There is a Yoruba adage, which says that ‘ogbon odun yii, were emii ni.’ (The wisdom of this year is foolishness in the course of time). Talking philosophically, when one relies on an older matrix to work in the present, one’s failure is likely to be like Atiku Abubakar’s. Why? The dynamics of the present may certainly not be exactly the same with the past.
In fairness to posterity, the mindset of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and, of course, its presidential candidate - as Nigeria approached the last presidential election - was that the North was still the (typical) North and that the Southerners would still be the stereotype Southerners and behave in conformity with political permutations and expectations. But certain dynamics like religion; the hitherto little-known Peter Obi and his Igbo clannish sentiment (which Atiku did not bargain for); the resentment of the old order, especially, those who got disenchanted with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and those who were tired of the PDP’s circular run and misfortune, were some of those things the 7th ‘Waziri of Adamawa Emirate’ did not see coming; but they showed up!
Besides, depending on cash to outsmart, even outrun the system did not run well for the PDP standard bearer because of the confusions and terrors of the Federal Government’s currency swap policy which nobody envisaged. Added to these was the internal wrangling within the party, which was never resolved before the presidential election. And, as if the gods were angry, an alteration in the mechanism of the election process also rendered Atiku’s political train vulnerable. So, it became grounded before it got to the station. Specifically, the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) as a new technological innovation in the Nigerian electoral system completely rendered his calculations abysmally incorrect. Truly so, it was as if the party and its presidential candidate were operating in a strange political environment.
Available indices also pointed in the direction of Atiku’s unpreparedness for the task ahead. For example, since he didn’t have a manifesto, he couldn’t present any before the electorate! In any case, it’s unfortunate that the Nigerian political space does not believe in manifestos. The last time Nigeria truly had one at work was in 1979, when Nigerians decided to vote for the late Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), based on its welfarist ‘Four Cardinal Programmes’; and it’s because of the value Southwest Nigeria attached to education. Regrettably, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) gained entrée with its own world-weary manifesto and the story changed. The region had barely started thinking of how to navigate that insensitive and unfriendly policy when the Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon combo happened to Nigeria. There and then, welcome her ordeal! Sad that Nigerians are yet to get out of that sad experience, many decades after!
Indeed, the evolution throwback on politics is generally another terrible blow to the society: no serious dichotomy or coherent plans of action. Also, there are no clear-cut visions for any of the political parties; not even information about what a political party stands for, let alone what the people stand to gain if they vote for a particular party! Otherwise, when Atiku showed up, Nigerians would have been educated about what he stood for as well as what he intended to do! Even Obi was only talking about Malaysia and what he saw in Egypt as if those countries had something fantastic to offer. He was always reeling out tales a la Malaysia but the Labour Party’s newfound love ruled Anambra for 8 years without an attempt at inviting Malaysians to help him transform the state into London!
On the whole, Nigeria’s geopolitical landscape and her current socioeconomic realities have not been sparklingly inspiring! We have the question of insecurity and mass poverty writ large in the society, with almost every home managing the issue of graduate unemployment; and the thought of prosperity is almost becoming a mirage. Under that kind of disillusionment, it is difficult to start contemplating an Eldorado through an Atiku Abubakar presidency. Unfortunately for ‘the man from Jada’, there are no credible and/or motivating antecedents that could persuade the mass of the people.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity.” It’s time the younger generation of politicians learnt from history. It’s time they learnt from the mistakes of the past; otherwise, errors would be repeated ad infinitum! Take, for instance, if we combine all the aforementioned errors with the morass of the election loss, Atiku’s political trajectory signals an endpoint. One: age is no longer on his side. Two: when antecedents come into play, he has nothing to rely on. Three: the society is not static; it keeps moving. To put it bluntly, what money alone could do, 4 or 5 years ago, has gone to the great beyond.
Thankfully, Nigerians are now crying for real development, no longer partisan inducements that, in the end, fetch nothing. So, the influence of money in elections is gradually waning. The ‘geography of poverty’ is spreading so fast and striving to include everybody within its geographical boundaries; and that makes it problematic for money politics to work. No thanks to the skyrocketing inflation that’s further messing up the carcass of an already-decapitated economy!
Keen watchers of developments in Nigeria would understand that the problem with Atiku’s blunders, this time, is that there’s no retake. Since they are time-specific, they are irreversible because he will no longer have the time to rebuild. To rebuild, go back 30 years: had Waziri Atiku been investing in certain things like good policies and human capital, they would by now have been speaking for him. The dangerous truth is that our man can neither add another 30 years to his years on earth nor subtract 30 years from his peripheral nature. In saner climes, a man with Atiku’s political sagacity shouldn’t have fallen so cheaply. But, again, aren’t we in an era of fake prophecies?
Bola Tinubu became Nigeria’s president-elect as a result of his antecedents, majorly. Gladly, the Federal Government blocked the use of cash; and that generally applied to everybody. Still, he won! So, let’s take financial inducement off the table! What again worked for the former governor of Lagos State? Promissory notes? Of course, everybody had that opportunity! As far as the last presidential election was concerned, the magic wand for Tinubu was his inexhaustible political past. His compulsive - not subversive - generosity made him an appealing commodity to the voting public. His approach and commitment to the sustenance of humanity even at a risk to his own estate - not the N2-type of inducement with which some politicians will want to insult our collective destiny - did the trick. Yes, February 25, 2023 was payback time for the ‘Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom’.
As we can see, the long-expected change in Nigeria’s political arrangement is ongoing. So, let politicians be informed that more phenomenal changes are still coming. For example, a few years back, nobody talked about BVAS. Now, it is here with us; and it can only get better! With its introduction, it is as if Nigeria is just starting its march to real democracy. Besides, with the level of awareness in the country, even the leadership of political structures are on fire, because people can now ask questions! So, political parties and neophytes had better beware!
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!
*Komolafe wrote in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria ( [email protected] )