FEATURE ARTICLE

Friday, February 24, 2023
[email protected]
Toronto, Canada
THE FIFTH WAVE OF NIGERIA'S DEMOCRACY: SHAKING OFF THE BURDEN OF AMNESIA

s Nigeria approaches the period of yet another round of general elections to select office holders, who will steer the ship of the country for the next four years, this intervention becomes exigent, considering the level of mendacious posturing of several charlatans in that political space. It becomes all the more important to set the record straight as this period will certainly witness the active participation of many young elements, most of whom were not born during the period of the turbulent transition to democratic governance under the military.

My generation fought the military relentlessly until their top echelon capitulated and were forced to put in place a hurriedly packaged programme of transition. Starting from 1986 as a young undergraduate in the University of Ibadan, up till the forced exit of General Ibrahim Babangida in 1993, the youths of this country, especially from the South West, waged a patriotic war on absolutism and treachery. The Abacha military regime attempted to entrench fascism but was resisted at a great cost.

The political firmament was dark. There were forebodings of untoward occurrences as the dictator Abacha was bent on perpetuating himself in office. The 1990s witnessed the emergence of pro-democracy organisations whose central focus was the adoption of tactics and strategies to end military rule by any means necessary. The country had acquired an unsavoury status of a pariah State in the comity of nations consequent on the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election adjudged to be freest and fairest in the history of elections in the country. The sustenance of internal pressure ensured that the final victory was won in 1999 when the military was forced out of the political scene.

The pro-democracy organisations played a pivotal role in ensuring that the struggle for the actualization of the annulled elections by the military junta was sustained. Certain persons contributed, immensely, to the success of the fight against repression of that period. Some paid the supreme price for the democracy which many charlatans enjoy today. It is only decent that we nudge the memories of those who grandstand at present. It will not be out of place to demand from these elements to state their specific contributions to democratic governance since every quisling assumes the status of a patriot.

Those of us who were at the forefront of the struggle in the 1980s through the 1990s will continue to remind our countrymen and women on the arduous journey undertaken by the downtrodden to enthrone democratic governance. It is amusing to read claims from stragglers, active collaborators with the military junta and consciously reactionary elements grandstand as democrats. All those who ensure that our people wallow in penury claim to be lovers of democracy. While admitting that the change recorded since 1999 has been marginal, it will be incorrect to assert that there has been no progressive shift in the state of despondency pervading the country before the advent of civil rule.

We will equally throw an open challenge to any of the current impostors, who lay claims to pseudo democratic credentials, to state, in specific terms, their contributions, if any, to the current dispensation. They must speak or remain silent when the real combatants speak on the experiences and aspirations towards a society of our collective dream. We recognise the right of any eligible citizen to aspire to any office in the country. We must, however, come against any attempt at revisionism which serves parochial interests. Let those who collaborated with the military to kill and maim our people stop from claiming to be the new patriots.

As Nigeria prepares to choose a new set of elected public officials, it becomes exigent for us to put in some words which will act as a guide for our people. It is not uncommon to witness hot contestations among the candidates aspiring for political offices. This is the season reserved for empty promises, mendacious claims and outright mischief. Nothing should surprise anyone. This period, unlike the previous elections when the battles were clearly defined between the ruling parties and the parties in opposition, continues to throw up benumbing surprises.

One is tempted to conclude that the leaders of the ruling party at the federal level are not keenly interested in retaining power. The contrived crises of the past three months leading to the generations excite suspicion on the real motives of certain elements in government. It is illogical that a party in power, which is presenting candidates for election, will look on while agents of destabilization hold sway. The simultaneous scarcity of fuel and Naira notes at this period leaves any reasonable person with no other conclusion than conscious sabotage.

As Nigerians prepare to cast their votes for their preferred candidates in a couple of days from now,25th February, 2023 precisely, credible forecasts point at three major candidates and certain fringe contestants known only by reputation. I make bold to assert that one of the three candidates is the most qualified judging by antecedents. The other two cannot be placed on the same pedestal of comparison as the first person. The three candidates, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, APC, Alhaji Abubabakar Atiku, PDP, and Mr. Peter Obi, LP, have all gone round to present themselves to the Nigerian electorate.

Times have really changed. The youths of today seem to have a different idea concerning politics and its role in nation-building. Sentiments, far withdrawn from existential considerations, dwelling more on and/or supporting trivialities, if not criminality, form the fulcrum of their agitations. The frenzy into which they have thrown themselves concerning registration to vote and the choice of a suitable candidate for the post of the President depicts the level of appreciation of issues. The fact that most of this impressionable segment of the society constitutes the most active should be a cause for concern.

