The morning (Feb 28, 2019) after Buhari’s win I got a reminder of what this is all about. As I drove to my office, there was a slight commotion around the notorious Jabi Park, perhaps Abuja’s own version of the old Oshodi Bus Stop before Ambode and Fashola decided to ‘gentrify’ that place. On a truck were about 30 young men who looked like odd jobs men – labourers, vagrants and so on. Most also seemed to be from the core north of Nigeria. Dark and lanky. “Sai Baba!!!” They shouted from the back of the small truck in which they were stacked. People waved at them from the street level too, shouting back. Later on that day, the celebration took a crazier twist and basically shut down the city as people closed from work and went home. In front of my office, several processions passed. They were rough people. They were little children and teenagers who should be in school. Many held and brandished daggers, knives and machetes with which they harassed passers-by and cars. The crescendo was about 50 okadas driving at top speed – Boko Haram style – while their passengers shot in the air. These teenagers had guns.
Nigeria’s feudalist and classist society is taken root by the day. The celebrants of Buhari’s win made that clear yesterday. Even in Lagos, newspaper report have it that they attacked policemen and also grounded a few locations. These are people who see nothing wrong with their estate in life and seek no improvement. They do not understand the idea that life should get progressively better. And they are the ones who determine who leads. This means that the majority poor, illiterate and vagrant will continue to determine the trajectory of Nigeria for as far as they eyes could see. Whereas there are advantages for those who prefer to keep this country as is, for most of us, this is not working. We would want to see an egalitarian society. We would want to see real socioeconomic progress. We want to measure up to the rest of the world in every respect. We want all our children – north, east, west and south – to be able to contribute to the progress of their own country when they grow. We want all children to be afforded some good opportunities so that irrespective of their backgrounds, many may shine. Feudalist societies belong inn the Dark Ages.
The machete-brandishing street boys created over the decades live in their own nirvana. For them, a view of life has become entrenched – live from hand to mouth, be totally vulnerable to the elements, see some people as superior and worthy of worship and all your respect, be at the beck and call of these aristocrats, and have no idea whatsoever about anything happening at the other side of the world, beyond the news you are being fed through traditional, usually-manipulated media. Those who have a different reality, a different view, a worldly exposure, are busy dusting their passports, or selling everything they have in order to bolt out of the country. If all the indices we hear are anything to go by, the tyranny of our majority poor, ignorant folks who see nothing wrong with deepening their already bad situation, will continue to run all of us downhill. Poverty, inequality, short lifespans, filthy environments, disorganized societies, street begging and hawking, incompetence, inefficiency and nonchalance in service delivery, a brutal classist society, these things are likely to be our reality for a long time to come; except an ‘unknown unknown’ comes to bear on the country, fundamentally disrupts this system and frees us from this tyranny.
So this morning I was further churning the election figures. I came 36th– right at the middle of the league table – after all said and done… with 4,340 votes. I would have felt bad, for I toured the entire country, and met with a great many of our party members, but other considerations were paramount. 95% of Nigerian were gripped between the need to remove Buhari or stop Atiku. They couldn’t be bothered with the niceties of economic discussions or ideas on their own emancipation. Things are rather largely primitive here. The elections showed us that social media may not have the huge influence we ascribe to it here. Ditto for mass media in general. The longevity of a party seemed to matter (SDP, Accord) . Ditto the influence of the person behind (ADC)
Social media proved to be overrated. Education also. Many enlightened minds were given to the emotions of the moment. Whereas ‘educated’ people voted for Atiku because he promises more money for the upper class, the crassly poor voted Buhari because he has managed to convince them that he is on their side without doing anything over the decades to improve their lots. The debates proved useless, as the chief debaters were not in the first 5. Our most valiant fellow, Sowore, came 10th. Moghalu came 14th. Fela came 17th. Those who didn’t campaign at all floated to the top. A party called PCP, which sits right next to PDP and alleged parades the same colour and almost an umbrella, came 3rd. ADC, Obasanjo’s party, which didn’t even allow its candidate, Dr Mailafia to campaign as they sold out to Atiku, came 5th. Hard work however paid off for a few, like ADP, and APGA, which are a little bit more entrenched in the hearts of our people. The elections showed that the country is in the vicegrip of illiteracy and ignorance and poverty. Many party members seem totally oblivious of the agreements theur parties had reached. The 52 parties that had stepped down for Buhari or Atiku, still got votes that outdid many of those that never stepped down. The confusion in SDP did not stop the party coming 9th. Ezekwesili said she was running no more and her party ACPN was rubbish, but the party came 25thin the league.
In all these, I ran, to learn. And learn, I did. Politics down south is a lot more monetized than up north. Down south they demand big money from you and are likely to rip you off. Up north, they need money too, but majority don’t need more than a few thousands. Down south they demand millions for different projects. I ran from these spendings and dedicated by time to uniting my party for future exploits by traveling round the country to meet with officers of the party. I learnt the pervading and pervasive role that money plays in Nigerian politics. We saw the plane that tipped over under the sheer weight of ‘ghana-must-go’ bags laden with raw cash. I learnt of the huge inflows of dollars brought in by fellow contestants. I saw on social media, bullion vans – apparently from the Central Bank of Nigeria – filing into the home of a private citizen who happens to be a chieftain of the ruling party. I saw and personally monitored the usual magic whereby some state results seem written while others seem believable. I learnt why our manual voting is cumbersome and terribly expensive and why we must now begin to transit towards technology-enabled voting in Nigeria.
By no means my chief lesson was the need to stop the hemorrhage of human capital in Nigeria. I saw with my own eyes in communities I visited, just how unserious we are about our children (our singularly most important and potential most productive and most valuable resource), and how millions of them are left untrained and untaught in many so-called schools across Nigeria – particularly in the north. Better next time.