TAKEAWAYS FROM NIGERIA’S DECISION By Abimfoluwa Olaleye
Firstly, CONGRATULATIONS to President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) on his re-election for a second term. That said, If you are like me, a Nigerian who is fed up with the status quo and the ‘same old names’ ruling us, then you may not have been pleased with the outcome of the Presidential elections. However, this is the beauty of democracy. Just like life, we would not always have our wishes, and we must respect the choices of others.
I had hoped for the emergence of a new person, but the victory of PMB has provided us an opportunity to pick up some lessons. I have penned my initial observations below.
NORTH-WEST/NORTH-EAST: These voting blocs are the most loyal and reliable. Politics is a game of numbers, and these folks would always count. In 1999 when two southerners were on the ballot, they came out en-masse and contributed significantly to the nearly 19 million votes President Obasanjo got, despite the Alliance for Democracy (AD) – All Peoples’ Party (APP) merger for Chief Olu Falae.
NORTH-CENTRAL: Continues to show a lack of political identity, even more so now that the Saraki-hold on Kwara/Kogi has been cracked.
SOUTHEAST: is already disadvantaged by being the only geopolitical region with five states (others have 6 states, while the North West has 7). Never truly had any political value as they lack the population/numbers. Except for the 2015 elections, they have a consistent history of voter apathy.
SOUTH-WEST: has undeniably the most independently thinking and ideological voters, and next to the North-West, are the most important voting bloc. If you are not a performing government, they will vote you out, regardless of party affiliation. Their latest victim is outgoing Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, and it took rigorous work to get PMB votes. Disappointed with the patches of violence reported in the just concluded election.
SOUTH-SOUTH: this region has never had ‘anything to vote for’ since Goodluck Jonathan (in 2015) but are almost certain to go the way of violence in any election. They, however, are the most reliable region for the now opposition party, Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
BUHARI FACTOR: IT IS REAL. President Buhari can wake up tomorrow morning and get himself 6 million by just word of mouth and no campaign, regardless of the party (APP, ANPP, CPP or APC). As a matter of fact, PMB has never received less than 6 million votes, even when he had no political party structure or incumbency power behind him. Call it Integrity or modesty, the fact is PMB has an occultic followership and is well loved. Many people would defy the directives of their Emirs and Imams to vote for him. Although well-loved, he is also much hated and has been maligned for too long. The political difference, however, is that Abubakar Atiku would have to pay Buhari haters handsomely and campaign vigorously to get the 6 million votes that Buhari lovers would easily give him. Anyone who inherits his followership is going to be a lifetime force to reckon with.
PERCEPTION IS REALITY: You may have heard all your life that perception is not always reality. Well, that does not apply in Nigerian politics. Perception is the reality to the voters in this election. Mr. Atiku is perceived as a thief and an elite, while President Buhari is perceived as a modest man of Integrity. That made the difference, especially to the northerners. If you take half an hour a day to chat and bond with the ‘aboki’ at the end of your street, he would be loyal to you. If you on the other just drive by occasionally to buy recharge cards from him, he would only consider you a customer. I have been both and can tell.
ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL: Elections are not won on any form of media; print media, social media, radio or TV. Media houses, columnists, social media influencers and so on were recruited by both parties. Interesting enough, Mr. Atiku won nearly almost every online poll, and a national daily made a cover page news permuting victory for Mr. Atiku. It is now evident yet again that elections are not held or won online. In fact, UK with Brexit and US with Trump are recent evidence of this. The 2003 General elections had over 36 million voters, without the use of social media.
NIGERIANS WOULD ALWAYS SUPPORT THEIR OWN: Although two northerners were on the ballot, the northerners came out to strongly support PMB, despite what I consider to be a below-par performance in his first term. This is only reminiscent of the support President Jonathan enjoyed in 2015 despite his equally terrible tenure. You are almost certain to get huge votes from your region of origin.
INEC CANNOT DIGITIZE: Get used to 2+ days of collation of election results. The diversity in the composition of our country and our systemic shortcomings would disenfranchise millions of voters if the election process were to be digitized. Disenfranchising voters would only lead to more problems. Several issues must be addressed before our electoral process can be digitized. Sadly.
NIGERIANS NEED TO TRAVEL MORE: It is very easy for a Yoruba man in Iseyin (Oyo State) to belittle the culture of the Ughelli woman or doubt the vote returns from Delta State. An Igbo man in Isuikwuato may also feel that way about the vote returns from the ‘Kardashian States – Kano, Kaduna, Katsina’, but we may never understand the diversity, ethnic composition and culture of our country until we travel across it. Travelling teaches more than just the states and capitals the classroom would teach you, it would make you much more understanding, appreciative and loving towards each other.
THIRD FORCE MUST DO MORE THAN JUST MERGE: The second runner-up in this election was not any individual or the ‘third force’, it was ‘Rejected Votes’. Since the 2003 elections, the two main political parties have accounted for more than 80% of all votes. In fact, the PDP and APC accounted for 98% of the total votes cast in 2015, so it is evident Nigeria is not ready for a third party. The Presidential Candidate of the AAC raised and spent nearly #200million towards this election, and I assume that some others may have spent as much or even more than. Yet, the entire votes of the other Presidential candidates’ asides the ‘Big Two’ could not reach or crack 1 million. This means a third force/party would not work. I would advise that they join established parties with their ideologies and build their way through and up.
DEMOCRACY IS NOT PERFECT: like every human system, our democracy is not perfect, and I understand why there is a huge level of distrust in our democratic process. We must however, understand that even the most developed countries are continuously improving their democratic processes and building systems and structures that are reliable and durable. We must also come together to keep building our democracy and country by getting involved at any and every level. Let’s do more than just rant, GET INVOLVED.
NIGERIA IS OUR ONLY COUNTRY: lover her or hate her, this is always going to be our country, let us put the love of country and each other over any hurt, hatred or hard feelings. Let the winners be gracious in victory, speech and gesture, and the losers be equally humbly and gracious.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.
About Abimfoluwa Olaleye
Abimfoluwa Olaleye is an Agronomist, independent Political observer, and commentator. He is also an ambassador of Progressive Causes. He very rarely tweets from @olabimfolu and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org