If the buildup to the 2023 general election, is anything to go by, then the early signs are that the election, which will be the seventh in the country`s electoral cycle since a historic return to democracy in 1999, promises to be the most electric yet.
For those fully steeped in the deterioration the country has cupped since 2015, but especially since 2019, the destination has hardly been in doubt.
Angst, aches and alarm
For most Nigerians, it is not just that the current APC-led government has failed, it is the nature of the failure that has been most grating. The fall from the ceiling when change was profusely promised to the cellars when merely getting governance basics right has become a Sisyphean task has been deeply frustrating. To compound the bottomless sense of frustration is the feeling that those who should care, don’t.
As terrorists have continued to raid rural communities around the country, slaughtering and displacing countless, those saddled with state power for the benefit of Nigerians have appeared listless, lethargic and overwhelmed. So bad has the situation become that when terrorists recently threatened to abduct the president and the governor of a state, the governor in question feigned ignorance on behalf of the president.
In all this, the overwhelming feeling is one of anger and alarm at the fact that leadership in the country has seemingly become a jamboree for political jesters and their dangerous jokes.
The gladiators and their right hands.
That the APC will be on the ballot in the general election in spite of its colossal failure in the past seven years is a source of deep shame to many Nigerians. But this is what obtains in a country where political leeches and locusts continue to show extraordinary longevity. Bola Ahmed Tinubu won the race for the ruling party`s presidential ticket. Former Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima is his running mate.
The Peoples Democratic Party is on a journey of redemption. In 2015, a wildly embarrassing defeat put paid to its sixteen years of ineptitude which were pockmarked by corruption and punctuated by cronyism. In eight of those sixteen years, Abubakar Atiku was Nigeria`s vice president. That the party feels its flag most secure in Atiku`s hands tell as much about the party as it does about the pool of leaders in Nigeria at the moment.. For running mate, Atiku has chosen Ifeanyi Okowa, the governor of Delta State.
It was a disgruntled Peter Obi, two-time former Governor of Anambra State that read the handwriting on the wall and dumped the Peoples Democratic Party on May 20,2022, at the cusp of the party`s primaries, when it became clear to him that he could not match the other candidates dollar for dollar in wooing the greedy sharks who had emerged as the party`s delegates to the primaries. He was soon to pitch his tent with the Labour Party, choosing Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed as his running mate.
Such is the cast of those who are making a case for Nigeria`s highest office. Given the country`s history of locusts who came disguised as leaders, every Nigerian has a right to be wary.
For Sam Omatseye, chairman of the editorial board of the Nation newspaper, and easily one of Nigeria`s foremost columnists, wariness took the form of a biting piece titled ‘Obi-tuary’ in his column of August 1, 2022.
What Omatseye did was essentially to lay waste to what he deemed the illusions and the aggression of Peter Obi`s army of followers who call themselves `obidients’. Omatseye even went as far as linking the vociferous and vituperative support Peter Obi has garnered around the country to the efforts of those who support the IPOB.
Predictably, the searing piece has sundered opinion around the country, with many going for the jugular of one of Nigeria`s most courageous but controversial journalists who has shown that bile can also assume the fluidity of prose.
A harvest of hackles.
In the relatively short time the obidient movement has existed, one of its distinct stamp is the unprecedented aggression it brings to political discourse, especially on social media. The movement is like a rabid pack of wolves packed into every space – harassing, snapping at heels, biting and tearing into pieces those who would disapprove of Peter Obi.
The bites of those who make up the movement pack such a powerful punch probably because unlike the mishmash of cobblers, okada riders, and kolanut sellers who supported Muhammadu Buhari to become Nigeria`s president in 2015, the obedient movement has within its rank some of Nigeria`s finest professionals and intellectuals, both at home and in the diaspora.
Many of Nigeria`s most prominent politicians, public commentators, celebrities and other public figures have fallen foul of this group whose frustration at the situation of the country is fuel for the fangs they bring to the trenches as 2023 draws near.
Reno Omokri, a former presidential aide, who has had course to disagree with the obidient movement got so harassed that he even alleged that there were threats to his life and the lives of his loved ones. Sam Omatseye has also alleged threats to his life for his ‘obi-tuary’ piece.
If today, Nigeria`s pool of politics is so dirty because it is so shallow, it is because issues are mostly abandoned for invectives.
A paragon of prudence
Ever his prudent self, Peter Obi himself has been wary of saying even a single bad word about any of his opponents. He has severally appealed to his supporters to tone down their rhetoric. But many of them have dismissed his pleas, seeing on the election trail a historic opportunity to put some of the midwives of Nigeria`s monumental problems in their place.
But just how bitter should politics get? How bilious, how vicious, how vituperative should it get? Should citizens of a country fast losing its humanity not exercise supreme caution when wielding the lance that language can be?
Nigeria gratefully remains a democracy, and while it remains one, choice is a chalice everyone should freely drink from without being fed into the cauldron of caustic abuse.
For those who support one candidate or the other, discretion is the better part of valour, and a sheathed sword is usually the sharpest.