The handwriting on the wall for November 11

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Ever since I observed that the governorship elections in Imo, Bayelsa and Kogi states of Nigeria were slated for Saturday 11 November 2023, I never seized to marvel at what God must be saying to the people of those states. What could actually be the meaning of the hand writing on the wall of these states? Moreover, I wondered if I would ever be able to interpret that hand writing accurately.

For instance, how come 11 November fell on a Saturday – a perfect day for civil servants, bank workers, traders and students to cast their votes? Was there something more I needed to know? And then I thought: what could have possibly made the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to choose this particular day for the election? Was it a random choice of date or a deliberate romance with nature and history? 

Those who are conversant with the history of nations and wars, including the Nigerian civil war, for which the Igbo have continually been vilified by a combination of some misguided Yoruba and Hausa political elites, will remember that 11 November always had a global significance. The First World War started on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918. 

During those war years, much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. The entire countryside was blasted, bombarded and fought over repeatedly. Landscapes that were stunningly beautiful previously turned to mud. They became porous and barren lands where little or nothing could grow. But there was a remarkably striking exception to the gloom – the bright red poppies, resilient flowers that flourished in the middle of so much chaos and destruction, growing amiably in their thousands. 

Many of those who follow the history of nations and wars will also remember that it was on 11 November 1918 that the Allied Forces and Germany signed the Armistice Document. That document was signed in the railway carriage of Ferdinand Foch , the Commander of the Allied Armies by 5 in the morning. Six hours later, at exactly 11 am, the First World War came to an end. Armistice Day became the anniversary of the end of the First World War and it marked the burial of the “unknown soldiers” in tombs in Paris and London. 

A similar ceremony was held in America’s Arlington National Cemetery , Virginia, in 1921. After that, many other countries around the world adopted the culture and Poppy or Remembrance Day became globally important. The Armistice became globally known as the agreement to end fighting in the First World War and a prelude to peace negotiations that began on that same 11 November 1918. 

Armistice in Latin means to down arms. The red poppy, adopted as a symbol of that Remembrance Day, continued to symbolize Hope for a peaceful future. Poppies were sold and bought as a show of support for soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for the peace of mind and freedom of their countrymen and women during that world war. The poppy still carries a wealth of history and meaning with it. But buying or wearing a poppy is still a very personal choice, reflecting individual experiences and personal memories. Its purchase is never compulsory but it is greatly appreciated by those for whom it is intended to support. 

So, what is possibly the reason behind INEC choosing 11 November for the governorship election in Imo State? Would the choice possibly have anything to do with the Remembrance or Poppy Day? One fact everyone knows is that in the recent past, the state had been in the same condition as a local “world war “in which no one knew the ‘enemy’ and no one knew the ‘friend’. Brothers betrayed brothers. Friends betrayed each other. People were told that in politics, there were no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. But no one ever knew what those ‘permanent interests’ were. No one could readily explain what was going on, particularly in Imo State. 

Military and paramilitary forces were being targeted and gunned down in cold blood. Innocent Imo youths were being targeted both by their civilian brothers and military and paramilitary forces and murdered just like that. Police and paramilitary forces were being targeted and gunned down at check points while on official duty. Royal fathers were being targeted in council meetings and even in their homes, kidnapped and murdered by ‘unknown gunmen’. In one instance, a judge was pulled out from the court while he was delivering judgment in a case and shot dead in the full glare of everybody in the court premises and no arrests were made. Politicians were being kidnapped from their homes or trailed on their way to or from political meetings and decimated in cold blood. 

So much atrocity was going on in the state that those Imo sons and daughters in the Diaspora who planned to spend the Christmas holiday with their kith and kin in the state had to cancel the idea because no one appeared to be safe anymore. The very high level of confusion and bloodletting in the state seemed to have obviously overwhelmed the state government. At some point, Governor Senator Hope Uzodinma planned to invite all stakeholders, including past governors, top military officers in the state, traditional rulers, captains of business and media moguls to a Townhall meeting to proffer solutions on how the security of life and property in the state could be better managed. 

But the most annoying aspect of this degenerating situation was that the ruling All Progressives’ Congress government and the main opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party kept trading blames and thereby inadvertently deepening the conflict. There had indeed been so much insecurity in Imo state, but now it looked like there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel after all, if only Imo people can listen to, and decipher, the voice of God talking to them. So, how could the 11 November election possibly have any sort of bearing with the Remembrance or Poppy Day? 

My mind tells me the choice belongs to Imo people. It is either the day they finally bury the concept of “unknown gunmen” the same way “unknown soldiers” were buried after the First World War or the day they decide to become completely uncontrollable and stumble fully into the hands of the northern oligarchy of Nigeria, the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, the Sokoto Caliphate and the Borno Empire. The choice will be theirs, to mar or make their dear state in pursuit of their selfish personal aggrandizement or in pursuit of the public good, which will call for good leadership. 

It is obvious that if they fail to down their arms from local government to local government before that 11 November and embrace the path of peace, reconciliation and brotherly love to grow their state and better the standard of living of their people, the federal government will not hesitate to place a red flag on the state and declare a state of emergency in it. A situation like that would further impoverish the economy of the southeast that has already suffered so much in the recent past in the hands of fake Biafra agitators. 

Trust the federal government. No one is yet sure of its plan to re-conquer the east after all that the people have passed through since the end of the civil war. 

However, I am minded to think that a lot of what will happen on 11 November will depend on the outcome of the judgment of the Supreme Court now seeing into the presidential election petitions of aggrieved political parties which are contesting the validity of the presidential election result. Already, it is an open secret that sometimes the Supreme Court takes cover under the dictum of the erudite Imo Supreme Court jurist, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa who said: “the Supreme Court is not supreme because it is infallible, it is infallible because it is supreme,” to decide its judgments, even if they are bizarre. 

The outcome of the petitions against the results of the presidential election of 25 February will certainly determine the future interest of Nigerians in the Nigerian electoral process. Because of their previous experiences, especially during their protest against police brutality and how they were hounded and some killed, many Nigerians, especially the young adults determined not only to vote as first timers, but more importantly, to defend their votes and to ensure that their voices and choices did count. 

But the electoral umpire disappointed them and announced what both local and international observers agreed was doctored presidential election result. The aggrieved parties had gone to court and the Nigerians gravely looked up to the Supreme Court to prove that it was not only above corruption but that it was indeed the bastion of justice and the last hope of the common man. 

Some Nigerians had avowed that hell would be let loose if the Supreme Court went ahead to endorse INEC’s presidential choice for Nigerians. But contrary to some of these speculations that if the Supreme Court endorsed the INEC selection of the APC candidate who was declared winner, the country would go crazy and there would be chaos in the land, nothing extraordinary happened when the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of INEC and the lower courts. No one could possibly fight against the Supreme Court or against its findings and its ruling. No one could make any trouble knowing that it won’t solve any problem. 

In fact what could possibly happen is that most Nigerians who defied rain and heavy sunshine to troop out in their droves to vote early in the year would lose interest in voting again. There would be no need for them to waste their precious time to come out and cast votes that will not count at the end of the day. That will be the beginning of the anarchy that Labour party vice presidential candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed spoke about on television and his detractors kept calling for his head. 

If this happens, added to the Simon Ekpa’s threat that there would be no voting in Imo state on 11 November, the voting on 11 November could be disrupted. There could be voter apathy, and if that is the case no one should feign surprise at why it is happening. Those who will select the governor have already concluded their masterplan.

However, there is enough time between now and 10 November to still put things right, call a meeting of all political parties and all stakeholders to find a solution to this despicable epidemic that is threatening to ravage Imo state. Given these facts, Imo people should seize the moment and take a stand on their future, party or no party. In a true democratic dispensation, a responsible opposition is the oxygen the government needs to breathe life into governance. And the Peoples’ Democratic Party, if it is a responsible opposition, would know that as the Shadow Government of Imo state, it is a norm of democracy that what concerns the state is eminently more important than what concerns either a political party or an individual. 

The issue of security in Imo state cannot be left to the ruling All Progressives Congress alone to resolve because it is a matter that concerns the entire state. In such situations, all parties must shield their political differences, prioritize the interest of their state and work together to restore normalcy. Our people should play politics the way it is supposed to be played – in the interest of the masses, and to the glory of the politicians. 

The level of greediness that informs the current political aspirations of our people and tends to make the desire for public offices a do-or- die affair is not good enough or recommendable for our people. We need to aspire towards doing the right things, the right way, all the time. That is the beauty of democracy. And that is what, I think, God is saying to Imo people right now. Let us all read the hand writing on the wall. 

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