In the event of a failed elections in 2011, would Nigeria capitulate? This is the question analyzed on Foreign Affairs Magazine by John Campbell, the former U.S Ambassador to Nigeria.
While America has every reason to be concerned about 2011 elections, Nigerians need to be too. The last decade has brought some stability—even though shaky at best; the general prognosis looks better for the country overall. Advances made in states like Lagos, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Rivers, and Cross River has created a pacifying buffer of hope for democracy in the land. All this may be wiped away if the election goes bad in 2011.
There are some troubling indicators about the conduct and outcome of the 2011 elections. This is also articulated in the Campbell’s article:
Logistical preparations for the 2011 elections have not started. There is no voters roll, and despite the president’s signing of an electoral reform bill, some of these reforms remain unimplemented four months before the election. The election therefore will almost certainly lack legitimacy, especially in the eyes of the losers. This will further drive the country to the brink, especially if winners and losers are defined by their religious and ethnic backgrounds.
While a part of me wants to down-play the possibility of a post-election crisis in 2011, historical and recent precedents suggest it is not off-limit. One of the greatest challenges facing Nigeria is in the area of security: armed insurgency in the oil-rich delta, nationwide armed robbery, kidnapping, and religious/ethnic clash, are kept poorly motivated Nigerian security agents on their toes for years. These are maladies of a weakened nation, and an indication that Nigeria may not be well equipped and ready to manage a major political crisis.
The general consensus in Nigeria is that the military is the “ultimate guarantor of the state’s security”. The assertions of most in Nigeria are in agreement with John Campbell as he states in his essay: “in the event of postelection sectarian violence and a political breakdown, it [military] could intervene if the civilian government loses control”.
“The army, given its history, could move quickly, and unlike in Kenya following the 2007 postelection crisis, there would probably be little time for the international community to try to facilitate a political settlement.”
John Campbell statements are not far fetched from possibility; his knowledge of, and experience in, Nigeria gives his a bird’s eye view of happening in the country. My hope is that Nigeria finds his magic once again, as it has been able to do in recent times by pulling back from the brink of widespread crisis, often at the very last minute.