The 2023 general election will go down in history as probably the most contested yet controversial election in Nigeria. Unlike previous elections, it was a three-horse race involving two established career politicians sponsored by the two major political parties, and an underdog who rattled the political class with the promise of salvation to the electorate and a followership comprising Nigeria’s angriest youths. At the end, a winner emerged in the presidential contest, and various elective positions were equally taken. But conversations around the election may never end.
Analysts agree that elections in Nigeria are always characterized by ethnic and regional permutations, religious sentiments and heavy monetization. Before you condemn any version of “Emilokan”, you should note that Nigerians have always voted along ethnic and religious lines. It did not start today, and it is not likely to end anytime soon. However, the level of bigotry exhibited in the just concluded election is arguably unprecedented, as it graduates from verbal vituperations online to physical attacks. Tenths of people were reportedly killed while millions were violently disenfranchised across the country.
We, as a country, have made many wrong decisions in the past, because of our predilection for ethnic and religious considerations over competence and credentials when electing leaders. Take a retrospective look at our elected Presidents and you’d agree that virtually all of them were elected on the basis of ethnic permutations.
Ahead of the 2023 elections, politicians went round the country spewing religious innuendos and tribal slurs. One urged Yoruba to ‘ronu’ another urge the church to take back its country. The other said only a Northerner can win an election. They spoke less of their plans for the country, and their supporters danced to the tribal drums, and echoed the religious chants. It penetrated so deeply into undiscerning minds that it eventually resulted into widespread violence. An ethnic group was specifically targeted in Lagos for attacks. We definitely did not expect such level of low from the country’s centre of excellence. In the East, persons suspected to not be opposed to a particular candidate were battered and in some cases killed.
It is needless to try to caution the politicians who till the soil for these seeds of bigotry to grow, we should advise their followers to wise up and not fall for divisive tactics. In the political class, there are no religions nor ethnicity, the god they all worship is the National cake. We should remove the veil of bigotry from our eyes in order to unite in seeking accountability from our public office holders. As shambolic as the last election was, it is surprising that citizens would rather return to fighting their fellow countrymen while the politicians have moved on to planning the sharing formula for our national cake. In case you haven’t heard, there is a new “Emilokan” in the race for the Senate Presidency. No plan, no track records, just cruise and entitlement. Fellow countrymen, let’s fix this cancer called bigotry!