There is hardly anything new that members of my generation and those above will be taught about the political history of this country. The recent history of the military and post military eras should be a veritable guide for the youths and anyone who is concerned with the issue of capacity and the readiness of any of the foremost candidates to mount the saddle. The issues have nothing to do with religion and little with ethnicity.

The country has had civil rule for an unbroken 24 years. Patriots must avoid anything that may truncate this linear progression which holds promises to deepen the current democratic experience. The 16-year rule of the People's Democratic Party was a colossal waste. Decent and honest people will agree with this submission. The choice of the current President was a patriotic duty in 2015. Again, only those who benefitted from the pervasive rot under Jonathan and PDP will have any problem agreeing to this statement. Therefore, the attempt to make all those who felt there was the need to change that ruinous regime look like villains for choosing what was perceived as a viable alternative is ludicrous and stupid.

We supported Buhari, enthusiastically, because there was no serious activity associated with governance. We chose a preferred alternative to damn unbridled profligacy and the option for perfunctory predilections where gravitas was required. It was clear that the Government under Jonathan was assemblage of the worst elements that could be found in a country. Many of those who have become exigent activists and separatists participated in the Bazaar. That was an era when Godwin Emefiele, as Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, released billions of US Dollars meant for the procurement of arms to criminals.

It was an inglorious epoch when $16b was spent to procure darkness. That was a time when the sovereignty of the country was shared with bandits and terrorists who controlled more than 14 Local governments in the North East. It was the descent of the locusts who ravaged the land with rapacious intensity. Military Generals simply diverted monies meant for the procurement of arms to fight bandits and the payment of allowances for the officers and men sent the arms way. That was a period when soulless characters swaggered and breathed down the necks of the hapless citizens. And this was the reason why all the good people in the country decided that that the profligate and inept government of Good luck Jonathan must be removed. Anybody remonstrating Nigerians for voting out that reckless and mediocre government is not sincere.

The coming of President Buhari in 2015 was a breather. Let no one deny the very obvious. The decision to remove Jonathan was the best any people, subjected to such an incompetent and profligate administration, could have taken given the circumstances which engendered a groundswell of discontent. Anybody using that to campaign against a candidate does so out of ignorance and/or mischief. Jonathan was borrowing to pay salaries. It was that bad. The next presidential election, therefore, affords Nigerians to determine whether they want this current experiment to continue or they want to embrace retrogression.

I resolved to always take a stand as far as the issue of governance and the process leading to it are involved as a youth and young undergraduate at the University of Ibadan in 1986.The military was in power and there were clear signs of reluctance to embrace professionalism by returning to the barracks. The student movements and human rights organisations started to emerge from that moment. My generation was lucky. We had mentors and remarkable antecedents to follow. We did not allow shallow elements, ethnic irredentists and nation wreckers to lead us astray.

We saw hope and were determined to make it a reality. We followed those who displayed sufficient interest in the progress of the country. We were not always right. The fire of youth was burning. Nobody could, however, accuse of treachery or sell-out. We took the risk to confront the impostors. Some of us paid the supreme price. Some are maimed, permanently. Many carry indelible scars of the several years of struggle with regret. We defeated tyranny. The democratic governance which quislings and criminals enjoy today was fought for by a special breed of Nigerians. The current charlatans who strut the political landscape collaborated, actively, with the military to thwart the quest for what these elements pontificate on today.

Let me be clear on this point; everyone has a right to contest an election. It is, however, important for us to interrogate the personalities so bold enough to confront us with audacious and false claims on the origin of problems in the country. Who are these elements who look at the rest of us and imagine the possibility of their being the most suitable for the job in a country of over 200 million people? What have been their specific contributions to warrant the expectations of support from the people? Why are they exhibiting keen interest in democratic governance at this moment? What practical experiences are they bringing to public office? What are their antecedents in previous offices? What should we expect from candidates whose supporters are so intolerant of opposing views? How far are we from fascism?

What is the essence of democratic governance devoid of reasoned deliberations and engagements to reach a consensus? What should be our realistic projections considering a number of facts? What will be the outcome of the Presidential election based on facts and expectations of votes based on geographical analysis? This is the road map to victory for the party and the individual that will eventually emerge as winner in the next presidential election.

