Akinmoyeje Timileyin Precious
Image Credit: Nairaland.com
Recycling does work! Yeah, in a world where waste disposal has left (and would leave) a significant stamp on environmental health, the most logical course of action would be to recycle—let there be no waste. However, despite the many bills and legal structures in place to promote recycling (both locally and in the international community), there seems to be no mention of occupational (or let’s say political) human recycling. I mean, humans are different from non-living things; as the times go by, fresh minds with disruptive ideas have to replace old conservative ones (Oh, you think this is obvious? Nigeria says otherwise). Just like that saying goes; body no be firewood—and that includes the brains too!
As They Were in the Beginning
Nigeria has gone through a lot of apparent changes since Independence. The country went from the active nationalistic clamors, through to Independence, the Civil War, and the transition of power to the civilian government. However, a couple of things have persisted through this space of time. For instance, core issues like tribalism, religious extremism, and marginalization have persisted. Most importantly, we have had the same set of people run the affairs of the country since (before) independence. Some notable examples would do some justice to this fact.
General Olusegun Obasanjo
General Obasanjo is a war hero who has been in been active service since before the Nigerian Independence. He saw to the surrender of the Biafra secessionists in 1970. In 1976, he assumed the position of the Head of State till 1979. He later became a civilian president of the country from 1999 to 2007. Today, he assumes—by some unspoken law—the position of a kingmaker in Nigerian politics.
General Ibrahim Babangida
General Babangida—nicknamed evil genius—was head of state between the years 1985 to 1993 after a palace coup against Muhammadu Buhari. Babangida had an active part in all major coups that occurred in Nigeria after the independence. He is one of the founding fathers of the People’s Democratic Party. In 2007, he picked up a nomination form to run for the presidency; he declared his intention to run in 2010. Due to reasons best known to him, he withdrew his candidacy for the political post. Just like Obasanjo, he sits as a kingmaker—a force to be reckoned with—in Nigerian politics.
General Muhammadu Buhari
General Muhammadu Buhari—the current president of the federal republic of Nigeria—has been in the political space since the post-independence days. Buhari was appointed as the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources in 1977. After the 1983 military coup, he assumed the office of the Head of State in Nigeria till 1985. Buhari later ran for election in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015 when he won for his first term in office. His close contender—Atiku Abubakar—has also been an active part of the Nigerian political space. He was most popular as Obasanjo’s Vice president.
Summarily, the power struggle has remained among a set of individuals for a long period. While it is not entirely a statement of fact that they are Nigeria’s problems, it is logical to allow fresh individuals with novel approaches to hold the mantle of power and steer the country out of these murky waters. Why does this look impossible? What has transpired?
What Happened in the 2019 Presidential Election?
2019 general elections brought with it a kaleidoscope of emotional outbursts. To some, the just concluded tenure brought promise and renewed hope for a better Nigeria; to the others, it was just a show of duplicity—change, but in the wrong direction. The election was a symbol of the increasing exposure of the average Nigerian to diversity—we had a female presidential candidate—and the importance of a paradigm shift in the circle of leadership. For anyone that has observed the political scenery since the days of Obasanjo in 1999, it signified a drive for change.
On the 17th of January 2017, the independent National electoral commission (INEC) released a list that contained 146 presidential candidates—a lot of them overshadowed by the big boys. Nigerians knew few of these people. On the bright side, there seemed to be quite some notable ones among the candidates. For instance, there were the likes of Donald Duke, Fela Durotoye, Omoyele Sowore, Obi Ezekwesili (one of the five female Presidential candidates), and a lot of others who exhibited some level of responsibility and intellect, especially at the various presidential debates. Some of these candidates had a whole lot of support on the surface; there were even speculations of possible tight contests with the big parties—apparently, those supports were not translated to voting power. Summarily, the struggle was still between the two major parties; one of them did win! That was to be expected.
Ahead of the 2023 Presidential Election: Identity Politics in Nigeria
Because of our seriousness about a change in the style of leadership, we have started to look inside—towards ‘capable’ but marginalized identities in the country. Nigeria has one of the lowest women participation in the world; way too low for a secular country. As of 2019 (as recorded by the UN women organization);
- Women representation in the house of Representatives was 5.5%
- Women representation in the House of Senate was 5.8%
- 5 out of 73 candidates running for the presidency were women
- 1668 men and 232 women vied for 109 senatorial seats
- 4139 men and 560 women competed for 360 seats in the House of Representatives.
On a similar note, the average age requirements for assuming a political post in Nigeria tilted too much towards old age—until recently when the ‘Not too young movement’ came in. This awareness has brought about some remarkable structural and legislative changes, but are those enough to drive an ideological revolution in the Nigerian polity?
Some 2023 Moves
With approximately 693 days left to the next general elections, the men of the big parties have been making moves (silent and loud) to secure their spot in the hearts of voters. Though these are still speculations, some key members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have been showing interest in securing the position of the President of the country. It is most likely the same story for the other big dog in the game—the People’s Democratic Party. To increase their chances of winning, it is most likely to see one oldie emerge as a candidate of either party. History repeats itself—the same old sequence; the same cycle of people.
2023 Presidential Election: We Could Try A Few New Things
Sadly, most of the supposedly intellectual fresh faces in the presidential game phased out after the elections. Some opted for selective activism; some went into political oblivion. If anyone is indeed serious about changing the circle of leaders in the Nigerian polity (outside the influence of the big party structures), oblivion will not do any good! On the parts of these politicians, proactivity demands that they stay relevant in the political space—in whichever way, it is left to their discretion. The 2023 presidential election is nearby; they—at the very least—need all the awareness they can get.
Realistically, even that would most likely not yield immediate results (at least, not against the giant party structures of the big guys). Relevance in this context is a long-term investment. No one comes out of the blues some months to election and wins; you’ve had to be in the game; to understand its nuances; the highs and the lows; the way to navigate successfully. All those are very important.
Second, youth is transient; it is not a tag one can wear forever. Young people need to be aware of the opportunities open for them and genuinely take up active roles in the political affairs of the country. The same goes for women. It turns out that the problems are bigger than just legislative restrictions; there are psychological dimensions to it too. Therefore, to solve the problem of under-representation; to stir up a change in this old cycle, we would have to break the mental barriers of apathy towards political matters – as women and youths. Power is not just going to present itself on a platter of Gold! It is a matter of participation.
Finally, it would be unrealistic to advocate for voting without our different individual biases in the coming elections. It is like trying to remove a rudder from a ship. However, whatever shapes our biases should be centred on principles of justice, fairness, and general progress. Changing a few stale hands would not hurt, would it? No matter how tough it is, Nigeria can be better!