Abdullahi Usman

Abdullahi Usman

The much anticipated launch of one of the first in the series of publications on the 2015 general elections titled, "Against the Run of Play: How an incumbent president was defeated in Nigeria", has come and gone. As part of the build up to its public presentation in Lagos on Friday, April 28, 2017, several print and online media outlets provided their readers with snippets, in the form of serialised sections of the book, which further heightened public expectation ahead of its formal launch. Following from these serialized snippets, a number of the principal actors featured in the book, who had cause to disagree with claims made by certain individuals in different chapters of the book, have offered their own perspectives and counter narratives to some of the accounts, while some major foreign missions also issued statements absolving their respective countries of any complicity in the election's outcome, as claimed. One of such issues raised is a rather curious claim relating to an alleged huge disparity in the election results from Kano in respect of the two sets of elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday, March 28, 2015; i.e. the presidential and National Assembly elections.

Much as one would ordinarily have preferred to steer clear from making any comments on this matter, it is highly imperative that issues like this, which have already been captured in book form for posterity, are promptly clarified, lest they become accepted as the gospel truth by generations to come. Before I get to the specifics of the claim proper, however, it is important that I drop an important disclaimer: this intervention represents nothing more than an effort at setting the records straight, using verifiable figures from officially declared results of those elections. It is not an attempt at joining issues with anyone in particular, especially in view of the public standing of some of the individuals involved. It is also not meant as a challenge to the author of this important publication regarding the accuracy of the figures quoted, as he was merely reproducing information relayed to him and verified over several interview sessions with the respective respondents in the course of compiling the book. I will, therefore, try as much as possible to avoid making direct reference to any individual or political party by name, even as nobody who has either read the book, or followed the news leading up to its formal launch, will be left in any doubt as to the real identity of the personalities and/or entities involved.

In the introductory section on pages 17 and 18 of the 221-page book, reference was made to a potential disparity of one million votes in the declared election results from Kano State, as reported, inter alia; "Go and check the results from Kano. The presidential election and that of National Assembly happened on the same day and same time. The National Assembly result reflected that about 800,000 people voted but that of the presidential election reflected a vote of about 1.8 million". In the same introductory section, a friend and former colleague in the electoral commission described this as "nothing particularly special", and went on to explain, amongst others, that the alleged scenario in Kano was a "general trend (across the country) as many voters were more interested in the presidential election than in other elections", even though he was not specifically recorded as having disputed that outrageous disparity as projected in the distorted claim he was referring to.

While not necessarily disagreeing with the above submission regarding possible voter preferences with respect to different elections, it is very important to stress, for the purpose of emphasis, that the figures ascribed to each of the two elections in the earlier statement were nowhere near the actual number of voters in the officially declared results of the two elections. This is particularly necessary, in view of the fact that similar reasons had earlier been adduced to explain away an identical situation that occurred during the disputed 2003 general elections, where the total votes cast in respect of the presidential election in Ogun State exceeded those of the governorship election by a whopping 618,017 votes, even though both elections were held at the same time, with each voter issued with the two sets of ballots simultaneously.

For the records, the two elections in reference were conducted simultaneously nationwide on March 28, 2015, with National Assembly election here referring to the election for the positions of Senator and House of Representatives member in each state's three Senatorial Districts and stipulated number of Federal Constituencies respectively. Therefore, in essence, three separate elections were simultaneously conducted on the said date, comprising the presidential election, representing a single election for the position of president nationwide; senatorial election, made up of three seats per state, and; House of Representatives election, where the number of seats up for grabs varied from state to state.

As a result, for the purpose of comparing the number of people that voted in the presidential election with the voter turnout in each of the two other distinct National Assembly elections in any state, we must first individually arrive at the total number of votes cast in each of the two separate National Assembly elections in that state. And, to do that, the three Senatorial Districts vote tallies must necessarily be added together to get the cumulative number in respect of the senatorial election in the entire state, while the total number of Federal Constituencies in respect of the House of Representatives seats contested for in that state (which happens to be 24 in the case of Kano) must equally be tallied together to arrive at the grand total. The three can then be compared to see if there is any disparity amongst them, before we can then begin to talk about what the probable reasons for such a disparity - if any - might possibly be.