As those of us in the diaspora do not have the right to vote, I promised myself to always add value to the course of democracy in Nigeria through writing and other forms of engagement. Since achieving independence from British colonial rule, the political landscape of Nigeria has been turbulent and submerged in sectarian ethnic politics with the Hausa/Fulani dominating North and the other two major tribes, the Yoruba and the Ibo in the South. Some would argue that the British made it so deliberately to perpetuate their control even after they had left. No major group can win on its own without forging alliances with another group and some of the minorities. The Northern hegemony has always held sway on account of these permutations.

Democratic governance has made great progress in Nigeria within a short period of time. Unlike the pervasive repression of the military era, civil liberty seems guaranteed as institutions of state are held accountable for their activities. The progressive interactions among the arms of government will lead to stability which in turn engenders development. Economic prosperity is bound to be the consequence of these engagements. Our current experiment promises to yield bountiful dividends if the actors continue to play the game of politics by the rule and the people hold them, not only to their promises, but to insist that the law must rule at all times.

The coming presidential election has offered its own histrionics since the beginning of electioneering campaigns across the country. There are as many as 18 candidates jostling for the topmost seat. There are obvious jesters who have nothing to offer the people. There are those who may also not pull sufficient weight in this contest not on account of not being qualified per se. The political atmosphere in Nigeria is such that requires huge resources and active participation over a considerable length of time. It will take more than mere sloganeering for any candidate to make appreciable impact at the ballot.

The political scene is dominated by three major contenders. The rest pretend, largely, to be aspiring to become the President. The three candidates in the presidential election are Peter Obi, a former Governor of Anambra State, Abubakar Atiku, a former Vice President of Nigeria, and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former Governor of Lagos State and Senator during the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida.

I will begin with Obi, who should be commended for, at least, aspiring to become the President of Nigeria. He, however, appears as lacking the required depth to appreciate the enormity of the task of that office. He makes light serious issues in a manner which suggests inadequate knowledge or absolute ignorance. As a former Governor of Anambra state, he ruled with a style which questions his claim to being a democrat. He wielded absolute power and did not allow the institutions of the State to function as required by law. Consequently, there was no significant economic development in that State since he ruled with absolute power.

He did not allow any opposition as he ruled like a despot. He was the State, just like the Senegalese Leopold Senghor at the height of his power. There were no checks and balances. The House of Assembly was reduced to a department in the Government House. This was why he could invest state funds in his family business with no serious repercussion. He was like a warlord who controlled everything. He even confirmed on a Television programme that he paid for fuel purchased into government vehicles from his pocket.

As at today, he has been a member of three political parties: APGA, PDP and now Labour Party. He joined the LP out of political exigency. He knew he would lose the PDP primaries after purchasing a nomination form for N40m. He left the party to pick the ticket of the Labour Party. He just strolled in to become the candidate. That party has become ethnicised that virtually everybody of ethnic extraction identifies with it. He suddenly became the symbol for the emancipation of the downtrodden.

Many gullible followers equate his name with the Labour movement and he claims it dubiously. This is a man that fought unions as governor and unleashed tyranny on his opponents and non-indigenes. He who claimed, "Education is not for the poor" and blatantly increased school fees in his State. He could not generate meaningful revenue for the state but instead invested state money into his family business. When he was at Fidelity Bank, he was unjust and ensured that the systemic boundaries and inequalities among leaders and workers was maintained. His activities were well described in the George Orwell's allegorical novel, Animal Farm.

Furthermore, Obi's LP does not have the national spread it needs to succeed as a political force. In addition, his slogan, "TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY." is obnoxious since he has not invested in his country and her political and socio-economic development. He embodies an oxymoron; a right wing ideologue and emergency candidate leading the LP that is supposed to propagate left-leaning ideas is a contradiction in terms of what the so called Labour stands for in Nigeria. Does Obi even know the slogans of labour of workers of the world? Unite! Most glaring for potential defeat is that his so called LP does not have the capacity to field candidates in the National Assembly. In the House of Representatives, they only have 78 candidate seats out of 109. What a national party and a political aberration! How will he get anything done? His track record indicates more troubling times for our Nigeria. Impeachment should be on the horizon for him if he assumes power.

My overall outlook of him is that he is an empty cloud over a dry land. Looking like rain, but never giving. A resounding gong, all noise with no action, unless it is to throw mud on his rivals. Thus, he can ensure that the spotlight is on trivialities rather than uplifting the economy, managing natural resources, and ensuring human rights for the people of Nigeria. His ego will get in the way of true leadership which is to serve the people, empowering them to make Nigeria into the powerful nation that she should be. He runs his campaign on empty promises, sounding good to the uneducated and uninformed masses. His supporters, in turn, spread their political hatred, abusiveness, delusion, exclusiveness and lack the goodwill to discuss the issues plaguing our country. Instead, they take the focus off important matters of bettering the country by continuing to insult their opponents.

When it comes to Abubakar Atiku, he has been the greatest political nuisance in Nigeria's politics and holds the record of the most persistent presidential candidate in Nigeria. He has been gallivanting from APC and PDP and what he has in his resume depicts him as the most desperate candidate trying to win the presidential election by any means necessary and lacking the ideas to do that despite his well loaded ill-gotten money and unbridled greed. He is well known for selling Nigeria's assets to himself and his corrupt cohorts when he was the Vice President under President Obasanjo, since he was in charge of privatization. He does not believe in power rotation as agreed by his party and was able to buy his way by winning the ticket. He lacks the basic ideas of governance and makes incendiary comments with his acclaimed slogan of "only us the North". According to him, when speaking at the Arewa house in Kaduna, "Northerners need to vote for him rather than a Yoruba or Igbo candidate because he's a Pan-Nigerian of northern extraction that has built bridges across the country." This really crossed the line for someone trying to become the President of Nigeria. He spoke like the current warlord of America that denigrated Africans when he was in the White House, the man who now lives in Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida.

His party is like in a quandary as it is now in disarray due to his selfish ambition. His own in Nigeria politics will be likened to what Stephen Curry did to the Boston Celtics during the last NBA finals in his three point's shootings and in the few minutes left after another one. He put his two hands on his face which indicates night, night, and go sleep, as it is all over.

Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the most influential politician in Nigeria today with commanding followership in the North and South West. He has invested so much in people around him and they are willing to tag along with him when it comes to his quest. He is one of the most strategic politicians in Nigeria. His capacity for allegiance can be seen with his many foot soldiers following him, moving him far ahead of most of his contemporaries. He has brought greater political alignment and collaboration between the South-West and North. A well respected senator across the political spectrum, his leadership and participation as one of NADECO'S chieftains and a major financier is well known as he gave his all during Pro- democracy movement. He made Lagos State to be completely autonomous from the Federal Government in terms of revenue generation and envy from his other counterparts.

Furthermore, Buhari won all his elections because of his alliance with Tinubu. He was able to benefit from Tinubu's large support base more than any other Nigerian politician. I first met him in 1995 at Alagbon Police station, when he and other Senators called on the then military junta led by the late Gen. Sanni Abacha, to relinquish power as a usurper and hand over to MKO Abiola, the winner of the June 12 election. They were all charged with treason and were to appear at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi. I was working for The Sentinel Magazine as a journalist when I smuggled myself past security to have an interview with him in his open cell. He was very impressed with how I was able to get in. With a smile, I responded by saying, I evaded security through what I saw at the front counter. I observed that he was the one doing all the planning for other detainees and said to me that day that he had put in place a huge crowd that will be attending their court case. That was the truth! At the court the next day at Queens's road in Ikoyi, I must say without scruple, Tinubu believes in the politics of cooperation and his resume towers above the other two contenders when it comes to Nigerian politics. I believe with certitude that he is going to win.

It is important to do a critical analysis of how the Presidential election is going to be won using the numbers of registered voters in regions where the votes are based on theoretical facts and figures, analyzing the voting patterns of previous election by using the current available variables. Come February 25, 2023, the number of registered voters that should be heading to the polls in Nigeria is going to be 93.5 million. The percentages of voter's turnout in the 2019 election stood at 35.66% with a total of 84 million registered voters and a turnout of 28.6 million. The North-West geopolitical zone, which comprises the seven states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi and Jigawa, with a total of 22.67 million registered voters, has the highest number of registered voters. As of the 2019 elections, the North-West had 20.15 million voters. Kano, Kaduna and Katsina came first, second and third with a voter's turnout of 1.96 million, 1.71 million and 1.62 million respectively. Lagos came fourth and the only Southern state among the states with the highest voter's turnout with 1.16 million votes. APC won 19 states while PDP won 18. Also, APC won 15,191,847 million votes, while PDP picked 11,262,978 million votes. To be declared the winner, an aspirant must win a majority of votes cast, and at least 25% of the votes in 24 or more of the 36 states. President Buhari won with 15 million votes scored in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Buhari also satisfied the constitutional requirement of making 25 per cent in 34 states and the FCT.

