After theoretical and field combinations and permutations, Nigerians have chosen their president. And they have chosen their MPs and governors too, at least either directly and democratically through counted ballots or indirectly through self-imposed volunteers and compulsory representative of the people’s franchise in some states where thumbprints were substituted with pens. The familiar four-year cycle of government is about to hit the ground. Hopes are high albeit amidst heart-warming Utopian promises and realistic uncertainties. The presidential polls was one that raised so much dust. What more do we expect when two elephants enter the arena like Roman gladiators? One is that mighty largely because of the power of incumbency and the peculiar god-like power constitutionally bestowed on a president in Nigeria. He also commands a very strong ethnoreligious following down south. The other has been a heavyweight in the political space for over a dozen years coming in his rare personal character; globally acknowledged integrity. A former head-of state, he also commands a large cult following up north (largely tribal too). Both had huge and robust platforms for their candidacy; one is (perhaps now, was) widely regarded as the largest party in Africa with strong tap-roots spread nationwide, the other which more recently amalgamated had spread unlikely roots and branches beyond its mono-regional epicentre. Various diplomatic, political scandals and ruthless side-attractions and humour came with the elections, but we can start counting our lessons from here. Read on.
No Longer At Ease!
First then, we consider that age-long, Abraham-Lincoln-like, never-give-up story. Did it play out again in Nigeria? Yes I think so. It is a personal lesson that should from now no longer be a distant easy-to-tell american history from the pages of wikipedia. It happened here before our eyes. And we all saw it (except for the politically blind) how tense and intense his climb to presidency was. We witnessed the trials of brother Mohammadu; the scandals, the ill-wishes (and at some points, death-wishes), the fiery in-party primaries featuring seemingly unconquerable political heavy-weights. Nevertheless our old-soldier rode on a popularity space craft towering above all the others with a gap as far as heaven to earth. If that seemed predictable (or jolting to his haters) he went on to unseat his biggest nightmare in the cleanest (at least widely adjudged to be so) and the dirtiest (mostly pre-) elections in recent Nigeria. What a historic feat! He did it in grand-style with the whole world rising up in virtual ovation to greet one of the most influential persons in the last one year. That Yoruba adage that “onisuuru a pe ko to jeun, ko ni je ibaje” (the patient one who eats last doesn’t eat bad) is true anyways. Someone may say “Oh please, don’t give me all those never-give-up crap!” He may further add, “so you think if Reverend so-and-so contests a zillion times, he would win at the umpteenth time?” I strongly doubt too. One may then argue that there are exemptions to that timeless lesson of persistence, but could that be a case of misplaced priority? Maybe sometimes one needs to choose his or her battles. But then, if the severally rejected General, who was widely regarded as too hard a stone could eventually glide on a tsunami of popularity to become the chief cornerstone, then you can. Persist!
Mind Your Business
As if my dilly-dallying about completing this article was to eventually prove positive and thus have a high-level backing for this second point, I woke up recently to be greeted by the news that a top PDP executive said that “overzealous” persons were allowed to run a hate campaign against Buhari, thereby making the former military ruler more popular and “demarketing” the incumbent for re-election. Apostle Paul wrote a second letter to Thessalonica to clarify matters to a church who clearly didn’t understand the times and signs. He particularly said point-blank that men should “mind their business”. That’s very instructive! Looking at the way PDP ran their campaign, even a blind, deaf and dumb man will know that it was almost 99% about pokenosing into matters of the APC’s personalities, candidacy, and manifestoes. Of course, scrutiny of the legitimacy of any presidential candidate (or any political candidate for that matter) should never be compromised. But then they practically ran a campaign of calumny, hurling bizzare and inhuman personality attacks from their callous slings on the opposition. To them, that old and familiar ethnoreligious ode will soothe the minds of their “gullible” electorates.
Well, the opposition did what Nehemiah and the Israelites did when they rebuilt the broken walls of Jerusalem; they, with one hand, were busy promoting their candidate and manifestos while engaging youths (majority of voters) and appealing to their sentiments thru robust and focussed media presence while also defending themselves from the endless and needless assaults and missiles from the ruling party with the other hand. More people got their messages; from the grassroots and to the skycrapers. No one would be deceived again, at least not when they can see themselves. The PDP shot themselves in the foot severally with their busybody campaign. The first-lady took upon herself the job of popularizing General Buhari many times, a task the incumbent President himself initiated at the launch of his multi-billion naira (perhaps dollar) campaign in the elite city of Lagos. Maybe the ruling party didn’t really have much to sell to voters. They have sold the same goods for sixteen years with little or no improvement in quality delivery. The patronage has dropped. Complacency set in and got the better of them. And now there seem to be a better product eager to sway the buyers.
In short, PDP didn’t mind their business of government; one which the people empowered them to do, in recent times governance was outsourced or contracted out. To Nigerians, minding your business is doing the job you are given. And satisfactorily. It is removing distractions or detractors, clearing your space of jobbers and selfish praise-singers. It is minding your business!
Loyalty, Patriotism and Ethnicity
We saw all these at play among the voters. While this prominent and influential person supported this candidate because of familial relationships, long-term friendships, previous or on-going financial benefits, partisan obligations, official responsibility, or just for the sake of maintaining an unflinching public stand (even when it is apparent this candidate is off-form), this other equally renowned figure chose the objective lens of patriotism to have a crystal clear view of his options and pitched his tent with the best available. The latter would probably look at the non-partisan public and personal profile of these players to decide who gets his ballot. Naturally these factors would have been expected to be the prevailing trends, but no. There was a third factor. One which should in itself be a beauty but sadly remains the fault line that divides Nigerians and eventually decided who took the apical seat of the nation. Ethnicity! I would reserve this issue alongside my puzzling observations of how it played out for another time. I would rather state here that this harmless-flora-turned-parasite has not only caused a chronic disease to the minds of Nigeria’s plenteous illiterates, it has eaten deep into the brightest of academic and elite minds. Chief Edwin Clark, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Vice President Namadi Sambo are few examples of the latter whose political desperation verbally exposed their deep-seated ethnic sentiments. I join many who believe the incoming President has a great task of uniting the country, but I would not call for a bridging, but a filling of fault gaps to forge a plane for a uniform national development. He must chart a direction for all of us regardless of tribe. He must be the Nigerian President. He must show us by example that we all really are brothers and that our brotherhood transcends geographical, language and cultural borders. He must inspire the change!
With my own hands @bamsky007.
The post was featured from bamsky007.wordpress.com. Originally published as ‘3 Things We Learnt From the Elections’.