BURNING POT BY PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON
Jega, Jonathan, Buhari and Nigeria’s common confusion
“A common experience, resulting in a common confusion...The election has been postponed and it’s no April fool”—Ndidi Onyedikachi
A. has to transact important business with B. in H. He goes to H. for a preliminary interview, accomplishes the journey there in ten minutes, and the journey back in the same time, and on returning boasts to his family of his expedition. Next day he goes again to H., this time to settle his business finally. As that by all appearances will require several hours, A. leaves very early in the morning. But although all the surrounding circumstances, at least in A.'s estimation, are exactly the same as the day before, this time it takes him ten hours to reach H. When he arrives there quite exhausted in the evening he is informed that B., annoyed at his absence, had left half an hour before to go to A.'s village, and that they must have passed each other on the road. A. is advised to wait. But in his anxiety about his business he sets off at once and hurries home.
This time he covers the distance, without paying any particular attention to the fact, practically in an instant. At home he learns that B. had arrived quite early, immediately after A.'s departure, indeed that he had met A. on the threshold and reminded him of his business; but A. had replied that he had no time to spare, he must go at once.
In spite of this incomprehensible behavior of A., however, B. had stayed on to wait for A.'s return. It is true, he had asked several times whether A. was not back yet, but he was still sitting up in A.'s room. Overjoyed at the opportunity of seeing B. at once and explaining everything to him, A. rushes upstairs. He is almost at the top, when he stumbles, twists a sinew, and almost fainting with the pain, incapable even of uttering a cry, only able to moan faintly in the darkness, he hears B.--impossible to tell whether at a great distance or quite near him--stamping down the stairs in a violent rage and vanishing for good.
Finally the elections have been shifted--A. says that "Jega's body language shows a man under pressure, he wants to do the right thing, but the powers that be won't let him. B. then asks."what is the right thing?"
A. reveals that though Permanent Voters Card have not all been released or collected, a section of the country feels short changed. B. feels that Jega should resign, either for being disappointment and for failing Nigerians or to save his name before he is finally messed up.
A. then wonders but how come we would deal with a security problem that has lasted for more than five years in six weeks. B. believes that the service chiefs that gave the advice to Jega and others should resign. However A. thinks that all these is the handiwork of government. Is it really government or that INEC, the electoral management body is not ready--okay put this way, they are prepared but not ready.
B. wonders why the he opposition as usually by nomenclature has to oppose everything as long as it comes from the governing party. Well A. just sees all the drama as inevitable in the Nigerian polity--whether they postpone it till March 28th 2030, elections will hold.
It will hold, but it is not our problem, our problems A. tells B. is mistrust, ethno-religious jingoism and parapoism, favoritism and nepotism. B. adds a skewed federal system, quota, federal character and all such coined phrases that make for a Nigerian state that can do without its best.
I started my admonition with "A Common Confusion" ("Eine alltägliche Verwirrung") a short story by Franz Kafka. It was published posthumously in Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer (Berlin, 1931). The first English translation by Willa and Edwin Muir was published by Martin Secker in London in 1933. It appeared in The Great Wall of China. Stories and Reflections (New York: Schocken Books, 1946).
The story details transactions between A and B. A meets B at H and comes home pleased with the events. Following this, he meets B again but only after a delay to the very same H he arrived at successfully previously. B is not there. To add insult to injury, A learns B had arrived early waiting for him. Thankfully he has an opportunity to explain to B what happened, but in his haste he trips and falls. He hears B above him stomping down the stairs enraged.
Clearly, the story has parallels with the dynamics of the officials within The Castle (novel). Like many of Kafka's characters the good intentions, hard work, and diligence are futile efforts in an indifferent world. Kafka begins the story by stating the events are a "common experience" suggesting the story is an example of a universal rule.
The story reminds me of today’s Nigeria—Elections are wars, very little has changed and may change—From those blaming Jonathan for their impotency and those that believe that Buhari would make them sterile.
Our historical trajectory of electoral process in the post-colonial Nigerian is characterized by violence. In fact, recent manifestations of electoral violence, most importantly since the birth of the Fourth Republic in 1999 have assumed an unprecedented magnitude and changing form, resulting in instability in democratic consolidation as well as the loss and displacement of many innocent lives.
It is not about Jega, Jonathan or Buhari—sadly we are here again sniffing violence because we closely associated with the neo-patrimonial character of the Nigerian state, the nature and kind of party politics being played, the weak institutionalization of democratic architectures and inefficient electoral management body among others. The same factors that led to the fall or collapse of the First and Second Republics.
So, if we do not change and soon too, postponing elections are one thing, but the survival of democracy in the Fourth Republic will be hinged on adherence to the ideals and principles of electoral process as practiced in ideal democratic societies or else—Only time will tell.