As we may recall from our elementary school mathematics lessons, the part cannot be greater than the whole. Consequently, the reference to 1.8 million as the total number of people that voted in the presidential election in Kano cannot logically be correct, in a situation where one of the 14 presidential candidates alone secured over 1.9 million votes in that same election. In truth, therefore, the total number of votes cast in the 2015 presidential election in Kano State was 2,172,447, as captured on INEC's official results collation document, the Presidential Election Summary of Results From States "Form EC 8D (A)", a stamped and sealed copy of which was given out to agents of all the 14 political parties on the ballot, as well as to representatives of each of the security agencies present at the International Conference Centre Results Collation Centre, following the formal declaration of results by the Commission in the early hours of Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

This figure is broken down as follows: party/candidate with the highest number of votes scored a total of 1,903,999 votes; party/candidate that came second scored 215,779 votes; the remaining 12 parties/candidates cumulatively scored a total of 9,043 votes (which made it essentially a two horse race), giving the total valid votes as 2,128,821, while the number of rejected votes stood at 43,626, representing 2.01% of total votes cast. Total number of registered voters in the state was 4,943,862, while number of accredited voters was 2,364,434, with the difference of 191,987 between this figure and total votes cast accounted for by those that failed to show up and cast their vote after accreditation (which, as we may recall, was conducted separate from voting).

The rejected votes as a percentage of total votes cast of 2.01% for Kano is not dissimilar to that of many other states that recorded large voter turnout across the country during that election. Examples of such are Kaduna (total votes cast - 1,650,201), Rivers (1,584,768 votes), Katsina (1,481,714 votes), Delta (1,284,848 votes) and Akwa Ibom (1,028,551 votes) with rejected votes percentages of 1.98%, 1.22%, 2.17%, 1.33% and 1.12% respectively. The overall rejected votes percentage nationwide stood at 2.87% of the 29,432,083 total votes cast, compared to 3.19% recorded during the 2011 general elections (total votes cast - 39,469,484), which serves as indicator to the probable success of the massive voter education program that preceded the 2015 general elections. In terms of the two National Assembly elections, both of which also ended up as a two horse race between the two leading political parties in the country, the breakdown of INEC's officially declared results in respect of votes scored by the two major parties as published in various national dailies (i.e. excluding rejected votes and the cumulative votes scored by the other competing parties in the election) across the three Senatorial Districts and 24 Federal Constituencies in the state are as follows: Senatorial election:- (1) Kano Central: Winning candidate - 758,383; Runner-up -205,809. (2) Kano North: Winning candidate - 381,393; Runner-up - 107,845. (3) Kano South: Winning candidate - 498,528; Runner-up - 145,923. Total votes scored by the two leading political parties in the contest amounts to 2,097,881 (excluding rejected ballots and votes scored by the remaining political parties that contested for the election in each Senatorial District, which could be responsible for the difference of 74,566 between this figure and the total votes cast in the presidential election).

House of Representatives election:- (1) Rano/Kibiya/Bunkure: Winner - 66,091; Runner-up - 30,129. (2) Karaye/Rogo - 54,907; Runner-up - 30,129. (3) Dala: Winner -91,616; Runner-up - 4,740. (4) Nasarawa: Winner - 111,473; Runner-up - 12, 608. (5) Fagge: Winner - 44,226; Runner-up - 12,700. (6) Dawakin Tofa/Tofa/Rimin Gado: Winner - 79,473; Runner-up - 21,490. (7) Kura/Madobi/Garun-Mallan: Winner - 82,555; Runner-up - 30,708. (8) Ungogo/Minjibir: Winner - 89,945; Runner-up - 23,993. (9) Bagwai/Shanono: Winner - 48,548; Runner-up - 18,864. (10) Gwarzo/Kabo: Winner -67,770; Runner-up - 17,610. (11) Kunchi/Tsanyawa: Winner - 53,250; Runner-up -9,550. (12) Takai/Sumaila: Winner - 79,486; Runner-up - 21,521; (13) Tarauni: Winner -55,221; Runner-up - 14,013. (14) Gezawa/Gabasawa: Winner - 65,114; Runner-up -17,553. (15) Bichi: Winner - 39,408; Runner-up - 11,862. (16) Danbatta/Makoda: Winner - 52,871; Runner-up - 17,988. (17) Tudun Wada/Doguwa: Winner - 67,350; Runner-up - 16,844. (18) Dawakin Kudu/Warawa: Winner - 57,528; Runner-up - 21,338. (19) Kano

Municipal Council: Winner - 81,104; Runner-up - 14,804. (20) Kumbotso: Winner -50,549; 1st Runner-up - 14,239; 2nd Runner-up - 6,762. (21) Gwale: Winner - 47,179; Runner-up -13,382. (22) Kiru/Bebeji: Winner - 55,589; Runner-up - 22,674. (23)Wudil/Garko: Winner - 65,905; Runner-up - 11,169. (24) Gaya/Ajingi/Albasu: Winner - 94,782; Runner-up - 13,862. Total votes scored by the two leading political parties in the House of Representatives election across the state amounts to 2,032,472 (excluding rejected ballots and votes scored by the remaining political parties that contested for the election in each Federal Constituency, which could also account for the shortfall of 139,975 votes in comparison to the presidential election votes tally). From the foregoing breakdown of votes tally across the three elections conducted on March 28, 2015 in Kano state, therefore, it is quite evident that any allusion to a probable disparity of one million votes between the number of people that voted in the presidential election and those that voted in either of the two National Assembly elections is nothing but an illusion.

