Nigerian 2015 Elections: Jega and the Futility of Other Rents

One more rent expended by Jonathan’s administration and one wonders how many are left to keep it in power? Professor Attahiru Jega is now [technically] gone. He will not be conducting the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. A ‘rent’ has been ostensibly ‘traded’ on the position of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with incalculable implications on the instability and fragility of Nigeria. Will there be any rent offerings to counter possibility of a military coup, eradicate Boko Haram terror and other election or post-election related violence?

Can Prof Nazim Mimiko, the INEC Chairman-in-waiting, conduct the elections in the circumstances we have observed with any credibility? Unfortunately for Mimiko, who may be a thoroughly conscientious worker and exceptionally decent man, if Jonathan wins the elections posterity would judge him as the man brought to ‘rig elections for Jonathan’. Nevertheless, someone has to conduct the elections. The electoral quandary now appears to be a problem of special interest groups who stand to lose “assets” if the elections go against them. The simple logic of [ruthless] investment and returns applies here. This is one reason why ‘rents’ matter.

Winning elections with the very last rents a government rents has to offer may at best recorded for historic purposes and also at best offer a Pyrrhic victory of a derisory kind. Such a strategy often has terrible consequences for democracy; the democracy Nigerians fought so hard to be governed by. Look to such cases as Kwame Nkrumah, Shehu Shagari, David Dacko etc. winning elections did not keep them in power for long after their rents ran out. When rents run out or shrink beyond marginal levels violence occurs and can result in civil war. We saw this happen in Nigeria in 1966. The resulting Civil War (1967-70) is something Nigeria demand amnesia for but it is entrenched in its cultural memory.

Military honour, in a national context, does in the end exceed rents offered in the political economy of a country. Mali is not Nigeria but the ‘Tuareg rebellion’ similar to ‘Boko Haram insurgency’, created the raison d’etre of the Malian military for overthrowing democratically elected president Amadou Toure in 2012. Toure went in hiding then pouting into exile. When the so-called “Giant of Africa” in order to contain the senseless menace of Boko Haram has to rely on the military assistance of nations like Chad and Cameroon (no disrespect to those nations) who are not anywhere near contenders for the title “Giant”, no Nigerian soldier living or dead or even their foreign and indigenous trainers can take pride in that national embarrassment. Neither can the citizens. I wonder what rents will calm such indignation?

Former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, has recently warned against the possibility or attempt at a military coup against Nigeria’s democracy and it does not rationally appear to be histrionics. My people say “that which is responsible for a people to rise up against their king and behead him is not a thing of one day or one event”. A military coup may be brewing and possible regardless of whether Buhari or Jonathan is victorious in the elections, though even more likely if the later wins. Confidence in democracy in Nigeria at the moment is demoralising. I wonder what rents will eradicate such a possibility?

Claude Ake clearly told Nigerians and the world in general that Nigeria is state united by oil. Oil provides rich rents to the roving bandits who rule Nigeria by obscene state theft. Fighting for the crumbs from the table of these roving bandits is national sport in Nigeria. For a plate of rice and Miranda millions of Nigerians will fight, how about grander offering? The bandits love it that way. However, oil wealth is not a bottomless pit and a Nigeria is always so very vulnerable to oil price shocks. As I said previously when rents run out or shrink seriously can Nigeria’s unity hold? Time will tell.

If Boko Haram is routed before the elections take place it will redeem Jonathan in the eyes of many Nigerians or at least give him an edge in the elections and make the postponement seem like a masterstroke. It will not be rent free though. One should ask though, if Boko Haram is routed will it prevent the usual violence of associated with elections?

Grimot Nane

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