape over the readiness of the electoral umpire, to conduct the elections as well as fears over security challenges.
Weeks prior to the deferment, not a few rich individuals and the well-heeled in the society were certain of what would become of the country during and after the elections. They included businessmen, captains of industries, politicians, technocrats and top civil servants
And to protect and preserved themselves and their loved ones, they made spirited arrangements, procured the necessary travelling documents and ferreted their precious ones abroad. Anywhere outside Nigeria’s shores could do; Togo, Ghana, Gambia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Europe and the United States were the main destinations.
The flustered voyage was not limited to trips outside the country; there were also people relocating from the North to the South as Nigerians, particularly the Igbo moved in droves with any available means of transportation to their villages, towns and other perceived safer grounds.
From Asaba, through Onitsha down to Port Harcourt, Aba and Umuahia, 40th-feet articulated trucks most of which brought in cattle and food crops like yam, tomatoes and onions down the South were busy loading hundreds of Nigerians of the northern extraction back to the North.
The foreigners in the country were not left out in the race for life and to avoid being caught in the crossfire, they hurriedly rapped up whatever they were doing in the country and sprinted back to their home countries.
For those who were not affected by any movement, they busied themselves stockpiling their homes with foodstuffs and other necessities such as firewood, kerosene as well as withdrew money to keep at home. “Nobody knew what was going to happen so we stocked our house with whatever we thought would be required to sustain us for at least three weeks,” Chukwuedo Amam, a resident of Abuja volunteered of what they did prior to the presidential election.
The fear was that there would definitely be chaos, anarchy and even outright war during and post-elections. This fear was fuelled by the hate campaign of the two main contenders in the general elections – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the consequent twitchy political landscape, the noxious terrorists activities of Boko Haram in the North East, the increasing menace of MASSOB/IPOD in the South East, restiveness of militants and pirates in the South South, among others.
This fear was actually sparked off and given credence to by the US prediction piloted by the CIA that Nigeria, as a nation will cease to exist by 2015. The prediction that dates back to 2005 may have prompted the United States military to conducted a war games test called Unified Quest in 2008, to ascertain how its military might respond to a war in parts of Africa including Nigeria. In August 2014, a former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell echoed his prediction made in 2011 that Nigeria would not exist beyond 2015.
However the efforts of the various peace initiatives to ensure violence-free 2015 electoral process, symbolic as they were must be lauded. In particular, the famous Abuja accord brokered by Kofi Annan, Emeka Anyaoku and the Abdulsalami Abubakar-led Peace Committee remains commendable.
The peace accord was signed by the stakeholders including the two major rivals then President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and the then presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, incumbent President Mohammadu Buhari. Though there were reported cases of violence, killings, destruction of property, arson, snatching of ballot boxes etc., during the presidential election of March 28, there was no cause for alarm as an uneasy calm pervaded the entire political landscape until the former Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe began his ‘macabre dance’
The crescendo was rising, Nigerians held their breadth, and for 30minutes while the cadaverous game lasted people expected a bomb to go off somewhere, a community to be on fire, a brouhaha with people running helter-skelter. But by providence there was this historic phone call from Jonathan to Buhari; and all of a sudden, the tension vanished … the burden was lifted and Nigeria heaved a sigh of relief, Nigeria escaped by a hair’s breadth. The altruistic role Jonathan played in averting post-election violence and catastrophe in Nigeria was heroic to say the least.
An Executive Director with Kukah Centre, Dr. Arthur-Martins Aginam, lauded the then president for his unselfish commitment to peace. “Credit should go to the president (Jonathan) and if he wanted not to be a statesman he could have chosen that path and it is not as if anybody put a gun on his head or prevailed on him and he had said all through the campaign that his ambition is not worth the life of any Nigerian and what he did was simply a reaffirmation of all that he had been saying.”
Apart from Jonathan, the Peace Committee members, the former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega and the service chiefs including the Inspector General of Police must be commended for their commitment in forestalling anarchy and war that would have turned the entire West African region into a refugee zone. It was an anti-climax of sort but it signposts a year – 2015 – that so many expected the worst for Nigeria and it never came to pass.
Chief Anyaoku admitted this much in a statement issued recently in Abuja, when he said that 2015 also witnessed growing threat of destructive violence to the national electoral process with potential unacceptable consequences for the integrity of the nation.
“But thanks to the initiative by some elder-statesmen that led to the signing of the Abuja Accord of violence-free campaigns by the 14 presidential candidates and their political parties.
“The elections were peaceful, which enabled the country to progress its evolving democracy by having for the first time a peaceful change of government from a ruling to an opposition party,’’ he said.
This also informed a word of caution for President Buhari by a cleric, Primate Elijah Ayodele of INRI Evangelistic Church, over former President Goodluck Jonathan. He said that there was need to handled matters affecting the former President with care so as not to boomerang.
Recently Jonathan alongside President Buhari, were named among the “100 most influential Africans of 2015”. The list published by pan African magazine “New African” presents Africa’s definitive power list and profiles the continent’s top ‘game changers’ in eight different fields. President Buhari and ex-President Jonathan made the list for the significant role they played in Nigeria’s 2015 elections, which saw the first successful transfer of power from a ruling government to an opposition party in Nigeria.
Jonathan’s humility in defeat and Buhari’s magnanimity in victory ensured that Nigeria avoided a post-election crisis.
“What Jonathan did was a show of statesmanship, it was full of wisdom and it was for justice and peace of the nation because if he had done otherwise there could have been war in the country. I praise his courage,” Chief Edwin Uzor, chairman of PDP in Delta state said.
Uzor also commended the Peace Accord committee members particularly Anyaoku and Abdulsalami for their efforts in ensuring the peace adding: “The result of their efforts contributed greatly to Jonathan’s historic act. Other leaders should emulate what Jonathan has done.”
However Mr. Frank Esenwa, a legal practitioner and politician, warned in an interview with The Guardian that Nigeria may not have come out of the woods given prevailing events in the country.
“You know sometimes some of these predictions the dates may not be exact, its also possible that some of those things might turn up at some point in time; that it did not happen in 2015 does not mean it can not happen because what you even have on ground now shows that we are still sitting on some kind of keg of gun powder – Shiites wahala the IPOB/MASSOB wahala, the militants in Niger Delta I doubt if they are settled yet, the Dasukigate thing is sure going to rope in a lot of people that are going to fight and fight nasty,” he stated.
In a manner of speaking, yes Anyaoku, Abdulsalam and co should be commended. I am sure they must have prevailed on Jonathan at some point in time,” he added.