There is no disaster as devastating as the aggregation of petty and polarising sentiments by a people at a crossroads, a people being offered options, yet unwilling to consider these, despite their loud clamouring for change. I’m talking about these cynical Nigerians who have furiously condemned the status quo and find the brand of democracy in practice here “abominable” and in consequence will not take positions or act. These are the people for whom, as an angry Dante Alighieri once told us, the darkest places in hell is reserved for—their sin being neutrality in times of moral crisis.
I was among those who challenged the promotion of General Muhammadu Buhari as “the only morally upright politician” by some zealous supporters, finding such a formulation insulting and an unfair indictment of our generation. I held that accepting that Buhari was the only upright man meant if he bowed out, we had no replacement, and that we all needed to stop celebrating that nonsense and either begin crying or pointing to alternatives. There are indeed some out there, only lacking the myth surrounding the old soldier. Yet, I also maintained that whoever the APC fielded as presidential candidate for the 2015 elections, if against this famously failed leader named Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, would be my candidate. This, of course, held a dilemma for me at that time.
But that dilemma has now been terminated by the recently concluded presidential primaries at the conventions of the nation’s two major parties in which Buhari defeated other career politicians to pick the APC’s ticket, while the congregation at Eagle Square, possessed by Stockholm Syndrome, praised the failings of Jonathan, the man they now compare to Mandela and Martin King Jr., and thus asked him to fly PDP’s ticket at the ominous February Polls. Well, we all know the consequences of presidential anger. If you don’t, consult Jigawa’s Governor Sule Lamido. Perhaps it was this possibility that encouraged the amnesia of our Eagle Square delegates?
Unlike many others, my idea of a change in Nigeria isn’t tied to the elevation of APC to political dominance, rather to have the two major parties tangled in heavily competitive bout, with each striving to be the better suitor. Having PDP entirely replaced by APC is a return to status quo, clearly, considering the ease with which politicians defect in this space.
So, my idea of change in 2015 is more of a resolve to have the central government under the leadership of a sensible human being. But the question we ought to honestly ask ourselves, even though the answer may be unsettling, are: can the opposition oust the incumbent in this period running up to the 16th anniversary of this chaos we call democracy? Or, let me say, with a mischievous tone, are the actual majority off Twitter and Facebook and at remote villages and “forgotten cities” set to form a structure to resist the tools of “stomach infrastructure” on the way to their houses even as we speak as Election Day draws near?
I’ve compromised on some principles, but compromise that leads to the continuation of a government as tragic as Jonathan’s is something I simply can’t afford. What I must highlight is, that I don’t like Jonathan doesn’t mean I hate PDP. I believe there are some great minds in PDP, the same way I see pretenders mingling with the great minds in APC. Which is why I’ll be casting vote for some PDP candidates running for some offices in 2015.
I will not engage in, or be lured into, any petty denigration of the opposition party, nor of its newly presented presidential candidate, as is being championed by some supposedly responsible thought leaders in this space.
It’s convenient to ridicule the quest for change if you’ve not felt the impact of the maladministration that has brought this country to its knees; if you’re in faraway Europe or America, with 24-hour power and water supply; if you wake up every day without a fear over your safety and that of your loved ones; if you’re not affected by the stealing, which our wise leader once said isn’t the same as corruption, that has wracked every institution in the country; if you’re not turned against your brother from another ethnic group or religion or region by the politics and gimmicks of a dangerous President. It’s convenient to trivialize the essence of a government if you haven’t lost a family to insurgency because of an incompetent leadership. And unless you enjoy a 24-hour power supply, quality service at corruption-free institutions, impressive social amenities, all in a de-polarised system, your defence of this administration is either a case of sycophancy taken too far or delusion shamelessly justified.
There are things that shouldn’t be an issue of intellectual masturbation, and the quest for change by pathetically oppressed Nigerians is one of such. If you’ve no power to restore the lives and properties destroyed by bad leadership, the sage thing to do is being neutral and awaiting Dante Alighieri’s prescription of a harsh hell for your ilk.
But February 2015 is an uncertain period. Which is also why we must now promote, especially for those who consider politics a do-or-die affair, the meaning of democracy. We must assure the zealots that the only way to elect a new leader is by converging at polling units to vote, not by threatening those against them, or even breaking loose and harming those in the Other party. And while we do this, let’s also remember the electorate at villages with no motorable roads; those who do not know what we mean by change; those who only need food to eat, land to till, crops to harvest who are more vulnerable to the seduction of a wad of cash in exchange for their ballot papers.
Another bitter truth we have to chew is, nobody can rig an election without the complicity of the people. And when some of us contribute to electoral malpractices, the last I checked, the courtroom is the only place for resolution of such conflicts. No citizen deserves to die for the ambition of any politician. The bad and the good must co-exist, so long as our shared nationality isn’t a myth. This country is a reflection of ourselves. May God save us from us.
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter