by Tari Martins
There’ve been so much hullaballoo about the 2015 general elections and the resultant effect on the polity. While the battle-like election might have come and gone, the scars wouldn’t just go away.
Since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914, the country has never been this polarized and divided on the basis of an election. In the 4th republic alone, Nigeria has successfully conducted several elections with varying degree of credibility before the 2015 general elections. Then again one is tempted to ask, what made the 2015 elections different? Was it just about the poor choices of candidates on display or the method of campaign? The said election generated so much tension and bad blood seeing that it wasn’t centered on issues of governance. The method of campaign was too destructive and despicable, the language was too hateful, and the minority few that decided to focus on performance of the incumbent and antecedents of the other candidates as it should be, were shouted down and called several condescending names by a handful of pseudo-intellectual wannabes.
Months leading to the election, the social media space was a battle ground too toxic for comfort. In actual fact that wasn’t really a good time to engage in critical thinking because should you do so you will be accused of being a PDP paid hack or a direct beneficiary of the corrupt enterprise Nigeria has become. So most people were bullied into silence, social intelligence went on vacation, money changed hands, social media contractors who could tell a few lies became overnight millionaires. Finally, the election was conducted: the APC won, the national currency was defeated and consequently, the Nigerian people lost as we have come to agree. Two years on, actual governance is still foot-dragging while subtle politicking still remains the order of the day. These present matters arising in the polity has given birth to a new kind of social media activism led by the resurgent ‘I told you so gang’.
The sad part lies in the fact that inflation sits at an all-time high of 19%, unemployment rate for the very first time has climbed the 30% mark, premium motor spirit retails at 145 Naira, and the exchange rate of the dollar to the naira in the parallel market is North of 500 Naira. These highlighted issues aren’t just all that is wrong with the Nigeria of today and how we got here is a discussion for another day but what do we do going forward remains rhetorical at best for now, seeing that the ‘I told you so gang’ is still basking in the euphoria of their political hypermetropia.
These group of persons aren’t disturbed at the fact that the economy has taken a nosedive or with the whole issue of the foreign herdsmen having a filled day in their killing spree, which on its own is a recipe for disaster and an invitation for chaos. What is of utmost concern to them is the fact that they’ve found their lost voice that was bullied into indefinite silence prior to the 2015 elections. Their decision of not standing by the APC candidate was seen as stupid, shortsighted and unpatriotic, not knowing that all they wanted was for critical thinking to be the order of the day. They wanted a presidential debate on the economy, but that didn’t happen, the other group shouted them down asking ‘who debate help’. They questioned the human right credentials of the APC candidate but the other group disagreed, even saying the constitution should be suspended so the President can fight corruption, they insisted that our laws should remain sacrosanct, and the electoral act respected, they wanted all candidates to be treated equally, they demanded and insisted that the APC candidate must present his education credentials as stipulated by our laws, but that didn’t happen. Those that refused to buy into the ‘change philosophy’ were accused of prostituting their principles and putting all their eggs into one basket even when the change mantra didn’t sit well with their personal convictions. Today we are here, with nothing tangible to hold unto as souvenirs for relegating critical thinking to the background in the name of ‘GEJ wasn’t an option.’ Those persons rehearsing the President Buhari isn’t an option anthem as we speak, should be cautioned because even if hypothetically, that were to be the case, do we now vote for MR IBU simply because he’s on the ballot? We should be careful of what we wish for, because at the end of the day a nation deserves its leaders.
What are the lessons to learn here, should we keep giving our leaders easy routes to power? Should we point to a man as the messiah without assessing the depth of his ideas? Should our elections still be struggling with issues of ethnicity, region and religion? Should we run election campaigns on the basis of mere hatred? Should massive voter education be done within the length and breadth of the nation before 2019? Our young people must know, that there’s more to an election than campaign jingles and propaganda clichés, they must be taught that election isn’t just an event but a process. They must know that election is a period of critical thinking, they must realize the importance of the choices they make at the polls.
Cyber bullying should be discouraged when one is exercising his civic right. At the end of the day we are all here, including those keyboard activists, the I told you so gang, the group that didn’t put all their eggs into one basket and the ‘siddon look observers’ experiencing the dearth of governance and obituary of common sense. The elections are over, it’s time to strengthen our very fragile unity, and it’s time to stop viewing issues from the periscope of white and black forgetting the fact that there are many shades of grey. There’s no right or wrong in this case, no one should apologies for exercising his rights at the polls. The ‘I told you so gang’ shouldn’t feel exculpated, we are in this together and it’s time to let go off 2015.
Tari Martins is a Political Analyst and the Founder, Niger Delta Integrity Initiative. He tweets via @tarimartins10