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Presidential polls: The die is cast

By the time the next edition of this ‘Penpoint’ column arrives next Sunday, Nigeria’s Presidential elections would have progressed beyond vote casting with counting of same in progress. Meanwhile, through the marvel of information technology, the preliminary results of the polls (though unofficial) would have circulated online to critical stakeholders and much of the general public, leaving the actual physical count and thus politically acceptable figures, to trail later. This shall be due to the expected posting of counted and verified results from actual polling booths, by voters across the country and the world. There shall no more be a hiding place for manipulation of vote counts. Incidentally in any way it goes, the results from Presidential poll exercise is bound to be explosive.

And just in case there emerges a wide discrepancy between the unofficial electronic and the official physical vote counts, that is when the real ‘roforofo’ element in the polls will be activated. With the groundswell of acrimony and animosity that marked the build up to it, it should not be surprising that whatever turmoil that is occasioned by such a development, may not abate in a hurry even after the polls exercise had long come and gone.

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To accentuate the poignance of the exercise, not a few members and supporters of the leading political parties namely the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have already assumed airs of victory at the polls, with public concern remaining high over how the former may react in the circumstance of dashed hopes on the elections.  For without much equivocation, Nigerians do not take electoral failures kindly, while the polls remain most critical for the country, given its promise to change her destiny. This aspect depends on who wins the top position of President of Nigeria among the candidates – in particular, the two leading contenders namely Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling APC and Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition PDP. It is particularly significant that while the vast majority of the membership and support bases of these two parties have by now made up their minds on whose side they would vote, their preferences may not all have been guided by objective considerations of what relief a designated candidate and the respective political party would bring to the misfortunes of hard pressed Nigerians, nor even the ideological orientation of same.

Rather as insights on the course of the buildup indicate, voters’ choices were mostly informed by subjective considerations of the candidates’ ethnicity, religion, and other subjective factors; a situation that sign posts a tacit retrogression in the context of the country’s aspiration towards a new order of harmonized perspective of a shared nationhood, by its ethnic and culturally disparate constituent units. Not a few believe that such consideration should constitute the concern of the political leadership, and not the wild scramble for securing votes by any means, especially when and if the latter compromised the political conversation that drove the pre-election build up.

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Seen in perspective not a few Nigerians are disappointed with the build up to the polls especially when the dominant theme of the political conversation under consideration is considered. Rather than direct the attention and aspirations of Nigerians to the burning issues of the day, the conversation featured in the main, half-hearted references to same, in favour of securing dominance in the country’s power calculus. For instance, while Nigerians across the country are lamenting and some even dying from the ravages of poverty, joblessness, violence, and other social vices, the political elite without any exception are strutting on the soap box, and only offer bland non-committal contemplations of idealistic scenarios. Many Nigerians are disappointed that the political discourse did not feature a commendable dose of empirically verifiable submissions as the campaign promises.

Beyond a few instances of grudging attention to addressing the real pains of the people, the campaign conversation has featured in the main a flurry of mutual excoriation, blame-gaming, backstabbing, and innumerable instances of outright character assassination. To such was added the non-committal participation of hired crowds at the ‘well-attended’ rallies, organized by the various parties, just to hoodwink the non-wary members of the public. Not surprisingly therefore, discerning Nigerians do not expect any major dividend in the direction of transformation of the country’s politics by the circumstances of the polls, for several reasons. And such disappointment may not be surprising given the   lessons of history, whereby the mental fixation of the leadership community of any society on base instincts, makes it anachronistic that they will rise above the limitations of their weaknesses. It is really a case of ‘good thinking good product’ as the Toyota motor company would put it, and more succinctly, good conversation, good politics.

Topical in the trending state of affairs is the conduct of the two leading political parties namely the ruling APC and the main opposition PDP. As the ruling party, the APC enjoys unmistakable advantage having the exclusive control of the appurtenances of state apparatus and power, or what Nigerians refer to as the ‘incumbency factor’. Hence it is not surprising that it encounters a higher measure of scrutiny in the public domain. Having come to power in 2015 on the promise of bringing change to the country’s body politick, Nigerians assess its fortunes purely on the premise of its promise.   As it contests for a second term in office for its presidential candidate the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, not many Nigerians are convinced that it had delivered on its promises. In spite of the ascendancy of Buhari in 2015 on the crest of public acclaim as an incorruptible leader, his bid for a second term is turning into a different story. Not a few Nigerians easily pick holes in his administration which are easily attributed to untamed excesses of his lieutenants. In a campaign where the party should parade its successes in facilitating the proverbial democracy dividends for Nigerians, its handlers get distracted and share the odium of mudslinging with the opposition.

As for the PDP, its strength lies in how much and how far it can distract the APC from concentrating on its game and so far the former seems to be making significant inroads in that respect. Given its history as the immediate past ruling party, its hunger to return to power with the polls is understandable. Some of the factors that may play in its favour include the undeniable homogeneity of its leading lights with those of the APC, courtesy of the spate of criss-crossing between it and its rival, by many of its members which provides it ample   familiarity with the operations of the latter. In the context of the foregoing however, the PDP still stands a good chance of winning the polls if only it can surmount the formidable combination of the array of APC campaign salvoes, along with the complement of state apparatus so deployed to maintain the status quo.

And if with all on ground, the PDP wins, the APC will have itself to blame.

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