Eligible voters in Nigeria will have the opportunity of exercising their franchise in a couple of days if the incumbent President and his ruling party, PDP, allow it this time after the inexplicable postponement of the last election. In choosing between the grossly inept and roundly decadent president and a former military ruler and retired general, the decision of the electorate will not be based mainly on socio-economic issues, which should be the central focus of any meaningful campaign. The passion with which those who find themselves on either side of the political divide hold tenaciously to their viewpoint is disquieting.
The pervasive decadence in the polity ensures that all reasonable persons settle for an alternative to the 'shoeless' hypocrite who patently lacks the clue to undertake an assignment of such enormity, not to imagine his inability to appreciate the level of sagacity required to manage even a county, let alone a multi-cultural political climate. All good people look forward to a change in leadership soon. Herein lies the problem. The country has been so battered economically to the extent that Nigerians now expect a super human being, a modern day Hercules, who will come to clean the Augean stable. Added to this myriad of socio-economic challenges- is the retrogressive politics of ethnicity introduced into electioneering campaign by those rooting for Jonathan. Nigerians have never been this divided along ethnic and religious cleavages.
There are many commentators who, out of deep frustration foisted on the long suffering people of the country by the thieving band, now express their preference for the ascendance of a strong and incorruptible leader- who will arrest this free fall into the abyss. Many Nigerians, professionals, students, artisans, market women and an ever increasing army of the unemployed and disillusioned, appear unanimous in their rejection of the incumbent and the approbation of the aspiration of Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the APC. The belief is anchored on his antecedents as a disciplinarian whose military background stands in good stead to rescue the country. There is bound to be the belief that most Nigerians are waiting, anxiously, for a leader with moral integrity to salvage the polity from the rudderless and unscrupulous leadership.
On the other hand, those who accuse Buhari of sundry offences point at this very Messianic posturing, in an implied admittance of failure on the part of the ruling oligarchy, asserting that Buhari is not the saviour that the people need at this time. The APC candidate has never told anyone that he is the answer to all the problems bedeviling the country. He refers to himself as 'a born again democrat'. He appreciates the severe limitations imposed on the president of the country by the provisions of the Constitution and the institutions of state in a democratic setting. He has alluded to the enormity of the problems facing the country at different fora and left no one in doubt that he intends to run a government that will be all inclusive, but with zero tolerance for corruption and all acts- which militate against the development of the country.
Ethnicity and religion have been the major pillars of deception upon which the structure for the expropriation of the commonwealth has been hinged since independence. Nigerians have always been reminded of their ethnic cleavage at a time like the current electioneering campaign going on in the country. This was the situation before and after independence up till this moment. But, it is arguable, if the ongoing mudslinging and basically indecorous verbiage employed as a campaign tactic is not the worst since politics started in the country. Nigerians are being driven back to their ethno-religious cocoons and fraudulent politicians are leaving nothing to chance in their attempts to divert the attention of the people from the embarrassing facts of mass poverty in a country awash with petro-dollars.
The emerging political structures appear to support the disempowerment of the mass of the people. The so called National Assembly is not truly representative of the yearnings and aspirations of the people. The people only come into reckoning when their name becomes a tool for negotiating for humongous allocations for the novel, but criminally conceived notion of 'constituency projects'. Virtually all public institutions have been affected adversely by the putrescent acts of corruption to the extent that average Nigerians are joining the change chorus every day. They fervently seek solutions to the endemic socio-economic problems facing them as a group of the dispossessed and marginalized.
Herein lies the conundrum; they seek a super human being whose moral stature towers above the equally moral dwarfs in the polity. Many are supporting the People’s General in the mistaken belief that he possesses the magic wand to solve all problems. Those who stand against his aspiration also remind us that he may not be messiah that the people are waiting for- because fundamental distortion in the plan designed for development.
The APC candidate himself has never pretended to be a messiah. He has never failed to tell everyone who cares to listen that what the PDP has taken sixteen years to destroy will require all hands on deck. He promises to lead by example. He vows to ensure that nobody gets any salaries or allowances outside what the Revenue Mobilisation body will approve. He will revamp our moribund refineries and reverse the parlour state of our infrastructure. All these are laudable. What we must all assist him doing, however, is the restructuring of the country, not in the manner which some confused elements canvass. Devolution of powers must take into account the peculiar nature of our geo-political zones. We can all aspire towards achieving lofty heights adopting different but complementary approaches. We need a charismatic figure at the center who will be the guard and mobiliser.
Our right to choose must not be limited to the periodic expression of wishes, which in reality, we are excluded from the decision-making process. It is our civic responsibility to ensure that we participate actively by challenging, vigorously, retrogressive measures put in place to short-change us. Democratic institutions are not just created by fiat by sincere democrats. The evolution of these institutions must be at the pace of the political development of the society involved. These institutions must reflect the complexities of the community. Mere presence of these institutions does not necessarily presuppose that a truly democratic system has been entrenched.
The people must be able to claim ownership of these structures. The current disconnect existing between the people and the so called representatives confirms the futility inherent in reposing too much confidence in the ability of individuals as agents of representation as against the conscious development of the socio-political structures needed for real development.
As Nigerians prepare to vote on the 28th March, 2015, the choice between them will not be between a weakling and a superman. Far from it. Jonathan is indeed weak and corrupt. Buhari cannot be placed on the pedestal with the clueless and inept incumbent. The General, on the other hand, will not lead to the satisfaction of the people because of his antecedents in public service alone. He will need a strong system and a progressive embrace of the politics of altruism by those who truly desire quality change. Only he cannot do it. The institutions must be strengthened to discourage malfeasance and other social ills which militate against development.