By Mazi Paul Ibe
Dateline: Friday, February 15, 9pm, Abuja, Area 3 Shopping Plaza.
I dash off to the petrol station to fill up my tank for the assignment of the much awaited presidential election of February 16.
On my way home, I get a call from my dear wife reminding me about buying stuff she needs to make small chops, which I had elected to share with my fellow voters, irrespective of which side of the divide they may stand, on the D-Day.
I make a detour for Area 3 Shopping Plaza to purchase the items including bread, butter, sausage, sardine, eggs and fruits, among others.
My phone rings and I get a tip off (I am a journalist on sabbatical and my sources are still active and not lifeless) about the prospects of postponing theFailBuhari elections. Hell no, I mutter to myself, can’t return what is already paid for. Moreover there is no way to confirm if indeed the elections will be postponed. I return home to drop my shopping. And on learning from a journalist that a meeting of INEC and some “stakeholders” is ongoing at the headquarters of the commission, I take my leave from home. We meet at a rendezvous, park my car (and to imagine that the passenger’s car window was open for the over 6 hours I kept the vigil)and mingle with journalists (those brave men and women who keep the vigil to ensure that our destiny as a nation is not mortgaged by the “witches” and “wizards” in some quarters who hold sway while you slumber). I exchange banters with the journalists around, oblivious of the surreal drama playing out, as top management of INEC, like thieves in the wee hours of the night; attempt to break into our national home to subvert our destiny as a nation.
At about midnight, some vehicles depart from the INEC premises. I try to find out who the occupants of those cars may be. “Those are conference papers”, one of the journalist close by volunteers. “Conference papers, what are those?” I ask out of ignorance. “Editor, you have been a way for too long”, another comrade of the night adds. Not wearing socks, mosquitoes have a field day feasting on me, but the jokes and hearty laughs from this confraternity of pen pushers is the antidote to moments of gloom.
I try to stave off dozing off. Truly, I have been away for long from the rigours and challenges of hunting for, and breaking into the news when there’s a news break such as what was unfolding while the rest of Nigeria slumbers. I have the camaraderie of this group, for whom sleep has been murdered for the night, to be grateful for. They keep me energized as we await the outcome of this extraordinary meeting that is bound to have a marked effect on the 2019 electoral process.
At about 1 am, Rotimi Oyekanmi, spokesman of INEC Chairman, Prof Yakubu Mahmood, walks out to announce to the anxious horde of journalists: “A decision has been reached, but you have to hear it from the horse’s mouth”.
It takes nearly an hour for the journalists to be ushered into the INEC conference room and the best part of half an hour for the ‘horse’ (Mahmood) to make it to the ‘stable’ (conference room).
At 2.40am, yes 2.40am when prospective voters were either snoring (as I am wont to do) or dreaming of casting their votes in the morning, Prof. Mahmood drops the bomb: elections postponed by one week. The presidential and National Assembly elections will now hold on 23 February while the Governorship and State House of Assembly is rescheduled for 9 March.
And as soon as Prof Mahmood drops his microphone, journalists race to file their stories while the INEC Commissioners race to their cars. It only reminds me of what happens when someone releases rotten egg-like flatulence (gas) in an enclosed room and everyone sprints for their dear lives. Perhaps the INEC Chairman’s announcement was noxious and even those who had invented the toxic gas did not want to inhale of it.
In the ensuing flight out of the INEC headquarters, one of the National Commissioners walking side by side with Amina Zakari (a pharmacist versed in the science of mixing chemicals) falls flat on the ground. And as he lay prostrate face down, I was, for a fleeting moment, scared that the man is injured from the fall. I discontinue the tweet I am perfecting, tuck my phone and power bank into my pockets; hands him my two hands (with the five fingers intact and not the leprous four fingers) and pull him to his feet. He dusts himself while Amina Zakari sympathises with him. He mutters a thank you to me and races for his car.
Is this fall ominous of the fall of the present administration at the presidential election on 23 February notwithstanding the orchestrations, or nemesis playing out before me, I reflect? Like many Nigerians, I am outraged at such tardiness and impunity that is symptomatic of the present administration. I was still livid when I stepped into the church Sunday morning. And behold the answers to my concerns came via the word of God in Galatians 6: 9: “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart”.
I am aware that across this great nation, men and women made incalculable sacrifices to present themselves at their polling units to cast their votes. I am aware that this sacrifice has even resulted in the loss of life of some of our dear friends and loved ones like Jeremiah Kyuni Shuki who died in an auto accident on his way to Akwanga, Nasarawa State. He was burnt beyond recognition. It is disappointing that despite all these, the elections were postponed at the last minute and without any warning by the Buhari administration.
We all have good and justifiable reasons to be angry, but my counsel is that we direct our anger and energy at staying the course in our commitment to retrieve our country from the hands of the men the wife of president, Aisha Buhari had alluded to in her alert to the nation.
Dear compatriots, no matter how pained you may be, I have good news for you: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
▪ Ibe is Media Adviser to Atiku Abubakar, Presidential candidate of PDP and former Vice President of Nigeria.