My Take On #NigeriaDecides2019.

By Century Favour | March 6, 2019

In the past few weeks, it would be hard to find a Nigerian who is unaware of the ongoing emotionally charged season in the country, one occasioned by a political landscape that is rife with all the drama that comes with a change in leadership cycle, from campaigns to party affiliations to agendas, to the electioneering process itself.

As you well know, the subject of governance and politics by extension is one of the cardinal pillars that defines the direction of conversations on this blog and so I’m enthusiastic to share a few thoughts with you.

First things first, my foundational standpoint is this, I believe that any nation’s politics that isn’t fostering the welfare of the citizenry is a far cry from progress because at the heart of it all, governance, in itself, is not politically partisan.

 

MY TAKE ON ELECTION TRENDS.

 

Following the result of the Presidential elections that has seen our president re-elected for a 2nd term, I began to think deeply on the factors that contributed to the outcome of that election and here’s what I realised – You see, after the historic defeat of the then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in 2015, that saw the then ruling party lose to the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC), there was an overarching idea that Nigerians understand bad governance and that every 4 years we go to the polling booths to vote out individuals who don’t perform well and vote in candidates we think are credible.

The result of 2015 elections painted a picture of hope for our democracy and an active voting polity, but from the outcome of the just concluded 2019 elections, it’s become clear now that our perceived awareness of the average Nigerian voter in regards to the concept of demanding for good governance is actually a work in progress.

Looking back now, I see that the 2015 elections was not accurately reflective of a referendum on bad governance but a referendum on a leadership that did not reflect the interest of certain regions. What further reinforces this is the zoning idea that is peculiar to us in Nigeria where it is normative for the presidential candidate choice to be rotated amongst the geo-political zones in the country periodically. So we have a situation where a particular zone and even party dynamics will pull forces to field specific candidates and ensure the candidate from the selected region is elected or re-elected simply for the regional affiliation sake, regardless of whether the individual is credible or not.

Another reason I say this is because, from hindsight view, I see that in spite of the fact that Buhari’s “CHANGE” mantra touted him as a messiah to save Nigeria from the pains of Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure, the same poor governance choices, gross corruption, underwhelming management of insurgency and insecurity outcomes that was evident in the Goodluck Jonathan regime in 2015 was experienced in the outgoing regime. We not only saw a ceremonial president who in the space of four years was more out of the country than in, we saw a president who didn’t seem affected by the deplorable economic and security situation in the nation resulting in thousands of lives and property, a president who by his silence and inaction, proved that the value of human life was secondary to that of cattles, a president who suddenly became vocal, conducting more press releases in the period leading up to his election than he ever did while in office, a president who under his regime and policies saw the Naira lose value, also saw the economy go into recession, a president who made slow, unbalanced political appointments, a president who under his regime, the country became the world’s poverty capital and the number of out-of-school children increased to an all-time high of 13.2 million children and lastly, we saw a president whose fight of corruption was generally seen as a vindictive cover for witch hunting because it was perceived to be prejudiced as he still maintained relations and dined with some other evidently corrupt persons who were cronies of his government. This is however not to say that there were no achievements made by the Muhammadu Buhari government.

It is important to note that although the just concluded presidential election wasn’t devoid of irregularities or outstanding flaws, the premise on which my argument is based off of, is the current official result of the elections. I mean, the jury is probably still out on if it would be upended. 😄  But if you go by the results, the consensus seems to be a landslide endorsement of the same bad governance mistakes committed by the previous regime.

This proves how powerful the partisan mindset can be.

 

 

PARTISAN MINDSET

What is the partisan mindset?

The partisan mindset is a socio-political culture that promotes party or ethnic interest. The 2019 elections was seen as the epoch in which Nigerians would evolve from this orientation. But judging from the result of the presidential elections, it is not the case. Why? I for one, think that the undercurrent of the partisan mindset is still running strong. The same partisan mindset to governance that kept PDP thriving for sixteen years is still alive and we are back to business as usual.

This underlying notion stemmed from the fact that most Nigerians really don’t care about the inadequacies of their leaders especially if they are from their region or religion. Once, you can demonstrate that you protect their ethnic interest, even if it’s by mere association, all your sins will be forgiven. No crime you commit can make you lose the support of your base.

How do partisans think about the issues? Partisans think about issues from the standpoint of personal or ethnocentric interest/agenda.

The better alternative to this, however, is the Independent mindset. Independents are not staunchly loyal to a party. Rather, they think from a national interest standpoint and can sway either way based on performance. If we take a look at the two-party system in the United States of America- Republican and Democratic parties, a measure of political partisanship does exist but political support both from coalitions and grassroots is primarily driven by issue and performance and this is why in American elections, the determining factor is tied to which party can sway the gather the votes of the independents.

This problem of the partisan mindset, however, is not just a Nigerian problem, it’s a fundamental problem that some advanced democracies face.

So, although we may be partisans, the question is, to what degree? I’m not against being partisan but the need for balance by way of independent support is paramount.

The sad reality is that Nigerians are still very blinded by the bias of primordial, religious, tribal and ignorant sentiments and until we overcome these key psychosocial problems, we will remain where we are.

And guess what? Everyone suffers the aftermath of this decision, from the winning to the losing party in every election. This is because we simply reinforce the idea that we really do not care about performance, if you can represent our tribal/ethnic bias or interest, regardless of whether it trumps the national interest, we are good.

Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association and human rights activist, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) posited this in an opinion piece titled, ‘2019 Presidential Election: Ethnic Consideration vs Governance Consideration.’ published last Wednesday. The SAN noted that the election was not devoid of irregularities and that the voting pattern of the presidential election showed that ethnicity played a significant role.

In his words, he looks forward to a new Nigeria, strong and united; a new Nigeria that will not vote on the basis of ethnic and primordial sentiments.

As opposed to the results of 2015 elections stirring our hope for democracy, the results of 2019 elections are making the strong statement- “If you don’t perform, you can be reelected.”

Agbakoba strongly feels that unless something is done, 2023 will follow the pattern of 2019.

 

WAY FORWARD

Where do we go from here?

The answer to this question lies in a coalition of efforts. Everyone has a role to play;

  • For members of the winning party, you can do better this time by speaking the truth to those in power and holding those you supported/campaigned for responsible.The era of supporting the bad decisions made by those you’ve elected, especially by your silence or inaction is not sustainable because by doing so you are becoming part of the problem. Do not be silent when things are going wrong.  

We need to weaken the idea of parties serving as a cover for ineffective candidates. Rather than amplifying names, our parties need to be defined by working ideologies that promote good governance.

  • And for the opposing party, it is time to really oppose constructively and continue to speak the truth to those in power in the interest of Nigerians.

 

  • Civil societies also have a role to play beyond the social media campaigns. They need to turn their focus to desensitize people from making ethnic-based judgements in governance. This is the way to raise an army of voters that vote with principles.

 

As for everyone else who believes that Nigeria is a work in progress, a conscious work to re-educate the voting population about the importance of holding those they elect accountable is a task that must continue.

Until we get to a point where our leaders know that regional affiliation and representing our biases is not enough and that you have got to deliver, until we achieve this level of consciousness, Nigerians will always lose in every election irrespective of who wins.

And oh, lest I forget, dear election winner, the work hasn’t ended. This is a wake-up call to make good and deliver on your agenda offerings.