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Bookshelf: REFLECTIONS ON THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTIONS

Title: REFLECTIONS ON THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTIONS Lessons Learned and the Future of Democracy in Nigeria Author: Abdullahi Y. Shehu Year of Publication: 2023 Publisher:…

Title: REFLECTIONS ON THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTIONS

Lessons Learned and the Future of Democracy in Nigeria

Author: Abdullahi Y. Shehu

Year of Publication: 2023

Publisher: Bookcraft, Ibadan

Reviewer: Okello Oculi

 

This is a work that is bold, diachronic and remarkable in the lucidity of its narrative. For a work written while the author was still a serving Nigeria’s Ambassador to Russia and Belorussia, it pulls hard punches to the jaw of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu whenever necessary.

As examples, he dismisses Tinubu’s economic promises in his campaign manifesto as ‘’obviously products of hurried write-up without much thought’’(.p.68). Candidate Peter Obi, as a leading opposition contestant is lectured to that ‘’any attempt to use religion and ethnicity will fail in future elections in Nigeria’’ (p.115).

The casual assertion that the United States of America in a 200-year-old ‘’democracy’’ is contradicted by the view expressed at an ‘’International Democracy Conference’’ (held in South Korea, March 16 to 19, 2024), that American politics is anchored on: “One Dollar, One Vote’’ because multinational corporations fund election campaign costs, notably massive advertisements (designed by brilliant psychologists and mind-benders).

The author cites Jean Kickpatric’s claim that American democracy is based on “greater understanding’’ of policy issues raised by “competitive election campaigns.’’ It is disputed by high disillusionment with legislators. The current drive by state legislators in states controlled by the Republican Party to pass laws which restricts millions of African-Americans from casting their votes is a throwback to 1965 when the country became a ‘’nation’’ following the law that gave  Black Americans the right to vote. The author owes his readers more elaborate discussion of these comparative data as risks to Nigeria’s “electoral democracy.’’

The author provokes readers to reflect on the impact of the ban by the Babangida government – from participation in elections – on politicians groomed in electoral politics between the 1950s and 1983. Likewise, the cancelation of party primaries won by Adamu Ciroma (of the NRC) and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (of the SDP); and subsequent victory by M.K.O. Abiola in the 1993 presidential election drama.

Critics claim that politicians who stepped forward to contest the 1999 elections were the “cocaine generation’’ tarnished by corruption.

The election triumph by the All Progressives Congress (APC) has earned the accolade of beating an incumbent president – with the unstated inference that incumbent leaders use fraud and violence to block victory by the opposition.  What is not factored in were repeated threats of violence if Jonathan won again. At a farewell party given by supporters, Jonathan said he could not compromise Nigeria’s role in mediating conflicts in Africa by ignoring the level of mobilisation for violence on a scale larger than what followed Buhari’s loss in 2011.

The book, which is billed to be presented to the public on Friday, 19th April, 2024 at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre in Abuja, stirs up other historical ghosts.  Peter Obi chose Datti-Ahmed as a running mate, tangled with Tinubu pairing with Kashim over legacies of Obafemi Awolowo.

Datti echoed the legacy of the Ahmadu Bello government, enforcing religious and political uniformity on Middle Belt natonalities. Awolowo’s sent lawyers to defend imprisoned Middle Belt politicians. Tinubu, however, chose to exploit the legacy of Action Group sharing ideological radicalism with the Borno Youth League, whose members were persecuted by local feudal classes tied to Ahmadu Bello’s Northern Peoples Congress (NPC).

Both the Labour Party and APC were beaten by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Adamawa, Taraba and Plateau states. The APC won in Benue, Kogi, Kwara and Niger, mainly on the appeal of Tinubu’s ‘’Islam-Islam” ticket. Obi, a Christian lost Benue to Tinubu, a Muslim, while Atiku lost Islam-leaning states in the same geopolitical zone. The author’s bashing of Obi as a flag-bearer of Christianity walks on muddy waters here.

The author singles our former president, Olusegun Obasanjo as the hand that plucked Obi from the closed gate of PDP candidacy and dropped him on top of ‘Mount Labour Party’.

Obasanjo had a self-declared allergy for Atiku but he had no pool of voters to offer. He was, however, bitter about what he called ‘’IGBOPHOBIA’’ – expressed as fear of an Igbo candidate becoming elected as Nigeria’s president. His local and foreign friends may have linked Obi’s “fresh air’’ to deep frustration and disillusionment among the youth and urged OBJ to  ‘’kidnap’’ Obi from a forest of what Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield saw as a cult of ‘’gerentocrats’’ haggling for Nigeria’s presidency.’’ The author owes readers a researched explanation.

This very fresh and timely book is rich with documents about Nigeria’s 2023 elections. It irrigates a vast scrubland of study of elections which political scientists surrendered to statisticians and computer wizards in Euro-American academia.

The author should travel to Tanzania and study their “Two-same party candidates contest within one-party Tanu/ Chama Cha Mapinduzi’’ party. It avoided the pitfall of corrupting a universally popular party by a colonial British practice of declaring a candidate to be “elected unopposed’’ because a candidate of another party had not submitted forms to contest for the same seat.

Democracy is about ensuring “the good life’’ to every citizen. To ensure this participation and accountability by all members of a ward/village is vital.

In 2012, Senegal inserted in its constitution the provision that each political party must contest an election with 50 percent of its candidates being women. This reflected a pre-colonial reality in community governance and rejected a European legacy of excluding women from governance. The author gives hints at recommending mending Nigerian politics towards a convergence with Obasanjo’s call for an ‘’African version of democracy.’’

The Euro-American claim of being guardians of “democracy’’ is currently challenged by millions of persons in France, Germany, USA living in poverty, while economic prosperity benefits only a tiny minority that run corporations. This elite work in collaboration with the media and academia. (Jan Egber on CGTN, March 20, 2024).

Candidate Donald Trump has referred to immigrants and the millions of African-American inside America’s prisons as “animals’’ and declared that there would be violence should he lose the 2024 presidential election.

The author owes his readers his use of comparative discourses and analysis of political processes to walk a new road beyond “electoral democracy’’ and “its discontents’’ (Sigmund Freud).

Also to be presented the same day at the same venue is “Boko Haram and other Security Challenges in Nigeria: Issues and Policy Options”, written by the same author.

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