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todayAugust 4, 2022

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John Segun Odeyemi contends that there are other vital issues that must be addressed

I had the good fortune of reading an article published in the Nigerian tribune on July 25, 2022 by Lasisi Olagunju.  The piece is titled “Before they kidnap our President.”  In this essay, Olagunju used the Nigerian musician Asa’s presentation at the launch of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company in Abuja to preface his argument.  Asa shocked the audience including President Buhari by singing her song, Fire on the Mountain, defiantly stating that the country is on fire but no one is running.  Olagunju also related an instance on a recent business trip to Ghana, on which the immigration officers went from one hotel room to another checking to know the status of those lodging.  Upon inquiry, Olagunju was told that this is a security policy put in place to keep out the likes of Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram, and other possible forms of terrorism, insurgency and insecurity.  This was his backdrop for addressing the question of the upcoming elections given the spate of violent insecurity in the land and the government’s obvious inability to address the situation.

I read a statement by Chief Afe Babalola mentioned in May 2022 that perhaps we should put our upcoming elections on hold and have a thorough house cleaning, perhaps a referendum.  It gladdens my heart to read the same thinking in Olagunju’s short essay. I have argued since 2015 that our elections will continue to be a farce and continuous waste of time and resources if we continue to ignore very obvious underlining conditions.  No one needs a crystal ball to gaze at or be a rocket scientist to agree that there are ontological errors with our nation’s idea of cohesion, unity and national politics.  What we have called democracy only exists as an idea and not practicable reality. In the wisdom of our forebears, they say, “If a child falls, it looks ahead.  If an elder falls, he looks behind.”  Based on this aphorism, it is correct then to say, if we do not know where we are going as a nation, then we must retrace our steps to know where we have been, where we are coming from, go back and re-chart our journey.

I am enthused by the apparent new awareness, which has given life to the slogan, “Go and get your PVCs!”  On social media, we have seen skits, songs, and call outs cutting across the diversity of our nation.  The slogan constantly makes the claim that it is time to vote out bad leaders.  Great message no doubt. However, is one supposed to jump therefore, into the conclusion that good leaders will then be voted in?  I presume this is the foregone conclusion.  Given what looks like a three-legged race for the highest office in the land, the permutations are intricate and somewhat confusing; the APC and PDP tickets are primarily perceived as a direct link to the old brigade, that has brought the nation to its knees. Two heavy weights given a public ascription such as a born kleptomaniac whose own boss has warned the nation never to vote for.  On the other hand, the problematic and divisive so-called Muslim-Muslim ticket put in place by a dinosaur, a geriatric-ageless president ‘wanna be’; the Oluaye of ‘Emi Lokan.’ The third option is a cyclone of social media and the new generation populism.  At this time, like any cyclone, no one can read its force, its capacity or in which direction it is headed.

Given the options the Nigerian electorate is facing currently, and the singsong of getting PVCs to vote out bad leaders, let us assume for a moment a shift from the usual.  Borrowing from the philosopher, John Rawls, let us proceed from behind the curtain of ignorance.  Let us assume that the Obidients, who represents the third option, are by some feat able to put their candidate in Aso Rock, I dare to ask, what then?  Since we operate some form of democracy, no matter the innovation or progressive ideas of the new messiah, the legislators who are from the old school already incapacitate him.  They will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo since the usual old ways are the ways in which their “bread is buttered.”  As we now popularly quip, “If you fight corruption, corruption will fight back.”  With what our nation is currently facing, no matter your ideals and desires for good, eight years will not be enough to clean up over 24 plus years of filth under the PDP and APC.  We all will be living in a fool’s paradise to imagine that one individual (outside of an absolute tyrant) can change the system.  We have gone on this journey before, and we have all seen where it has led us. 

We have to jettison feel good utopias that are only viable on the social media universe and face our reality.  These men, not minding their inabilities, will not hand over power to anyone. They have tasted the intoxicating elixir, which hardens the heart. All they see is their own greed and avarice devoid of any inclinations towards common good.  In civil climes, by now, the president and many in his cabinet should have resigned from office.  Not in Nigeria, they continue to celebrate themselves as the country is gradually being razed to the ground. Facing a situation such as this, perhaps the more intelligent thing to do before heading to the polling booths is to force a referendum.  There are many questions in our polity begging for answers; ranging from a new amendment to the charade of what we call a constitution.  We have to decide on the best form of governance that works for us as a nation.  There is work to be done with state apparatuses for security at all levels of governance. We need an honest conversation about the cost of government and the current unnecessary bloated salaries given to public functionaries who are supposed to be civil servants.  It is absolutely necessary to make laws that will be a major deterrent to public office holders from corruptly enriching themselves.  Liability on the part of corrupt persons and the criminally mind is the only way to make progress in any nation.

I have no doubt in my mind that the majority of Nigerians will not agree with me. Most people have caught the bug of getting PVCs to vote out bad leaders. However, they fail to critically question the reality of what faces the nation after elections in 2023.  Getting a PVC shows there is a new consciousness in the hearts and minds of the supposed highest numbers in Nigeria’s citizenry, the youths.  The new movement may or may not confront the established old order who do not only own the power of incumbency but also have deeper pockets to feed their greed.  I decided to write this piece because one must accept that it is not at all times that the highest number of people are right.  In certain instances in history, the tiny voices of the minority turn out after the fact to be the voice of reason.  It does not matter to me what happens heretofore, what bothers me is that the few voices advocating for caution before jumping into the abys be given some hearing.  The choices Nigerians are confronted with in the upcoming election, looks to me like Israel between the chariots of Pharaoh’s armies and the deep red sea. The slogan, ‘get your PVC”, is commendable, but the question must be asked, to do what?

Fr. Odeyemi writes from Xavier University of Louisiana,

New Orleans, USA 

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todayAugust 4, 2022

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