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Nigeria, Choose Your Poison, By Cheta Nwanze

July 13, 2022

How else do you explain that people like Danladi Umar, Remi Tinubu, Abu Malami tarred an entire ethnic group with what is not short of hate speech, but to date have not been censured much less punished?

In an ideal situation, a Muslim-Muslim ticket or a Christian-Christian ticket should not be a problem if the two candidates on the ticket are good. But having said that, Nigeria is far from ideal, and the current Nigeria is) very different from the Nigeria of 1993 where Abiola and Kingibe were clearly heads and shoulders above Toga and Ugoh. That Nigeria was also a more forgiving place when you consider that said Sylvester Ugoh was, just over a quarter of a century before, the Governor of the Bank of Biafra, but that is a digression.
The Nigeria of today is a hateful place that is coming out of two terms of 97% and 5% division, where it has been made clear that if you are Igbo, or you are a Northern Christian, you do not belong. How else do we explain sermons such as this:
Hausa is a widely spoken language, so translations shouldn't be in short supply.
How else do you explain that people like Danladi Umar, Remi Tinubu, Abu Malami tarred an entire ethnic group with what is not short of hate speech, but to date have not been censured much less punished? Do you remember the Danladi Umar story? He assaulted someone, got attacked by a mob (made up of Northerners) and in order to deflect from what he did, labelled the mob as "Biafra boys".
This is what both the APC and PDP have done in this election cycle, they have further strained the already torn fabric of unity that the country has. Let's start with the PDP: the PDP's legitimacy rested on the principle of power rotation. Back in 1999, they gave this power to the South-West despite Alex Ekwueme being an early front-runner. There was an implicit agreement that power would rotate to the North after Obasanjo, then to the South-South, then back North, and then to the South-East. Then Yar'Adua died, and we were faced with a quandary. The South-South got pushed in before their expected 2015 time, and then in 2011, GEJ ran rather than "returning power to the North". It was this very action that made people like Atiku leave the PDP. Given that Atiku was crying for fairness, how then is it fair that after two terms of power in the North, when it, presumably, is the turn of the South-East, are we suddenly hearing arguments about "competence" and "that the rotation has ended" et al? Why didn't they say so in 2019? With the PDP's stance and the real prospect of a Nigerian of Fulani extraction following a Nigerian of Fulani extraction into the Villa, we would set a precedent where power rotation amongst ethnicities, which is a very important aspect of national unity in a diverse country - a sense of inclusiveness, dies. An Atiku victory next year means that there is absolutely nothing stopping an Abu Malami or a Nasir El-Rufai from trying their luck in 2027 or 2031 (if Atiku somehow serves two terms) and bringing up the same arguments that Atiku has used now. After all, a precedent has been set.
For the APC, the party has, in a time of religious frayed nerves around the country and pandered to an extreme section of the argument. That section, as the video I linked to earlier shows, has made it abundantly clear that Northern Christians do not matter in the scheme of things. There is already a precedent, it was set by Kaduna. Prior to the exit of Yusuf Bantex in 2019, Kaduna had an uneasy arrangement where a Muslim is the governor and a Christian is the deputy. El-Rufai shattered that when he picked Hadiza Balarabe to succeed Bantex, and now, Sani Uba, El-Rufai's anointed successor, has gone ahead to pick a Muslim as his running mate. Essentially, Christians in Kaduna have been relegated from de facto second-class citizens to de jure second-class citizens. This is what will happen if the Tinubu-Shettima alliance wins next year. In 2027 or 2031, a Northern Muslim candidate will pick a Southern Muslim as his running mate and couch his choice in the idea of "competence" and it would be set in stone going forward. That is what precedent achieves. Now ask yourself this question - will anyone in Muslim Northern Nigeria accept a Christian-Christian candidacy for the presidency?
As for the Peter Obi candidacy, my earlier argument about Mr Obi's ethnic nationality still stands: You can see it in the attempts by supporters of both major parties to tie him to IPOB and link him with Biafra and separatism despite the fact that no record exists anywhere of him being tied to that agitation.
It is ironic when you consider that multiple streams of innuendo have linked Kashim Shettima with Boko Haram, yet it didn't matter. I still maintain that an Igbo man succeeding the disaster that Buhari has been would bring problems for the Igbo people. Perhaps it's my paranoia as an Igbo person that was born in the decade after the War ended and grew up surrounded by people who survived the most brutal massacre of that war, and so heard all their stories Paradoxically though, in the Nigeria of today, the anti-Igbo sentiments that would certainly arise if Peter Obi wins would bring immediate problems for everyone as the country's so-called unity has been so frayed that even the regular glue of anti-Igbo sentimentality would not nearly be enough to bring the other groups together.
An Atiku or Tinubu victory would bring problems in four years. Problems that would probably be of a greater magnitude as they would be existential (does Nigeria belong to one ethnic group? or does it belong to one religion?) and given that both men just want to be President to fulfil lifelong ambitions and not much more, would have been built on top of four more years of rot.
Whichever option we choose next year, we are ****ed. The locust years of Buhari have guaranteed that. It's just for us to choose our poison. A bullet to the head? Or death by a thousand cuts.
Nwanze is a partner at SBM Intelligence