Friday, 30 January 2015

Nigeria 2015 - Valentine's Day Blues


And so on the very day the rest of the world will be celebrating love, some bright sparks in Nigeria decided it was the perfect day for the country’s two main political tribes to go to war. Surprised? Well, not really, I guess. We are Nigerians after all and everything we do must have our stamp of uniqueness and creativity.

In any event, if the Nigerian Love Brigade is truly unhappy and the female demographic rises up, sufficiently raising the protest decibels and demanding their bouquets and chocolate, our matchlessness also means our government (maybe as an election sweetener) could actually postpone Valentine’s Day.

Don’t laugh, you know it’s possible. Stranger things have definitely happened in our beloved land.

Before we move on, let me confirm the sole intention of this piece is to get the salient points of Nigeria 2015 elections and to do it with brevity as the watchword. I am not going to attempt to compete with anyone on word-count or give a lengthy sermon to the converted. Charles Soludo has easily won the trophies in both categories. Furthermore, the majority of the people casting their vote on that day will not have read his well-researched, but extensive thesis. For me, the issues on ground are hardly that complicated and one doesn’t need a PhD to see through the smoke and mirrors. With this in mind, best to get back to the elections and the resultant matters.

Let us start from the beginning.

For those of you who may live under a rock somewhere and for others who have not been bothered to date, the two elephants fighting over the Nigerian grass would be the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Of course, there are other baby elephants involved, but why mention them, when it appears Nigerians have conveniently decided these calves do not even exist.

Who is who?

The Gladiators

On the one hand, we have Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ), the incumbent, and on the other, you have the APC candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB). Both candidates have already led the nation in one guise or the other. Buhari, for twenty months between December 1983 and August 1985, on the back of a military coup that saw the overthrow of the Shehu Shagari government and Jonathan, for the last fifty-five months having succeeded the previous president, Umaru Yar'Adua (Late).

So, with the abridged history lesson out of the way, there is only one question at the top of everyone’s list.

Who will win?

I would hate to be the one who elected (pun intended) to raise the collective blood pressure of members of either party, so I will hold my predictions for a little while longer. Instead, let’s ask another burning question on millions of Nigerian lips.

Who should we go for?

Well, I don’t know where the majority are, but for the silent minority (and yes, we are millions too) like me – who have chosen to keep quiet until now – we do not believe there is any real choice out there. All we see is a two-headed snake, with one head being marginally less venomous than the other. We, in this group, naturally recoil on sighting snakes, so our natural position is to be cautious, alert and stay at a safe distance. You cannot blame us. We are still reeling from the Creation story, but, no one should mistake our distance for apathy. We can still see it all from our sanctuary and yes, we are riveted.

From our view over here, we find little comfort in a sitting president who appears to believe kneeling before pastors and speaking from the pulpit in crowded churches, will somehow transform him into a strident, forthright and performing leader, which is what Nigerians require, but sadly do not have. We cannot quite tell which is more painful; the leader floundering in the darkness looking for the light, or the nation stuck in the darkness, having to watch the drama unfold with their candles, lanterns and diesel cash-guzzlers.

We are equally uneasy with a presidential candidate who says things like;

“It is a legal responsibility which God has given us, within the context of one Nigeria, to continue to uphold the practice of Sharia wholeheartedly and to educate non-Muslims that they have nothing to fear…"

"What remains for Muslims in Nigeria is for them to redouble their efforts, educate Muslims on the need to promote the full implementation of Sharia law…."

This is fine if you are an Imam (or even the average Muslim minding his or her own business), but not when you are wishing to occupy the top position, overseeing a country with over 70 million non-Muslims. Also, when someone of Buhari’s record tells me there is “nothing to fear,” that is the time I begin to tremble with certain trepidation. To be blunt, we will prefer anyone who wants to rule us, to leave religion out of the electoral process and just give us solid and viable plans for good governance. It’s not a Christian/ Muslim thing….it’s a Nigeria thing.

We know Mahatma Gandhi said;

"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." 

But still, we are confident he didn't have this modern-day Nigeria - where insensitive leaders conveniently forget our secularism - in mind. Our advice will be for anyone who wants our votes, to keep the Koran and Bible out of our faces and stop hiding behind God. We may not be as religious as you, but we at least hope God will not protect incompetents. Besides, no matter the reassurances they may have obtained from their pastor or imam, we doubt anyone can bribe their way to paradise. On the day of judgement, we are relatively certain it will just be you and your creator. So, please in the name of God, stop.

Of course, the chutzpah of these politicians is sometimes created from events that surround us all. In a country where a keenly followed “man of God” has promised to “open up the gates of Hell on the president’s foes,” why are we puzzled when the average corrupt politician, believes he or she can open up the gates of Heaven and enter with a clear conscience?

Moving on swiftly, we cannot see how the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, can seriously justify staying on for another four years in the face of our country turning into the laughing stock of the world, whilst his ardent supporters bombard use with sterile indices showing Nigeria’s economy growing by 7% over the next blah years. Excuse me, but those in the know have been predicting the same statistic - along with Nigeria’s economy someday outstripping that of South Africa - way before your man came into power. Our advice will be for the president's followers to confront him on his woeful record on corruption and his penchant for surrounding himself with such poor advisers. The buck stops at your man's desk, so get him to do what leaders do...lead or get out of the way.

