2023 Elections: My critics deflecting focus on pertinent issues, deploying ethnicity —Chimamanda

‘Buhari, INEC blew last chance to emerge Nigeria’s heroes’

Chimamanda Adichie

Award winning writer and renowned novelist, Chimamanda Adichie, yesterday, April 11, 2023, ramped up her criticism of the conduct of the 2023 presidential election, maintaining that President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, blew the chance to emerge the new heroes of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.

Speaking on Arise Television, THISDAY’s broadcast arm in an interview, the novelist also noted that while Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka still has her respect, the playwright’s assessment of the poll was incorrect.

Adichie maintained that INEC’s excuse that there were technical glitches in real-time uploading of presidential election results was unbelievable, insisting that it was done on purpose to manipulate the outcome of the election.

She pointed out that one of the most glaring evidences of the manipulation of the poll were mutilated election sheets and polling units agents publicly speaking about how results from the polling units were different from official announcements.

“It was not about technical glitches. Can we also realise that Nigeria is full of very bright young people in tech. There’s no reason for that excuse of technical glitch. And the other question then is, if it was a technical glitch, why was it possible for most people to upload the results of the other federal elections, but not the presidential?

“And I think most of all, is that there’s just been this resounding, unfortunate silence from INEC and from the chairman of INEC. I think Nigerians deserve the respect of an institution that’s supposed to shepherd their democracy. So nobody has come out to explain to Nigerians how that happened.

“There’s a statement about technical glitches that is not convincing. And knowing how much hope and trust that Nigerians invested in this election, knowing that Nigeria is a low trust society, I think that if people really are sincere and there’s really nothing to hide, then you make an extra effort to go out and explain to Nigerians what happened,” she argued.

Adichie had come under heavy criticism, especially from supporters of the president-elect, Mr Bola Tinubu, after she wrote a letter to the American President, Joe Biden, advising him not to congratulate the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain because the process that produced him was deeply flawed.

The 45-year-old author of Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, among other globally acclaimed novels, explained that those who were attacking him were deflecting focus from the real issues she raised and attributing her action to tribalism and ethnicity.

She posited that she did not support Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) because he’s Igbo but because of his record of performance, especially his love for education.

Adichie pointed out that she had never been fazed by criticism, insisting that she wrote Biden knowing full well that there will be criticism from certain quarters.

She posited that the rigging of the poll started when Nigerians, including herself, who wanted and fought hard to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), were frustrated from doing so.

“I tried very hard because I had been assured that technology would save us… and we should also talk about how difficult it was to collect PVCs and how that in itself is a form of voter disenfranchisement,” she opined.

Doubling down on her criticism of the INEC chairman, Adichie, a 2008 McArthur Fellow, argued that having not uploaded the results immediately, INEC totally lost credibility in the eyes of Nigerians.

“We can’t see them in real time. We cannot see them as Prof. Yakubu Mahmood said. He said I’m going to put it there… I read several times that the public will be able to view that polling unit results as soon as elections are finalised on election day.

“The Electoral Act says that INEC was given the legal backing to have electronic transmission of results and did say in a format that INEC decides. We know that format, because the chair of INEC told us what the format would be when he said that the results will be uploaded at the end of voting from the polling units. And that was not done,” she argued.

Adichie urged her detractors to point out what was untrue in the letter she wrote, explaining that since a vacuum had been left by the authorities, people will try to fill that gap, stressing that she wasn’t apprehensive about any lawsuits against her.

On the allegation that she was supporting Obi because of his Igbo origin, she said: “tribesman is such an outdated and strange expression, which I think also says something about whoever is using it. I think that kind of accusation is a practice of what psychologists call projecting. So you’re doing something but then you accuse someone else of doing it, even though they’re not,” she added.

“So this idea of sort of ethnicity is just really again, I think it’s a way of deflecting, let’s focus on what really matters,” she said.

Adichie also attempted to address Soyinka’s characterisation of comments by the running mate to Obi, Datti Baba-Ahmed as fascistic, declaring that if anything, it is INEC that has a fascistic outlook.

“I have a lot of love for Prof. Soyinka. I admire him. I respect him as a thinker, as a writer. I think everyone should read The Man Died . And actually, Ake, his memoir is beautiful. But at the same time, I disagree very strongly with him about this particular issue. And actually, because I respect Prof Soyinka so much, I went back and watched the interview.

“I had watched it when it aired initially but I went back and watched it because I thought I was missing something. And I think fascist is a really strong word… And I did not see any reason that Mr Datti Baba-Ahmed in that interview would have been termed fascist.

“You know, I think he (Baba-Ahmed) was making a very strongly-felt point about the elections. What he was saying, which again, I thought seemed fairly reasonable is that if our democracy is rooted in our constitution and you then swear in a person who’s been elected unconstitutionally, then you’re in fact, ending democracy.

“…And so I just didn’t quite see why it would be termed fascism. I think it’s fair to say that he, Prof Soyinka himself is not given to restraint in language in general, and so maybe that’s where that word fascist came from.

“However, I have suggestions for what we could use fascist for, we could use fascist for INEC, because as it is right now, many Nigerians feel deeply cheated by INEC, deeply disenfranchised by INEC, and that is authoritarianism which obviously is the basis of fascism at the centre of manipulating an election because what you’re doing is that you’re gagging people, you’re forcibly taking away their voice, that is fascist,” she posited.

She added: I think that Prof Yakubu had an opportunity for heroism. I think he wasted it spectacularly. Because he could very easily have become the hero of not just Nigerians but Africa because so many Africans were watching and they were so inspired by what happened before this election and by the ‘obidient’ movement.

“I also think that the President Buhari missed an opportunity for heroism, maybe his last chance at heroism, because Nigerians felt before the elections that he meant well and meant to support credible elections. I don’t think many Nigerians think that now,” she noted.

While hoping that parties in court will get justice, Adichie however said that there were reasons to doubt it, especially given the kind of judgements that have come out of the court in recent times.

“ I hope they will. I think there’s reason to doubt that because the Supreme Court has had rulings that just did not make a lot of sense to most people. And so there’s reason to worry, but I’m hopeful. I’m generally hopeful. I’m optimistic that they will do the right thing and that people will get justice,” she said.

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