2023 elections

2023 elections: Nigeria’s tunnel or a continuation of the cycle? 

Seven months from now Nigerians will go to the polls, to elect their choice for various public office holders, and especially president Muhammadu Buhari’s replacement. While many can’t wait to bid Buhari bye, for obvious reasons, the options available to choose from have proven to be far from able to convince anyone of a potential reprieve. But for the first time in Nigeria’s electoral history, the presidential election appears to be a three-horse race, with Bola Tinubu of the ruling APC, Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition PDP, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Both Atiku and Tinubu have been widely alleged to have corruptly enriched themselves from the public purse, it has been argued that Peter Obi has no such allegations.

Buhari is expected to leave office in 2023, having led, arguably, the worst administration in Nigeria’s history. It is not a deliberate attempt to soil his name, the records are there for all to see – except, of course, the deliberately blind who have no limits to their support of the man and his party. A recent publication by the Business Day media showed how Buhari and his party (APC) literally ruined Nigeria’s economy and Nigerians purchasing power since 2015. Even Buhari knows how terrible his rule has been, but because Nigeria is Nigeria, he has dared anyone to come to question him after leaving office. Let’s look at the options Nigerians must choose from at this critical moment in the country’s history. 

Tinubu expects Buhari to hand over to him in 2023 and will go ‘as far as beyond low’ to appease Buhari. At the Special National Honours Investiture in June 2018, when the Buhari administration recognized June 12 and MKO Abiola’s victory at the polls, rightly assigning Abiola the title of GCFR, Tinubu displayed the desperation and mischief of one who will do anything to get what he wants. In his speech, which lasted about nine minutes, Tinubu literally ignored the subject of the event, MKO Abiola, only mentioning him in passing, because he needed to emphasize his false admiration of Buhari. Praising Buhari endlessly, Tinubu cited the campaign slogan of MKO in 1993 (Hope ’93 and “Farewell To Poverty). In his usual mischievous way, Tinubu praised Buhari for restoring hope to Nigerians, and for helping Nigerians bid farewell to poverty. 

He said Buhari was doing that by investing in education, feeding school children, and ensuring that Nigerians no longer paid for darkness, a reference to Nigeria’s perpetual electricity challenge. You may be wondering if Tinubu lives in another country,  perhaps another universe. In education, Buhari has watched as terrorists walked into towns, invade schools and abduct hundreds of school children, even in his home state of Katsina, and at a time Buhari was just kilometers away from the school. If criminals could dare the president like that, to attack a school not far from where Buhari was, what do you think the reaction of parents would be? Some parents, in agony, said they’d no longer send their remaining children to school. 

Some of those abducted school children are still in captivity, but Tinubu praised Buhari for improving education. Most Nigerian public schools are in terrible shape, with no chairs and desks for the students, no windows, no roofs, nothing. The school feeding program has been exposed for the fraud that it is. Let’s even ignore the fact that Tinubu’s and Buhari’s children cannot eat the food. During months of COVID-19 lockdown, when there was “government-imposed restriction” on moving around and “schools were shut”, Buhari’s minister of Humanitarian Affairs (Sadiya Farouk), who was in charge of the scheme, told Nigerians that more than N500 million was spent feeding [imaginary] school children – perhaps the minister was taking the food to the children’s homes. 

Under Buhari, university students have suffered endlessly, no thanks to the outdated and now-irrelevant Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other Unions whose only idea of engaging the government is to go on strike. In the latest edition of these endless strikes, it’s been five whole months since ASUU and the government shut universities, denying innocent students the education “they paid for”. On poverty, under Buhari and APC, Nigeria has been ranked the poverty capital of the world, as it climbed above India in the number of citizens living in extreme poverty. This is even more saddening when you note that India has more than 6 times Nigeria’s population. 

How does one even talk of electricity under Buhari and Tinubu’s APC? Nigerians have lost count of how many times the national grid has collapsed since 2015, with more than three times in the first half of this year. Buhari and APC have not only reduced Nigeria’s power generation, literally making consumers ‘pay for darkness’, but electricity tariff has also been increased. The Punch newspaper, in a June 14, 2022 report, said; “Figures obtained on Monday from the Nigeria Electricity System Operator, an arm of the Federal Government’s power transmission company, showed that the national electricity grid actually crashed from a peak of 3,703 megawatts to as low as 9MW on Sunday”. Can you beat that? The rule of Buhari and Tinubu’s APC has literally been a plague to Nigeria, yet Tinubu thinks he deserves to be rewarded with the country’s Presidency. 

In a June 22, 2022 piece about the 2023 presidential election, Bloomberg wrote; “Front-runner Bola Tinubu, who secured the ruling party’s nomination earlier this month, was being investigated by the country’s anti-corruption agency as recently as last June. Three decades ago he fought a lawsuit in which the US government accused him of laundering the proceeds of heroin trafficking and eventually reached a settlement”. The settlement was reportedly about $460,000. Would you agree to a settlement if not guilty? The Bloomberg piece also read in part; “Atiku Abubakar, his chief rival, brought tens of millions of dollars of “suspect funds” into the US when he was Nigeria’s vice president in the 2000s, according to a US Senate report, and was implicated in a bribery case that resulted in the imprisonment of an American congressman. Neither episode resulted in charges against Abubakar”. 

