Though ironical, that is the reality. Because election in Nigeria is like fighting a war. Election in Nigeria starts as war, holds like war and ends in war. Except the honourable gentleman, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who conceded defeat when he was defeated in 2015, presidential elections in Nigeria always end up in court. I am not saying election outcomes should not be challenged in courts, it is the constitutional right of any aggrieved losers to seek redress in court. And going to court rather than taking laws into their hands—through violent protests—is a testimony that there are remnants of justice in our law courts. Unlike the general belief that portrays our courts recently as law courts but not justice courts. I wish both winners of the elections and the aggrieved losers who are heading to court good luck.
This said, this article focuses on the closure of schools because of election. It makes sense if we agree that Nigeria is a shithole struggling to have a facelift. It does not make sense if Nigeria is seen as the Giant of Africa or a giant in Africa—though it has been caricatured rather as Gi‘ant’ of Africa. Our extant rulers and aspiring rulers in Nigeria, despite modernity, still embrace crude approach to supposedly modern politics in their contest for power. They see power as an ultimate end in itself. They seek power for the naked sake of power. They do not construe power as a means to an end. Hence, in their contest for power, the first victims are students and the schools.
After eight months of shutting Nigerian universities against Nigerian students for a sin they neither committed nor have they ever being accused of, our rulers, because of election, find an opportunity again to express, for the umpteenth time, their philia for school closure. Most of our universities were just few months (three to four) back to life. They are again hibernating so that rulers could change batons, not for the sake of the students but for the sake of themselves. I just hope no law will be evoked to deny lecturers their salaries for works not done this time around. For nothing ridiculous, no matter how ridiculous, do Nigerians find ludicrous anymore. Experience has taught us a lot of lessons.
Justification for closure of schools during elections always revolves around concern for student’s security. This is pretentious. It is deceptive. It is unacceptable. Are Nigerian students any more secure? Who cares about them? Which responsible government put its higher institutions under lock and key for eight months and exposed students to all sorts of criminality will again make a volte-face to say it is concerned about students’ safety? This is difficult to belief. With a week postponement of election, one week has automatically been added to the initial three week break and it is safe to say only God knows when schools shall resume.
Yet products of these schools (corps members) and their staff (lecturers) are the ad hoc staff that government recruits to conduct elections. But funnily, they shut the schools to come to power and still shut them after coming to power. Since COVID-19, university students in Nigeria had spent more time out of school than in school. To make the atrocities committed against university teachers more cringing, their salaries are stopped at will. University professors are, to the rulers of Nigeria, like kids which must be spanked from time to time for being too stubborn. Oh my God! Is this a country?
I find it very difficult to relate to the reality that these same lecturers will still be the ones to help conduct elections that will usher in, probably, new set of Leviathans that will lord it over them and lock them out of their ivory towers at will. Ordinarily, one would expect these humble lecturers—though often humiliated by the government—to take a leave from the conduct of elections. Yet, many, out of patriotism, risk their lives to see that elections are conducted smoothly. It is also understandably that the bait of ridiculous peanuts (election honorarium) that will be handed over to these honourable gentlemen (lecturers) is too inviting to ignore because scholars in Nigeria are utterly impoverished. You need to be one of them or relate with some of them to understand this pathetic reality.
But why do rulers in Nigeria shut schools to gain power and shut them again after access to power? The simple answer is that knowledge is power. The powerful do not like rivals. The more knowledgeable the citizens are, the more threat they pose to power-drunk rulers who see power as an end in itself as mentioned earlier. A leader, rather than ruler, who sees power as a call to serve their nation and sees themselves as servants of the people will like to empower the people with knowledge. Such a leader knows the cost of ignorance and appreciate the virtues of knowledge. Such a leader knows the place of scholars in national development. Such a leader sees criticisms as noble and patriotic attempts by critics to straighten their crookedness.
However, in Nigeria, what we have are rulers not leaders. Thus, criticism, no matter how constructive, is a treasonable act. Critics are hated by these rulers with all their strengths just as they promised to serve the nation with all their strengths. All the strengths needed to serve and build the nation are used to bully the critics into silence. Where do we go from here? This reminds of me of a 1967 book by Martin Luther King Jr. titled “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community” before his assassination in 1968.
My fellow resilient Nigerian students and lecturers, the days of rulers in power are always numbered whether they like it or not. This is one of the ugly realities of history which rulers dislike. Let’s remain resilient until God favours us with leaders who abhor ignorance and treat it as darkness which it is. May our schools not be shut down again for frivolities.