Abdullahi Usman ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )
PA to former INEC Chairman
May 2, 2017

 

"In times like these, it's helpful to remember that there have always been times like these." - Paul Harvey Aurandt

Over the course of the greater part of the last seven years or thereabouts, I have always struggled against the persistent urge to break my privately imposed self-restraint about dabbling in, and joining the fray to discuss what I personally consider as political or politics related matters affecting the country. This voluntary refrain, which has sometimes been very difficult for me to abide by, began exactly one month shy of seven years ago today, precisely on July 12, 2010, following my conscious decision to take up an appointment requiring that I maintain a completely apolitical disposition at all times, as much as humanly possible.

Certain strange happenings around the country within the last few weeks or so, have thrown up a lot of questions, leaving one wondering what exactly is going on, or wrong with us all. In the immortal words of Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel, however, "sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple." While on the surface of it, these seemingly innocuous and separate, but closely related series of events might appear to be predominantly ethnic or tribal in nature, the underlying factor behind them may not be unconnected with the fallouts of the 2015 general elections, as well as the ever looming politics around the 2019 general elections, which is now just under two years away.

Almost two years to the day since leaving that particular appointment on June 30, 2015, one somehow still finds oneself beholden to that vow, which one has successfully managed to keep thus far, with very few exceptions; those exceptions being the handful of times I felt inexorably compelled to utilise particular information at my disposal to attempt to dispel certain misconceptions being conveyed to the general public regarding specific events around the job I was a part of. Other than that, all my previous interventions during the intervening period have had something to do with specific issues involving the African continent or matters affecting the larger world as a whole.

In view of the grievous implications surrounding the all too familiar clear and present danger associated with these unfolding events within the country over the last few weeks, however, I feel highly obligated to break this vow, once again, in order to appeal for the utmost of caution on all sides, especially from the proponents of such needless exchanges that are increasingly threatening to heat up the entire polity, with expectedly very dire consequences on us all, if proper care is not exercised by all the parties concerned.

While many people may rightly or wrongly regard it as a direct response to the May 30, 2017 shut down of major towns across the South East by the Independent Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), in commemoration of the golden jubilee of the Civil War, and in pursuit of their growing agitation for the actualisation of their self-declared Republic of Biafra, the so-called "Kaduna Declaration" of Tuesday, June 6, 2017 by a coalition of some self-styled aggrieved Northern youth organisations under the aegis of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), giving citizens from that particular part of the country a three months ultimatum to pack their bags and leave the North by October 1, 2017, has predictably sent massive shock waves across the entire length and breadth of the nation. The full details of that hasty 'declaration' made for, and on behalf of the entire population - comprising the young and old - occupying the geographical space called the North, which was immediately followed, two days later, by another joint press statement of Thursday, June 8, 2017 "on the fallouts of the Kaduna Declaration", are already in the public domain.

In their own response dated Saturday, June 10, 2017, another group tagged the 'Youths of the Oduduwa Republic' came up with their own warning in form of an unsigned "Lagos Declaration", stating that as from the 7th of June 2017, any mention of the term Biafra again on what they consider as 'their soil', "will automatically, without recourse to any other warning, earn the Igbos an eviction notice from Oduduwa Republic", comprising the six states of the South West of the country. In between, the self-styled Region of Niger Delta, aka Rondel, emerged with their own version of threats and ultimatums, following what it described as a well attended meeting held at a secret location in Rivers State, by way of 'The Rondel Covenant' tagged "A Demand for the Independence of Rondel in 2018", in which it also, amongst others, gave "all northern oil block owners three months notice from October 1, 2017 for them to leave the Niger Delta Region or face unpredictable adverse consequences", and citing the immediate arrest, prosecution and conviction of all those behind the 'Kaduna Declaration' as their minimum demand for negotiation.

On its part, the Middle Belt Forum, led by its President, completely dissociated itself from the 'Kaduna Declaration' a day after it was made, declaring that it was ready to accommodate the South Easterners, in the event that they were forced out of the core North, even as the Urohobo Nation, in a statement signed by the Senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District, just as another group calling itself the Ufedo Foundation, representing the Igala Kingdom in the Eastern part of Kogi State, categorically rejected their respective purported unilateral inclusion in the flag or map of Biafra by agitators from a section of the South East geo-political zone, which they proceeded to describe as "conquest mentality", and "fraud and grave insult", respectively.

