2023 election travels across Nigeria

By Busuyi Mekusi


Travels are part of human existence, which require movements from one place to another; either for pleasure or business. Travels in an obsolete manner could be used to describe the notion of labour or travail. Travels go along with experiential knowing, and the types include voyage, exodus by land movements, flights, etc. The import of travels are still felt today from the aftermath of colonial movements and the slave trade exchanges that altered borders and disrupted colours. The creation of the New World and continuous agitations by post-colonies are no mere additions to the many discourses that shape global engagements. Travels are variously induced today, while some are desired; others are forced, or better still an amalgamation of the two possibilities, which  account for the many emigrations precipitated by the ‘Japa syndrome’! 

The Anglo-Irish writer, Jonathan Swift, uses his novel, Gulliver’s Travels, to satirise human nature, and unpack the literary genre of travellers’ tales. Lemuel Gulliver’s voyages, shipwrecks and rescues see him going to Lilliput, where he meets Lilliputians that are less than 6 inches tall, and put emphasis on trivial matters, leading to political rifts, like Nigerians, including which end of an egg should be cracked. At the Peninsula of Brobdingnag, the place of giants, his place as a giant gets reversed, as done to the political reputations of some in the last election. The experience in Laputa, where they are versed in arts of music, mathematics and astronomy, which they could not use for practical ends, analogously raises issues around the human and material resourcefulness of Nigeria that still left her dependent.

A short side-trip of Gulliver to Glubbdubdrib, where he engages with ghosts of historical figures in a magician’s house, is reminiscent of Nigerian religious leaders who saw political matters like the healed blind man in the Bible, that saw men like trees. At Luggnagg, Gulliver encounters the Stuldbrugs people that are immortal like youths but suffer the infirmities of old age, in the order of old Nigerian politicians who continue to stay in the saddle, provoking the  angst of the Houyhnhnms, talking horses, who rule over deformed creatures called Yahoos, with the Yahoos,  perceived servants, revolting like youthful Nigerians.

Apart from the foregoing, the satiric text also speaks to other fundamental principles that could be found in a nation like Nigeria, given the verisimilitude with contemporary realities. Socio-political and economic events leading to the 2023 national elections in Nigeria were not only ordinarily unpredictable, but they were indicative of a nation in limbo, and resistant to developmental initiatives. Fuel and naira scarcities were huge threats to the conduct of the elections but for a stubborn President Buhari and tenacious INEC Chairman. The excoriating tantrums of the political class were revelatory, damning but idiotic of people seeking to lead the most populous black nation on earth. One wonders, for instance, what becomes of the unprintable names the opposition political party, PDP, called the president elect, Tinubu, as part of the de-marketing found in electioneering. May be we should think of political language, compared to legal one!

The last presidential election was keenly contested in what some watchers tagged three-horse-race, with an injurious unsettling also coming from the NNPP. Commencing from Saturday 25th February, when the presidential election was held, to Wednesday 1st March, when Tinubu was declared as the winner, so many travel-tale-like events took place. At a polling unit in Ondo State, a young middle-age man openly derided the idea that an agent of a particular political party wanted to induce him to vote for his party using N1, 000, due to the claim of lack of liquid cash with which to pay him something as high as N10, 000 or N5, 000. He resolved voting to satisfy his conscience rather than get commercialised for a ridiculous sum.

Yours truelly, during a street-work in his community in Akure, also overheard a motorcycle passenger complaining to the rider that the 2000 USD promised some of them at their voting unit earlier in the day was yet to be handed over to them, quipping that he was sure the candidate that incurred such expenditure for vote buying would first recover his money than think of good governance. The two instances above indicate that the propensity for vote-buying and selling substantially decreased due to the cashless monetary policy of the CBN that Tinubu felt was targeted at his victory at the polls. Like Governor El-Rufai had warned, vote-buying could have been materialised, than monetised, to avoid the penetrating eagle eyes of the EFCC personnel that were deployed to voting units across the country. A few arrests were nonetheless made. The alleged killing of Oluomo by a security agent during a confrontation at the Owena collation centre in Idanre was a clear example that the god of democracy in Africa still bathes in blood.

Lagos was understandably a theatre of violence. Central was the heavy youth population that constituted the Obidient movement that rejected the old order, and revolted against the hegemony. The reported isolated skirmishes across the state could not substantially overshadow the integrity of the election in the state, as a wounded woman, who was reported to have returned to vote after accessing treatment, personified the commitment of some voters who chose to be positively different from the huge number of absenting registered voters. Voters apathy remains a daunting challenge considering that only a mere quarter of the 87.2 million that collected their PVCs  stepped out to carry out their civic responsibility.

One shocking absurdity that characterised the presidential election in Lagos State was the defeat of the master strategists in Tinubu by Obi. Contarry to the belief of some about the loss and demystification, Tinubu simply paid for the burden of cosmopolitanism that made the state ‘a no-man’s-land’ where people of Igbo extraction could leverage on their number to cause a disruption. It was good that both Tinubu and Sanwo-Olu swiftly doused the ethnic tensions created by their undemocratic supporters who immediately felt that Igbos and Christian-Yoruba, who allied with them to offend their sensibilities, should be dealt with. For these elements, they should be reminded that democracy is about choices, and no threat should be directed at converting the business spaces of Igbos to fathom project sites, just to get back at them for choosing to challenge the status-quo.

The Igbo are so hated in Nigeria today for their notable economic presence and relevance across the country, with accusation made against them that land and mortgage business in the south-east is restrictedly closed. While this may be true, we must remind ourselves that the ownership of landed property by Igbo outside their shores is achieved through economic exchanges of willingness to sell, and capacity to buy. Individuals and families, for instance, in the south-west would sell their patrimonies to any buyer for greedy socio-economic reasons, not minding the fact that fiefdom was a political element. Igbos should sustain the land administration in their base, and up-scale their acquisitions elsewhere, and they would own Nigeria, very systematically, in a matter of time. As we look forward to the future of Lagos as a modern city, newer features of cosmopolitanism are bound to unfold. Tinubu’s loss of Lagos to Obi is analogous to the recession of an old empire!

Kano State was not without its own travel-tale of alleged under-age voters that the state commissioner of police said were genetically-stunted people. One cannot but be amused by Nigerians’ queer sense of diagnosis and prognosis on existential challenges. PMB had displayed his ballot paper to show that he voted for Tinubu at Katsina. This was a contaminated transparency and loyalty that some have equated to campaigning during election, even as legal practitioners, as usual, remain divided on whether he violated any known law or not. Down south in Abeokuta, Obasanjo wrote another ‘loss letter’ to arm-twist the government and electoral umpire to abort the electioneering process. Even though he is known for his thick skin, the loads of acerbic bashes he got for his wishful thinking were annihilating for an ambitious tainted compatriot and statesman.

With the presidential election contested and won, it was clear that people voted based on dynamics such as religion, demographic ideology, ethnicity, political affiliation, etc., with victory and losses re-opening half-healed wounds. Churches are divided, ethnic groups are at daggers drawn, just as the acceptance speech of the president-elect gave assurances of inclusion.

As we move towards inauguration, Tinubu must take a deserved rest, and commence the head-work of how to translate his ambitions in the acceptance speech to reality, and rebuild Nigeria through his manifestos, possibly forming a government of national unity. Opponents who are not seeking redress for perceived lapses should join hands with Tinubu to move the country forward, as only a president can be per time. Agrieved people must approach the courts of law rather than going to the streets, as our efforts should be directed at wrestling our many challenges down, than creating new ones. May the renewed hope secured not be reversed!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *