Whoever made this election cycle so long has not done justice to the health of keen observers of the arena. Since last March, we have been in a mode of calculations, permutations and combinations from the primaries to the flagbearers. We have seen unrelenting tantrums from Rivers, the surge of Peter Obi from four persons in a room to a viral campaign shaking the establishment, the “Emi Lokan” moment in Abeokuta and Atiku’s possibly final effort since he showed interest over 30 years ago.
How is the race faring? First of all, I am not happy that we have narrowed down the elections to Presidential elections. SBM Intelligence and EIE showed that relative interest in Gubernatorial elections (compared to Presidential elections) is low at 35%, the House of Representatives (16%) and State House of Assembly elections (14%). We are the ones screaming for restructuring but still caring less about the quality of leadership in the down-ballot.
I will also be guilty of my position in the paragraph above. Let me say this is an election that every Nigerian should be eagle-eyed about and apply keen attention to because the enthusiasm to make changes in 2027 might not exist as the incumbency factor might be prevalent. I have always maintained that if the same yardstick used for Jonathan was applied to Buhari, the retired General had no business getting a second term. However, Nigeria could not find a consensus to reject failure.
We are also gyrating to a 8-year regional span that doesn’t project incentives for performance.
Unlike in 2015 when I had a firm position in support of Buhari, I will not be open in 2023 because don’t I think current systems would yield optimal results for Nigeria. I just feel overwhelmed by the hard decisions that Nigeria has to make in years to come and curious if the elected leaders would be able to engineer an atmosphere of trust as well as serve with courage and vision. However, I have taken three principles at heart with focus on elite consensus, power asymmetry and gradualism.
In my last medium post, I mentioned that Nigeria cannot have its trains run at once with the current structure that we have. We will keep taking gradual steps as our elite are mostly interested in extraction and redistribution for either their personal or communal benefit. I also believe that the incentives for the Nigerian elite to seek leaders focused on accountable governance is low. No matter how much we try to glamorise voting, it is always the political elite that builds consensus around the candidate. Elections are disguised as a game of the majority but it is mostly about the elite offering options. What options have we been provided? Do these options perpetuate corruption or are they rooted in accountable service? Let’s not make the mistake that elections are not important but the stronger task is the fortitude to hold the government accountable at all levels. The people in “power” must fear the power of the people.
After setting the preamble, especially my lukewarm position about this election, let me state how I feel about the Presidential race. I am really in awe of what Peter Obi has done in the last 8 months. Everyone has fantasized about building a “third force” - an overthrow of the two establishment parties - but Peter Obi went ahead to do it. He has also brought out the energy of the youth while also doubling down on his popularity in South-South, South East, Christian-dominated North Central areas and urban centers in the South West. I am so impressed. Will this demography which will also be keenly contested by the traditional parties be enough to win the elections? With all due respect, I have huge doubt about this. However, I relentlessly advocate that people must vote their values in a democracy. Please vote without apology.
For months, I have pored over Excel spreadsheets, trying to use historical data mixed with the fervour of the moment to predict the next elections but it has not been so lucid. I think Tinubu has zoned most folks in SW into an ethnic prism and would take at least 60% of votes in the region. Atiku will win the North East with lesser margin than Tinubu did in South West due to the pull back of Borno and Yobe State. I believe that gains that PDP structures (significantly weakened) in SS, SE and NC will put them toe to toe with Tinubu’s numbers in SW, NC and NE. It brings the question of what will happen in North West. I believe that the margins of North West will set direction of the elections and it is not about who wins; it’s in tje margins. I am putting my eggs either in a narrow win for either Atiku or Tinubu (I think Asiwaju still has a slight edge depending on margins in North-West). I am also having faith in a “black swan” for Obi. This is a situation where he gets the majority of the votes (due to probable unprecedented turnout) but not enough spread to win. We might end up in a run-off if Obi offers a miracle to us.
However, we must be ready to answer existential questions. We are not drilling oil as we should in times of high prices, population rates keep eclipsing growth rates — thereby reducing GDP per capita — the loss of hope with the brain drain and overall weakening of quality of life. Either way, there are hard decisions ahead with removal of the fuel subsidy that might spike inflation and unification of the currency that might further accelerate the rise in prices. It might not get easier and Nigerians must ask questions on who really is the person that they trust will carry out these wholesale reforms and still empathize with them so that the burden gets lighter.
Nigerians have a big decision ahead and it is one that will test them again. I hope they make a wise decision as I would make one which my conscience affirms. Wherever the pendulum swings, it is not an apocalypse as people tend to make it seem. I will be glad to offer ideas and support to whoever wins so that we can put the country forward.
It is still a democracy, aptly stated as “tyranny of the majority”. The harder task is ahead. Nigerians must just be ready to be the opposition, own their power in a democracy with the rigorous work to holding public officers to account. Without that, we will keep confusing the cyclical dance of elections for motion.