“Just because something isn’t a lie does not mean that it isn’t deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction” – Criss Jami
“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception” – Niccolo Machiavelli
“Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind” – George Orwell
On the 14th day of February 2015, eligible voters all over the country would come out in their numbers and vote to elect a new leader; a new president. For some, it is a wonderful opportunity to come up with hackneyed excuses for ‘shawty’, ‘gyalfriend’ or ‘wifey’ on why she won’t get a romantic date for Valentine’s Day (na better excuse joor). For others (the more optimistic citizens), it marks a big step towards preserving our rather nascent democracy.
I am the kind of fellow that tries as much as possible to avoid discussions on politics and other contemporary topics that have to do with politics. The only reason I avoid such discussions is that on every occasion I’ve attempted to do so in the past, I’ve been pitched against biased and prejudiced individuals. These are folks that could argue that Martin Luther King Jr. was a white man and that fufu originated from Iceland.
So on this fateful day, I had finished a minor procedure at the emergency room in the hospital, and quickly rushed to Mama Nkechi’s bar to take a chilled bottle of Goldberg (omo…that drink make sense die…and on top am, come dey cheap). I settled into my chair, hurriedly removed the cork from the green bottle and toke a gulp. And then another gulp. Afterwards, I greeted some elderly men drinking pammy from glass tumblers. A younger man, Kelvin, was on his feet with a bottle of his favorite beer in his left hand, shouting on top of his voice while pointing with his right hand, like a land surveyor selling off lands meant for the umunna. “Goodluck MUST win this election. Nothin’ go stop am. God don already ordain am. He must win. Him go get the highest votes”, he shouted. Papa Okey, the cobbler, nodded in agreement. Kelvin kept on ranting, trying to convince everyone why Goodluck would win, and citing the numerous prophets that had already announced it. “Last Sunday, my pastor talk am for church…he saw a vision…where Goodluck dey on top chair, a very big chair…and all him enemies come dey for under. Make all of una vote am o”, he said.
As I turned to take another mouthful of beer, I noticed another young man at the corner of the room; he was seated near where Mama Nkechi kept the dried fish and fried chicken. He was wearing a grey suit, the type that hasn’t been washed in a long while. The pair of shoes he was wearing was dusty and the tips pointed to heaven. I quickly guessed he worked at the Local Government Council. “Excuse me, my friend, I’ve been sitting here listening to you, talk and talk and talk the more, why our president would be re-elected. Yet, you have neither backed up your convictions with credible reasons why we should vote him nor mentioned his achievements all these years he was in office”, the man said. “You shouldn’t come here dey yarn mumu talk because you think say all of us don drink”, he continued. Papa Okey nodded in agreement. I wasn’t surprised. It was obvious he was tipsy.
Kelvin adjusted his belt buckle first, then neatly placed his half empty bottle of beer on the table, turned to the young man and said, “Bros, me no send dat one wey u dey yarn. Wetin I know be say power no fit go back to the north. Na Buhari dey sponsor Boko Haram, if you no know. If Buhari become president, Naija go worse pass now. We know say Goodluck never arrange Naija matter finish as e suppose be. But instead wey Northerner go rule us again, make I delete. The devil we know better pass the angel we no know. Na Buhari wey do coup, come keep Shagari for better bedroom wey AC dey, come put our brother, Ekwueme for the fuckupest place for kirikiri. You think say that kin person go remember East when him enter? Any person for East wey vote Buhari suppose drown inside river, or make amadioha comot the person head and teeth”. I could see anger written all over Kelvin’s face as he delivered his sermon in Mama Nkechi’s bar, amidst drunken and tipsy men nodding in agreement. I wanted to say something. But my phone rang. “Doc, patient don show o. Come quick quick”, the nurse said on the other end. So I had to leave and said my goodbyes.
I’ve seen a lot of people with similar fears and belief as Kelvin. In pubs and bars, they exist. In the commercial buses, they abound. In churches and markets, they come out in droves. On social media, they flourish. The fear of power going back to the North. The fear of having another Northerner rule the country again.
General Muhammadu Buhari was born on 17th of December 1942 in Katsina State, and served as the military ruler of the nation from 31st December 1983 to 27th August 1985. There were allegations that he was overthrown in a coup because he insisted on investigating allegations of fraudulent award of contracts in the Ministry of Defence. He also served as the Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation from March 1976 to July 1978. He was also made the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund Chairman in March 1995. During this time, contracts awarded were executed to their logical conclusion and for those not executed, the PTF got every kobo back. He ran unsuccessfully for the office of the President of Nigeria in 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections. He has since emerged as the Presidential Candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) for the upcoming 2015 elections.
Buhari’s best chance at the presidency seems to be now. He has a good track record in tackling insecurity (he successfully crushed the Maitasine rebellion in the early 80s) and corruption (War Against Indiscipline to keep the society in check; while his tight-fisted regime tried and jailed many corrupt politicians in the Second Republic). He has also lived a modest and frugal lifestyle which radiates integrity.
But he has his own flaws. During his regime as a military leader, he was notorious for clamping down on the activities of journalists who were deemed to oppose the regime. He has also been accused on making inciting statements in support of religious extremism. He allegedly gave support to enforcement of Sharia law in Nigeria’s northern states. Many anti-GMB campaigners have cited ironies in his stories and service to Nigeria. Many argue that there is no room for a person that previously overthrew a democratically elected government seeking to serve in a democracy. Others specifically state that GMB cannot thrive in a democracy because his anti-corruption policies would make him unpopular amongst lawmakers, who won’t waste any time in impeaching him. Yet other tribalistic folks just don’t want him because power shouldn’t go back to the North.
On the other hand, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is the incumbent president. He was born on 20th November 1957 in Bayelsa State. He served as the Governor of Bayelsa State (2005 to 2007) after the impeachment of Governor Alamieyeseigha, served as the Vice President (2007 to 2010) and has been the President of Nigeria since 2011. His rise to power has largely been attributed by some to sheer luck or God’s grace, as the case may be. His regime has recorded a lot of successes and commendable milestones viz; Improvement of the economy (growth in foreign direct investment and external reserves), transformation in the health sector (this is a rather controversial point though) and controlling the Ebola outbreak, improvement in the education sector (establishing about twelve more universities), upgrading the transportation system by establishing rail lines and stations (this would reduce transportation costs by more than 50%), signing the FOI bill which makes institutions more open about their spending of public funds and expenditures. The list goes on and on.
But he has his own faults and imperfections too. It still baffles me that corruption still thrives in the nation as well as insecurity. Let’s keep the Boko Haram insurgency aside for a minute: armed robbery, kidnappings and extortions are the order of the day. The economic growth the government boasts about doesn’t translate to shared prosperity and wealth amongst the masses, the gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening, misinformation abounds thereby leading to distrust of the government. A lot of people would argue that the country lacks moral leadership too. A friend once joked that the president’s plan to tackle corruption is to pardon former convicts.
Don’t get me wrong. This article is not meant to seek support for any candidate, neither is it a medium for campaigning for a candidate. Like I mentioned earlier, I rarely discuss politics. But after listening to that guy at the bar state categorically that he doesn’t care about a candidate’s strengths or weaknesses, it became pertinent to delve into the discussion. And Kelvin is not alone in his convictions; there are hundreds, even thousands of citizens who would rather vote for a candidate with more flaws than fine points as long as they belong to the same religion, ethnic group or tribe. But this attitude would never bring the change we so desire in the country. Sacrificing good track records on the altar of nepotism and bias wouldn’t do us any good; the problems would still exist and keep eating deep into the fabrics of the society.
We have a couple of weeks before the election holds. It is time to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates vying for the presidency. It is time to decide whether to go on the wrong side of heaven or the righteous side of hell. Capisce?