I have been amused by the much pretense of many Nigerian Christians and Muslims alike, on and off the social media network as regards their logic when trying to appear seemingly objective and academic in their discussions about voting for President Jonathan or General Buhari. Based on the realities on ground in Nigeria, there is no way around being objective in a political climate beclouded by the subjectivities defined by two major faiths (Christianity and Islam) and three critical issues (Terrorism, Corruption and Religion).
Oftentimes, I hear people talk about the need to be objective with regards choosing the candidate to vote for come February 14th 2015 and they go to the extra length of mentioning Mandela and Martin Luther King, comparing their candidates and these times to the times of the apartheid regime in South Africa and the civil rights movement in America. They forget that the common denominator then was the oppression by the white man in their own country. The common denominator today in Nigeria is a perceived oppression by our own brothers in our own Fatherland. The composition of Nigeria now CANNOT be compared in any way with that of South Africa or America.
South Africans fought for a common purpose – to put an end to the apartheid regime that culminated in the freedom of Nelson Mandela. Mandela and Winnie were the prominent leaders of that struggle based on their commitment and sacrifices for the CAUSE. And therefore, black and white South Africans rallied round them. On the other hand, Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement was to put an end to black segregation and oppressive laws against black Americans and he made notable commitment and sacrifices for the CAUSE, therefore both black and white Americans rallied round him.
Their issues were quite simple and straightforward because they were fighting an evil called Apartheid and black segregation.
THE ISSUE OF TERRORISM
Enter Nigeria, a country besieged on all sides, plagued by many issues ranging from the evil of corruption to the evil of BokoHaram and Islamic fundamentalism in a secular Nigeria. As it stands now, the complexities of Nigeria’s problems are deep and foundational, more so, since Nigeria is divided between a Christian south and a Muslim north – whether we accept it or not, religion will play and is playing a critical role in the voting preferences of Nigerians. But what is also obvious, is that, geographical region is equally playing an all-important role in this 2015 election. Why so?
In the elections of 2011, even though the incumbent President Jonathan was from a minority group as against his opponent General Buhari, majority of Nigerians threw their support behind President Jonathan irrespective of region and religion. However, the Northern elites were not happy about Jonathan’s victory and promised to make his tenure in office ungovernable, which they did by employing the effective but evil weapon of terrorism called Bokoharam. In trying to make President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure difficult, starting with the North Central of Nigeria aka the Middle belt region, Bokoharam unleashed mayhem and violence in its wake, leaving heavy casualties in Plateau state, unto Nassarawa, Kaduna, Benue, Bauchi, before engulfing the whole North extending even into the supposedly protected federal capital territory Abuja. To put it mildly, as one resident in the Plateau observed that where Bokoharam stopped, Fulani marauders took over. No thanks to the level of violence and havoc unleashed, most of the people of Plateau have come to equate the term Bokoharam and Fulani with one religion only – Islam. Now, the perception amongst many people in Plateau seems to be geared against Islam. Many people believe that if this level of terrorism can happen in Plateau when there is a Christian President on seat, what will happen when a Fulani Muslim becomes the next president? Will it translate to expecting more violence in the not too distant future? These and much more are real fears and questions in the hearts of the Middle Belt people.
From my interactions with some of the Yoruba and Igbo individuals, those who have lived in the North and have seen firsthand the atrocities and mayhem committed by over zealous Muslims tend to lean towards voting for Jonathan from a subjective viewpoint influenced by the negative and terrible experiences they’ve had while living amongst the Muslim communities in the North. However, interactions with some Yorubas and Igbos who live in faraway Lagos and in more safer regions lean towards voting for Buhari from an objective viewpoint having never experienced the fear of a suicide bomber detonating in crowded market places.
Invariably, our subjectivity and objectivity is influenced by our personal experiences and perceptions. At the end of the day, terrorism will work for and against both candidates. Those who believe the North created this terror will vote against Buhari. Those who believe Jonathan was weak in handling the terrorists will vote for Buhari.
