How will the contest of Anambra State's 2017 governorship process play out? The predictions are gradually coming and expectedly, some are profound, some pedestrian. In this regard, one observes that a highly, if not, absolute materialist conception of Nigeria's politics is widely shared by ordinary citizens and politicians alike. But it is my submission that this interpretation is stunted and misguided to the extent of seeking to divinize man, mortalize God, as well as ousting his jurisdiction in the temporal affairs of man.
In the face of Governor Willie Obiano's laudable exploits in leadership, governance, the economy and infrastructure, many have no problem tipping him to comprehensively win the forthcoming state governorship election. Reservations have however been expressed in the context of the APC – led federal government abusing the incumbency power in favour of the APC in the said election. Sometime in November 2016, Mr Savior Emmanuel addressed the following comment on Facebook to the Senior Special Assistant on Media Matters to the Governor of Anambra State. 'James Eze, tell your boss to start getting ready his army of martyrs if he really means business sitting (continuing) in Awka come 2017. I don't see Ndi Anambra willing to make sacrifices of the scale of Bayelsa and Rivers to keep the State…He (Obiano) must be ready to beat INEC, Police, Army, DSS etc…He is not as dramatic as Fayose and Wike. He is also far from being antagonistic…He should take the way of … inciting the people … and thereby raise a formidable civil resistance (against vote rigging). Tell Obiano to start agboro [thugs] training now before it is too late.'
In one sense only the author of the above comments is right. He is correct about the forces probably ranged against free and fair elections but severely limited in the solution. Yes, even the blind can see the stampede by Nigeria's rice and stew politicians, mostly from the once 'largest party in Africa', PDP to join Africa's new bulldozing party, the APC. The exodus which erupted with the declaration of APC's victory in the 2015 presidential election has not abated with the party's serial repudiation and or devaluation of its campaign promises. By a wonder of Nigeria's somersaulting democracy, the scramble for APC membership by defecting PDP politicians is gathering momentum even as the naira daily crashes in value; the country's electricity crisis worsens; the price of kerosene hits the rooftop; Fulani herdsmen's terrorism rages on; geo – political sections of the south remain marginalized in appointments and budgetary allocations – all these under the watch of an APC – led federal government. Yes, as illogical as it sounds, the appeal of the APC for Nigerian politicians continues to mount right in the face of its government's failures and disregard of the sensibilities of the population.
But it is not an experience peculiar to the APC. It is about the stomach factor in Nigeria's power game. The APC's predecessor in government, the PDP, also pulled off the same spectacle of reverse result in its heyday. It led the country to a new squandering of its riches, the wealth of the oil boom of the second millennium. From electricity to roads; housing to health; aviation to petroleum; from defence supplies to general services, the country harvested sinkholes from dizzying allocations to many sectors of the economy. Pump price of petrol was increased arbitrarily a couple of times as if to test the will of the people who had marched in protest at each imminent round of the so – called removal of subsidy. And indeed, a PDP Presidency chose to test the resolve of Nigerians with the antics of a life presidency clause. Yet, as this misgovernance progressed, career politicians flocked to the PDP with flourish and fanfare. Bastions of opposition parties in the southwest and northwest soon caved in to the tsunami of PDP imperialism.
Common sense tells us that this attachment to the ruling party is founded on the perceived might of incumbency rather than on the merits of what the party stands for. There is indeed an unregistered political movement known as the association of any – government-in-power. And there is reason to believe that these itinerant politicians are in search of refuge from the dragnet of anti-corruption bodies. To date, no notable APC politician, except the odd one or two who defied the Presidency on the matter of legislative leadership, is facing charges for corruption and those indicted by other organs of State have been empowered with appointments.
But the truth and reality, which many tend to lose sight of, is that the power of incumbency, even in typically repressive African environment, may not confer the anticipated advantage to the ruling party in elections. And this outcome does not have to depend on a 'subversion' of the system by the opposing competitors. Neither the power of the ruling party nor the militancy of the opposition is supreme or absolute. Power is situational, but more importantly, human power is limited in time, space and scope. Supreme power resides only with divine authority.
And it is unhelpful to deny the existence of God or to argue that God has no role in political matters or to gloss over the divine dimension in the study and appreciation of phenomena. At a time some would have loved to hold tenaciously to advances in science and technology as creating the self-sufficiency of man and diminishing the concept of God, renowned Mathematician, Gabriel Oyibo, rattled such confidence with his acclaimed God Almighty Grand Unified Theorem which establishes God as the source and summit of knowledge – and by extension, power. There is a lesson too in the resort by writers to the tool of deux ex-machina for the resolution of complicated story plots. A classical instance of divine supremacy in human affairs is seen in the instantaneous rescue of the Israelites trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army.
History is replete with the heroic struggle of oppressed people who overcame assault rifles and mechanised tanks with the inner strength of moral conviction. Under the inspirational leadership of Saint John Paul 11, the unarmed people of Poland dealt a mortal blow to communism in 1984 from which chain effect the atheistic institution collapsed worldwide. At the hour of engagement, the much vaunted apartheid war machine could not save the racist system from dissolution by the superior logic of civilisation. When the people of Philippines rose as one to call the bluff of Ferdinand Marcos' veto of presidential election result, the strength of people's solidarity forced him to flee. Armed only with prayers, Nigerians secured their freedom as divine authority stopped a rampaging Sani Abacha in his tracks. Against the wishes and plots of the ruling establishment, Peter Obi's 2003 stolen mandate was retrieved without resort to a single act of violence. Let it be emphasized that the hand of divine intervention which has brought Anambra to its present point of promise and renewal is still very much at work in the State.
Beyond the over-zealous and unhealthy calls for militarization of the Anambra 2017 governorship process; we recognise that intimidation is part of the tactics for seeking to gain political advantage. It is in the interest of those who know that Obiano's phenomenal achievements will dwarf them in the eyes of the Anambra electorate to play up the propaganda of might is right. In the heady days of the Sani Abacha transition, a female governorship aspirant who realised she could not make it to Government House, Awka in a fair contest, orchestrated the tale of how she had been anointed by Aso Rock as the next governor of Anambra State. Long before the death of the dictator, the contradictions of the claim had assumed sufficient disclaimer.
The present scare campaign has to contend with the counterpoise of Nigeria's role in enforcement of the electoral defeat of Gambia's Yahya Jammeh. Igbo philosophy holds that God is there to drive flies off the tailless cow. But the materialist mind set finds it difficult to assimilate the lesson of David's victory over gloating Goliath. Perhaps, Obiano shares more than the coincidence of 'surprise kingship' with David. It was the same Willie Obiano that a well-wisher had sent a text message in 2014 advising him not to treat the petitions challenging his election with casualness. Obiano's response was as short as it was pointed. 'I trust in God.'
Ifeanyi Afuba writes from Awka