The ever interesting world of Nigerian politics has been busy in past few months with different contenders to the positions of power and influence employing different campaign strategies to ‘buy’ votes and voters to make their political dreams come true. From local to national levels, the approaches are similar since our political history has featured similar actors who have become less innovative. Consequently, the campaigns have been more of a comic relief than an inspiration.
We have witnessed sponsored rallies and counter-rallies; purchased endorsements; mobilisation of people to attend political campaigns to show a false image of a candidate’s popularity; distribution of food and monies at campaign grounds; abusing personalities rather than addressing issues; utilisation of social miscreants across parties; campaign violence and deaths. They all speak less to our problems—roads remain bad, poverty and unemployment occupy major prayer points in churches and mosques; insecurity (terrorism, robbery, kidnapping) is on the increase even as local ‘science students’ have made scientific discovery of ‘printing’ money from ladies underwear and sanitary pads. At the national level, the pre-election confusions has now been narrowed to two possibilities—Atiku or Buhari.
Perhaps the only way to stay healthy and sound in Nigeria in this build up to elections is to stay away from the emerging binaries—buharists/atikulates; hailers/wailers; next level/getting Nigeria work again; and lately fé-Buhari/lé-Buhari and Atikú/Αàtíìkú. While Buharists see nothing wrong in any step that Mr President takes, the atikulates believe otherwise and that their man holds the ace. Hailers are supporters of the incumbent while a critic of the present government is labelled wailer. But there are also insider wailers in Ogun, Imo and some other states where internal displacement has occurred through the instrumentality of the Oshiomole national leadership.
The campaign slogans of the two major parties are being reconstructed from both divides. For instance, those who do not believe in the incumbent see ‘Next Level’ as the process of deepening the depreciation in the value and worth of Nigerians as the poverty headquarters of the world. They feel it will be next level of poor allocation to education, health, and clannish governance. But the Buharists see ‘getting Nigeria working again’ as retrogression to the locust years.
Fé-Buhari (love and vote Buhari) is a construction that is associated with the lovers of President Muhammmadu Buhari. To them Buhari remains the best for person to take Nigeria to the ‘next level’. These hailers believe in the anti-corruption fight, security achievements and infrastructure being emplaced by the Buhari/Osinbajo government. This is February and so fé-buhari implicates show your love for Buhari and his accomplishments by casting your votes for him. However, some other persons have contrary opinion. This emerged from the street at the last presidential campaign held in Mapo hall Ibadan.
Someone was playing the music of King Wasiu Ayinde marshal (KWAM 1) with this line: moní Buhari yóó se eléèkejì (I say Buhari will do second term) sai buhari…..sai maigaskia but on the sidewalk was another person who echoed lé-buhari (chase Buhari) in response to the sai Buhari (hail Buhari) song. This counter response implies that not all people want Buhari. It is also important to see this as contradistinction with the ‘tsunamic’ Buhari of 2015. Harmonising this opposites or better still recognising their existence is a critical appreciation of the feedback of how perception variations along different interest groups in relation to what is experienced under the ruling party in nearly four years.
Identity reconstructions of Buhari and Atiku have also come from the influential on campaign grounds. At a campaign in a state in the southwestern part of the country, the ‘constituted authority’ had differentiated between President Buhari and Atiku Abubakar. Nigerians, he asserted would have to choose between integrity and corruption or between atikú (we are dead) and áàtíìkú (we are not dead). In the former is the hopelessness of voting the PDP candidate and the consequences of not voting the Daura anti-corruption hero. Put differently, atikú (we are dead) would mean returning Nigeria to the years the Tradermoni coordinator describes often as grand corruption. Atikú also implicates that the present is forgone.
Being dead is not only a sign of hopelessness but as the Yoruba maxim goes “eni tó ti kú ni ti e gbe” (it is only the dead whose dream is dead). No doubt Nigeria is ailing and it is the management of ailment that influences the outcomes. On a second look, do we have institutions that characteristically fit into the death construct in contemporary Nigeria? Our health institutions have been codenamed as death centers. Educational institutions are living corpses. The Nigerian infrastructure is miasmic. Millions of the poor people who dot the socio-political landscape of the country live only for today as tomorrow is uncertain.
On the flip side is áàtíìkú (we are not dead), a powerful hopeful construct which places the destiny of the country in the next four years in the hands of the electorate, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agents, political actors, thugs, PDP and APC and their flagbearers. If Nigeria is to remain hopeful of having a life and not die, the voters must vote wisely and think of who between the ‘two devils’ will meet their needs and connect with them—both (Atiku and Buhari) now represent known devils who are not likely to be threatened by “new angels.” The electorates must ask which of the devils will boost their standard of living? Which government will give our children quality schools? Which one of them can give us life centers as against death centers as health institution? Which of these will provide jobs and assure national security?
More than that, INEC must remain impartial umpire and not declare concluded polls inconclusive. The air of tension blowing across the country is much to the extent that the slightest provocation and error may trigger violence. Similarly, the behaviour of the security agents will make or mar the polls. Their loyalty should be to the country and not the office holders as presently experienced. Their behaviour will determine if miscreants will have space or not and/or whether voters will be intimidated or not and scared away as witnessed in 2018 Osun polls. Voters should also be empathetic by voting compassionate – and not avaricious – characters.
In the end, there are only two post February 16 possibilities: electorate can either fé-buhari by re-electing him for another four years or lé-buhari by voting him out of power. These two possibilities must be allowed to happen without let or hindrance and without the manipulation of the electoral process to give legitimacy to the winner.
Dr Tade, a sociologist, writes via <[email protected]>