Electioneering narratives push the boundaries of decision making for the electorates, but when laced with ethno-religious biases and inciteful contents, the inherent damage it can do to the psyche of the people has far reaching impact in the negative, especially in the post-election period when feuding parties are hunted by the wounds they inflict on others or inflicted on them. Such discontents often engender parochial misgivings anchored on fragmented fault-lines that make a nation state appear divided along ethno-religious lines.
In 2011, Goodluck Jonathan battled Mohammadu Buhari in toxic electioneering campaigns that threw up uncertainties within the camp of the ruling political class with security challenges becoming the albatross of the Jonathan’s Presidency. Protests took over the streets of northern Nigeria and protesters started burning tires, and the protests soon turned into riots. The rioting quickly degenerated into sectarian and ethnic bloodletting across the northern states. It was a gory episode; the venom was palpable. For four years, Jonathan battled for legitimacy with plummeting popularity, gyrating to unforced errors and found himself in a foxhole of sheer political naivety.
In 2015, it was another round of contest of popularity between Jonathan and Buhari. This time, campaigns were filled with caustic vitriol, generational sectionalism and religiously decimated populace that would later define the Buhari’s Presidency. By his unwitting undoing, Buhari trudged along the same lines with his posturing on sensitive developments, aided by fake news merchants and vectors of hate. The pre-election divisive campaigns threw up a group of secessionists, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and a controversial proscription was issued. The ghost of that group is very much alive. Herdsmen and farmers attacks were often exaggerated. It is a challenge that has put a question mark on the capacity of Buhari to manage the country’s security architecture.
2019 presents an opportunity to politicise the things that unite nationals, the things that get them excited about their country, in the language that resonates with their sense of commonality. It remains unclear if politicians would allow non-divisive narratives to thrive in the build-up to next year’s election.
But from the face value, the campaigns this time would be about what the two leading candidates of Fulani extraction stand for and what they have spent their lives pursuing. Buhari and Atiku will square up on restructuring. While Buhari is pursuing his agenda on true fiscal federalism anchored on thriving economic architecture for State governments through economic diversification, Atiku will be coming with an aggressive, yet untested restructuring plans. To some sections of the country, Atiku represents their aspirations on restructuring and rightly so.
Unfortunately, restructuring as being debated in political parlance, is a nebulous concept in dire need of deconstruction. For one thing, it is not a private language and no one can lay claim to its authorship. But then it seems it is all about the political and economic direction in which Nigeria should go. But pundits and media have not crystalised the structure of how it will go, hence it remains largely subjective even through it is objectively a tool that can be used to realign socio-economic injustice and inequalities of opportunities in Nigeria.
More importantly, Buhari and Atiku will expend their resources to push their own narratives of fighting corruption. Here, Buhari’s persona towers to high heavens irrespective of his shortcomings. To some sections of the country, Buhari is the man after God. From a personality test point of view, Atiku will struggle to convince electorates given the plethora of personality dents he carries around. How he would shed off this toga would form a bigger part of his campaigns.
If everything goes well with electioneering campaigns, 2019 election promises to be a year of the ‘little man,’ sometimes referred to as class three Nigerians.
The evolutionary journey of nation states is often defined by political milestones with the hindsight of historical learning. As nations grow along the lines of consciousness of its denizens, politics takes its definition from the streets. Often courted by the elitist political class, the stratified class three nationals become power brokers with their voting rights as electioneering politics becomes a game where the little man decides big. 2019 elections can yet, be a fiesta of the ‘little man.’