After shifting the polls from February 14, today –March 28, 2015 is indeed the day that Nigeria has set aside to go to the polls in a ‘brave’ attempt to shape her future…or the next four years of her future by electing a new President.
Although there are eleven candidates vying for the most exalted seat in the land- amongst them a woman, only two have stood out prominently and the contest is being keenly contested by these two from the two leading political parties –the People’s Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress.
The two leading parties themselves are only differentiated by nomenclature, they are similar…no, they are the same in ideology, principles and operations.
Basically, the contest is between a former military head of state -General Muhammadu Buhari or GMB as he is fondly called by his supporters and the incumbent -Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan also widely known as GEJ.
These two are arguably the most powerful or influential out of the lot and the battle has been interesting as much as it has been intriguing in the run-up to the elections.
A check on GMB’s stint as the military head of state (from 1983 – 1985) would unearth reported dictatorial and autocratic policies that characterize military rules albeit with a zero tolerance for corruption while GEJ’s democratic rule has been rife with insecurity, corruption and general instability although a solid democratic foundation was laid which a newly elected president must now build upon.
The election taking place today has garnered widespread interest which is not surprising given Nigerian’s status as the most populous country in Africa with a fast growing economy. As things stand, this election may well be a test of how fast the nation could disintegrate or how well she could rally round / unify and uphold the tenets of democracy and be a beacon of hope to other democratic governments on the continent.
The African continent still has a number of dictators and though there have been subtle clamours for return of the military due to security concerns, this may just be the litmus test for Nigeria.
For arm-chair observers like me, the combination of opposing candidates of GEJ and GMB has been intriguing in its entirety with supporters of both more often than not at logger-heads with (real and virtual) daggers drawn, even on social media platforms.
For both passionate supporters, there could be no life…no Nigeria as it were without either of these two at the helm of affair.
The incumbent with his gentle mien and transformation agenda must return to office to continue his transformational works because he is a Christian from the embattled Ijaw minority clan, regardless of whether the nation is on fire, regardless of the missing billions and the high level of corruption, regardless of the over 30million jobless graduates, regardless of the sad state of electricity, regardless of the decaying state of the health sector, regardless of the declining education standard, etc; on the other hand, the very strict and rigid general who is a Muslim from the Fulani tribe in the crisis-ridden Northern part of Nigeria is all the nation needs to eternally rid herself of insecurity and corruption which has eaten deep into her fabric thereby engulfing the nation in wild fire regardless of his reported Sharia tendencies, regardless of his reported high-handedness, regardless of his (old)age, regardless of his previous dictatorial tendencies, regardless of the various controversies surrounding his previous achievements –performance-wise and education-wise.
The passion has been intense and the debate hot with age, religious and ethnic sentiments playing a great role in persuading or dissuading would-be voters as the case may be.
In drumming up support, the two camps had consistently succeeded in needlessly whipping up caustic sentiments based on the aforementioned with their hate / love campaign.
Nigerians have witnessed varying degrees of mudslinging, kindergarten-fashion name-calling and hate-mongering from every quarter by desperate candidates and the party faithful.
These supporters have failed to see the big picture or think of the aftermath of the elections should their candidate lose at the polls. Seeds of hate that have no place in modern day democratic settings are being sown and are fast germinating.
In retrospect, (as it is almost late in the day) one would have expected a detailed program or roadmap intelligently put together from each of the candidates on what they intend to achieve with their mandate.
Clear details –not generic or blanket statements- of what they hope to achieve on assumption of office, details of how they intend to tackle corruption, insecurity, electricity, employment, health and education among other salient issues but details have been sketchy with just a few days to the election.
Seriously, anyone who hopes to ride on the back of religion or tribe or age as propaganda has little or nothing to offer the Nigerian people who have come to believe ultimately in their unity lying in diversity.
Religion, rightly called the opium of the masses by Karl Marx is always combustible. Age is nothing but a number and ethnic sentiments hold no water in this dispensation.
All the Nigerian people crave is good governance chaperoned by a good (wo)man with the sole interest of the masses at heart, a (wo)man who could / would get the job done and restore hope and peace to the people.
In truth, both candidates appear to be extreme opposites of each other but what choice do the Nigerian people really have?
These are indeed very crucial times and whichever way the wind blows in the next couple of hours / days- be it towards the much needed CHANGE or towards CONTINUITY, it is the hope of the common man on the street that LOVE would win hand in hand with peace and the will of the masses would prevail.
Written by Abiola Olaleye