If you are a Nigerian and you still have your sanity intact then you should be gutted by recent events in the nation’s political space. Think of the widening crater of hate, think of the brazen deceit from the crowd of politicians; ruminate over the monstrous lies, spurious claims of non-existent accomplishments by both the federal and state governments. And you just wonder, are we really humans?
Is there something odd about our configuration as humans? Why have we suddenly become comfortable in the arms of deception? Nigerians have been deceived, hoodwinked and cast under the spell of some inexplicable voodoo. And it is a strong spell. I watched the Presidential Debate even with its flaws and failings. I was thrilled by the performance of the trio of Kingsley Moghalu, Oby Ezekwesili and Fela Durotoye. Any sane Nigerian would be proud to relate with these Nigerians for their intelligence, force of conviction, intellect and mental adroitness. They simply restored the lost lustre of Presidential Debates. Frank, bold, audacious, logical, coherent, cognitively effervescent and compelling. Yet as I watched and soaked in the reflective effulgence of the three debaters, my mind wandered to the fact that despite their convincing display of elan, despite their force of conviction, none, I repeat, none of these three will breast the tape in the forthcoming Presidential election race. This is not about pessimism or calling the results before the game, it is about being realistic. It is about the sad and painful realism that a majority of Nigerians are already fixated on the candidacy of two men who felt too imperious to mount the soapbox to tell Nigerians how they want to direct the affairs of the people in the event that they win the election.
What this year’ s Presidential Debate offered Nigerians is the reality that they have an alternative; the truism that they have a choice, a better choice, if they refuse to be manacled to the same stump that has held them down for decades. But Nigerians are a special breed. The same horde of youths who are bemoaning their fate under the current leadership and indeed past leaderships were busy watching an English Premier League match on the evening of the debate. How do I know? Just go through their reactions on social media. Many said they stayed away from the debate preferring to make good use of their time by watching Arsenal play Chelsea in far away Britain, a country that has developed its football to a big industry that creates jobs and makes wealth and where democracy works.
Those who barely managed to watch the debate can’t remember a line of what any of the candidates said. Instead, they are belching on social media, feuding with one another on the propriety of Atiku Abubakar stepping into the debate hall and refusing to mount the soapbox just because Muhammadu Buhari was absent. Buhari offered the dumbest excuse for his absence. He claimed the debate clashed with his busy schedule. Never mind that the debate had been fixed many weeks ago. Besides, debate, though not mandatory, is the best way to engage the nation. Political rallies offer you a platform to address your supporters but debate offers you an opportunity to address the entire nation including your supporters, the opposition and the undecided.
Atiku himself did not help matters. He took the silliest decision ever. The debate was a platform to sell yourself, market your candidacy to Nigerians and not an opportunity to brawl with Buhari. But Atiku missed it. He took the ill-advised and rancid decision to storm out of the hall hence lost the most profound opportunity to tell voters why he is a better alternative to Buhari. Yet, that was a debate Atiku would have shown like the Northern Star because among all the candidates on the podium, he was by far the most experienced both as an entrepreneur and public office holder. But his tantrum failed him, so did his handlers. He lost an opportunity to win more hearts.
Both Buhari and Atiku were wrong. They simply disrespected Nigerians. Unfortunately, a majority of Nigerian youths and voters are dwelling more on the wrong people and leaving out the three candidates that showed both respect and responsibility. On social media, in the streets and marketplaces, it is either you are for Buhari or Atiku. And you wonder why anybody would prefer Buhari who has not only shown grand incompetence but displayed a steadily deteriorating state of mental and physical fitness. Buhari’s performance at his party’s rallies and at the Dialogue on NTA are more than enough reasons to retire him honourably to his Daura home. Day by day, he shows that he is not in charge of his government yet his supporters insists he must remain in office. Worrisome.
But this is not about Buhari or Atiku. I am worried about Nigerians who do not seem to know what ails them. I am worried that a people would in full consciousness elevate mediocrity and even reverence it. To keep supporting Atiku or Buhari in the midst of great minds across the nation is an ennoblement of incompetence over excellence. But on a second thought I sympathise with the people. They are left with two choices, two candidates bearing the flags of the two most cosmopolitan parties in which case Atiku is clearly the better choice only in the circumstance. He is certainly not the best for the nation.
I love democracy. I cherish the opportunities it offers. I believe that democracy offers a better pathway for nations to grow. Its liberal tenets are the tonic for human emancipation from the shackles of tyranny. The beauty of democracy is that it leaves ample room for correction. It is forward-looking and can be exploited to suit the vision of a people. Nigerian youths must take advantage of the liberal window and futuristic nature of democracy to begin today to plan their tomorrow. They should galvanise themselves into a movement and prepare to take their destiny in their own hands.
The younger and more revolutionary brigade of the Moghalus, Durotoyes, Ezekwesilis and many more unsung innovative minds across the nation are more likely to birth the Nigeria of our dream than the jaded army of Buhari, Atiku and the rest.
The youths must fight to win the future. And winning the future starts with dismantling the archaic structures of both the present and the past. They must cast aside the spell of ethnicity, religion and sundry primitive considerations that spellbind them. Have you ever listened to Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed? An incredibly brilliant economist and politician from Kaduna State. These are the deeper minds you expect social media warriors to promote and project not the circus show of blind support for persons who have either gone senile or relapsed into spasms of amnesia on account of age and ill-health. I have nothing personal against Buhari and Atiku. One of them will emerge president but I worry about a growing garrison of followers who have lost their sense of logic and rational reasoning.
The 2019 presidential election, more than any, has provided the youths an opportunity to get it right but are they aware of this golden chance? The answer is blowing right before you…in the wind.