Let’s start with those who will not be voting in next month’s presidential elections. There will be those who have no interest, who are distressed that in 2014 the choice Nigeria is faced with is between an underachieving president and a septuagenarian former military dictator. Then there are those who would like to vote but cannot, because INEC has made it impossible. Many have in recent weeks been on a frantic manhunt for their PVCs, and are already frustrated. Others are people like me who were not in the country during the last elections, hence never got TVCs, and by implication, no PVCs. We will be hoping INEC opens one final registration window for us.
Among those who will be voting there will be many reasons for their choices. I will try to touch on all those reasons, but I must point out that they are in no way mutually exclusive. Most people will be voting based on a basket of reasons – with those reasons carrying different weights in the entire basket.
There will be those who will be voting neither for Buhari nor for Jonathan, but instead for one of the nine other candidates (yes there are actually a total of eleven candidates in the running, including one woman, Prof Remi Sonaiya, of KOWA Party).
But if history is anything to go by, the majority of voting Nigerians will be making a choice between the Broom and the Umbrella. A cross between a Broom and an Umbrella would be a ‘Broombrella’, or an ‘Unbroomla’, and there will be some Nigerians who will happily settle for that hybrid grouping – all those ones who will vote for Buhari (APC) and, two weeks later, Jimi Agbaje (PDP), or for Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) and Dakuku Peterside (APC).
Those who will be voting Muhammadu Buhari will belong to one or more of the following camps. There are those who have always voted him – in 2003, 2007, 2011 – and are today looking in amusement at the flood of latecomers to the ‘Sai Buhari’ party. There are those who will vote Buhari simply because he’s a Muslim and from the North. For them it is enough. There are those voting Buhari because of the presence of Yemi Osinbajo on the ticket (I have met two such persons, who said they were unenthusiastic about a Buhari presidency until Yemi Osinbajo came on board). And there will be those people who, four years ago, belonged to the ‘I’m voting Goodluck Not PDP’ clan, but have now seen the light.
There are those who belong to the ABJ – ‘Anyone But Jonathan’ – camp. Give them a frog or a tortoise as candidate and they will find reasons why that animal will make a better President than the incumbent.
In recent weeks a ‘Buhari Did Me Bad, But…’ camp has emerged. These are the people who suffered in the hands of General Buhari while he was Head of State, but are now ready to proclaim to the world that they have forgiven him. Tunde Thompson, one of the two Guardian journalists jailed under Decree 4, is one of them. My friend’s wife recently found out from her mother that her late dad was once accommodated by Buhari in Kirikiri. But the mother insists she will vote for Buhari, in spite of what he did to her husband. It has been thirty years since Buhari’s government, and a lot has been forgiven. (Jonathan, it seems, has also given some people a strong reason to forgive Buhari).
Finally there are those who will vote for Buhari but will never publicly admit to that, because it would be politically incorrect to do so. Some of those who are today saying ‘Jonathan or Nobody!’ already know deep down in them they will be voting for Buhari next month.
Finally, there are those people who just want change for the sake of change. After sixteen years of PDP let’s give another set of people the chance to fail Nigeria, they reason. ‘Let us substitute PDP and allow them to rest for a while. After all isn’t democracy the power to make a mistake and to change your mind four years down the line? If Buhari and his people fail us we will send them packing in 2019.’
Now let’s move to the other side; those who will be voting for President Jonathan to get a second term in office. Just as for Buhari there will be those voting for Jonathan simply because he is an Ijaw man, or from the South South, or a Christian, or has a middle name ‘Azikiwe’, or is married to a woman whose mother is Igbo. For them any of those reasons will be enough. He is our son, we can’t abandon him. As Asari Dokubo memorably put it, in September 2013, “Monkey no fine, but him mama like am.”
There will be those voting for Jonathan because they think he has “tried”, given the circumstances. Whether they believe he has been truly ‘transformational’ – as his paid defenders would like us to believe – is another matter, for another day.
In a recent column I asked if there were any people who voted Buhari in 2011 but will now be voting Jonathan. I didn’t think there would be anyone, but there are. On the Internet I came across a piece by Bayo Adeyinka, who says in 2011 he was an “avid supporter” of Buhari, but is today “wholeheartedly (in) support” of Goodluck Jonathan. He argues, rightly, that “the fact that you think Goodluck Jonathan doesn’t look, talk or act presidential does not mean you should doubt what he has done or refuse to accept the good he has done.” He goes on to list the president’s “groundbreaking efforts” to deal with Nigeria’s “numerous issues”. His list includes – and I touched on some of these achievements in my column last week – transport infrastructure (railways, Lagos-Ibadan highway renovation), agriculture, the Bank of Industry’s interventions in the SME sector, Nollywood support, Local Content in the oil and gas industry, FOI Bill, National Mortgage Refinancing Company, YouWIN, PHCN privatization, and reforms in the civil service payroll system (IPPIS).
Also voting for Jonathan will be the ‘ABN’ people – Anyone But A Northerner. They are the ones who complain bitterly of what they term the ‘Born To Rule’ mentality of the North. The truth is their fears cannot, and should not, be waved away or dismissed without consideration.
Then there is the ‘ABB’ camp – ‘Anyone But Buhari’. They believe that Buhari is a Sharia-obsessed Muslim fundamentalist, half-literate, a man who is not as ‘clean’ as the rest of the world presumes him to be. Some of them are genuinely terrified of him, in their nightmares they see him turn Nigeria into a giant prison to which only him holds the padlock and the key. I have personally seen no evidence that Buhari was or is any of those things. He did not Islamise Nigeria when he was a military dictator and had the best chance to do so; he was as hard on Maitatsine as he was on the rest of the people he thought were troubling Nigeria. He has had people like Bishop Kukah come out in his defence, against allegations of fundamentalism.
Here’s what I think about February 14 – which, interestingly, is now being cast as a battle between the #FailBuhari and #FeBuhari camps. I still think Goodluck Jonathan and his government have let us down very badly, considering the kind of hope he represented, and the promises he made. I think we have been let down so badly in fact that Buhari has now come to represent our best chance for a dramatic change in direction. I’d like to be a part of it all. Which is why I’m pleading with INEC to give me a chance to register and put my PVC where my mouth is.
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