THE ISSUE OF CORRUPTION
Corruption is endemic to Nigeria and as vicious as the ebola disease. I know it. You know it. We know it. Perhaps one can even say that Ebola is the lesser evil, attacking only the body – detect quarantine and deal with it. One’s options are limited. You don’t know if you’ll survive but chances are that you’re going to die and die quick. Corruption on the other hand is not easily detectable. It attacks the body, soul and spirit. It is subtle and deep with wide ramifications. Corruption obstructs economic growth, it stifles entrepreneurial spirit and process, it mismanages meagre resources, it weakens managerial competence, destabilizing political stability and national integration. A good example of corruption in leadership is the kind exhibited by Governor Jang of Plateau state which reeks of blatant misuse of power while in office, ethnic chauvinism, granting gratuitous favours to one’s family, tribe, friends and key supporters while crippling the development of the state. Another example of corruption from my standpoint is the University of Jos school fees and paying of master fees brouhaha. The decision to subject struggling university students to paying a N25,000 acceptance fee and charging students for online payment of fees does not only border on insensitivity to the plights of students in a depressed economy but also based on corruptive influence and managerial incompetence. So unlike Bokoharam and ebola that kills quickly, corruption kills you slowly but surely. Corruption kills you everyday – you die a little each day when a corrupt leader sits in governance over your affairs.
Those who will vote Buhari, will damn all other consequences of religion, terrorism and vote him for the singular reason that he would drive out corruption in government. Those who will vote Buhari will vote for him based on his squeaky clean image and hope that he will do to Nigerian Politicians and all corrupt Nigerians, what Jerry Rawlings did in Ghana. I do not see how feasible that is in a democratic dispensation but hopefully, voters of this category hope to see a great decline in institutional corruption.
THE ISSUE OF RELIGION
Ah, this is the tricky but apparent one – isn’t it obvious already. I am Christian, I’ll vote Jonathan. You are Muslim, you’ll vote Buhari. What could be simpler than this? Only that, it isn’t as simple as we think. If we are to follow the dictates of the holy books of the two religions, then both faiths are expected to vote for the believers of their faith and not the infidels. Understanding that the religious leaders of both faiths in Nigeria wield a certain power and influence over their congregation is sometimes the beginning of political wisdom. Nigerians tend to want to please their Pastors, MOGs and Imams over the divine creator of these beings. And the politician who is astute enough to appeal to their religious piety gets the nod of approval from the religious masses. I remember how the people of Plateau were deceived into voting for Jang because he rolled on the grounds of the state stadium before God in a show of remarkable Brother Jeroboam fashion.
Still on the issue of religion, Christians are usually expected to vote for a candidate that would allow freedom of religion and to pray for those whose positions contradicts their values. Muslims on the other hand are told to vote out the infidels - they are not children of Allah. So you find many religious Nigerians voting against any candidate who may pose a threat to their religious freedom. Any candidate perceived by the masses to encourage zealots whose idea of justice is to wreak havoc and violence in a vengeful post election spree will be voted against.
Today I want to believe the voting populace of Nigeria are getting wiser in democratic years. It should be good practice in every election that there be a central point on which political candidates ought to base their reasons for campaigning for election. Bandying around the general word change is not enough. Change should come with specifics on where and how the change will be effected. Being only a man of righteousness does not solve Nigeria’s problems. There are obvious realities affecting ordinary Nigerians that borders on safety and security of lives and properties, adhering to the rule of law, freedom to coexist peacefully in any Nigerian state, freedom to practise one’s religion, freedom of assembly for a cause without persecution, access to jobs and opportunities based on merits and many other critical issues to discuss. In a country where merit is often killed in favour of ethnic affiliations and political favours, in a country where national development is overruled by selfish interests, Nigerians need true and unwavering leadership that will carry through and make Nigerians proud to be Nigerians once again.
So these three remains: terrorism, corruption and religion. The winner of the 2015 presidential elections will be voted in by the majority of those mostly influenced by one of these three evils – that will be the greatest of them all.
However, for those saying vote objectively, well, this is one election that will not be objective. There are too many subjective variables for objectivity to hold sway. Until we have an objective constitution with objective parameters for everyone in society to succeed squarely without discriminatory concessions given to an elite few, the issue of objectivity seems farfetched.
I, however, will vote according to the issues that affect me the most.
You have one day
As one Nigerian
With one voice
Having one opportunity
To cast one vote
For one person.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Chalya Princess Miri-Gazhi