For those of us who understand how left behind we are, the selection of Buhari and Atiku feels like a concerted operation against Nigeria’s greatness. Neither of these two will bring real development nor relief to the citizens. We are confronted with the stark option of choosing between a bandit and an irredentist.


The choices of Muhammadu Buhari and Abubakar Atiku as the presidential candidates of the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), present a dilemma. Ahead of February 16, 2019, intellectually honest voters are faced with a Morton’s fork, having to choose between two undesirable candidates. Morton’s Fork takes its name from John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury in the fifteenth century. Back then, politics and law were more formally joined. He wanted people to pay more taxes, and noted that people who lived carefully and spend modestly were living within their means, and could spare a little tax. On the other hand, he added, the big spenders could easily spend some of their extravagance on taxes. In other words, anyone who was not walking around in rags and picking food from waste bins could pay tax, no matter their behaviour. The argument became known as Morton’s Fork. Two different lines of thought, seemingly going in opposite directions, but somehow coming to the same conclusion; most often an unpleasant or undesirable one.

For those of us who understand how left behind we are, the selection of Buhari and Atiku feels like a concerted operation against Nigeria’s greatness. Neither of these two will bring real development nor relief to the citizens. We are confronted with the stark option of choosing between a bandit and an irredentist. The first is a tired, ethnic religionist who neither hears nor sees the evil done by those in his orbit, values loyalty over competence, is reliably uninterested in development and hypermodernity, holds power for its own sake, and on behalf of a cabal. In comparison to him is a notorious bandit whose claim to wealth is deeply rooted in graft, and is a facultative parasite of government for as long as we can remember. He is capable of selling the Atlantic to himself at no cost and signed by state because he will be the state.

From what we have seen from 1999 till date, democracy as we have adopted it, is deceptive, manipulative, clumsy and unsuitable for our reality in Nigeria. What democratic politics throws at us each time are unpredictable and alarming outcomes, which are largely our fault.

As far as the 2019 presidential election is concerned, we are on the horns of a dilemma. When your dilemma has horns, a choice becomes tenuous. When you are on the horns of a dilemma, no matter which horn you choose, something bad will happen. We have ourselves to blame for being on the horns of a dilemma. We must point the accusing finger at ourselves.


When it comes to politics all over the world, people often make bad choices. We have seen it in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. Starting with Plato, critics of democracy have argued that it is the rule of charlatans that the ignorant fall for. In the case of Nigeria, the reality is even more dire. Why is it our fault? Every four years since 1999 and even in elections preceeding it, electoral choices have often been dictated by expressive, rather than instrumental, behaviour. That is, the majority of Nigerian voters, like their types elsewhere, make their choices on the basis of fleeting judgements and not on some sound understanding of how those decisions will improve or hurt their lives. Our choices are made worse by the delegate system for primary elections. This is a process where a handful of compromised or compromisable individuals meet to select those they want us to vote for within their party. As voters, we submit to narrow narratives, parochial standpoints and hurtful choices, by enabling and voting for those who always turn around to hurt us.

Actions have consequences. We get what we ask for. We cannot get good outcomes, when we vote for candidates who will produce bad outcomes. We get bad government because we are bad at governing ourselves.

Here is our two-step naked dance:

1. We have no real choice. The choice has been made for us.

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2. The candidates on the ballot of the major parties are bad choices.

If we want to fix Nigeria, we need to fix ourselves. We need to become refined, smarter, shun every form of bigotry and bias, and be more engaged, less interested in immediate gains, imbibe good values, understand and appreciate the responsibilities of followership and be honest when it comes to politics.


That we tend to make bad choices among the candidates on the ballot is not the worst part. The worst part, and an admission to make, is that the quality of the candidates who make it to the ballot depends upon the quality of the electorate. The politicians who make it to the ballot are low quality because we are low quality. If the average Nigeria voter is patently selfish, crude, has bigoted and uninformed views, then, selfless, refined, smart, well-informed, intellectually capable, forthright politicians stand no chance of coming on board! We have a bad system that works efficiently. It is a system that gives us what we want and deserve. In 2019, we have to choose between “two evils” because these two evils best appeal to the average Nigerian voter.

If we want to fix Nigeria, we need to fix ourselves. We need to become refined, smarter, shun every form of bigotry and bias, and be more engaged, less interested in immediate gains, imbibe good values, understand and appreciate the responsibilities of followership and be honest when it comes to politics. Every Nigerian needs to become a virtuous voter.

As far as the 2019 presidential election is concerned, we are on the horns of a dilemma. When your dilemma has horns, a choice becomes tenuous. When you are on the horns of a dilemma, no matter which horn you choose, something bad will happen. We have ourselves to blame for being on the horns of a dilemma. We must point the accusing finger at ourselves. Our government is bad because we are bad. Between Buhari and Atiku, we got what we deserve. We chose to be exactly where we are. Democracy asks, only, that we should be around long enough to suffer the consequences of our own choices and we will.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo