The phrase ‘Between the devil and the deep blue sea’ is an idiom that offers two equally terrible choices. People use this phrase to outline the difficulty they face making a decision because both options are not palatable. The expression has been in existence since at least the 1600s. This expression doesn’t have to do with the devil of scripture, as many would assume, but to a seam around a ship’s hull near the water. When a sailor attempted to caulk this seam in heavy seas, he was in serious danger of falling overboard, and drowning. And if he didn’t caulk the seam, the ship could fill with water and sink. In other words, the sailor was faced with two awful choices: risk his life to repair the ship or risk the entire ship by not repairing the ship.
If you are reading this, and you are Nigerian, then you understand the poor sailor’s dilemma, especially relating to the 2023 general elections slated for the 25th of February. I won’t name names or declare anyone a devil, literal or figurative. But let us be honest with ourselves and ask if we are not faced by a dicey situation. To begin, I will make a declaration that will shock many: I do not have a candidate for the presidential election yet. I also do not know if I will be the beneficiary of a last-minute reprieve, or not. You see, this is not because of the quality of candidates out there. I will not get into the mechanics of a candidate’s solid standing or not, and certainly not the hardcore mudslinging going on right now.
But just this past Thursday, at the 20th Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja, panellists rightly raised concerns that the blueprints of the presidential candidates in the 2023 elections cannot solve Nigeria’s problems. They said the presidential candidates had not explained to Nigerians how they would go about addressing issues of national importance, which they listed as security, economy corruption, and restructuring. During the dialogue, recorded video presentations called ‘My First 100 Days in Office as President of Nigeria’ were presented from each of the four main candidates: Atiku Abubakar (PDP); Bola Ahmed Tinubu (APC); Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (NNPP) and Peter Obi (LP). Many present doubted hard if the candidates could execute their manifestos, mainly because it was widely felt that they had failed to explain the ‘how’ of it.
That is exactly where the problem lays, the ‘how’ of it. We have for decades been willing or unwilling witnesses to grand campaign promises and declarations which have proven to be phantoms till this day You won’t catch me judging any one, much less executing them. But I am sure that among the main candidates, some of them know deep down within their conscience, that they are not fit for office. But those staples of the politician worldwide (ego, greed, an insatiable lust for power and money) will not let them see clearly. The truth is, judging is a far lesser sin than what our political leaders do to us repeatedly, making us seem like the world capital of failed leaders, and our national sport being jumping from frying pan to fire.
While I am not proud of my earlier confession of being candidate-free, I have made my peace with my position on the fence. But that’s not to say I won’t make a last-minute sudden move to grab a leaf in order not to drown. The more I think, the more I am reminded how dire a situation it is. As I wait for an ‘aha!’ moment, I pray others are more decisive, and better-informed than myself regarding this issue. I, of course, stand with the ‘doubting Thomas’ panellists of the Trust Dialogue, and for good reason.
The two decades I spent as a journalist have showed me what many cannot even begin to experience in a whole, robust lifetime. I have had front row seats to riots, violent attacks, concerts by superstars, movie premieres, and all kinds of generation-defining moments. I also got to regularly interview some of the biggest newsmakers in Nigeria, during moments when they had the most chutzpah or none at all. And all through that, it was a nation without social justice warriors who do nothing but plume, or ethnic bigots, virtue-signallers, outrage-peddlers, or cancel culture-purveyors. It was a Nigeria that, while flawed, still had something then which is missing today: Hope. Hope for a leader who knows what he is doing, and in turn taking our nation back to greatness, or even a semblance of it. The way it looks like right now, though, it looks like I have no choice but the deep blue sea, or perhaps even the devil, God save us!