The recent eruption of mammoth crowds in various states of the federation brings new energy to the political process in Nigeria. The invisible social media warriors are taking concrete forms in our towns and streets.
While some may see this as evidence of the mass appeal of a particular candidate, it is actually a coalescence of a routinely muted Nigeria’s political aspiration that has for long remained within the realm of unattained desires and wistful passion.
Even though this movement has found its most passionate expression around Mr. Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential flagbearer, it is not really about him personally. It is clearly a reflection of the multiple underlying yearnings for political freedom and economic prosperity, a strident expression of disenchantment against the establishment and an aggressive longing for a comprehensive overhaul of the polity.
Nigerian masses are tired. Administration after another, the Nigerian political system continues to groan under gross misrule. Ghana and Egypt, not Britain or America, have become countries ‘the Giant of Africa’ is enjoined to emulate in governance and development. Many Nigerians now insist that Nigeria is under curse; that God is angry with us.
Certainly, the idea of involving the supernatural in man’s predicaments is not new. The ancient Greeks believed that ‘from ills given by the gods there is no escape.’ Such is the philosophy reflected in the extant tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides.
Bad leadership is now an inescapable ill by the gods in Nigeria. This, however, does not agree with the basic principles of modern democracy, which entrusts power upon the people.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s articulations on the principles of social contract upon which modern democracy is founded wrestles the collective fate of the people from unseen forces and places directly in their own hands.
Periodic elections are conducted to ensure that the government does not deviate from the pursuance of the people’s collective will.
While Nigeria has consistently organised periodic elections since 1999, the collective will of the people is only observed in the breach. In clear terms, Nigerians need public infrastructure, food, security, good education, employment opportunities as well as good and affordable health service.
While these basic needs have remained a recurring decimal in several campaigns and manifestos of different political parties, they have not received the required grit of determination by the past and present administrations.
The multiple economic crises of high inflation, insecurity, unemployment and underemployment, massive borrowing, free fall of naira, frivolous spending and the seeming nonchalance of government officials to the gruelling economic condition of the people create a mass disenchantment and despair, confounding both government’s warmest admirers and most passionate defenders.
It is clear that the active involvement of the youths in 2023 election is not necessarily a demonstration of hate or love for any presidential candidate. These youths are neither the most acerbic critics of this present administration, nor an assembly of major opposition. This mass movement is a necessity that should out-live this surging passion.
It is a spontaneous awareness of the power that rests on the people. Shakespeare’s character in Julius Caesar acknowledges this much, ‘Men at some times were the masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings’.
The fate of Nigerian masses has for long been on the whims of the politicians. The sudden reawakening of Nigerian youths is a decisive step to determine their fate. The 2023 election is going to be a testing ground between the will of the minority elite and that of the majority poor suffering masses.
The disruptive entrance of this movement into Nigerian political space, without pecuniary inducement, is upsetting the political class, the two major political parties, its large financial chest and wide political structures.
The political class will, definitely, not remain quiet to be overrun by the present mass movement. Consequently, political machinations, intrigues, calumny and propaganda will be unleashed against this movement. The easiest strategy among the political warlords is to evoke tribal and religious sentiments and other fault lines of the Nigerian state.
Nigerians easily fall flat for this. However, many Nigerians are already aware that bad leadership does not discriminate; it affects everyone. The recent economic woes have proved this much. We all go to the same market.
No matter the preference any administration has for one region or religion over another, no region can be exclusively shielded from the overall effect of bad economic policies. Good leadership benefits all too.
Nigerians are now wiser and will definitely take charge of their destiny. The determination of ordinary Nigerians to define their future should be respected. Any attempt to thwart this democratic revolution may have unimaginable outcomes. Ezema, a social commentator, writes from Ibadan