Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Cuckoo waltz in the run-up to 2019 elections, by Prof. Abubakar Liman

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Nigeria is a country that is defined more by self-contradictions than by anything else. For people living in our social milieu, it is going to be very difficult for them to see the country from any perspective outside bumbling contradictions. To understand the character of our nation, distinctions, contours, colors, sights and sounds, all you need to do is to look at the people from a clearly disinterested standpoint. Nigerians are those proud Africans that paradoxically love and hate their own country all at once. This is the ambience in which they proudly parade themselves as Nigerians wherever you find them in the world. They complain to high heavens about how things are not working in their country. They are also quick to tell you how other people but themselves messed things up. But if you give them the opportunity to right the wrongs they complain about, they too would not hesitate to mess things up. They would then proceed to look for someone else to blame for their misdeed or misfortune. Nigerians are really a bunch of funny human beings. They yearn to see things work, even though they do not care to plan for how those things should work. Hence the country ossifies uncontrollably. For decades, the country is limping precariously from one disaster to another without our conscious efforts to ameliorate them. This is how we arrived at where we are today as a nation that is completely enmeshed in its own existential uncertainties.

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Thus, when the current government was elected into office against the odds of President Jonathan’s incumbency, the general expectation was that we are now going to overcome our difficulties, especially under 16 years of PDP misrule. APC government was supposed to hit the ground running as we all expected President Buhari to do. However, all that the people are getting are litanies of failures from a government that promises to bring about change. Between 2015 and 2018, the government was more interested in blaming previous regime for its woes instead of girding its loin to deliver the deliverables. With hindsight, even the much-hyped crusade against corruption of the APC government has now appeared to be completely politicized, halfhearted and selective. The corrupt elements of the APC are everywhere getting away with murder as their corruption is overlooked or conveniently swept under the carpet by the powers that be. The inability of the APC powerbrokers to play the game differently has immensely reinvigorated the PDP, which has come out of its reverie to contemplate contesting for power in the unsavory political environment they themselves have created. Do you blame them? APC is responsible for this turn of events. If Buhari’s government has met the expectations of voters, PDP would not have had the gumption to easily stage a comeback to Nigeria’s political scene.

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Anyway, APC’s blunder is ensuring that the 2019 election is going to be keenly competed. For sure! The current political tug of war is squarely due to APCs contemptuous mien, especially that bad attitude of taking voters for granted, which was graphically symbolized by its leaders, especially by the President and some governors. As it is, it is going to be extremely difficult for APC to repeat its 2015 feat at the polls. Apart from widespread voter apathy, lots of supporters of the APC have been disenchanted and disillusioned. Their dashed expectations have arisen from President Muhammadu’s inability to wave his magic wand to turn the poor living conditions and deplorable development indices left behind by the PDP. Even though predicting the outcome of 2019 elections is very dicey, what is certain however is that the results are going to be pretty close on the national scorecard. President Buhari will lose significantly in two out of the three southern geopolitical zones, but he would be even with the PDP or perhaps slightly win the Southwest. He will however win by a very wide margin in his traditional home turf of the core northern states. His PDP opponent Atiku Abubakar is going to make considerable gains and inroads into areas where there are deep-seated schism, discontent, and irreparable political frictions like Kano State. Not all is well with APC in Jigawa State as Sule Lamido is quietly recouping PDP’s setback there. The expected fallout from political crises in Sokoto and Zamfara States are definitely going to affect the fortunes of APC. The implication of such internecine warfare would have been to boost the chances of PDP and other new political formations in the upcoming elections.

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The biggest issue eroding the confidence of northern voters is the gradual loss of trust in the capacity of President Buhari to reform Nigeria through carefully planned policies. They indeed expected him to deliberately set out to revitalize and re-energize Nigeria’s potentials for economic growth and development, because fighting corruption alone is not going to solve key structural problems. There is this looming perception that the man is not in control of his government. Therefore, his inability to be on top of issues would not afford him good opportunity to fulfill his campaign promises. Also, people always perceived some invisible hands of nefarious forces lurking behind Mr. President. In a country where social mobility of the greater number of Nigerians is virtually zero, the deafening silence of President Buhari is not helping matters at all. The communication space is for instance left wide open for rumor mills to operate unfettered. Already, grinding poverty and insecurity, which now spread like wildfire in many parts of Nigeria, have created serious doubt in the minds of Buhari’s ardent supporters. Thus, when he recently announced his desire to reward his political loyalists generously after winning the 2019 elections in his campaign trail, a cross-section of his supporters read some sinister motive, and some level of desperation as well. They have also felt sufficiently insulted, and quite justifiably so. They thought there was nothing critical enough, preventing Buhari from fulfilling the promises he made even before economic recession and the ill health that impaired greater part of his years in office. Rather than shouting it out loud and clear, they would have prepared to be surprised with concrete actions.

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The other thorny issue has to do with terrible apolitical impression that Buhari and his handlers have created in the minds of a cross-section of his supporters up North. Increasingly, some of Buhari’s supporters have become very critical of the way some ministers allocate scarce resources for capital projects. That is to say, a situation where projects have been amply concentrated in a particular geopolitical zone is not going down well with them. Nigeria being what it is, they expect transparency and the observance of principle of equity in allocation of capital projects. However, some restless supporters of Mr. President are really not happy with his aloofness over the way in which some of his ministers have executed their briefs. They even alleged that the man they fought very hard to ensure he became the President of Nigeria did not care a hoot about their wellbeing. At least, that is how they viewed his indifference to the uneven distribution of capital projects under his watch. While his closest associates are busy empowering themselves and their kith and kin, top government officials are elsewhere doing whatever they like with government resources. Worst of all, oversight function, performance indicator, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are virtually ignored. From the look of things, the President has not put anything in place to monitor what goes in and out of government agencies, ministries and departments. The President is pathetically left to react to issues as they come when something terribly goes wrong. Most Nigerians are not satisfied with this approach. In most cases, Nigerians prefer a strong leader that will prove to them that he is in charge; he always in the saddle to get things done. As far as they are concerned, the President’s dignified silence in the face of serious challenges in the country is unbecoming. Similarly, his too much faith in the sincerity of his closest associates is not helping matters at all.

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Although many Nigerians are conspicuously skeptical of the intentions of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, it does not automatically mean that they are completely at home with President Buhari going by their unsavory experience under him in the last couple of years. And should the President find it difficult to scale the 2019 election huddles, he should have himself to blame and no one else. Not PDP, not past regimes, not anyone but himself. Period!

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