Nigeria still appears to have no guarantee of its statehood beyond the colonial witticism that the best may be impossible but the worst never happens. What else is there to account for the quantum of home truths, blatant lies, totalizing claims, grandstanding, heroic opportunism, puzzling solidarity and outright philistinism if not the belief that the worst never happens? It seems to be a case of from each according to his/her/their patriotism, disenchantment, opportunism or desperation as the case may be. And yet, it is all part of the struggle for Nigeria after February 16th, 2019, the day Nigerians are electing a new president for another four years.
The election of the president and, by implication, The Presidency, has always been a source of tension since 1999 when the military left the stage and elections became a regular feature of Nigerian politics. That is probably because Nigeria must be one of the few places in the world where the formal and informal powers of a president are so awesome it is difficult to contemplate its implications. In the late 1970s when the present 1999 Constitution of Nigeria was written, the idealism about the state as the impartial arbiter had not been ruptured. Nigerian was still a nation in search of a father figure who could maintain critical distance from the everyday frays and thus retain the moral authority to reconcile contending interests without being compromised. 1999 to 2019 has effectively killed that idealism.
As successive presidents took away something from state legitimacy, so also the struggle for power for that office intensified. In 2019, it is such that very few can confidently predict who would win February 16th, 2019 poll. The APC and its followers are, of course, confident they have won. But so also are PDP elements that victory is theirs. But even as confident as each side about victory, none is sure if the other party hasn’t plotted a contingency to be set in motion the moment it is losing the election. APC says PDP is plotting with anarchists and foreign powers to disrupt. PDP says APC has a rigging contingency in addition to planned use of repressive apparatus of the state.
The totality of the accusations and counter-accusations is what explains the difficulty of confident prediction of who will win even as the election is actually predictable. As things are, any party could win or ‘win’. Still, there is hope for a credible poll. The diffuseness of modern Nigeria is what would fundamentally account for that, not the lack of evil intents. That possibility means that certain questions can still help many potential voters in navigating the black box called February 16th, 2019. 25 of such are posed below:
- About which of the two leading candidates – Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP – can it be said that all the risks of electing him are rewarding for Nigeria?
- About which of the two candidates can it be said that all the rewards for electing him are risky for Nigeria?
- How informed is the fear that re-election of President Buhari will lead to the break-up of the country because of the president’s perceived endorsement of a ‘war without fronts’ as well as nepotism?
- How informed is the fear that electing Atiku Abubakar will make a god of him because it makes one man to combine political and personal economic power?
- Is it the case that nothing would help Muhammadu Buhari to overcome his perceived ethno-centric bias or acts of nepotism in the Second term because the residual ‘Kaduna Mafia’ Leopard cannot change its spots?
- Is it the case that nothing would help Atiku Abubakar to overcome his perceived tendency to corruption should he win the election?
- To what extent is Muhammadu Buhari’s tendency to invoke images of horrendous violence, (the dog and baboon analogy and the recent one in Zamfara bordering on telling supporters ‘if you want peace, prepare for war) dangerous?
- To what extent is Atiku Abubakar’s predilection for problematic statements, (‘I will restructure Nigeria’, ‘I will privatise NNPC’, ‘I will enrich my friends’) dangerous?
- Which of the two candidates can be said to merit the rating of ‘an informed, quality right wing element’?
- Which of the two candidates can be said to have communicated Nigeria in a manner that shows a deeper grasp of the main problems of Nigeria today?
- How informed is the fear that Muhammadu Buhari would not be the one ruling Nigeria even as a re-elected president?
- How informed is the fear that electing Atiku Abubakar is the same as the return of the old PDP crowd and styles?
- President Buhari says he has been a victim of power play, arguing that herdsmen violence was a sponsored project by his traducers. What is the guarantee that the allegation itself is not power play to cover up what he is accused of?
- Atiku Abubakar says corruption has been discursively tagged on him for political purposes. What is the guarantee that the claim itself is not political?
- If President Buhari’s centralization of fighting corruption has its other side as a cover for chasing his political enemies, why might the corruption rating of Atiku Abubakar not be a blackmail tactic by his opponents?
- What is the guarantee that the Yoruba cultural identity would forsake a presidential candidate who has their son as Vice-President and go for a presidential candidate with his Number 2 from a different ethnic identity in Nigerian politics?
- What is the guarantee that the Northeast would not embrace a son of the soil just as the Northwesterners are bound to vote for Buhari?
- How significant is the percentage of those fearful of a repeat of any variant of the Yar’Adua-Jonathan scenario, such as another prolonged medical holiday in the aftermath of a stressful campaign, prompting the sort of in-fighting the Eurasia Group, for example, feared in its assessment of candidate Muhammadu Buhari?
- How significant is Eurasia Group’s profiling of Atiku Abubakar essentially in terms of cronyism likely to affect the average voter’s choice?
- How far would top Yoruba obas speaking categorically for Muhammadu Buhari without any other set of traditional rulers doing so for Atiku from any other part of Nigeria affect the outcome of the election?
- Would the massive crowds at Atiku’s rallies negativise whatever impact the Yoruba obas might have on the election since no groups at such rallies would have inconvenienced themselves to that extent just for cash or immediate rewards?
- Can we say that the Obasanjo factor for Atiku Abubakar crosses out the combined effects of APC governorship and the Tinubu factors for Buhari in the Southwest?
- Is there any factor that would cross out the Peter Obi factor in Igbo votes in favour of Buhari?
- How homogenous is an institution such as INEC as to warrant the fear of the incumbent using it and, more crucially, are there any indicators that the INEC Chairman might have resolved his personal crisis of presiding over an electoral contest in which a fellow Northeasterner is the leading challenger of the Northwesterner who appointed him?
- Might Nigeria not be heading for a situation whereby victory is decided by higher score in votes cast rather than 25% in 24 states since all two candidates could, somehow, get the two-third requirement?