I am simply at a loss of words or the appropriate adjectives to describe my state of my mind over the past few days, or to be more candid since the Nigerian Presidential elections on the 16th of April. I was massively disappointed at the outcome and its aftermath that for the whole of last week I was in a near state of depression. It was even difficult to focus on my course work or essays, I was just thinking of Nigeria. At a point I started wondering if there was something wrong with me, if I was over-reacting or if I should simply stop following the news coverage about Nigeria – which of course is not possible. Being the typical female, I thought of getting in touch with my feminine side and doing something that lifts the spirits of most women – going on a therapeutic shopping trip to Birmingham city center, but not even that made me feel better. Then I spoke with several friends here in the UK and back home and I found out that indeed I wasn’t the only one feeling that overwhelming sense of frustration and helplessness which I can sufficiently summarize as an admixture of gross disappointment; shock and anger; despair and hopelessness as I shall explain briefly.
It should be pretty obvious where my disappointment stems from. As a supporter of the main opposition candidate General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), his loss shattered the dreams and vision many of us envisaged for a new Nigeria. For in General Buhari who had a fervent, populous and massive grassroots support probably comparable to that of Brazil’s former President Lula Da Silva of Brazil; some of us saw in him a man who would combat the cankerworm of corruption, an obstacle to any meaningful development; would free Nigeria from the shackles of the few elite/cabal that have held it to ransom for the past few decades; would restore discipline, law and order to a very disorganized and increasingly undisciplined Nigerian society and would provide the critically needed infrastructure but alas that is not the case. Notwithstanding the allegations of vote rigging, result manipulation, money inducement to vote for the ruling party, it is absolutely incredulous that some people actually voted not for change that Nigerians are in desperate need of, but voted to maintain and perpetuate the status-quo. While it is almost a generally accepted fact that the ruling PDP-led government in the last 12 years of democratic rule has recorded abysmal performance at virtually all tiers of governance such that the Nigerian state is now bedeviled by decaying infrastructure – electricity supply has actually worsened in the past 12 years; rising insecurity – prior to 1999, many Nigerians save those who watch blockbuster American movies were not familiar with the terms kidnapping or bomb attacks but these are now almost regular features of Nigerian life; soaring unemployment levels – any recruitment exercise attracts hundreds of thousands of applicants – in this case, I can vividly recall sometime last year, 68 vacancies were posted for the Federal Capital Territory Administration, yet more than one million people applied for these 68 vacancies!!! It is simply incredible that people decided to forfeit this momentous opportunity for change from the status-quo based on the naïve assumption that they “voted for individuals and not parties”. Ha! Pray, did any of the candidates run as an independent or on the platform of a political party? As the latter is the case, how do you divorce an individual from the people and whatever his party stands for?
From this, the feeling of shock and anger took over – I still cannot distinguish one from the other at this point because they seem intertwined. As the results of the Presidential elections were announced state by state, it became increasingly clear that where people voted and the votes actually counted, people did so for the most part based on religious, regional and ethnic sentiments. The incumbent President Jonathan was overwhelmingly voted in the mainly Christian-South while his main rival Buhari was overwhelmingly voted in the mainly Muslim-North. Once more, all allegations of rigging and manipulation set aside, in the end Jonathan polled in more votes. However the shock/anger stems from not just the realization that people had retreated into their ethno-religious cum regional enclaves but that the elections had decisively split Nigerians into a North/South divide, what many had feared for years. The elections just laid bare the deep-seated cleavages and divisions between Nigerians and this is everywhere – from cyberspace – online news and social media – Facebook and Twitter to normal face to face interactions; the print media and even government offices. All of a sudden it has become an Us vs. Them scenario with one side jubilating over and celebrating its “triumph” over the other and so many cyber warriors on both sides attacking one another. Infact, in various online Nigerian forums, you have to take a side and to be very candid, the Goodluck Jonathan army is more vociferous, vocal and aggressive because– if you criticize or express any form of displeasure against President Goodluck, you are regarded as an enemy, forgetting that we CONSTITUTIONALLY operate a MULTI-PARTY DEMOCRACY where such dissent whether from individuals, groups or media is actually healthy for the whole system otherwise the steady descent towards fascism becomes inevitable.