The thin line connecting the above seemingly choreographed, fast and furious, back to back ultimatums, counter ultimatums, dissociations and rejections would appear to be that they were all made by the self-acclaimed youth groups in each of the increasingly disparate sections of the country, claiming to be tired of what they perceive as a forced union that incidentally came into being long before any of their respective members was ever conceived, leaving one to wonder what exactly is the place of the elders, women and children, who will invariably suffer the most from any resulting conflict, in the whole affair; or, whether, indeed, they were even consulted at all, in the first instance.

This is especially so, when one takes full cognizance of the fact that the vast majority of the people behind these dangerous statements did not get to experience the horrors of the Nigerian civil war fought between 1967 and 1970, and are, therefore, not in any position to comprehend the full implications of what they are perilously toying with. In their respective analyses of the 'Kaduna Declaration' from their most preferred perspectives, a group of people from a particular section of the country likened it to what they described as a similar pogrom that led to the civil war all those decades ago, while a different group from another part went back a little further to trace the genesis of the crisis to an earlier event that occurred on January 15, 1966.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson wisely admonishes, "before you open your mouth to speak, please make sure it's an improvement upon the silence". Mercifully enough, other than the initial veiled attempts at taking full advantage of the situation to stoke up the fire by the now predictable lone wolf in the person of a one time Minister of Aviation, the equally anticipated charge by Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council on their members resident in the North to defend themselves, as well as the perhaps not-so-unexpected call by the leadership of Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) for the Igbos to leave the North, a welcome sense of calm and reason is prevailing at last, beginning first with an early welcome statement issued by the Kaduna State government strongly condemning the quit notice, and calling for the prompt arrest of all those behind it. Since then, the Federal Government; the Northern Governors Forum; the South East Governors Forum; the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) -effectively countering an earlier show of support to the AYCF stance by one of its leading lights; the Ijaw Youth Council; Afenifere, and a host of other well meaning individuals and groups have also lent their strong voice against the threat.

While one may not also have personally witnessed war first hand, having been born during the course of the civil war, one is aware of its horrors fairly well enough to caution that we must all be very careful about what we may be wishing upon ourselves; and a cursory look at the social media comments by many of our increasingly restless youth leaves one particularly sad about the whole unfortunate turn of events. This is because part of the job I did in the past required that I participate in election observation missions to other countries and other similar external engagements, and I can vividly recall the chilling experiences I had while on a number of such missions to some of the post conflict societies in West Africa and other parts of the world.

During one such visit to observe the 2012 elections Sierra Leone, I came across a middle-aged amputee begging for alms in front of a major supermarket adjacent to the Nigerian High Commission office in Freetown, who was said to be doing fairly well before their unfortunate eleven-year brutal civil war between 1991 and 2002, which left an estimated 50,000 to 300,000 people dead and another 2.5 million internally and externally displaced. While I was not in a position to independently verify the claim, a staff at the Nigerian High Commission told us he was reliably informed that the man was the very first person to be amputated by the deadly Revolutionary United Front (RUF) forces, as part of their utterly repulsive campaign to discourage people from voting in elections by severing different sections of their hands, which they disdainfully categorised as either short sleeve or long sleeve, depending on what area they would eventually chop off. In a chilling CNN footage I watched a few months afterwards on life after the war, a brave young man informed the reporter he now lives on the same street with the same person that severed his two hands from the elbow, whom he encounters everyday, but had simply chosen to accept his fate, so as not to reopen fresh wounds, which may eventually result into another conflict

On another visit to Liberia a year earlier to observe their own general elections, a very likeable person I met, who turned out to be a Magistrate Court Judge, offered to take us out on the eve of their elections. Our outing was going on fairly well under the glittering Monrovia night sky, until I mistakenly brought up the issue of their country's equally brutal civil war, when his mood suddenly changed without any prior notice. After what appeared to be an eternity of silence, he was almost close to tears when he pleaded that I drop the topic; his reason being that he had personally witnessed the merciless butchering of his own family members and very close friends during the unfortunate conflict. He went on to state that because of the horrors he had experienced, he could no longer afford to watch a movie where a single gunshot was being fired. That completely innocent and very unintentional indiscretion on my part, totally unsettled me, and has turned out to be one of my biggest ever regrets in life to date.

During yet another discussion with the Rwandan Ambassador to the US on the sidelines of the Chinua Achebe Colloquium at Brown University, Providence, Rhodes Island, in February of 2011, he calmly disclosed how easily I could have fallen victim on account of my tall and slim physical frame and facial features, which closely resemble those of members of one of the sides to the conflict, if I happened to be in that country during the period of the genocide that engulfed the East African nation in 1994, with very little or no effort made to verify my true identity. This terrifying exchange immediately comes to mind whenever I happen to come across anyone listening to the audio or viewing the video clips in which the IPOB leader describes the country as a zoo, and its inhabitants as animals; an eerie reminder of that infamous Rwandan local radio broadcast inciting the Hutus to violence in a "final war" against the Tutsis, who were frequently derogatively referred to as cockroaches.

