The Road To Aso Rock 2015.
In 1953, Sir Anthony Enahoro initiated the self-government motion in the then-existing Western House of Assembly, which eventually led to Nigerian independence on the 1st day of October 1960.
“Sir, this motion is an invitation to the Honourable Members of this House to associate the highest legislature of our land with the expressed desire of the peoples of this country, whose views we all represent, for political autonomy in 1956. It seeks to provide representatives from all parts of the country with an opportunity to exchange views on the most burning question of our time. It is an invitation to this house to make a declaration of objective with regard to Nigerian freedom. I do not propose, Sir, to go into the arguments for self-government because I am satisfied that it is generally accepted on all sides of the House that self-government for this country at some future date is a desirability.”
-Transcript from speech in support of motion for independence by Anthony Enahoro, 1953.*
Today is a big day for the Nigerian nation. It’s the day of the presidential election and we the electorate and citizens of this great but vilely abused nation are called to exercise not just a right, but an entitlement, a privilege, to vote. In so doing, we get the chance to make a choice to determine who will get the opportunity to ruin the destiny of this nation for four years.
Four years is a long time. In four years I will no longer be my father’s daughter alone; I’d have a different last name, a new identity as a mother and wife, be in a totally new role at work, be an aunty to several kids…four years is a long time to give anyone the sort of power that Nigerians are hoping to give out today. If so many things can happen to one individual in four years, imagine what can happen to a nation in four years. In four years, there might be no Nigeria.
Let that sink in if you are Nigerian. There might be no nation of people with loud laughs and louder voices, inappropriate jokes and hypocritically ‘appropriate’ guidelines for living, questionable driving and illogical reasoning, a nation of Brazilian, Peruvian, Mongolian- anything but African- hair lovers, a nation of colours so iridescent it balks at being called black, a nation of huge passions, of intense aggression, incomprehensible love, immeasurable resilience, a nation of such rhythm and music, larger than life personalities, a nation with a heart, with THE best sense of humour, a country with such soul it ought to have been returned to its owners by the colonialists with the tag, “Flammable, Handle with Care.” My Nigeria. Our nation.
In all my years, I have only witnessed one other election as closely contested as today’s. In 2008, I was a student at the University of California, Berkeley’s Law School when now President Barack Obama was running for possibly the most coveted role in the free world. Obama-mania infested the West Coast and the predominantly Democrat California was aflame with that unique Obama confidence. I watched in confused fascination as young people (just like me!) scaled borders, slapped pavement, and went door-to-door campaigning on behalf of their preferred candidate. Why? They understood the principles and policies of their chosen candidate. I was awed. The truth is it is easy to fight for something you believe in; when you understand the principles and policies, not just the promises, of a politician, you can back him…especially when his principles mirror yours. In two party states, there is a delineation between the principles of both parties; a Democrat for instance is expectedly more liberal in nature than a Republican. This is similar to the divide between Tories and Labour supporters in the UK. Essentially, a Conservative voter is not only Conservative in his policies, his life ideology, life choices and general attitude are usually markedly different from the Labour voter’s.
Nigeria for the first time since the return of democracy following military oppression, is experiencing the advent of a strong opposition party. However, how much of an opposition party is this really? The two candidates for the presidency have fought on largely sentimental grounds…because the ideology they represent is largely the same one: Money. This makes sense as Mammon is the other Nigerian god. ‘They’ say Nigeria is split between two main religions. I beg to differ, we are united under one religion; the pursuit of wealth. But that is a story for another day. The two presidential hopefuls are representative of a ruling class that has done little but oppress the masses at every opportunity for leadership given. It is little wonder therefore that the elections were fought largely on sentiment; on missing certificates and long missing shoes.
I remember the day the U.S election results were announced. I left campus in a rush to meet the announcement in my room. I turned on the news as soon as I entered my little flat in Manville. As soon as the news of president Obama’s win was announced my friend Ada rang me from Minnesota and we rejoiced with the Americans. If nothing else, we mused, this marked the beginning of a new sort of American dream. We ended the discussion with a short but sad discourse on our own country and when our democracy might mature to the point where competition is rife and real enough to bring an incumbent party down. We quickly dropped our phones at both sides of the American coast realizing that this night, this particular night, was the sort of night made for basking in your American experience. This sort of night is what you went to school abroad for; not only for the educational experience but to expand your horizon, empathise and soak-in culture. I dropped my bags and ran unto the street just to exhilarate in that atmosphere of unfettered celebration. People in cars abused their horns honking out tunes of joy and I smiled to myself (and all I met) as the cacophony formed an impenetrable blanket of glee around me. For just one moment, all of California- Jew, Christian, Black, White, Red Indian, Indian, Japanese, It Girl and Geek- seemed to morph into one blob; Humanity. And that’s how powerful politics is.
Nigeria’s election today is vastly different from any other because for the very first time, a party that has long been the Leviathan, the Beast of Beasts, has met a match. Whatever the results of today’s election, the fact remains that APC has accomplished an extraordinary feat; all other political parties have had strong regional control but this is the first party since PDP to gain a solid presence across the nation in its entirety. Nigeria is slowly gaining a real understanding of what a two-party system of government might mean. Unfortunately the alternative party is a conglomeration of unhappy PDP defectors, that is perhaps the real shame. Regardless, this is an election of many firsts and for that we must be proud.
But does all this matter?
With PVC collection at about 60 million out of the 170 million+ Nigerians, it is clear that the general Nigerian strategy for the 2015 election is to wait it out…with apathy and anxiety for company. Anxiety and Apathy are two things that Nigerians are not exactly known for. In everything else, the Nigerian brand of energy is passionate, animated and vivacious. When it comes to voting and politics though, as much as we debate all over social media, most Nigerians are not willing to risk a stray bullet or a hidden bomb at the polls…actually let’s be honest, many Nigerians really cannot be bothered. So are we disenfranchised…or just disinterested? Resolved…or simply resigned? I suspect that at the base of this voter’s apathy is that unshakeable Nigerian skepticism; because we do not trust that our voices count to our leaders, we do not trust that our votes count. In truth, we suspect that like eunuchs learning the Kama Sutra, voters vote.
All that makes me wonder, “If Sir Anthony Enahoro could see the effects of this motion he worked so hard to move in 1953…”