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COMMENT: Nigeria after the general election

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SAT, FEBRUARY 02 2019-theG&BJournal-Nigeria won’t disintegrate. That is the case. At this stage it is not certain who will win the February 16 2019 election. Meanwhile hundreds of party spin-doctors are frenetic on social media trying to out-manoeuvre each other. But Nigeria will be intact despite their tantrums, if not emerging even stronger as a democracy.

The prospect of the election scares even the most hardened heart, made scarier by the predictions of global risk analysts who unanimously agree uncertainty is inevitable. The huge amount of uncertainty surrounding the main actors and individuals that will be involved in the election period doesn’t help matters either. So far it’s been calm.

Nigerians in opposition to the current government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari (All Progressives Congress (APC) will say and have been saying that the government has ignored their needs-‘’the needs of the people.’’ The social media hordes insulting the president and his main opponent in the election, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may prove the harbinger. There could be violence, an overwhelming rejection of the APC, a PDP deserted at the polls, and even deeper polarization of the country. That will be all.

Political parties and democracy has been disastrous for the country and the economy. But abandoning that now will equally be damaging. So far the thought of any other political party besides the big two (the APC and PDP) as an option, is unbearable, and it is hard to see a bearable option emerge in the nearest future. Nigerians are not ready to explore strange territories. The main reason to believe the options will be hard to follow: even now no Nigerian is thinking about the alternatives already presented. It is a no brainer. Ask Oby Ezekwesili about that or Sowore or Moghalu.

Strangely, very few people care to ask questions about who rules. The focus has always been on the ‘political party’ that rules. And what these parties present are distant elites in the Aso Rock (Abuja) fortress.

Since 1999, only a handful of Nigerians think of Aso Rock as the single most important problem Nigeria face and many Nigerians stay switched-on to which political party wins the lottery to that very coveted abode. Once the party wins the election every member of the party belongs in Aso Rock-that is where the ‘’national cake’’ is shared, mostly to cronies and relatives, where the juiciest jobs are handed out to a select few-elites and their trumpeters.

We randomly asked a few friends to recall the names of those representing their constituencies-90% of them have no clue. But they know without prompting who will occupy Aso Rock anytime.

This year’s election turned who occupies Aso Rock the central issue and core of the politicking. Supporters of the current occupant Buhari are attached to his appeal as a fearless corruption fighter. The issues attached to his re-election is his gritty focus to wrench the country away from the vice grip `of rent seekers and hand it over to the poorest of the population. But that is not enough if you ask those on the other side of the aisle. For them corruption as an issue is binned-trashed and wrapped in unfathomable coat already. After all none of them have any stakes in the corruption project. They are the big social media army too.

Clearly these segments of the army want to vote. Their vote will be crucial and could be the decider too, if they handle it well. The only worrying aspect of their narrative is that there are no plausible and agreeable democratic or economic reasons why they want the current president voted out. In other words their argument is not strong enough-yet- to persuade even those who follow them to vote otherwise. We doubt.

What is often said is that the Buhari government is selectively fighting corruption, there is poverty everywhere and that the price of garri has gone up since he became president. In fact every today’s country ill is caused by Buhari.  They don’t make sense but what they say could mollify a segment of their listeners. Fair enough a harder segment of their demography seems less bothered about corruption but more about jobs. Most of them view the party, APC, as a party of retribution not of redistribution. It is hard to see APC get a vote from them. They will vote for Atiku.

But Atiku cannot win over Nigerian value voters. He has worked hard enough to push Buhari to the limit. That is not concluding that Buhari has already won. Both have done great so far by showing respect to the electorate and to themselves and by avoiding the offensive pitch high utterances that scares, the type that ‘dividers’ prefer, they both definitely have patched a great deal of crack-perceived crack, in the unity of the country.

Now the electorate has to model themselves on both of these gentlemen, tow their path and be remembered as a generation that embalmed Nigeria’s democracy. In the next four years, in another general election-probably-another 10 million Nigerians (our estimate) would have turned18 and above. There should be a reference to guide their behaviour. We think Atiku and Buhari conduct so far, is enough to be that reference.

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