Just like almost every other forecast, the presidential component of the 2023 general elections has contradicted and even embarrassed every other forecast, including the one issued by common sense.
And when I say forecast, I by no means refer to the “Okrika” statistics that defiantly insisted that the decisive victory of the Labour Party candidate, Mr Peter Obi’s at the polls was a fait accompli. At a point, it became rather amusing listening to supposedly educated and intelligent people not only humouring the very thought, but actually proselytising the delusion with profound conviction.
As distasteful as this may sound given the fact that these zealots were almost entirely Mr Obi’s kinsmen, I believe this is a subject worth discussing if only for the sake of bettering the understanding we have of the political dynamics of the Nigerian polity. This sentiment is however without prejudice to the fact that Obi performed much better than even the most frivolous calculations I would personally have given the light of day.
Eventually, and this is me being candid even though not just out of spite but as a means to the end that will make sense to all the interests involved, it became as poignant as it was mirthless. As much as I can help it given my human weaknesses, I am not a man of stereotypes and ethnic profiling. In view of everything, however, it was difficult to disabuse myself of the notions the Obi question mark etched on my sociological consciousness. The popular belief is that Igbos are not savvy politically, and that may be right or wrong. But what is a fact is that they are bought and sold by fringe polemics quite easily.
I may be sorely mistaken of course, and hopefully, someday I will be disabused of that prejudice – because my consciousness is so extremely abused, and if you really think of it, I am a victim too. That is a legitimate weakness, and I must admit that the object of my own identities have been found guilty of weaknesses that are just as damning too.
But I digress. The federal component of the elections is now concluded and the president-elect already issued a certificate of return. This was already a distinct possibility from the get to. But I for one would never have thought that it was possible for any of the frontline candidates to win the vote without winning Lagos, Kano, Kaduna and many other key battlegrounds.
It is easy to believe that if Atiku, Obi and Kwankwaso had joined forces, Tinubu would have had no chance. But that was something that actually happened in 2019, bar the Peter Obi wild card of course. The Muslim-Muslim “effrontery” ended up fueling a cause that drove an unprecedented number of Christians, especially in the North into the arms of Mr Obi.
Many lessons have been learnt, many dark alleys have been laid bare for everyone. Not all thunder strikes are accompanied by lightning, but for those that bring that along, it becomes a double spectacle. For a fleeting moment all darkness is banished and you get to see the vivid colours of the night. It is actually not a case of malicious exaggeration to say that Peter Obi is the Christian candidate, among others. Northern Christians were indeed at the forefront of that protest. They saw that as the last feather, and probably the last nail too.
Now there is no effect without cause. I spent some of my childhood in Bauchi and I can remember how it was, or how it must have been to be a Christian and a native of a Muslim-majority state such as Bauchi. One of the kids I hung out with was named “Yarda”, to which we added the derogatory appellation – “mai kwallon gaskiya, which translates into something like – “the honest sportsman”. Sometimes, we called him “Yarda Basayi”, derived from his identity. He was an ethnic Basayi, and he was not much more significant than a subhuman, but goddamn it you could count on him to tell you the truth no matter what. He was a double edge sword, he was a very good footballer, but having him on your team means you could very well concede a penalty kick or two. He will not hide or spin the truth and that was a royal pain in the neck even on the pain of a further descent into ignominy in our little circle. And that’s what we did.
Tinubu won the election, but lost Lagos to Peter Obi. That was phenomenal. That alone is a testament to how greatly improved the process has become. We drove out our Christian brethren, it is bad that their motivation for looking beyond home was only to safeguard their interests and feel a sense of belonging.
We commit crimes against the same religious philosophy we profess. The life and times of the Messenger of Allah were replete with instances of how to live with our Ahl-al-Kitab brethren but we have long abandoned that. It is inconceivable today to let a Christian inside a mosque even though the Messenger of Allah had once insisted that his Christian guest use the Holy Shrine in Madina for Mass. He also said that he would personally take up any case as the prosecutor where a Muslim offends a Christian.