Eze Onyekpere (censoj@gmail.com; 08127235995)

Nigerians are voting on Saturday, February 16, 2019; to either retain the current President or elect a new one entirely. The voting day is already here with us. It is a make or break election and there is no going back on the voting because it is constitutionally imperative. It appears the minds of most Nigerians are already made up, rightly or wrongly. But there must be a result as a product of the voting. The results of the voting will be announced and then, there may be an appeal to the election petitions tribunals. And the decision of the election tribunals may either confirm the status quo or validate a new order based on the law as it is, with a tint of the law as it ought to be.

Suffice it to note that we shall vote but we must watch and protect our votes. Voters must not be indolent; the handwriting on the wall is very clear. There is an attempt to deny our right to elect leaders. There have been various attempts at intimidating the voters and the institutions that are the bulwarks of the protection of fundamental liberties, especially the judiciary and the media. And some parts of the media, on their own, have apparently sold out to the extant powers and oppose positive change. There can be no fundamental liberties when the right to vote is attacked. Also, there are reports of high-level interventions to undermine the electoral system. If the Osun State governorship experience is anything to go by, then, we are in deep trouble. And the police and army in moments of irrationality have promised to repeat the Osun State experience.

In Osun, there was a betrayal of trust. Taxpayers were taken for granted by an obviously partial electoral umpire who conjured an impasse where there was none and the security agencies ensured that the re-run ended in favour of the federal anointed candidate through various documented infractions which were condemned by the local and international observers. And the President even gave a hint of what the ruling party did in Osun through his “remote-control” comment the other day.

The omens are not good. Police Commissioners have been transferred and redeployed a few days to the elections and there is no guarantee of neutrality from the security agencies. The army chief, Tukur Burutai, seeks to be engaged in vote suppression through his plan to roll out another unnecessary operation in the South-East at a time there is no verifiable security challenge. However, there is daily killing of Nigerians in the North-East and routing of the army by the purportedly “technically defeated” Boko Haram and the army chief watches as Nigerians are slaughtered. He cares not but is more concerned with retaining power for the sake of power. The political gladiators who engineered the 2015 propaganda no longer see the daily loss of lives as something to brood over and the President bizarrely declares he had fulfilled all his electoral promises at a time his brothers and sister are daily slaughtered.

Clearly, he cares not about them. He wants power at all cost. The Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, spills venom and unbridled hate speech and the Presidency justifies and endorses the imbecilic line altercations of a man who holds an ambition to be the President of Nigeria one day.

This column opposed the Jonathan Government out of deep patriotism and concern for the good governance of Nigeria. Incidentally, many of the persons in the Buhari administration and their supporters applauded while this lasted. But today, when you oppose Buhari’s failure, barbaric governance, bigotry, divisions, violation of human rights, incompetence and dictatorship which have become the hallmark of his government, some minions who are moved by ethnicity, religion, primordial sentiments and the expectation of filthy lucre engage and abuse use, you begin to see that Nigeria is on a backward pedal. Before Buhari, we took civil and political rights for granted and we were concerned with violations of economic, social and cultural rights. But today, our economic, social and cultural rights have been viciously battered while we are being told to forget our formerly guaranteed civil and political rights. Detentions beyond the 48 hours constitutional prescription, siege on media houses, and mass murders are now part of our daily lives. And the justifications are coming from those who clearly now prescribe a different standard of civility for Nigeria, which is way below the standards of civilised conduct for sane nations. The turncoats now advise Buhari to violate the constitution; they encourage abuse of rights to fair hearing by justifying the taking of a fundamental decision by the Code of Conduct Tribunal’s ex-parte order, at a time when all the parties were already in court. Whatever changed a man like Prof Itse Sagay, who as a student, we venerated, to turn around to justify the ex-parte judgement of the Code of Conduct Tribunal in the Onnoghen’s case is still something that students should conduct an enquiry into. Did the law which he had earlier written about in some wonderful treatise change? Did morality and legality change?

Very senior lawyers who speak from two sides of their mouth as senior advocates at a time the Bench is under attack will have their day of reckoning when the Bar is reformed. The Bench expects protection from the Bar and the two should work together to reform the laws and its policies and practices. But when the Bench is attacked and lawyers from the Bar decide to play to the gallery, it is like when a mother faces attack from some unknown young men at a time she is in the company with a son. She expects her son to be a man and fight for her. But the son joins the attack or stands aloof to mock her. When she cries from her pains, she will cry more about her son’s idiocy more than the blows she received from strangers.

There is God who lives and rules in Heaven and directs the affairs of men and lives and reigns forever, as a person sows shall he reap and only a fool says there is no God. He needs not our agreement to be who He is. We shall all jointly by His grace reap what we sow on Saturday, February 16, 2019. He has given us a free will to determine our today and our future. It is up to us to make that decision. Let no one, after the election, pretend to weep after he has made his decision. We are all in Nigeria, and our decision at the presidential poll will grow or taunt us for the next four years.

It is up to Nigerians and Nigeria to resist tyranny, chart a new course of action or to reaffirm the supremacy of backwardness and violation of human rights. The decision is in our hands.

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