I have had cause to argue before now that those who seized the reins of governance in Nigeria, using the February 25 presidential election as their footstool, saw the end from the beginning. They had a roadmap; a well programmed plan of action on how to take over Nigeria. The plan was hatched by a tiny cabal which has read Nigeria like a book. The shadowy group was led by henchmen who can predict with clinical accuracy, or something close to it, how Nigerians can possibly react in any given situation.
Prominent among this clique were northern elements who had grudgingly accepted to cede power to the South. Eight years of Muhammadu Buhari as president had given them so much lever. They were tempted to have the North retain power beyond Buhari. But the counterpoise read otherwise. It indicated that such a line of action could be ominous. Apparently forced into a reverse gear by fear of the unknown, the cabal decided in favour of power shift to the South. But that did not come without strings. One of them was that the new order or regime of power must protect their narrow, selfish interests, whatever they may be.
To ensure that this was the case, they put the South on the scale. They reasoned that the South East has a good reason to aim at the presidency. The zone has been shut out of the highest political office in the land since the end of the Civil War in 1970. The plotters knew this much. But they were persuaded by other considerations. In the final analysis, they came away with the verdict that it would not be a bad idea if the South East remained shut out from the most sought after governmental position. This would be for strategic reasons. Their point of view was largely informed by the harrowing experiences of 1966 to 1967 that forced the Eastern Region to secede from Nigeria. The northern cabal took an easy recourse to this and dreaded any arrangement that could restore what they call Igbo domination.
Anybody who wants to understand the workings of the mind of the northern cabal on this issue should listen to the bitter outpourings of the likes of Sani Zangon Daura. This man was a prominent member of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet. He and his cohorts were behind the anti-Igbo policies of the Buhari administration. Daura’s recent interview with the Nigerian Television Authority tells all that we need to know about why the northern cabal was rabidly opposed to the idea of power shift to the South East. The received notion among the Dauras of northern Nigeria is that the motive behind the January 1966 coup was for the Igbo to dominate the rest of the country. Daura said the North was yet to forgive the Igbo for the events of 1966 and cannot, therefore, trust them with power.
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Hateful remarks such as those of Sani Daura may not have served the interest of the South East in the permutations and calculations for the presidential race in 2023. The disapproving tendency led by the Dauras of the North may also have quickened and reinforced the decision of the cabal to back the presidential quest of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a southwesterner, as a counterpoise to the push by the South East. However, having shoved aside the presidential quest of the South East, Tinubu, the representative of the South West, their preferred zone, was not going to be served power on a platter of gold. Terms and conditions favourable to the cabal must apply. The most prominent among them was same-faith ticket. It is needless to emphasize the fact that one of the things that the northern cabal holds dear is the sustenance of Islamic dominance in the affairs of Nigeria. How will power shift to the South ensure this? The calculation was simple enough. Get a southern Muslim to pair up with a northern Muslim and you have a perfect order. This was how the idea of Muslim-Muslim ticket was sold to Tinubu. It was a condition he needed to meet to get the support of the cabal. Tinubu wanted power at all costs, and so he gave in to the demand. He was told to dismiss thoughts of a possible backlash, and he did so with a wave of the hand.
How then does the southern candidate chosen and anointed by the northern cabal win the presidency, especially in the face of the baggage that comes with same-faith ticket? This was the task before the plotters. The challenge looked enormous. But they had a way around it. The clincher was that Buhari, who was one of them, was President at that point in time. They were going to get him to deploy all the instruments of state power at his disposal. Central in this calculation was the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). They understood that taking control of the electoral commission was a significant way forward in installing the candidate of their choice. Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the commission, was a willing tool. He readily joined the plot. That was how INEC led by him became an appendage of the Buhari presidency. Under the arrangement, the job of the electoral commission was to declare the anointed candidate winner, no matter how irregular the process might be.
Emboldened by this must-win arrangement, Tinubu the man who had been programmed to become President by the cabal, needed to do things differently. That was why he was not interested in doing what other presidential candidates were doing. He never, for instance, participated in any town hall session or presidential debate because that would play no role in making him President. He was already looking at the end and presidential debates will not be of any substance in the attainment of the predetermined objective. What mattered was for INEC, which had been fully briefed, to declare the anointed candidate elected, regardless of what anybody may say. This was how the February 25 presidential election was won and lost.
As democrats who must play by the rules, those who had been rigged out had to resort to the law. They petitioned the courts in the hope that justice could be served. But like other institutions of state, the judiciary was properly factored into the equation of the plotters. They knew that those who have been schemed out will take recourse to the judicial process. And so, when the aggrieved approached the courts, the plotters had a good laugh. Again, they knew the end from the very beginning. The judicial outcomes were already in the hands of the power grabbers.
The plot just came to an end with Nigerians behaving as if nothing unusual happened. The plotters have won. They have captured the Nigerian state. But this is just the beginning. The motion of history towards instability in situations like this is the next inevitable phase.