A close review of the fallouts of that infamous 'Kaduna Declaration', which elicited the deluge of responses by the different groups across the country, by way of social media commentaries and direct personal discussions with some individuals in the North, reveals two broad categories of reactions. On the one hand are those who tend to wholeheartedly support the ultimatum contained in the statement in its entirety, on account of what they perceive to be the endless barrage of insults being ceaselessly directed at them by the targets of that unfortunate eviction order; this set of people somehow appear to be completely unaware of the legendary Mahatma Gandhi's admonition that "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind". On the one hand, are others who are totally against it, and are calling for greater restraint; this second group would seem to subscribe to the British economist, Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher's school of thought that states, "any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction".

In between the two lies a third group that would appear to be in the majority: people who view it as nothing more than a timely warning to those they regard as very pompous, and who believe that the world revolves strictly around them; those who think - rightly or wrongly - that without them, others cannot survive, and that they should, therefore, be treated with the utmost of respect that they do not accord others; a group of people they accuse of taking over and dominating commercial activities in virtually all markets - big and small - across the land, while finding it difficult to grant access to the tiniest of stalls for others to trade in any of the markets they own and control within their own land.

Whether the underlying motive behind these latest round of tensions and the resulting growing craze and agitations to go it alone may happen to be commercial or political in nature, the most important issue for consideration right now is that we must all have to be very careful with the way we go about handling it, as the prognosis of an all out confrontation by all sides is very grim, going by the ugly outcome of similar conflicts witnessed in far smaller nations on the African continent recently. One remains cautiously optimistic, however, that, depending on how delicately we are able to successfully navigate our way through this latest phase in the series of the perennial disagreements amongst our component parts, we shall, hopefully, be able to settle our differences and march collectively forward towards our manifest destiny together as a single unit, once again, as we have always done; and this, too, like all others before it, shall pass.

 

Abdullahi Usman ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

June 12, 2017

As a foreigner from far away distant land, perhaps, one should better harken to that timeworn diplomatese that expressly speaks about respect and non-interference in matters involving another country. But if one may take the liberty to offer an opinion strictly as a concerned fellow African with an abiding interest in the democratic and electoral consolidation on the continent, my humble advice, for all that it is worth, would simply be that we do not always have to throw away the baby with the bath water. Sadly, that has often been the practice with our numerous Elections Management Bodies (EMBs) in several jurisdictions all across Africa.

For some as yet rather inexplicable reasons, we somehow seem to always find a way to discredit our electoral commissions in order to provide the necessary grounds to do away with the existing team and pave the way for the appointment of entirely fresh hands, ahead of every upcoming or new round of elections. It is very sad to note, rather unfortunately, that would appear to be the case with the ongoing debate around the leadership of one of Africa's highly respected EMBs, the Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), at the moment.

In so doing, however, we inexorably end up depriving the commission, nay the country at large, of the inherent benefits associated with the consolidation, refinements and continuous improvements in the electoral process that often come with having the same team conduct more than one election over the course of their constitutionally stipulated tenure. The case of the Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan - led Ghanain, and Dr. Christiana Thorpe - led Sierra Leonean, Electoral Commissions in West Africa, which conducted several elections over the course of their respective tenures (6 elections for Dr. Gyan and 2 for Mrs. Thorpe), immediately comes to mind in that regard.

It is, indeed, not for nothing that several well established electoral jurisdictions the world over, consider it best practice to stagger the appointment of their electoral teams in such a manner as to ensure that the tenure of at least half of the existing commissioners always overlaps with that of a new set of appointees, just so as to provide the much needed continuity that is so vital to the critical job they carry out as an EMB.

The wholesale appointment of a new team into such an important body or, indeed, total replacement of the existing one, especially coming just around, or so close to the election period, often carries with it, the inherent risks of causing needless disruptions and avoidable problems around the conduct of the election itself; a situation we must collectively seek to prevent as Africans, as much as we all possibly can.

Having said that, one is not, in any way, trying to play down or belittle your rights, as Kenyans, to raise legitimate issues or concerns around your electoral system as a whole, or, indeed, your elections management body as presently constituted. But the solution, perhaps, better lies in isolating whatever those specific principal concerns might be, and addressing them well ahead of your upcoming elections, rather than doing away with the current IEBC team so late in the day; and I am talking from experience as a concerned brother from Nigeria, who was deeply involved, and has witnessed, first hand, the immense benefits of having the same team conduct more than one election for what would eventually turn out to be the first time in our electoral history.

Your next general elections slated for August 2017 may, indeed, seem so far away on the face of it. But, believe me, 14 months is a relatively short period when it comes to putting in place the necessary operational structures and logistical requirements for such a huge undertaking as organising national elections in the contemporary African context, with all the hugely daunting and often considerably overbearing social, environmental and infrastructural challenges that often come with the territory.