The second part of my shock/anger was that as if all these things were not bad, depressing or infuriating enough came the eruption of unrest in various parts of the North – Buhari’s “stronghold”. What started off as a “protest” quickly became violent and took a deadly religious dimension with innocent lives tragically wasted away particularly of Youth Corps members dutifully serving the Nigerian state. So far there are 3 schools of thought explaining the outbreak of violence: (i) the protests started off peacefully against perceived “betrayal” by the Northern elite and eventually became hijacked by miscreants who unleashed attacks on innocent people; (ii) The protesters were all along blood-thirsty criminals with no regard for human life who were just out to spill blood of the innocents, and (iii) The protests were neither religious nor ethnic but were purely political covertly instigated by the ruling PDP to cause mayhem and unrest in the North and provide a distraction. Well, you can choose which school of thought you want to believe but the loss of lives and property is most unfortunate. All these have together made people spew all sorts of unbelievably hateful, vile comments most unbefitting of nationales of a country that is supposedly the most “religious” nation on earth. As Nigeria increasingly becomes dangerously divided, so has the mudslinging with hateful ammo intensified with such vigour all over cyberspace. I know the number of people on my Facebook friends list that I have fought with or argued with because I told them to tone-down their offensive language.
With all this is a feeling of pure hopelessness and despair over the bleak future that lies ahead. I believe even the cyber warriors on both sides, if only they would take a step-back from all the mudslinging and ponder over the tumultuous and uncertain future that lies ahead would feel a sense of dread. The same set of people within the same party that has brought Nigeria practically to its knees has been recycled back in power, yet we somehow expect different results. To be very frank, I am scared – in all of my 20something years on earth I have never been filled with so much dread such as I am at this point. As the elections have exposed the deep and possibly irreconcilable cleavages and fracture within the Nigerian populace, I have found myself pondering over the future of the Nigerian state with my mind recalling the US National Intelligence Council report in March 2005 that Nigeria could collapse in a few years. The persistent call for division of Nigeria by the separatists and irredentists particularly on the internet is not helping matters either. The whole atmosphere is tense, charged and thick with flammable haze of anger, suspicion, fear, uncertainty and distrust that one spark will set of an explosion of such magnitude never seen before. John Campbell warned in his book Dancing on the Brink that these elections could make or mar Nigeria’s future as a nation-state or whether it would collapse but he was dismissed by the Media and policy-makers as a harbinger of bad news or even the grim-reaper of whatever fractious peace we have.
At this point, it has reached such a stage that practically everyone in Nigeria is waiting for a miracle – from the teeming, almost fanatic legion of President Goodluck’s most ardent supporters who expect him to miraculously divorce himself from the PDP cabal, capones and godfathers and perform well; the disillusioned opposition who with their lack of an organized party structure are still relying on a miracle to sweep the just concluded gubernatorial polls or the Nigerian masses having for long been disillusioned with the Nigerian state and despite selling their franchise in some cases for as little as N500 (about $3) are as always hoping and praying for a miracle out of misery and destitution. Well, coming from this “religiously” charged environment myself, at this point I will also assume the same fatalistic position, pray for a miracle and hope that President Goodluck Jonathan performs beyond expectations and by so doing, his good luck would spread around and heal this deep fracture within the Nigerian polity and society, otherwise it will be bad luck to Nigeria in all ramifications.
In the meantime, I hope Nigerians; particularly the cyber warriors will bear these wise and timeless words in mind:
“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth”
– Baha’u’llah 1817 – 1892
“Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy”
– JohnTrapp 1601-1669