Electoral choices in a democracy ultimately boil down to affirming one’s version of the truth that should reign in the nation. Casting one’s ballot expresses our vision of the country, individual or collective. While some people vote simply as a mundane exercise, many do so because they believe that the ballot conveys the truth of their reality: their interpretation of it and how they have also chosen to express their agency to affirm or correct such status. Taken that way, elections are more than routine civic activities. They are elevated to the level of a battle to definitively inscribe one’s vision of the nation-state over other competing ones.
As Nigerians go to the polls this Saturday, the question on virtually every mind about who will win or lose is also about whose version of the truth will be ultimately inscribed on the polity.
Ideally, it should not be that hard to make a choice. Even if we do not know who to vote for, we should know who not to vote for. Nigeria is going through the worst of times, brutal hardships that recall the dark days of the military era. The crises presently engulfing the nation were caused by some agents who—in a cruel twist—are also on the ballot. They personify oppression and darkness; voting against them is a moral responsibility.
Despite how the All Progressives Congress’ agents have pillaged the country since 2015, some of our fellow citizens still plan to vote for them. There is no mystery to their choice; contrary to what you suspect, they have not been bewitched either. Like others, they too seek to inscribe a truth on the polity. Since the presidential candidate is a Yoruba/Muslim, the truth many of his supporters seek to affirm with this election is reducible to identity politics. Every other argument you have heard them make about their voting choices is merely a smokescreen. I am not one to argue that voting based on ethnic and religious sentiments is entirely unreasonable. Nigeria has given us nothing and the primordial sentiment is survival tactic for many. The best one can do is not to let the truth of our particularities extinguish the more profound and universal truth of our human identity.
Come Saturday, identity politics is one of the competing truths that will come forward to be emblazoned on the body politic. Another truth that will be on the ballot and which all our votes will either promote or undercut is this: nothing good will come out of the APC. As presently constituted, the APC is a band of venal men whose singular concern is power capture and nothing else. Voting for them will not change that fact; the best any votes for them will achieve is upholding the truth of their uselessness. A vote against them, on the other hand, will avow our human ability to truncate oppressive systems and initiate another start. Each vote expresses how we see ourselves: either as someone who will merely submit to denigrating forces because we are afraid to step outside of the iron cage of primordial considerations or as the person who has enough strength of will to declare “enough is enough.”
Now, before anyone tries to dismiss the truth of the whole matter as my truth, consider the events of the past few weeks since the ongoing crises started culminating. You would have noticed that our leaders’ responses have either been the propensity to blame some shadowy elements—the Peoples Democratic Party, Aso Rock cabal, etc.—or acknowledge that the sufferings people are undergoing threaten their electoral chances. Please note: they are not admitting people’s pain to alleviate it; it is only noteworthy in calculating the distance between them and power. If those people win again on Saturday, you can bet they will have no motivation to relieve your troubles. The good thing is that we cannot say we did not know the kind of venom the snake we cuddled up our chest carried.
For years we have been calling attention to the failings of the APC, but their response has been to gaslight us. They labelled us “wailing wailers” and said we refused to see anything good about our country. But one week before the elections, Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, pointedly admitted that the President, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) achieved nothing in the past eight years. So, he knew all along that they frittered away eight years of our national life, but the sufferings of the people did not move him to admit it until it threatened an election on which he has staked his political future?!
Another one of Buhari’s hailer-turned-wailing-wailer is Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El Rufai. His February 16th broadcast where he excoriated the architects of the naira redesign policy sounded fiery, but it was a lengthy expression of doublespeak and evasiveness. Look at him absolving the president of any responsibility and wonder why all the stupid conspiracy theories: It is now clear that the president has been deceived…. this policy was conceived and sold to the president… disgruntled federal officials have so far convinced the president… misguided action of the Attorney-General to mislead the president… evil people using the instrumentality of the Federal Government and the president as convenient…. El Rufai is old enough to recall that Buhari instigated the same policy in 1984 with near identical disastrous outcomes, but he still wants us to join him in believing the man is too simple-minded to be held accountable for his own sins? From El Rufai’s convenient use of the passive voice in those excerpted portions, you see a man redirecting the blame everywhere other than where it belonged. For someone who spent the past eight years as an enabler of an incorrigibly bad presidency, El Rufai still cannot speak straight. If there were no election ahead, he would have maintained his dubiousness.
Along with other APC stalwarts who have turned into emergency activists overnight, all these men have zero concerns about Nigerians’ welfare. They do not care for the poor, rural dwellers, small business owners, and anybody else they say will fall into further poverty because of the naira designed policy. Nigerians have long fallen into multidimensional poverty, and they all pretended to be deaf and mute while it happened. Nigeria has been through multiple crises, much worse than we experienced in the period leading up to the 2015 elections, but you still never heard from them. Those poor Nigerians they are suddenly concerned about have been labouring under several poorly contrived policies for eight years, but none voiced their distaste. They are speaking up simply because they are anxious about losing out in the periodic power reshuffle (aka elections).
Do not be fooled by their pretend altruism, they have no love for anyone. The APC stalwarts now shouting about the crises of the scarcity of essential commodities have been silent for eight years. If they had been speaking up with the rabid passion they are doing now, maybe things would not have gotten this bad. When the going was good for them, they were Buhari’s enablers. Even now that they are waking up to how their failures threaten their chances, it is still not about you. It is about them maintaining their hold on power.
Let me repeat: on Saturday, there will be multiple truths competing on the ballot. Many people will be voting to roll back the threats of religious supremacy or ethnic domination. Others will vote on similar considerations, none of which are illegal—or even illegitimate—within the context of a democracy. However, the truth every single one of our cast votes will eventually come down to determine is whether we are the kind of people who submit to the yoke of our leaders or throw it off our necks.