The campaign has been vigorous and tactical, and now we are waiting for the polling booths to open. Our hope is that the election outcome ushers in a time of economic prosperity for Nigerians. Meanwhile, let us reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of the selection and campaign process.
Nigerians have shown passion, understanding and ability to constructively analyse their social, economic and political issues on the social media. However, Nigeria has a large population and it has to be said that those taking part in the discussion on social media are in the minority. This is probably due to level of poverty, unemployment and lack of electricity to keep abreast with information technology in the country. It appears that social media has replaced town hall style political debates, although most of the candidates were absent and failed to contribute to discussions.
On the social media Nigerians have started to organize into small groups to discuss their problems. Although, these groups are polarized without clear and concise ideology on how best to move the country forward, nevertheless, it a small step in the right direction. Small groups can later merge into big and more organized groups with clear vision and objectives. They have the potential of becoming effective and well coordinated with civil rights movements with the shared goals and desires to advance the nation.
While large amounts of money have been brandished by candidates and their cronies in this campaign, the majority of Nigerians continue to languish in poverty. A temporal respite to appease hungry Nigerians through ‘stomach infrastructure system’ was devised for those willing to queue for hours in the sun—the reward is a small bag of rice, a liter of cooking oil, and a monetary token. Could this be what the politicians think our vote worth? We can only hope that the voters prove them wrong at the polling booth and vote wisely.
The campaign has focused more on the academic qualifications of the 2 main presidential candidates, and less on social and economic issues that matters most to Nigerians. Disdain for our constitution was shown mostly by educated Nigerians and many of them turned blind eyes to section 131(d) of the Nigeria Constitution as they normally does to corrupt practices. The section clearly states that “a person shall be qualified for election to the office of the president if he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.” Was there any need for a national debate on the qualification of a presidential candidate that has contested for the post previously, and for that matter a former army general and head of state? Where is our collective sense of reason and objectivity on national issues and integrity? Shouldn’t skills, abilities and experience also be taken into consideration when vying for public office? This campaign has witnessed the annihilation of minor political parties and independent candidates, and they were treated with disdain by the press. Which raises a fundamental issue of fairness in this election process. INEC needs to look into this issue and ensure that adequate safeguards are put in place, in accordance with democratic principles. Frivolous and malicious campaigns have dominated newspapers’ front page at the expense of meaningful debates on good governance, economy, and development. Truly, the campaign was devoid of substance—and the press should be held accountable for poor reportage and partisanship.
Political cabals and kingmakers held their grip on power and corrupt practices as they dished out party nomination tickets to the highest bidders. Uncompromising Nigerians willing to participate in the process were deprived mainly due to their poor financial capability. The primary election process must have bankrupt many aspirants. Successful candidates are probably counting their loss and skimming on how to recuperate when they get to the office to balance their personal account with public fund.
Youths participation at this election have been mostly relegated to that of supportive role of thuggish, criminality, and propaganda. It’s astonishing that National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) became partisan and declared its support for a presidential candidate. What is happening at the student’s union? Have cultists, criminals and students without decorum taken over our higher institutions and forcefully speaking on behalf of millions of Nigerian students without their consent? It is a shame that NANS made such decision on behalf of many Nigerian students but we are yet to witness any strong rebuff or protest from their peers.
Religion has always been a weakest link for our national unity and more so in this election. There was a problem with a party choice of presidential and vice candidates over their religious background. Another presidential candidate is busy courting and fixated with Pentecostal Christians votes, while, some pastors have turned the pulpit into campaign arena. Surely, with all the problems facing this country from Boko Haram terrorism to poverty, shouldn’t we be focusing on skills, ability and credibility of the candidates to push through necessary reforms and progressive policies that will improve the quality of lives rather than religion affiliation? It is unfortunate that in the 21st Century, we are allowing religion to interfere in our politics.
Nigeria is crying out loud and in search of Statesmen with the interest of the nation at their heart and not partisan and divisive ‘self-style and messianic Statesmen’ with no credibility. If these so called ‘Statesmen’ had served well whilst in office, Nigeria will have a good leadership model and a blueprint for governance. In time of crisis, they would have been our point of reference but they have no legacy and their names are immortalized in the scroll of failed leaders.
Now that the candidates and electorate are ready, is INEC ready? Probably not, the mint has complained of the quality of the ballot paper and millions of Nigerians are yet to collect their PVCs. There are serious concerns of riggings and doubt over voting in Boko Haram caliphate, which is the North East of Nigeria. These are likely to open another chapter on the outcome of this election. Is INEC ready for these daunting tasks?