I moved to Lagos late 2014 to start my first job just when the 2015 presidential election campaigns were reaching its peak.
Aspirants shuttled between private jets and bullet-proof jeeps, in and out of customised ankara attires and ethnic costumes as they tried to convince electorates to vote for the in the coming polls.
When juxtaposed against the brutal campaign between President Donald Trump and his then arch opponent, Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 elections in the United States, the tactics, rhetoric and antics of the candidates of the over twelve parties represented at the 2015 polls was a mere joke of democracy and the thirst for advancement and progress electorates seemingly wanted.
While large sums of monies fuelled the travels and wardrobe changes, we argued on social media about how academically qualified APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari was when in comparison to the rest of the aspirants.
We argued about the severing of anything that wasn’t a Northern presidency. We argued about the age of the candidates, about their religious dispositions, about the polls itself and how prepared the national electoral commission was to hold a free and fair poll or at least, hold a poll and actually capture the votes of every registered electorate swiftly, accurately. We argued about the power of the incumbency and why our votes wasn’t going to count. We argued and argued and argued some more.
Yesterday evening, at the office, we had a small but very rich think tank type of gathering where we initially set out to discuss the June 12, 1993 event, its sudden importance to the current administration and what it embodies for the average Nigerian who hasn’t paid any attention to the events of that period this past two decades and a half.
As at when the gathering was going to disperse, we were questioning not only how much impact the new rave of PVC acquisitions would have in the 2019 elections but also if the average Nigerian youth cared about fighting for the future of the country as against looking for the next available exit out of the country. For good. Or the not so good. Or even the absolute worst.
It was through these conversations that I realized that in spite of my many, not so far-reaching attempts to convince my peers that there is an absolute need, now more than ever to fight for the future of our country, I too, was at the brink of losing hope. A weak suicide attempt, so to speak, at my place of birth.
Shorty after my undergraduate studies, I was very keen on obtaining a Masters degree. For my father, it was the next option. In fact, left to him, I would have already obtained a Ph.D in any field of my choice, including Suya Science. He once made a joke that he didn’t care if we studied Suya Science as much as he did that we studied it thoroughly and there was proof of that.
Universities within the country were out of consideration. There’s no sugar coating the fact that a large number of them are now a shadow of themselves. I was therefore eager to go, gather some factual hands on learning and come back to use it for the “greater good”, whatever I believed it was. I haven’t stopped wanting to. But it only dawned on me yesterday that I wasn’t eager to return with whatever knowledge I gained anymore. That desire had all but been discarded permanently.
At the gathering yesterday, two things were clear about the current situation of Nigerian politics and the 2019 elections.
The political elite have both enough funds and strategy to push their selfish agenda year after year unperturbed and undisputed. The June 12 Democracy Day declaration inclusive. And what they have done is take power from the electorates who are supposed to hold the power of democracy, leaving them with a false sense of control.
Secondly, if we intend to make any difference in 2019, the Nigerian electorate needs to begin to use what they have going for them to reclaim this power – things like social media, the private entrepreneurial sector and even religion.
Make no mistakes, our country has never been more divided along seeming religious and ethnic lines as it is today. But you know why it can also be a tool ahead of the next elections? We have reached a proverbial end of ourselves and having burned our way through to this treacherous end, there’s no going back and no going forward, if we do not begin to reconstruct a road into our future. The reaction to the recent row between musician Falz and a certain Muslim body convinces me of this.
Nevertheless, I cannot overrule the fickleness that comes with the Nigerian spirit and I hold no one entirely responsible for this. We egg each other on on social media, tweet non-stop about our displeasure over a certain happening but when we are called to march against the hike in toll fares, we dress up in our nice, Asos dresses, enter our Toyota Camrys, splash on a whiff of our D&G perfumes, pay the increased toll fares and get on to work that we love and hate the latter more often times than not, the reality.
I remember speaking with my mother a few months to the actual polls in 2015. My mother is a staunch Catholic. Married into the Catholic faith, we dilly dallied in our early years with religion and which belief sub-systems to stick with until she settled with Catholicism. At the parish where we went for Sunday masses, the parish priest had begun a massive campaign for one of the presidential aspirants, backing up his choice with prophecies and scriptures. What made an impression was that his constant conditioning Sunday after Sunday had influenced a number of parishoners to vote for this candidate. In Enugu, that party had the second highest votes even though the results had apparently been widely divided along ethnic and religious lines.
So dare I say that when it comes to what we can do to make this country one that we are proud of, the figureheads of our religious systems, our Christianity, the crusades and fancy church buildings and fancy Sunday sermons, the woke choir, the multiple prayer times, the unending bowing, the sacrifices of bare feet, the midnight rituals, whatever it is that we have held onto as a symbol of our faith has failed us.
Statistically, the numbers are varied but close. The 2008 MEASURE Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) says that Nigeria is 53% Muslim, 45% Christian, with another 2% making up the rest of belief systems in the country.
A study by the Pew Research Centre titled the The Future of the Global Muslim Population says Nigeria is 52% Muslim, 46% Christian, and 1% ‘other’.
A 2017 survey by Brian J. Grim, Todd M. Johnson, Vegard Skirbekk and Gina A. Zurlo (ed.s), titled Yearbook of International Religious Demography 2017 (Leiden: Brill, 2017), puts the numbers at 46.3% Christian, 46% Muslim, 7.4% Traditional and 0.3% ‘other’.
As of date, The Platform, an annual political debate hosted by the Covenant Christian Centre in Lagos is the only well-meaning move I have seen the Nigerian religious sector make towards handing that power back to the electorate. This year, I have seen religious bodies urging their members to get their PVCs and be prepared to vote but we have reached a point where getting ready to vote is no longer enough. If we are still going to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea at the polls, I might as well stay at home and read poetry on election day.
And there is the chance that we can wield an area of our lives as powerful as our religion to our benefit but we need the powerful leaders of these institutions to take the lead and stop separating the church from the governance of the lands in which they intend to thrive.
Leaders of our religious institutions must get to the point where being invited to Aso Rock to hold prayers for a highly unprepared and visionless leader is not a welcome status assignment.
How about we create more Platform(s), in our churches, at our mosques, bring these aspirants to the table to share the vision they have for the country, their belief systems, how they intend to make their campaign promises work. If they won’t honour a political debate organised by Channels TV, they most likely won’t ignore the invitation of their religious/spiritual leaders. Even powerful Nigerian men ask for help from beyond. How about our religious leaders stop trying not to be political and replace their marriage and prosperity teachings with voter education? Agreed, this is the duty of the electoral commission but our institutions are so dysfunctional you can no longer count on them to make a lot of things work.
I am no political analyst or historian, but one thing that will remain with me from our June 12 think tank yesterday is the statement that the political elite are playing a game of chess with our nation’s politics while we are in a game of draft on the same table or even completely absent.
There’s the ripple effect that we can begin to create by changing a slice of our country in our own microcosms but there’s also the eventuality that we continue to employ our escapist, fickle selves and wait for a tomorrow that will never come for Nigeria.