Atiku Abubakar’s principal in the period cited by Bloomberg, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, has also accused Atiku of monumental corruption. But despite several allegations of wrongdoing, neither of the two candidates has been convicted yet. As these candidates have not been convicted of any crime, it is their right to aspire and contest the presidential election. But the desperation they have shown is a real cause for concern, especially after a Buhari administration. On Thursday, May 12, 2022, Nigerians were shocked by the news of the gruesome murder of Deborah Yakubu, a 200-Level Home Economics student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto State. She was killed by ‘unrighteous religious rogues’, who accused her of blasphemy. 

Nigerians reacted immediately, expressing outrage over the killing and demanding the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators. But to the amazement of Nigerians, there was a sickening silence from Nigeria’s presidential candidates. In an article published on Medium on May 18, 2022, Oluwaseun Lonimi noted the reaction of Nigeria’s presidential candidates, their desperation, and what it means for Nigeria. He wrote; “Atiku Abubakar was the first to suggest that his ambition is of more importance than the lives of Nigerians, and expose the cowardly fear of losing northern Muslim votes. After the murder of Deborah became news, Atiku’s social media handles (Facebook and Twitter) were updated with a post condemning the murder, with a second part asking that the perpetrators be brought to book. The response of the religiously obsessed misfits who justified the murder was swift, with many replying to Atiku’s posts saying he just lost their votes ahead of the elections. To the shock of many observers, the said Atiku posts were immediately deleted. Clearly, the fear of losing northern Muslim votes was the beginning of Atiku’s wisdom”. 

Peter Obi has shown that there can actually be an alternative to the PDP and APC in the choice of Nigeria’s next president. Though a former member of the PDP, and Vice-Presidential candidate of the party in the 2019 elections, Nigerians, especially youths, have been seriously mobilizing support for Obi’s candidacy ahead of 2023. Left disillusioned by 24 years of misrule under the PDP and APC, Nigerians have demonstrated commendable faith and hope in their country, refusing to resign to their fate in the hands of PDP and APC. They have demonstrated belief in the candidacy of Obi, largely because of the man’s record of prudence in the management of Anambra state’s resources while he was governor. In addition to this, Obi is the only one, so far, that has been engaging the public on the critical issues affecting the country, and giving an idea of how he intends to address the issues if elected president. 

However, on Deborah’s murder, even Obi was less than impressive in his reaction. Here’s what Lonimi wrote; “On Deborah’s murder, even Peter Obi could not immediately find his voice, perhaps because he had quickly learned from Atiku’s experience in the hands of the very important northern Muslim prospective voters. When he finally found his voice, while speaking on Arise TV Morning Show on Tuesday – five days after the murder – Obi was careful to not mess with his prospective northern Muslim voters, saying; ‘I believe that this incident only exposed the fact that our cohesion as a nation is fragile. No offense should justify citizens taking law into their own hands”. 

It is disheartening enough to have people like the current candidates as the potential replacement of Buhari, Buhari which has brought the country to its lowest ever in all spheres of life. But to watch and read Nigerians (casualties of the deliberate misrule of these politicians) vehemently defend and promote the ones who brought Buhari to power, lining up behind them on the road to 2023, even Buhari may later demand an apology from his critics. While one candidate engages the issues afflicting the country, his detractors have nicknamed him ObiChina, because of his usual reference to the Chinese development model, which has been an outstanding success. But success means nothing to them, as they can’t even imagine that such could be replicated here. 

Do you blame them? After decades of deliberate and calculated subjugation of a people, so bad that they’ve learned to be thankful for simply being alive. Having watched as criminals violently wipe out villages, while being pampered by the government that should secure those victims in the first place, you can hardly blame the survivors for being thankful to still have breath. All these while a so-called army general is a president. What can a civilian say, or do, to make such people agree that they have a right to demand more than just living? How can a civilian, especially one with a record of not being enticed by the slut of public office, convince such people that they can break free from their chains? 

When asked if he truly thinks he can right the numerous wrongs in the country, Obi responded, honestly, that everything could not be done in 4 or 8 years, but what he’s promising is to turn the country back from its current ruinous path. But the people wouldn’t listen, they’re too far gone to turn back, and would rather continue following the ones who mislead them. The other two candidates recognize the people’s lack of faith and have not bothered discussing these issues or proferring solutions to them. Instead, they’re going about their politicking as they know how and have always done, keeping the people busy and divided over inessential things like ethnicity and religion. It’s a magic wand and it’s working perfectly on the people, the same people who groan daily about the skyrocketing prices of goods and services, insecurity, unemployment, and other issues denying them a decent living. In the midst of all these they’re being sold the sentiment of Hope ’93, but what hope can the undertaker give to the grieving, especially on the road to the cemetery?

  • Seun Lonimi (lonimisamuel@gmail.com) writes on Politics Today.
See also  2023: Another Round Of Dry Campaigns? 

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