Lesser Evils Do No Good! By Omole Ibukun

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EARLIER last week, we were all heartbroken by the news of dozens of people killed by ‘unknown’ gunmen at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State. The federal government, through the Interior Minister and National Security Council, zeroed in on Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) as the perpetrators.

This means that the sectional division of Nigeria will be the major lines that the 2023 elections will divide Nigerians by. The West will be made to see Tinubu as their regional candidate with the music of ‘Yoruba ronu‘ (Yorubas should think). The East will be made to see Peter Obi as their regional candidate, especially coming from the pro-Biafra sentiments already present. The North will be made to see Atiku Abubakar as their candidate, especially given the fact that some opinion leaders in the North (like the present Senate President, Ahmed Lawan) who contested in the APC presidential primaries, and do not mind having power return to the North.

This massacre did not happen in Kaduna or Borno. It happened in Owo, Ondo State, the town of the state governor who leads the Southern Governors Forum of the ruling party in the country. This happened few days after the Southern Governors Forum welcomed the decision of the Northern Governors Forum to zone the presidency in the ruling party to the southern part of the country in the run-up to their primaries. How connected the attack and the primaries may be is matter of conjecture!

Last weekend, a local cleric mobilised about 200 people to mob, beat, kill and burn a local vigilante to death over a disagreement between them. Just like in Sokoto, the killing mob was mobilised with the appeal to religion under the pretext that the victim blasphemed against Prophet Mohammed. Just that it didn’t happen in the core North this time around, but it happened in Lugbe, a suburb of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory which is touted as the most secure and integrated territory in the country.

In Lagos, the Lagos State Government banned Okada (commercial motorcycles) without giving any alternative means of transportation to the community or alternative employment to the operators. Instead, the state authorities go about crushing and destroying impounded bikes, while its opinion leaders engage in ethnic profiling of Hausas and northerners who are mostly Okada riders as criminals/invaders. While this ethnic profiling should be condemned, it has made it impossible to treat the bike riders protest as a workers protest against injustice. Rather, many citizens see it as an ethnic struggle between northerners and a ‘Yoruba patriotic’ Lagos State government.

Meanwhile as that crises drag on in Lagos State, the governor of the state has been in Abuja with his godfather, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who contested and became the presidential flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the just concluded APC presidential primaries. Bola Tinubu did not only buy delegates with tens of thousands of dollars each to win the primaries held at Eagle’s Square, but he also bought other aspirants who stepped down for him on the day of the primaries. His victory reduced the front-runners for the 2023 elections to Tinubu of the APC from the former Western Region, Peter Obi of the Labour Party from the former Eastern Region, and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP from the former Northern Region.

Here is the potential of polarisation that this election comes with. Already, Igbos seeking to get their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) registration in Lagos have recently cried out that they are being denied the access to get their PVCs in Lagos. A development that got the LP candidate to react charging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to address the matter.

This means that the sectional division of Nigeria will be the major lines that the 2023 elections will divide Nigerians by. The West will be made to see Tinubu as their regional candidate with the music of ‘Yoruba ronu‘ (Yorubas should think). The East will be made to see Peter Obi as their regional candidate, especially coming from the pro-Biafra sentiments already present. The North will be made to see Atiku Abubakar as their candidate, especially given the fact that some opinion leaders in the North (like the present Senate President, Ahmed Lawan) who contested in the APC presidential primaries, and do not mind having power return to the North.

This regional and ethnic character of the run-up to the general elections will only be matched by religious divisions that it will come with. Already the debate on running mates have started, and it’s clear that Peter Obi, an Eastern Christian, might go for a Northern Muslim as running mate. It’s also clear that Atiku, a Northern Muslim, will prefer an Eastern Christian. Tinubu of the ruling party is the controversial one who, as a Western Muslim, would want to choose a Northerner as running mate, but opinion leaders in the North would want him to run with a Muslim Northerner because Islam is regarded as the major religion of the North, hence Sharia law in some northern states. This will mean a Muslim-Muslim ticket throwing up the sentiments already prevalent against Islam in Nigeria especially with the Sharia law, Hisbah police, blasphemy mob killings, and ISWAP attacks.

Meanwhile, fuel scarcity, fuel queues and black market prices have not departed the streets of Abuja. Electricity supply dropped to thirty minutes per day in the part of Abuja where I reside. The attendant increase on cost of transportation has increased the price of food stuff in the market, and the minimum wage is static even thou it has already passed the five years’ time period when it should be reviewed upward already. This is despite the fact that states like Kogi do not pay that N30,000 minimum wage and most private workplaces in Nigeria do not even bother themselves with minimum wage. ASUU is still on strike, alongside almost all other unions in the tertiary education sector. All of these things will not be the major issues of debate and contestation in the 2023 general elections, but will be buried under issues of regions and religions of aspirants. A dangerous fuel to the fire of insecurity already burning in the country.

Meanwhile, fuel scarcity, fuel queues and black market prices have not departed the streets of Abuja. Electricity supply dropped to thirty minutes per day in the part of Abuja where I reside. The attendant increase on cost of transportation has increased the price of food stuff in the market, and the minimum wage is static even thou it has already passed the five years’ time period when it should be reviewed upward already. This is despite the fact that states like Kogi do not pay that N30,000 minimum wage and most private workplaces in Nigeria do not even bother themselves with minimum wage. ASUU is still on strike, alongside almost all other unions in the tertiary education sector. All of these things will not be the major issues of debate and contestation in the 2023 general elections, but will be buried under issues of regions and religions of aspirants. A dangerous fuel to the fire of insecurity already burning in the country.

Citizens are going about praying that Nigeria should not happen to them, but Nigeria is already happening to us. Existing in this social crises alone is traumatising. 2023 is already happening to us. Those waiting to change Nigeria by 2023 will soon discover that Nigeria might not exist by 2023, or the 2023 elections does not happen in Nigeria – Afe Babalola (SAN) and another opinion leader in the country suggested that recently. If protests don’t happen over all of the welfare issues of Nigerians stated above, they will not be issues of consideration in the elections.

INEC demands that parties should have presence in 24 states of the country to have a federal character or else they will be deregistered, but INEC does not have a problem with zoning in parties and the use of place of origin rather than place of residence to contest elections. It’s obvious that INEC’s references to national unity are nothing but hypocrisy. INEC itself is not opposed to regional politics by virtue of their allowance of place of origin and zoning politics, that goes on without condemnation.

Almost all the recent state elections had poor voter turnout. This is because a vast majority of poor Nigerians know their votes don’t count. Those few who voted do so for religious or regional sentiments, and others get their PVCs so they can sell to the highest bidder on election day. Despite this, more than half of registered voters are still not active electorally.

The most popular political position in Nigeria today is the political position that disbelieves this electoral system and does not participate in it and an expression of their displeasure with that electoral system. This election would therefore not mean anything in the end, except we start mass actions in the form of protests and rallies.

Mass actions to not just challenge insecurity, high cost of living, schools’ shutdown and poor electricity supply, but mass protests to also challenge the electoral system which has left Nigerians with no good option but to only choose between lesser evils like we had to do in 2015. As we have seen from the Buhari example, lesser evils do no good!

Ibukun writes from Abuja, Nigeria and can be contacted on 09060277591

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