As for the other side, we, unlike the fervent millions pushing the Buhari ticket can’t see how his government can be incorruptible or attempt to probe anyone, when the very people who are financially springing him to power, have, shall we say “questionable” public service records. How anyone believes Buhari will be anything more than a figure-head, is still utterly befuddling to us. Do Buhari fans understand how much money will be spent to get him to the Rock? Do they know the source of those funds? Have they even bothered to do the mathematics, before giving the General their unshaken support? The mind boggles...

These GMB enthusiasts have sole reserve of our incredulity for they have conveniently forgotten this particular job at Abuja, requires a skill-set their renowned inflexible candidate (this will not be a military setting) may not possess. We of course pray for the best, as we have to concede Buhari has evidently softened over the years, or how else would he, Tinubu and Atiku be convenient bedfellows? How else could someone like Senator Yerima (he of the child-bride fame), be on Buhari’s presidential campaign committee? We could go on, but Brevity restrains us, as we continue to hope against all hope.

We worry about our intellectuals – bar a few – who have somehow conspired to overwhelmingly get on the ABJ (Anybody But Jonathan) train, whilst not holding the GMB bus shuttle to the same bar or standards. This particular point is one we find extremely worrying, especially; when we know some of these same characters never tire of educating us on whom to vote for, with no credible, historical record of them ever getting it right. It appears sadly, it is not only the politicians capitalising on the millions of Nigerians, whose determination to ignore the issues, is only surpassed by their rigid determination to vote for Buhari. Dissemination of knowledge is definitely not the goal here.

We, against all hope, pray our electorate is aware Nigeria’s foremost issue is a Lack of Leadership, because we can see the gaping hole created by a dearth of individuals prepared to knuckle down and inspire Nigerians to believe in and contribute positively to the creation of a better land. We know the requisite structure and culture just doesn't exist, because we have refused to copy the examples of countries like Singapore and Indonesia - two countries that more or less dragged their nationals out of the Third World pile, right before our eyes – instead, we have actually started to see the our hole become a grotesque gorge of hopelessness and resigned apathy.          

We wish we could have a Vladimir Putin Jonathan or Vladimir Putin Buhari for the next four years and at least, be frank with ourselves on the type of person we have in charge. A laconic individual, who is clearly very knowledgeable about his country, has a good grasp of her foes and friends (foreign and domestic) and also possesses an iron, nationalistic will to see his country prosper and not be left behind. An undeniable patriot, who though flawed, is driven by a passionate belief in the supremacy of his country. A person who Boko Haram know gives them only two options, when they attack his people; a one-way ticket to their maker or a lifetime in hell.

Of course we realise this is a flight of fantasy, so, we grudgingly accept Buhari and Jonathan are all we realistically have for now and a choice has to be made. But yet, we wonder why a country of 160 million plus, has refused to carve out her identity, but instead has blindly followed the Democratic / Republican model, which is clearly throwing that icon of democracy into bureaucratic chaos. We can’t really understand why Nigerians have decided to totally ignore the other candidates. Yes, they genuinely may not have a chance, but at least one or two of them should be able to join the national debate. You will be surprised the quality of the “between the lines” detail that a third or fourth candidate brings to the table. If in doubt, ask David Cameron and Gordon Brown about a certain Nick Clegg or draw some inspiration from the electoral shift, away from the traditional political parties in Europe.

Finally, we really hope Nigerians have a cunning plan and just want to exploit the fervency of the Buhari factor, to knock Jonathan from his perch and then a few years down the line; exert their electoral muscles and take out the General and his political soldiers. You never know….we Nigerians remain ingenious like that. In fact, this is the scenario we pray is playing out in front of us, as we look on and laugh.

We rest.





So, really, who will win?

Well, the same people who always win. The same group that have been winning since 1960, and have positioned things in such a way, as to ensure whichever snake-head shows up, they, have enough anti-venom to contain the situation for their own benefit. If you are wondering who these people are, well, don’t strain your cerebral Rolodex on our behalf. We will help you.

The group rarely grows past twenty in number and their clout within their setting, is determined on natural causes like death, sickness and finally, on whom they have allowed to inhabit the seat of power. They are all male, arguably the only true Nigerians – as in, they know the country inside out and unlike most of us, have cultural, political and familial connections that defy creed, religion or tribe – and are individually, sufficiently ruthless and benevolent in equal measure.

If you require more assistance in compiling the list, I will go as far as to advise you the most visible - yes, some have to be shadowy - of the collective, have acronymic monikers with three characters permanently branded on the brain of most Nigerians. What else do you expect after five decades of oppression and ensuing trauma?

Oh, we shouldn't forget America. She wins too. Any which way Nigeria goes, America just magically happens to come up trumps. Must be something in the Rivers Niger and Benue.

Final verdict of Nigeria Elections 2015 

A Valentine’s Day Massacre of the common man……tick-tock.



Credits

 1.  Cartoon courtesy of  Mike Asukwo (+234 802 3462978)
 2.  Charles Soludo article courtesy of Vanguard Newspapers


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