The South-West which had 16.29 million registered voters in 2019 now has 18.3 million voters, having added 2,039, 982 million new registered voters. The zone comprises Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo. In third position is the South-South which comprises Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa, Edo and Delta states. The number of registered voters in the zone has risen from 12.8 million to 15.2 million. The North-Central which is made up of Nasarawa, Kogi, Benue, Niger, Kwara and Plateau, now has 14.1 million voters, while the North-East which is made up of Yobe, Borno, Taraba, Adamawa, Bauchi and Gombe, added 1.5 million new voters to reach 12.8 million registered voters. The South-East which is the smallest geopolitical zone and consists of five states - Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Anambra and Imo - now has 11.49 million voters while the number of registered voters in the Federal Capital Territory has increased from 1.3 million to 1.5 million.

Lagos maintained its position as the state with the highest number of registered voters, increasing its figure from 6.5 million to 7.1 million. Kano State is in the second position, adding 569, 103 new voters to increase its number to 6.02 million. Kaduna State now has 4.4 million registered voters while Rivers State has now overtaken Katsina as the fourth largest state in terms of voters. While Rivers now has 3.68 million voters, Katsina has 3.57 million. Some other states with a sizeable number of registered voters are Delta, 3.3 million and Oyo 3.3 million. Also, Ekiti retained its position as the state with the lowest number of registered voters despite rising from 909, 967 registered voters to 1,034, 911 million. Analysis of the coming election reveals that Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Rivers, Katsina and Oyo states have the highest number of registered voters. A breakdown indicates that Lagos has 7.57 per cent; Kano, 6.34 per cent; Kaduna, 4.65 per cent; Rivers, 3.77 per cent; Katsina, 3.76 per cent and Oyo 3.51 per cent. Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and Rivers states lead with 7,175, 920; 6,026, 850;4,411,723 and 3,689,197, respectively. Imagine Katsina state that had 3.2million registered voters for the 2019 elections to emerge as one of the states with the highest number of voters in Nigeria with 3,570,740 million.Apparently demonstrating the political sagacity of the people of the state where the current President comes from and some late political leaders especially from the Yar'-Adua political family. Delta and Oyo are other two catching vote areas with 3,368,791 and 3,330,336. Benue is 2,832,087, Bauchi has 2,801,512 and just too insignificant when it comes to election with Anambra trailing more than behind with 2,761,467 million, and prior to this, it had 2.44 million. The least is the South-East where Peter Obi, the Labour Party is from which is the smallest geopolitical zone, and consists of five states - Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Anambra and Imo now has a total of 10.9m voters.

What is the margin of error going to be like? In the last election we had 84 million registered voters and a turnout of 28.6 million; it will still be the same pattern when we now have 93.5 million registered voters. The turnout will be more than marginal compared to the last election and not just all 93.2 million will come out to vote on Election Day. The reliable people are just the peasants, market women, working class, artisans and the middle class. They are the real voters in Nigeria. The election lies with them! The rest are just the card holders and noise making elements in the social media with no commitment to their actions or deeds. During Election Day, I see them as onlookers and cowards, apologies to Franz Fanon.

Therefore, this comparative analysis gives me a clear view of the result and a great electoral part to victory for Tinubu's APC with the outstanding majority and satisfying the constitutional requirements of 25 per cent in 34 states and the FCT. Here is another deal from my calculation, due to the Emilokan in the South East and South West for both Tinubu and Obi, Tinubu will have the block votes in the South-West with a total turnout, as is the tradition of the Yoruba when it comes to their own, while Obi will have an impact in the South East among his people, but a shrinking votes from PDP and APC. Therefore, he will be looking on how to manage 10.9 million voters that will be erased or extinguished in the South-west with 18.3 million especially the chunk of votes in Lagos and Oyo. Tinubu will consolidate everything in the North-West with 22.67 million registered voters. Further ones will be The North-Central and North-East with votes of 14.1 million and 12.8 million. Being generous, let us plug in the South -South for Obi's Labour Party and credits them with sum of 15.2 million, it is just too infinitesimal to achieve the electoral victory.

Ours is not about spiritual prediction, but one based on logical calculations and strong political analysis. It is an intensive research methodology that has been used by us, political scientists. Anybody can challenge me on this. However, those who do not will need to give convincing counter factual arguments. I conclude that the beauty of democracy is not about the candidate alone, but it is about every vote that matters.

"Failure for a nation-state looms when the greed of rulers overwhelms their responsibilities to better their people and their surroundings." - LA, Political Historian, Human Rights, Civil Society and Democratization Specialist.

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