Some of us have been waiting for this day. We have been waiting for the day pretenders will begin their oracular declarations on the 2023 presidential election. That day has finally come, with the first shot by a major Nigerian newspaper.
There will be no need to go into the laborious details of the projection. Suffice it to say that what we had before us was a product of flagellation; a mere flight of fancy. We have always known the way they come. They are either procured or induced or aimed at drawing attention to the wild imagination of its authors. But what we have got so far is just a dress rehearsal. We will soon get to the point where a map that is anything but interactive will be drawn and redrawn. At that stage, fine artists in the house will suddenly be at their elemental best. Various shades of colour will compete for space. In the end, what will be sold to the public will be a coat of many colours. Ultimately, what you will see will depend on what appeals to your largely undeclared private sympathies and convictions.
Before now, one or two credible bodies that employ the force of science have come up with their projections of how the presidential candidates for the 2023 election stand. These projections cannot, in any way, be considered inviolable. But the rigour that went into them, especially their reliance on scientific opinion polls, gives them a modicum of acceptability and reliability. Overall, when those who have credible parameters for measuring likely voting patterns speak, we easily know them. When mere guess work or outright mischief is at play, we also know.
In serious settings, electoral projection usually derives from a statistical model that is based on scientific, nationwide opinion polls, electoral history and demographics. This exercise is carried out by certified bodies that are ready to interface with the public on the unstated facts of their declarations should the situation arise. Unfortunately, the projection about the 2023 elections under reference is lacking in these basics. There is nothing scientific about what is being foisted on the reading public. We also do not know of any nationwide opinion poll on which the outcome was derived. The authors did not even make intelligent use of electoral history. Since the conclusions reached relied heavily on regional preferences, can the interpreters say that their projection reflects this? The authors should have interpreted Nigerians’ voting patterns over the years to reflect what their voting patterns will be in the coming presidential election. Rather than do that, their projection ventured into issues of structure, influence of serving governors and presence of candidates and so forth. These are jaded indices, which Nigerians have since jettisoned, knowing that the reality of what is to come will defy these lazy parameters.
Then, where is demographics in all this? This was completely glossed over by the projection as if those behind it were working towards a predetermined answer. For any electoral projection to be taken seriously in Nigeria’s present reality, it must take into consideration the wave and momentum that are issuing forth from the younger generation of Nigerians. In the election to come, the Nigerian youth appear determined to make a powerful statement. It has never been so in the history of Nigeria. But we know that many who are afraid of a radical displacement of the old order are sneering at this emerging trend. They dismiss it as mere youthful exuberance. But is it? That is very doubtful.
Even the all-important issue of voting intentions in an election is brazenly overlooked. Do people vote for the sake of voting? We know they do not. There is always an overriding factor why people vote in certain ways. Anybody who wants to project into an election must consider this. To treat it as if it does not matter as was the case in the projection under reference is a pathetic display of ignorance of what election projection is all about.
But the weakest point of what is being dished out lately is the fact that it has willfully thrown overboard the newness and peculiarity of the situation we have before us. Nigeria has never been faced with an election that promises to be as intriguing as the one we have on our hands. The menu we have just been served relies, rather pathetically, on the establishment order. It mirrors an obsolete thinking pattern, which does not take into consideration the fact that we are passing through a new day that has high potentialities of dethroning the old order and ushering in the new. The new world has a surfeit of the decline of the ancient and established order. It is a gale which no part of the globe has been able to insulate itself from. Even those who have turned a blind eye to the reality on ground know that they are merely consoling themselves. We know that it is difficult for most people to accept change, until it dawns on them beyond resistance. But if the conservative old order decides to stick to its guns, should we also expect the same thing from those who should know better? That is where lack of professionalism comes in. In the present circumstance, you find narrow, self-serving interests going to war with realities that stare them nakedly in the face.
But the reality of the situation is that these induced projections make sense only to its authors. Their impact does not go beyond the fancies and imagination of their promoters. As things stand today in Nigeria, there are as many projections about 2023 as there are interests. No one projection is too compelling. None can automatically change the likely voting pattern of supporters of the candidates. As a matter of fact, the bulk of the voting population do not even see these projections, how much more being influenced by them. Interestingly, the few who see them can hardly be swayed by them because they know what must have influenced or informed such projections.
They know that organizations must be busy. This is the time to try to force their relevance, real or contrived, on the establishment. But these shenanigans do not win elections. They do not translate into votes. Tutored minds are hardly taken in by them. They are just mere efforts aimed at building debates around their promoters.
In all of this, what suffers is not just the society that is being fed with lies and prejudices, journalism, especially its development variant, also suffers. The old order is crumbling in every sphere of human endeavour, including journalism. The journalism that sells is the one that challenges traditional news values. It is the brand of journalism that makes purposeful use of the media to bring about desirable change in society. Regrettably, what we see in the circumstance under review is an uncritical inclination to old ways of seeing and knowing.