This is scarcely enough time for any new Commission to settle down to learn the ropes, having gone through your country's famously rigorous appointment processes, and still be able to prepare well enough to deliver on your citizens' massive expectations and collective aspirations for a free, fair and credible electoral process within this limited period; and you should, quite honestly, not follow that perilous road at this particular moment.

Any move in that direction, at this point, will be inauspicious and amount to nothing but a big and unnecessary gamble, at a time the IEBC needs all the support and encouragement it can get from all quarters to prepare for the huge task ahead, and must be avoided at all costs, in my view. The country's leadership and its entire citizenry from all political persuasions will, therefore, do well to resist the temptation to attempt any risky experimentation with a new IEBC in order to avert the possible complications that may accompany such an ill-advised move. As Marylynn Longsdon rightly cautions; "if your life suddenly takes a turn for the worse, remember you are the one who is driving".

Abdullahi Usman ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

(PA to former INEC Chairman)

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty". - Mohandas Gandhi

Besides the obvious and imminent danger, in the form of the immediate and constant personal threat to life and limbs, that it continues to pose for those of us who are unfortunate enough to be caught up in or around crisis prone areas, the current prolonged state of insecurity in the land is gradually destroying our respective individual and collective humanity. ’ It is often said that whenever people do bad things, it tests your faith in humanity; that faith is tested even more when people continue to commit those bad things in a coordinated and sustained fashion. To paraphrase the words I picked from an in-flight magazine I read recently, almost on a daily basis nowadays, Nigerians - both the old and the young among us - are constantly being exposed to gory scenes of extreme violence that are “almost surreal in their severity, as well as being almost normal in their everydayness".

These range from those arising from the fallouts of the ongoing insurgency campaign in parts of the North East; violence as a result of the perennial religious, ethnic and communal clashes in some North Central states, as well as in Kaduna and, more recently, Taraba states; the systematic mass killings and wanton destruction of life and property under the guise of the more recent phenomenon of cattle rustling in parts of the North Central and North West; violence arising from armed robbery, kidnapping and ritual murder cases in the South West and South East, and; violence as a result of the jungle justice being visited upon kidnap and ritual murder suspects by angry mobs in parts of the South West and Kwara State, among many others.

The inherent danger in all of this, which may not be very obvious to many of us at the moment, is the fact that we are slowly but gradually being stripped of our respective natural human instincts of empathy; so much so, that these horrific acts will inexorably become normal, tolerable, or, worse still, even acceptable to us at some point. One would hate to even contemplate how nasty, brutish and short life would become under such a Hobbesian state of nature, where everyone is at war against everyone else. This is because even those directly responsible for the ongoing needless carnage, and several others who may insidiously be stoking it from behind the scenes, will eventually come to regret living in the kind of society they would have helped create for themselves and the (un)fortunate ones among us that would have survived long enough to witness it! It is thus very helpful, at this point, for all of us - the perpetrators, innocent victims and security agencies alike, who are saddled with the primary responsibility of quelling it, - to constantly remind ourselves of the inherent message contained in a popular refrain that says, "be careful what you wish for, because it just might come true!”. It is simply in our own enlightened self-interest to ensure that we keep doing so; and, as sad as the recent kidnap of hundreds of school girls in Chibok, Borno State is, it may well turn out to be the major turning point in this whole protracted problem of insurgency and the prevailing atmosphere of insecurity in the country. This is, however, not to make light of other even more vicious acts of violence committed in the past, such as the cruel and unconscionable slaughter of fifty-nine innocent male students at the Federal Government College Buni Yadi, in Yobe State.

But the Chibok incident can only represent that ideal turning point we have long been yearning for, if we, as a nation, endeavour to take full advantage of the prevailing sense of urgency and unity of purpose, which the mass kidnap of these innocent girls has generated both at home and abroad, to make a final push towards nipping this seemingly intractable festering crisis in the bud. Thankfully, the international dimension this issue has assumed now guarantees that even the hitherto nonchalant countries among those we share common borders with are now fully obligated to join forces with us to help bring this menace to an end. It is, however, very distressing to note that, rather than view this problem as the collective menace that it truly represents, a few individuals among us have made a conscious decision to continue to rub salt to the injury of both the victims and their parents by publicly questioning and even dismissing the entire kidnap narrative.

