As Nigerians Decide In 2015
They have told us a littany of lies. First they would not run then they would and they never said they wouldn’t. Then they said Shekau was killed, but Shekau is alive and they are fresh on his tail. Twenty billion dollars went missing from the excess crude account. They said it was a mere delusion. The Power sector has been successfully privatized, yet we have electricity less frequently than we used to. Corruption is not stealing, but the corrupt are stealing all they can lay their hands on.What drives a person to steal? Is corruption intrinsic to our political and administrative leadership? Is undue economic hardship responsible? Or is it a hardship that could easily be ameliorated by serious and effective government reform? Boko Haram is now being pulmerized. What took them so long? Now the curtains are drawn. The day of reckoning is here.
An early poll conducted by the African Independent Television (AIT) suggested that Muhammadu Buhari led by 79%. But that poll was quickly taken down to save Mr. President from further embarrassment. Abuja has virtually emptied out as many people travelled to their hometowns to sit out the elections. Many of them registered to vote but won’t get to exercise that right because they don’t believe that their safety is guaranteed by the government. Ditto for non Hausas in Northern states who have fled to their various “homes” because they fear a repeat of the 2011 post election violence. They fear that the North will burn especially after the results are announced. These fears are not far fetched considering the pre-election rhetorics that became the order of the day.
“Anyone who votes for this government to remain in power is wicked,” says a young woman who graduated as a Petroleum Engineering student with a second class upper and works as a secretary for a contractor. We boarded the same flight from Abuja to Lagos.
“Of what use is my degree? Why did I suffer myself on so many long nights reading by candle light only to get a job as a secretary?”
“It is well,” I offer, with a sigh. But she flares up again. “It is not well if we don’t go out on Saturday to vote for change! We need to send a clear message that we will vote them out if they don’t perform!”
My cousin voices a similar frustration. He has been trying to get into the Nigerian Defence Academy for the past nine years. Without a strong political or military connection, his efforts have been as futile as a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle.
“This country is too corrupt,” he laments. “We need to put an end to it and it has to start from the top.”
We have been looking forward to this day with feverish anticipation. The little children know who they would like to vote for although they are not old enough and their choices are really a product of their parents’s political inclinations as well as those of their teachers. The thugs have sold their consciences to the highest bidder. Politicians use them to dole out between 1,000 Naira to 2,000 Naira to impoverished voters who can rarely afford three square meals. As well as to anybody who is ready to be bought so cheaply. Branded rice, recharge cards and souvenirs have exchanged hands. Fierce skirmishes between APC and PDP thugs have left scores of people dead and bode ill for today’s exercise. The government’s ineptitude in the face of real security threats is now out of hand. Only when there is a perceived threat to their comfort zone will you see them spring into action. Of what use is a government if lives and properties are not effectively secured? Of what use are selfish leaders?
Nigeria is the most populous African country with a population of more than 177 million people almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. Her elections are crucial to shaping the course of African History and indeed the world. It is no wonder that election observers from far and near have converged on the country to witness such an historic event. The world is watching with fingers crossed as Nigerians decide.
We Nigerians are usually optimistic even when faced with dire circumstances. But we go to this poll with low expectations. Our hope for free and fair elections have too frequently been dashed that we fear to raise them again. Indeed what do we expect from the INEC chairman who reported a PVC distribution of 82% that has disenfranchised nearly 15 million voters in the process. Or from Mr. President whose morbid fear of losing spurned him into decisive action at the eleventh hour. Or his challenger whose past is buried in murk and whose vision remains blurry.
“My brother, I will vote for Goodluck,” says a woman who sells provisions outside my house. “They say the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know. So I will vote for the devil I know.”
I don’t expect that Goodluck Ebele Jonathan would mind being called the devil as long as he secures the votes and I’m sure Buhari is certainly no angel.
“I go vote for Buhari because I want change,” my security man tells me. “PDP don dey rule us since ‘99 so na time for us to try another party.”
I don’t know if this decision is informed by the fact that he himself is from the North, Nassarawa State, which is predominantly christian, but I’m not interested in regarding his opinion along ethnic or religious lines. I imagine that he is only being a concerned citizen and rightly so. I am not interested in perpetuating the lie they told us. That we must vote according to religious and ethnic sentiments. Hausa for Hausa. Christian for Christian. The rest of Nigeria against them. We have proved them wrong before when MKO Abiola defeated Bashir Tofa not only at the national polls but in his own hometown in Kano State!
This time around the polarity of public opinion makes this election difficult to predict. Whatever the outcome, we will stand on the winding queues come pouring rain, come blazing sun, and we will exercise our rights to vote and make our votes count. That’s another lie they told us, that we can make our votes count. As Nigerians decide today, the conundrum remains; will we march out President Goodluck Jonathan on or march for Buhari? Will violence erupt on a scale never seen since the Biafra war? Will this election be the freest our flailing democracy has ever witnessed? Or will it be mired in irregularities once again? As Nigerian wait and hope for the best, these pertinent questions remain.