Photo credit: “Man holding a Flag of Nigeria” by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu
Continuation of part 1
After the 2023 presidential elections, Make It Plain asked four young Nigerians to share their thoughts and opinions about the political situation, their fellow country-people and their nation. Let’s read and hear what our second pair of interviewees had to say.
Djeneba Deby Bagayoko: We navigate many moments in life on auto-pilot. Study, work, pay bills. Rinse and repeat. But there are moments that require us to be more conscious, attentive, intentional. Before starting, we’d like you to take a moment to synch and tune in with your spirit, sit in the moment and ask yourself how you feel about the elections, Nigeria and Nigerians?
O. Abdul-Ganiu Kamilu: As a country, Nigeria is currently in a critical situation in terms of the challenges it is facing: terrorism, insecurity, economic crisis, corruption, poor infrastructural system, and a host of others. These challenges fuelled the participation of most voters in the electioneering process. In fact, there was so much interest from the larger percentage of people in the Diaspora and this is quite unprecedent in our history.
As far as the election is concerned, I will score the electoral body performance a 40/100. The electoral body performed below par and failed to adhere to its own guidelines. The commission failed to transmit results to the independent national electoral commission result viewing portal (IREV) where voters can easily access results. The election was marred with violence and a case of massive rigging especially in the southern part of Nigeria. Despite the innovations and machineries put in place, the electoral umpire failed to deliver to the expectation of most Nigerians. The promises made by the chairman of the independent national electoral commission that the amendments made to the electoral act will be complied with were not fulfilled. The law was signed purposely for the elections to make the process seamless and as transparent as possible. Some provisions of the law were seemingly overlooked and this has led to distrust of the commission. There was so much human interference in the election: ballot boxes were stolen and carted away right before security personnel. On the whole, I personally feel the election was far from what is obtainable in international best practice.
QA: The elections in Nigeria went the way they should have gone. Analyzing Nigeria and Nigerians, Nigerians are the problem of Nigeria. If you break it down, you will see that Nigerians are making the leaders do what they do.
DDB: You probably have witnessed a couple of elections before. Does the 2023 election differ from those of the past or is there a trend you notice?
OA-GK: This general election was clearly different from the ones we have previously witnessed. Prior to the election the trend amongst voters was one we hadn’t seen in the past: from raising awareness about registration for voters’ card to sensitization and the need for people to be a part of the process. Religious institutions took it upon themselves to educate people on importance of collection of voters card and the need to vote in the elections. People were yearning for a change and wanted to take Nigeria back to its glorious days. These elections opened people’s eyes to the fact that it is no longer about political parties rather, it is by individuals. Another intriguing part is the large participation of youths in the process. This time around, there was high turnout from the youths, they didn’t limit themselves to making noise on social media as people would normally assume. They participated and were actively involved.
QA: I have been active in three different elections as an activist, a voter and an official. These elections were actually no different from the past ones. The system is trying to change but the elections are the same.
DDB: There’s a saying in Nigeria that goes “we make the law, we break the law”. Do you think it is applicable in this context too?
OA-GK: The popular saying “we make the law; we break the law” is not an overstatement. It is a fact. There were laws and guidelines provided for these general elections, but they were not respected nor complied. One would wonder why the laws were made in the first place when in actual fact, the makers of the law broke the law. It is quite sad that a lawmaker was found culpable of electoral malpractice. Unfortunately, the law is only there as cosmetics.
QA: Nigeria is a peculiar country. It is a peculiar state because they do make laws that favor their people. Any law that will favor an individual, a community or a set of people in power, that is the law they will enact and then break. For instance, one government will come to power and if that law does not favor them, they will try and adjust it or break it.
DDB: Afrikan presidents and generally politicians are often referred to as dinosaurs. They may have more life experience due to their age and we give them respect because they’re elders. But when the median age of the population is 18 years don’t they risk being out of touch with local and popular reality? Do you feel heard and valued as young people of Nigeria?
OA-GK: There is no way an 80-year-old president can be in tune with the youth. With a population of over 70% as youths, it is safe to conclude that a president of over 70 years may not be able to relate with the innovations and realties of the 21st century. I believe the Constitution should be reviewed to reduce the age limit. Personally, as a young man, I don’t feel heard and valued. We have been brutalized way too much and the government has refused to intervene. So where is the value? Where is the dignity of being a Nigerian if you’re harassed and molested in your own country? It’s only empty promises from our government.
QA: As a young Nigeria you might be heard. We get feedback from time to time but they always try to mix things up. The people in power have been in charge for so long that they know their citizens. So they act and almost manipulate them in such ways that they’ll get votes. It’s hard for a young person to come and rule because of lack of experience and support system (house of representative, assembly).
DDB: Elections also show people’s true colors and attitudes towards other religious affiliations and ethnicities. Do you feel that younger generations care less about those differences or are they still as sectarian as their parents and grand-parents?
OA-GK: We have inherited a lot of things from our parents and grandparents. We’re still as sectarian as ever. The elections showed it. There were candidates from the east, south, north i.e. the major ethnic groups in Nigeria (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba). Votes went according to ethnic affiliation. The east voted for the Igbo presidential candidate, same was observed for Northern candidate in the North and the south West massively voted for the Yoruba candidate. People canvassed for and supported candidates blindly based on ethnic belonging and not what the person is willing to offer. It is rather sad that our political system is towing the path of tribalism which is not good for us as a nation.
QA: I actually think elections don’t show people’s true colors but they do show another side. People can be partial because they know the candidate. I don’t think younger people have issues with ethnic and religious affiliations and biases. The young generation wants an individual to work. However, it’s not about one person but it’s about the individual and their team plus the parliament, assembly and other government bodies. Believing in individuals and parties is key.