This rather strange and most bizarre stance, even in the face of all the visible and verifiable facts that are literally screaming at all of us, must indeed rank a very close second to the actual act of the kidnap itself, in terms of its vicious and malicious intent! One cannot but wonder aloud as to how precisely we got to this sorry pass; a situation in which people now deliberately choose to react to issues on the basis of whether or not they have any direct bearing on them at the personal or communal level. Nowhere is this more self-evident than on the social media, where issues that should ordinarily concern us all as human beings and as compatriots, are no longer dispassionately analysed and debated purely on the basis of what is right or wrong. It is now very common to see fellow Nigerians, including, sadly, products of Federal Government Colleges, taking delight in needlessly insulting and tearing one another apart, as they often view issues through the narrow prism of ethnic and/or religious affiliations, thereby making a complete mockery of the noble idea behind the entire concept of unity schools.

Things are now so bad, to the extent that once something does not affect us or our community directly, some of us even go to the bizarre extent of publicly gloating over a misfortune that may befall another community. In essence, any nation building and nationalism research fellow in search of clear examples on how NOT to build a nation need not go any further than a social media site frequented by Nigerians to obtain tonnes of them! But the pertinent question we must all ask ourselves is: where on earth is the common humanity that we all share? Each and every one of us must have at one time or another come across the age-old mantra that says, what affects one affects all. So, when and how did things get this bad? Whatever happened to the popular creed about being our brother’s keeper?

In his very famous and provocative post-war period poem, the German theologian, Martin Niemoller (1892 - 1984), had copiously addressed the cowardice and possible complicity of the German intellectuals and members of the clergy, following the Nazi’s rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen target, group after group, when he wrote:  

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a Trade Unionist

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me

The import of the inherent lessons embedded in Niemoller’s highly instructive poem must never be lost on us. This is because any lingering notion in the minds of some of us that the ongoing insurgency campaign is a localised affair, having been ‘successfully contained’ in a particular section of the country (as if to suggest that Nigerians living in those places are not entitled to live their lives in peace!), would have quickly evaporated with the apparent expansion of the theatre of violence to other areas hitherto considered safe. Moreover, with the present high rate of mobility among the nation’s population, it does not really matter who you are or where you come from; all that is required for any of us to fall victim to these precipitate acts of violence - be they on account of the insurgency, armed robbery, kidnap (whether for ransom or for ritual purposes), ethnic, communal or religious crises - is simply for one to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Not even those in high places appear to be safe anymore, as many of them have equally fallen prey to the antics of the kidnappers, who appear to be targeting their parents, siblings, spouses and children for handsome ransom pay-offs. Violence, it would seem, no longer discriminates.

We must, therefore, endeavour to put all our differences aside and take advantage of our collective resentment towards this latest kidnap saga to work together to end the ongoing madness, in all its various forms, and halt our agonizingly slow but gradual advance on this perilous journey along the dreadful road to our own Golgotha. Indeed, as the famous China-based US novelist, Pearl Buck (1892 - 1973), rightly observed, "every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied". That critical half-way moment for us, it would appear, is right now. May God, in his infinite mercy, save us from ourselves by granting us the courage to seize the moment, while we still can, and arrest this needless and avoidable slide along the dangerous path to our self-inflicted ruination!

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty". - Mohandas Gandhi

Besides the obvious and imminent danger, in the form of the immediate and constant personal threat to life and limbs, that it continues to pose for those of us who are unfortunate enough to be caught up in or around crisis prone areas, the current prolonged state of insecurity in the land is gradually destroying our respective individual and collective humanity.                                        

It is often said that whenever people do bad things, it tests your faith in humanity; that faith is tested even more when people continue to commit those bad things in a coordinated and sustained fashion. To paraphrase the words I picked from an in-flight magazine I read recently, almost on a daily basis nowadays, Nigerians - both the old and the young among us - are constantly being exposed to gory scenes of extreme violence that are “almost surreal in their severity, as well as being almost normal in their everydayness".

These range from those arising from the fallouts of the ongoing insurgency campaign in parts of the North East; violence as a result of the perennial religious, ethnic and communal clashes in some North Central states, as well as in Kaduna and, more recently, Taraba states; the systematic mass killings and wanton destruction of life and property under the guise of the more recent phenomenon of cattle rustling in parts of the North Central and North West; violence arising from armed robbery, kidnapping and ritual murder cases in the South West and South East, and; violence as a result of the jungle justice being visited upon kidnap and ritual murder suspects by angry mobs in parts of the South West and Kwara State, among many others.

The inherent danger in all of this, which may not be very obvious to many of us at the moment, is the fact that we are slowly but gradually being stripped of our respective natural human instincts of empathy; so much so, that these horrific acts will inexorably become normal, tolerable, or, worse still, even acceptable to us at some point.                               

One would hate to even contemplate how nasty, brutish and short life would become under such a Hobbesian state of nature, where everyone is at war against everyone else. This is because even those directly responsible for the ongoing needless carnage, and several others who may insidiously be stoking it from behind the scenes, will eventually come to regret living in the kind of society they would have helped create for themselves and the (un)fortunate ones among us that would have survived long enough to witness it!

