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Now that we are here

My recollections of the aftermath of the 1993 elections are quite foggy, but I do remember at least two scenes quite well. I remember a…

My recollections of the aftermath of the 1993 elections are quite foggy, but I do remember at least two scenes quite well. I remember a teargas canister exploding near the house of Mama Fatai, the lady who had a grinding machine that served the neighborhood. And when the sound of gunfire was added, my mother corralled us all from the balcony of the Wuse Zone 6 apartment block we lived in into the bathrooms. I had no idea what was going on and frankly the fun was only ruined by the pain in my eyes and sense of panic by those who I supposed knew.  

Of course I eventually learnt all about it – the whole odyssey has been immortalised in the annals of this nation’s history as June 12. What you may never hear about June 12 however is the backstory leading up to it – even if the buck did stop at the desk of the then military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Hardly do the roles the judiciary and statutory civilian institutions such as the defunct National Electoral Commission (NEC) played in the outcome feature in the tales you hear… and as one of the subjects that come up a lot, you hear that Nigerians did not care about religion back then and a Muslim-Muslim effortlessly sailed through. You never hear that even the sitting military president protested against it. 

History has an uncanny knack for repeating itself. Twenty-nine years later, it is déjà vu, but that is with the benefit of a backstory that has evolved beyond the black and white narrative of the June 12 pop culture. Now, I do not know a whole lot about politics and what the backstage of its intrigues looks like, but from where I am standing, it is starting to look like trouble may be on its way, the same way there were clear tell tales of trouble before June 12, 1993. 

Tinubu, like Abiola, is a Muslim from the South West who picked another Muslim as vice president from the North East – and for politically prudent reasons. There are rumours about the baggage they bring along, to wit, being members of international criminal networks specialising in narcotics. They are both superb political networkers who built bridges and planted assets in strategic places where they could maneuver their boss’ interests successfully. Abiola won Kano, the crown jewel of presidential politics. It is safe to say that Tinubu will do the same. It is worth noting that at an individual level, Tinubu shares no affinity with the people walking on the street and will earn their votes only because he is the establishment candidate, and according to another conspiracy theory, victory is assured with Kwankwaso in the picture, in the picture only to ruin Kano for Atiku. In 2023, the electorate seems to be content with being shepherded by the establishment in a mercantilist transaction, based on instant gratification. The taste of 2015 is still bitter in their mouths and they have returned to their fathers, the establishment, contrite like the prodigal son and ready to restore business as usual. Like Abiola, Tinubu is a billionaire who can afford any price, so that will work just great. 

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But it has been a pretty tough few days in Kano. There are news reports that the state governor wrote to the president to postpone a planned visit to the state to avert disaster – as he would have been targeted due to burning public anger. After the extension of the deadline for the old-currency swap, the president visited, but moved around by helicopter to some of the places he visited. One video clip I saw ritualised the stoning of the president’s helicopter, with the incantation “labbaiKal-La humma labbaiK…” added. That is a scene reminiscent of the ritual of stoning the devil by pilgrims in Mecca.  

That is just how difficult things have been for all of us in Kano. It has not been a good look for the regime; it is one of the things people consider as their government giving them the middle finger. It gave a whole new meaning to that principle about not kicking someone while they are down. To the person whose trust you do not have, who hates you and believes you hate them right back, there is no other way to make a meaning out of the implementation of many of Buhari’s policies, even though they were clearly conceived to improve our lives. I walked into a pharmacy with a migraine last week and had to leave empty handed because they did not accept cash, and the telecom network was so bad that you could not even make a phone call much less use the internet for wire transfers…. I believe I might have muttered an absentminded “Allah ya isa” on my way out. 

Last week, Tinubu told the crowd at one of his rallies that, “He knows what time it is.” He spoke in Yoruba and, of course, did not use such colorful language but that was the message. In the 90’s rap-parlance, it means that he knew what was going on. He implied that he was being targeted by the CBN’s cashless policy and bungled currency swap, and also the grinding fuel scarcity. To many, especially his diehards, that must have had a Eureka ring to it. They believe there is an Oz somewhere pulling the strings, sabotaging or credibly conspiring to make the prospects of a Tinubu presidency a Chinaman’s chance. 

It is just so difficult to imagine that all going on is not a set-up. There are patterns beginning to appear, same way patterns of what may follow June 12 that started appearing well before that date. There is now this lingering fear that this may be a psyops campaign, part of the broad plan to stop Tinubu by hook or by crook, even if it means no election is held, or the process becomes such a farce and we end up with another Shonekan that will be so ineffectual, so suffocated and caricatured that he does not survive his first year and the party of Oz quickly recapturing the Rock and the partying resumes.  

So, now that we are here again, I pray for a mother for all Nigerians, someone to save us all.