© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
2019 election, the electorate and the illusion of choice
By Timothy Ola Bamgboye
Nigeria’s 2015 general election was exceptional for one thing: an incumbent president was unseated for the very first time since the country’s return to democratic rule. The intriguing variables that culminated in that feat have been well documented by those in the know. Segun Adeniyi’s Against the Run of Play for instance captures a slice of these variables especially from the lenses of the political players themselves.
In spite of these chilling insights, it is surprising that many Nigerian electorate still possess an exaggerated impression of the powers that they wield in determining who assumes office.
Since Nigeria’s return to civil democratic rule about two decades ago, not much progress has been made in stabilizing our wobbly democratic processes, structures and systems. The Electoral Act may have been reviewed to accommodate regulations in tune with the modern times; but in reality, we have merely been scratching the surface with our political and electoral reforms.
Come to think of it, how much effect have these reforms really had on actualizing free, fair and credible elections? Can we confidently boast that the majority’s choice will emerge at the end of any electoral process? Even if we can, can we assuredly vaunt that the majority’s choice will be a product of informed, enlightened, and objective minds?
How can we, when a large chunk of the electorates are either literally uneducated, politically unenlightened or grossly ignorant of basic civic education? How can we, when the ruling class have perpetuated this state of affairs to keep up with their oppressive tendencies? How can we, when money-politics and stomach infrastructure still occupy a vantage position in Nigerian politics? How can we, when internal democracy is largely not entrenched in most political parties, and the two “major” political parties are not ideological based but opportunistic and self-serving? How can we, when the other less prominent parties are largely not better off, and readily sacrifice building a strong, viable and value-oriented party on the altar of political expediency?
It is laughable to hear supposedly educated Nigerians boastfully claim to have voted out a clueless, incompetent and hopelessly corrupt president out with the snap of a finger in 2015, and vow to readily do the same to the current president who is fast gaining a reputation for ethnic jingoism, crass incompetence, and nonchalance for the dignity of human person and the sanctity of human life. For a moment, one may be led to believe that this set of persons have practically lost their minds or are at best suffering from selective amnesia.
In a highly complex country like Nigeria, how could we underestimate the role played by the same crop of self-serving politicians in birthing APC and packaging it as a formidable alternative to PDP? How can we gloss over the role played by the media in ensuring its visibility and entrenching an angelic image in the subconscious of many unsuspecting Nigerians? How could we have forgotten the role obscene cash played in positioning APC at a central spot in the hearts of the electorate?
About a year to the next elections, is there any political party in Nigeria that currently has the clout to be referred to as a third force that can wrestle power from the ruling party? Is there any individual with character and competence that can identify with a party today and birth a third formidable force?
Tope Fasua may be doing a good job transforming ANRP into a strong, reliable, and value-driven party, yet the party does not presently have the stature or structure to reasonably and competitively contest for political power. The likes of Fela Durotoye, Adamu Garba II & Mathias Tsado may be doing a great job inspiring a breath of fresh air; while Tunde Bakare and Donald Duke may be a few of the old block with an articulate vision of rescuing Nigeria from the doldrums. Nevertheless, one does not need a soothsayer to tell that these great individuals on their own strength are mere “pretenders” on Nigeria’s present political turf. Is it not time these individuals and such persons with immense influence and credibility united and began inspiring mass mobilization in order to birth a third force?
Make no mistake about it, regardless of your confidence in any intelligent, motivated, and patriotic Nigerian, if he does not sacrifice personal ambition for the higher public good, and synergize with people of like minds, he will be going into the coming polls as a joke — a mere pretender, and not a real contender. If we do not want competent and credible persons who could have been viable alternatives to these present predators to gather crumbs of split votes in the coming elections, it is time to come down our high horse of self-conceit and deception and be deliberate about seeking a third formidable force.