In these times when the credibility of many has been plunged into crisis, there are many who are hard at work to show that there is still some distance left to explore on that road. Nigeria is counting days to critical general elections and with each second that ticks by anxiety mounts about how a people will decide and whether the majority of a people that have not always pulled in the same direction will someone contrive to make the right choices.
Those who feel the most anxiety about the outcome of the elections are those who know in their heart of hearts that if Nigeria gets it wrong one more time, an irreversibly perilous plunge down the precipice of national disintegration will be the end result.
For a long time now Nigeria has been a market of sorts. There have been all manner of buyers and sellers haggling over all manner of commodities. Yet, those who have been shortchanged in this market where some veteran sellers have continued to deftly complete deals, dealing a heavy hand to others, know that the market forces are not about to let the country’s lot improve anytime soon.
Nigeria’s historic return to democracy in 1999 meant that a country long strangled by the serial abuses of successive military regimes could go back to its old enjoyable ways. It meant elections. It meant free speech. It also meant the enjoyment of basic human rights.
Different elections have come and gone since then and Nigerians have watched all manner of men march through their corridors of power. That more mongrels than real men have marched through in this time finds towering testament in the depth of the dysfunction that continues to demystify a country that once promised so much.
In 2015, convinced that the administration of then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan had fallen far below expectations, Nigerians let themselves be wooed by those who marketed Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s current president, as the messiah. Nigerians listened to their lines on the man’s personal integrity and austerity as well as burnished democratic credentials.
Nigerians quickly and overwhelming bought was sold to them. To their chagrin many of them did not even get home before they discovered that they had been hoodwinked. When a window opened up in 2019 to return the spoilt merchandise and demand their money or a suitable replacement, many of them passed or were forced to pass.
Ahead of the 2023 elections, Nigeria very much remains in a limbo. Amidst the feverish pitching of those determined to sell one candidate or the other to Nigerians, many Nigerians are wary of the merchandise of mendacity and mischief the snake oil salesmen are peddling.
To open this bazaar of blight and blemish, it is difficult to look past Bola Ahmed Tinubu the former Lagos State Governor and candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the forthcoming election.
His emergence as the candidate of the ruling party was not without controversy. His candidacy has not been without controversy either as the woeful showing of the ruling party and his aggressive claim to the country’s highest office have put many on edge.
Many people question his source of wealth and his capacity to lead an impoverished country to prosperity. If his fragile health is a sign of things to come, then if he wins the election, a sick country would itself be saddled with an ailing physician.
There is also the curious case of Peter Obi who is leading a vociferous third force going into the election. His seemingly outlandish promises to fix Nigeria has alarmed many who argue that he has no idea just how deeply the rot has eaten into the country.
However, what especially warms the heart about him is that he is the one making all the right noises about Nigeria’s situation. Unlike many politicians in Nigeria, Peter Obi also appears ready to put his money where his mouth is.
Then there is the old political warhorse Atiku Abubakar who is hoping that the sixth time will be the sweet time for him. His many detractors, some of them as dramatic as they come, that he is corrupt. They point to his time in office as the vice-president of the country and unsubstantiated allegations that he abused his office to milk Nigeria dry.
For each of these candidates including those knee-deep in the muck of corruption allegations, there is an army of supporters, some only verbally violent, and others as volatile as they come.
Those who support each of these candidates are not aliens from space. They are Nigerians who have been living in Nigeria for as long as they can remember.
When asked for the reasons for the choices they favour, they are usually quick with a reply, and even a defence when they are threatened by the facts on offer.
Given how badly leadership has faltered in Nigeria in the last two decades, it is expected that there should be more circumspection from those who are showing none of it at the moment.
It is one thing to be easily excited about someone running for political office but it is another thing to extract guarantees from them that once elected, they will do all within their powerlift a finger to betterimprove the lot of a lot ofeveryday Nigerians.f
If Nigerians fail to find respite in the leadership skills of whoever is elected the country’s next president on February 25, the catastrophe will not be lost on all those who elected him.