By Okoh Aihe
The other night sleep went far away from me and I found comfort in my little phone as I tried to find out what the rest of the global community was saying about Nigeria after a mismanaged election. You see, in spite of the challenges of our world, in spite of how deep some highly placed people want to push us in the mire, they cannot stop the world from getting into our rooms through some increasingly miniaturised equipment like the mobile phones, iPad, tablets or simply some other crazy stuffs that would beep each time there is breaking news.
What the global media had to say about Nigeria was particularly savaging, goring and very contemptuous. I had to interrupt my wife’s sleep to read some of the stories to her. You know a bad situation can elicit the flow of good English, with adjectives pouring all over the place.
This is what the Financial Times says: “What Nigeria needed above all was a clean election to reiterate the basic message of democracy: that a sovereign people can choose its leaders. Sadly, it did not happen. The election – which appears to have delivered the presidency to Bola Tinubu, a wealthy political fixer running for the incumbent All Progressive Congress – was badly mismanaged at best. It failed to set the example needed for West Africa, a region where too many national leaders have extended term limits or resorted to seizing power at gunpoint. Nigeria remains a democracy, but only just.”
I read several of them that night and came to the lacerating conclusion that instead of boosting the nation’s profile with a most anticipated election, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has diminished the status of Nigeria and attracted opprobrium to the nation even from very small countries which, only a few years ago, looked up to Nigeria gracefully for support. The biggest economy in Africa couldn’t even organise a simple election with all the money poured in.
Do they know how this rings, like the little jingling bells that announced the approach of the lepers in the days of old?
Sleep still wouldn’t come. In a couple of days, from March 5 to 9, 2023, the Nigerian President, Mohammadu Buhari, will be attending the United Nations Conference on the least Developed Countries in Doha, Qatar, on the invitation of the Emir of Qatar,
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The theme of the conference is, From Potential to Prosperity.
“In Doha, President Buhari will reinforce Nigeria’s commitment to support the most vulnerable countries to meet their development challenges, highlighting areas through which the Nigerian government has provided them with various forms of assistance over time,” Malam Garba Shehu, said in a statement.
Bad news burns faster than aviation fuel and also travels beyond the speed of sound. Just when the nation is failing, 163 million of the population plunged into multidimensional poverty, elections badly organised, attracting both local and international condemnation, a people in despicable forlornness, it is my prayer that irony will be fair to the President when he mounts the rostrum to speak. But will technology be?
Oh, since the election, life is becoming unbearable at night. My mind went to my discussion with an Uber driver which formed the meat of my article published on November 11, 2020. Titled, Technology will punish you, the young driver had tried to explain to me how angry technology could be with those who take it for granted.
I read part of it again and I thought the material was written only yesterday.
“‘That is technology. If you don’t manage it well, it will punish you.’
This fellow has very little idea about the profundity of his statement, which is to the effect that if you do not put your house in order and do things well in the way of the modern world, technology will not give you a hiding. Instead, it will spank you. Has this not happened in Nigeria in recent weeks when things literally keeled over, with heads down and heels up and there is so much confusion and untruth across the land?”
The foregoing was in November 2020. In February 2023, the nation is trapped in the vortex of technology because one man, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who had the gilded opportunity to superintend a major national assignment, had fiddled with the fire of messing with technology and peddling unbelievable inanities in the name of technology glitches.
Enjoying the backing of a new Electoral Act and with lots of cash to spend, Yakubu was well documented as he promised a new dawn in election management, different from the abracadabra that was witnessed years ago in Kano and Osun, code-named inconclusive elections, which was a season that preceded the Electoral Act. Since then, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun proved redemptive, although the very discerning would always notice some lurking signs of failure in the background.
This is the reason people are incensed that all the promises were aborted at the final point of execution when in a single election, the results of the National Assembly could be transmitted electronically at the polling units with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) while the ultimate results of the Presidential candidates could not be sent in a situation that probably indicates that the INEC servers were isolated and placed on active and hibernation mode, to perform or underperform or not perform at all.
While that irresponsible act of failure has robbed the nation of a transformative moment of glory, the reality is that Yakubu and his INEC have exposed so many people to the unforgiving anger of technology. So many young people who dreamt of the beginning of a new life, will have to hold fast to the only evidence they have, images of a set of people that blew their dreams to the wind.
Do they care? “Technology will punish you” were the words of the Uber driver. When my children want to make fun of me, they do a little search on my name and begin to paint different colours of me with materials so excavated. There will always be people who see things differently from the things I write. And they are unforgiving in their responses.
This is where technology is a monster. When the President walks into Doha, there will be people who will want to do a quick search on Nigeria. The images that will greet them will not be the best; a people unable to perform simple tasks: can’t distribute petrol, can’t make cash available to their people, and can’t even conduct elections with all the monies that were budgeted and released. Technology will serve them hot, steamy and damning.
But the major irony is on the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu. A professor of Political History with sterling academic background, Yakubu enjoyed a rich trajectory in life before cresting at INEC, where he has enjoyed some enviable days in the sun until ongoing elections set him up for approbation or reprobation. Lucky him, his distinguished education has served him well in a country where a number of PhD holders are truck drivers or driving Uber if they enjoy some luck.
Sitting at my table well into the night, I don’t know how many young people are doing a check on Yakubu. What technology will wash up has little to do with his glittering academic past but more of the submission that as he prepares for this weekend’s gubernatorial election, Nigerians don’t trust him any more nor do they believe any of his promises.
He has lost that credibility and credulity. This is no comfort zone. It is the dark place of history that technology will keep him going forward. Because at a time the nation entrusted him with a very major assignment to deliver on a process that could lead the country to a glorious future, Yakubu dropped the ball, for whatever reason.
It doesn’t matter who wins or has won the election, it is about the process that was adulterated with high profile incompetence. Yakubu dropped the ball at the apogee of his career. What a shame! How very tragic! That is what technology will record for him. That is his lot forever.