It is thus very helpful, at this point, for all of us - the perpetrators, innocent victims and security agencies alike, who are saddled with the primary responsibility of quelling it, - to constantly remind ourselves of the inherent message contained in a popular refrain that says, "be careful what you wish for, because it just might come true!”. It is simply in our own enlightened self-interest to ensure that we keep doing so; and, as sad as the recent kidnap of hundreds of school girls in Chibok, Borno State is, it may well turn out to be the major turning point in this whole protracted problem of insurgency and the prevailing atmosphere of insecurity in the country. This is, however, not to make light of other even more vicious acts of violence committed in the past, such as the cruel and unconscionable slaughter of fifty-nine innocent male students at the Federal Government College Buni Yadi, in Yobe State.

But the Chibok incident can only represent that ideal turning point we have long been yearning for, if we, as a nation, endeavour to take full advantage of the prevailing sense of urgency and unity of purpose, which the mass kidnap of these innocent girls has generated both at home and abroad, to make a final push towards nipping this seemingly intractable festering crisis in the bud. Thankfully, the international dimension this issue has assumed now guarantees that even the hitherto nonchalant countries among those we share common borders with are now fully obligated to join forces with us to help bring this menace to an end.

It is, however, very distressing to note that, rather than view this problem as the collective menace that it truly represents, a few individuals among us have made a conscious decision to continue to rub salt to the injury of both the victims and their parents by publicly questioning and even dismissing the entire kidnap narrative. This rather strange and most bizarre stance, even in the face of all the visible and verifiable facts that are literally screaming at all of us, must indeed rank a very close second to the actual act of the kidnap itself, in terms of its vicious and malicious intent!                                                                           

One cannot but wonder aloud as to how precisely we got to this sorry pass; a situation in which people now deliberately choose to react to issues on the basis of whether or not they have any direct bearing on them at the personal or communal level. Nowhere is this more self-evident than on the social media, where issues that should ordinarily concern us all as human beings and as compatriots, are no longer dispassionately analysed and debated purely on the basis of what is right or wrong. It is now very common to see fellow Nigerians, including, sadly, products of Federal Government Colleges, taking delight in needlessly insulting and tearing one another apart, as they often view issues through the narrow prism of ethnic and/or religious affiliations, thereby making a complete mockery of the noble idea behind the entire concept of unity schools.

Things are now so bad, to the extent that once something does not affect us or our community directly, some of us even go to the bizarre extent of publicly gloating over a misfortune that may befall another community. In essence, any nation building and nationalism research fellow in search of clear examples on how NOT to build a nation need not go any further than a social media site frequented by Nigerians to obtain tonnes of them! But the pertinent question we must all ask ourselves is: where on earth is the common humanity that we all share? Each and every one of us must have at one time or another come across the age-old mantra that says, what affects one affects all. So, when and how did things get this bad? Whatever happened to the popular creed about being our brother’s keeper?

In his very famous and provocative post-war period poem, the German theologian, Martin Niemoller (1892 - 1984), had copiously addressed the cowardice and possible complicity of the German intellectuals and members of the clergy, following the Nazi’s rise to power and the subsequent purging of their chosen target, group after group, when he wrote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a Trade Unionist

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me

The import of the inherent lessons embedded in Niemoller’s highly instructive poem must never be lost on us. This is because any lingering notion in the minds of some of us that the ongoing insurgency campaign is a localised affair, having been ‘successfully contained’ in a particular section of the country (as if to suggest that Nigerians living in those places are not entitled to live their lives in peace!), would have quickly evaporated with the apparent expansion of the theatre of violence to other areas hitherto considered safe.

Moreover, with the present high rate of mobility among the nation’s population, it does not really matter who you are or where you come from; all that is required for any of us to fall victim to these precipitate acts of violence - be they on account of the insurgency, armed robbery, kidnap (whether for ransom or for ritual purposes), ethnic, communal or religious crises - is simply for one to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Not even those  in high places appear to be safe anymore, as many of them have equally fallen prey to the antics of the kidnappers, who appear to be targeting their parents, siblings, spouses and children for handsome ransom pay-offs. Violence, it would seem, no longer discriminates.

We must, therefore, endeavour to put all our differences aside and take advantage of our collective resentment towards this latest kidnap saga to work together to end the ongoing madness, in all its various forms, and halt our agonizingly slow but gradual advance on this perilous journey along the dreadful road to our own Golgotha. Indeed, as the famous China-based US novelist, Pearl Buck (1892 - 1973), rightly observed, "every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied". That critical half-way moment for us, it would appear, is right now. May God, in his infinite mercy, save us from ourselves by granting us the courage to seize the moment, while we still can, and arrest this needless and avoidable slide along the dangerous path to our self-inflicted ruination!                                         

Abdullahi Usman                                                          
(April 30, 2014)