The people of Nigeria finally got their wish. After many constitutional conferences with the famous ‘no-go’ areas, where everything could be discussed apart from the things that had any impact whatsoever on Nigeria’s constitutional status as “…one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God…” there was finally going to be referendum. The people were going to be asked a simple, question – “Should Nigeria remain in its current geographical state?” – to which they would answer a simple Yes, or No. “If a simple majority of the people vote No,” the President said, “then Nigeria as we know it shall be no more.”
The people were divided into Yesmen and Nono camps and it seemed from very early on that the Nonos had wider support from the public. A date was fixed for the referendum and in addition to strategizing on voting patterns, some groups thought it wise to begin to forge alliances ahead of the poll. Very quickly though, there was a protest from the South-East. “It is an outrage that we have only 5 constituent states”, its leaders said. “We cannot vote on the basis of a simple majority of the total number of voters. Rather, each region should be considered as one vote, based on how the majority of its indigenes vote. Like Big Brother Africa or CokeStudio.”
The other regions quickly agreed. It seemed reasonable enough until someone pointed out that there were 6 regions, with nothing agreed on what would happen in the event of a tie. “If there’s a tie, the President should have the casting vote,” volunteered the North West, which by sheer coincidence, of course, was where the President was from. “It would be an outrage for there to be any other conclusion.” Of course, all the other regions were outraged and none of them agreed to this bizarre proposal, so a neutral umpire was proposed. It was decided that Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, leading African statesman, enemy of the European Imperialist, would be entrusted with the casting vote in the event of regional deadlock. In addition to his pan-Africanism, Old Rob was also known for the many made up quotes attributed to him. The Nigerians figured it would be nice to have him quoted as having made some other bizarre remark about Nigeria. Very quickly though, to sweeten him up, emissaries from all the regions were dispatched in private jets to Harare, laden with ice-cream of different flavours. His love of ice-cream was a notorious fact.
One day to the referendum, it seemed like all the objections were over and the referendum would finally go ahead. However, just as the clock struck one and the mouse ran down, hickory-dickory dock, the South-West leaders, armed with 217 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, marched to the Supreme Court to file a motion for injunction, of utmost national importance. They were outraged, for there had been rumours that large numbers of people were moving in from Chad and Niger to take part in the referendum. The South Western leaders wanted the referendum deferred until the National Identity Card project was completed and it was clear who the foreigners were.
Very quickly, the Association of Chadian and Nigerien Immigrants (ACNI) filed their own counter-petition. They sought to invoke their fundamental human rights of not being discriminated against on the basis of the place of their origin. The case was struck out for the obvious reason that the rights guaranteed by the constitution were guaranteed to Nigerians only. “I find that these nomads have no locus to bring this action and strike it out for being absolutely incompetent and lacking in merit” was the ruling of the Judge.
However, the use of the word “nomad” by the judge had pissed some leaders off across the entire spectrum of the North. So, they appealed the judgement, alleging that it showed the judiciary to be biased against all persons of whom nomadism was a feature of their culture.
By this time, the South South had grown weary of the squabbling and its leaders took out full pages in all the national newspapers to complain about the plot of the rest of Nigeria to frustrate and truncate the referendum, with the aim of keeping their fangs sucking the blood of oil from the flesh of their land. They urged the other regions to stop faffing about and to get the show on the road.
The next day, a major pipeline was bombed by the South South Justice League Avengers Squad. They issued a statement on their website, giving an ultimatum. They would blow up a new pipeline every week until the referendum was held.
The President, though determined not to be seen as meddling, knew he had to intervene and set a firm date for the referendum, as the brewing crisis threatened to boil over. He called a meeting of all the State Governors, with the hope that they would be able to calm down their respective constituencies if he gave them certain assurances.
“Your Excellencies, the eyes of the world are on us. We need to get our people to stop behaving like dogs and baboons. Their blood is too hot at the moment. We must calm down the polity.” The Governors knew the President was right and resolved amongst themselves to do what was necessary to facilitate the referendum. The first of those things, was to prevail on all the camps in litigation to withdraw their petitions and commit to a new date for the referendum. The rose from the meeting, issued a communique to the press and left the president feeling happy and fulfilled.
The next day, as the newspapers were brought to the President for his morning tea in the Presidential Palace Gardens, he noticed to his surprise that large sections of the front pages had been cut out. Irritated, he called for his chief press officer. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Meaning of what, your Excellency?”
The President raised the paper, so the CPO could see the gaping hole in its front page. “This.”
“Oh, that, sir. It must be the printer’s devil.”
The President had recently been warned by physician to watch his temper. The pressure of the rupturing nation and the logistics of the referendum were taking their toll on his blood pressure. So, very calmly, he walked into the ante-room to check the papers there. Immediately, he understood why his press team had gone to such snippy lengths.
“SCANDAL ENGULFS REFENDUM MACHINE SUPPLIER” screamed the headline. “Ya Allah!” exclaimed the President. A senator from Kogi state had informed the press that the Senate would be investigating the sums repatriated by Mercury Tally Numbers Limited, the supplier, to its home country South Africa.
“Foreign businesses cannot just come here and say because they have invested, they can just take out any sums they like. No! I will personally lead a protest into the bank’s server room to block remittances if this is not investigated immediately!” the Senator was quoted as having said. His colleagues in the Senate very shortly afterwards resolved to pass a resolution proscribing the company from operations until the investigation was over. This effectively meant that a new logistics partner had to be found for the referendum.
The President sighed and clenched his jaw, tightly. It was time for the gloves to come off.