By Evaristus Bassey
may have my political preferences but I am not disillusioned to think that things cannot go sideways, as we are in Nigeria where everything is possible especially that which is impossible. Democracy is a game of numbers, and it is possible that despite all the facts that have emerged concerning the candidates of the PDP and the APC, Nigerians would take solace in their different religious and regional perspectives.
Take the ordinary northern Muslim for instance. He has been brought up to look up to his leaders and to follow their bidding; sometimes he is told he could vote for “those who stand up to pee,” and sometimes he is asked not to.
And now we have two core northern Muslims as principal contenders, in the persons of their Excellencies Atiku Abubakar and Rabiu Kwankwaso and a “half” Muslim in the person of Tinubu. It will take a lot of enlightenment, and short of a miracle for them to abandon their own to vote an “infidel.” I have also discovered that it is not just the north that listens to its political leaders.
Down south, money can talk through the leaders and people listen. The winner-takes-it-all modus operandi of our democracy makes it such that people fight tooth and nail for their political party to win elections so they could pick even the crumbs that fall from the table.
Many people depend on political appointments and micro contracts that they can access because they are party members; under such circumstances issues such as the national interest become keep-in-view items that are put permanently aside.
I have therefore decided that while I will promote and vote for my candidate, I will do my best to be unbothered with the outcome, because I know that no matter who wins among the four major candidates, Nigeria will not remain as worse off than it has already been under Buhari as president and Ben Ayade as Cross River State governor. I will now try to give a positive evaluation of each candidate.
If Peter Obi wins, it will manifest that the youths have truly woken up and have taken back their country. Such a singular act will increase faith in God as the unseen hand in many battles and in our democracy. Many people will believe that votes really matter, public officials will be driven to be more proactive and accountable, as they realize that they could be voted out if they perform below expectation.
Many youths will become deeply patriotic and willing to sacrifice for the common good. Fiscal responsibility will be entrenched at the federal level, as Peter Obi already has a culture of prudent management of resources. Nigeria as a nation will be admired by the international community and our respect in the African region will increase exponentially.
Money politics will have proven to be a dead horse. The north will experience greater development and yet will become more vocal and critical because they would have freed up their civic space against a non- Muslim head of state.
If Tinubu wins, he will appoint competent persons from all regions and religious backgrounds to man sensitive portfolios. Even if we become the butt of jokes among other African nations, Nigeria’s economy will improve and the polarization that currently exists within the federation, with the fulanization of political, security and economic offices, will have a balance.
Social media will be quite active with the expectedly numerous gaffes Tinubu will make as president, although more attempts at squeezing the civic space will be made but this will be balanced by a sense of purpose in government, even if Area Boyism will be on the rise. Bandits will be dealt with decisively and security improve generally in Nigeria.
If Atiku Abubakar wins, even though a lot of state resources will be ploughed into securing his very large family and rewarding friends, he will bring good hands into governance as well. He will perhaps be the best person to embark on restructuring, since a southern candidate might meet with stiff resistance, as the national assembly, which is a very important tool in this scheme, is skewed in favour of the north.
It is left to be seen whether the north will willingly let go of the stranglehold it has on the nation. A case in point is the completely watered-down Petroleum Industry Act. Even if so, the best bet would probably be to do so when one of their own is at the helm of affairs, as any other person attempting restructuring would be termed anti-north.
But a Nigerian president wields enormous influence, and with the right buttons pressed, any of the presidents can do something about restructuring even if it begins as something incremental. One of my parishioners claimed to have had a vision that Atiku won, and that insecurity ended. I believe too that no incoming president will allow the insecurity to fester the way it has under President Buhari.
The forthcoming elections indeed are the most unpredictable since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. With Obasanjo as president we always knew who would win, as the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) was glaringly dependent on the whims of the powers that be.
Rigging was commonplace, although you rigged where your party had a stronghold, and since PDP was strong in most parts of the country, the rigging was all over the place.
The attempt by General Buhari to use his newly registered Congress for Peoples Change (CPC) to secure the presidency was very daring but quite unsuccessful because it was limited to the northern part of the country.
Yet this obvious failure didn’t obfuscate the entitlement mindset that led to the killing of many National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in cold blood. PDP was the only truly national party at the time and so it was going to win anyway.
Leading to 2015, it had to take majorly the alliance of AC, CPC, and a breakaway part of PDP to create a formidable platform to dislodge the PDP from power. However, the introduction of technology into the electoral system may have done more to create a level playing field. Thus INEC began to have some credibility.
As it stands now in 2023, among the strong four, only NNPP does not seem to have the national spread needed to win the presidential elections.
The Electoral Act 2022, which has more reliance on technology seems to have taken the wind out of the sails of the ruling party. Unlike 2019 when Buhari used his incumbency principally to win, if the Electoral Act 2022 is implemented without manipulations, any of the other candidates apart from Kwankwaso can win.
For Peter Obi, the army of discontented youths spread all over the nation and who form part of the suffering masses, form the main structures. The oppressed Christian populations of the north who sometimes constitute more than 50% of the population in some northern states, will also form the bulwark along with the enlightened populations in North-Central, South-South, South-West and South-East, irrespective of party affiliation. Most PDP members in the south who genuinely feel the president should come from the south this time, will also vote for Peter Obi.
Tinubu’s hope is based on an alliance between the Southwest and the Northwest as well as the Northeast, having been a buffer of strength for the North through Buhari. APC since 2015 has done its best to be a national party and they have all the institutions of coercion under their control, as well as the powerful northern APC governors who will want to be relevant politically beyond 2023, since a win for any other party will leave them at the sidelines. But recent developments seem to suggest that APC’s opponents are APC.
On the other hand, Atiku has majority of the Muslim population in the north behind him, even if they are members of the APC. He also has PDP members all over the country who feel they have a stake in the party. The turn out at his rally on 13th of February in Calabar was amazing, and if all those people I saw would vote for him, then even Obi will have a hard time in Cross River State, except that, speaking with some of them, they told me they were there for the gubernatorial candidate. Atiku also has the entire Fulani establishment behind him, a powerful cabal that may care less for national interest than its ethnic hegemony.
So between Peter Obi, Bola Tinubi and Atiku Abubakar, anyone can win, and Nigeria will be on an upward trajectory, even though a Peter Obi win would make that progress geometric, because the entire universe will conspire to lift Nigeria to the heights.
The writer is a Catholic Priest