2023: How Sentiments May Decide Where The Pendulum Swings

Few months to the 2023 general elections comments on the presidential election are sliding towards ethnic and religious debates leading to speculation that outcome of the poll may be influenced by sentiments. TOPE SUNDAY writes.

 

Debates over the 2023 presidential election have continued to dominate the conventional and new media, especially the social media space. Supporters and party members are divided in advocating for their preferred presidential candidates based mostly on religion and ethnicity. For some Nigerians from the major ethnic groups: Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba the candidate who shares the same tribe with them should be the next president.

As it stands, the major support bases of three leading presidential candidates, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP); who are of Hausa, Yoruba, and extractions are from their ethnic groups.

The agitations

Before the primaries of the major political parties, agitations from the South for a president of Southern extraction were very intense, with the South-east, and the South-west geopolitical zones leading the discourse.

Aside from the PDP and the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), who have former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, from the North as presidential candidates, others settled for candidates from the South.

The agitation for the Igbo Presidency has become a repeated song with the feeling of being betrayed and neglected. The South-east geo-political zone is agitating for the chance to produce the next president of Nigeria.

They argue that in the last 20 years, the zone had neither produced the president nor vice president of Nigeria.

The South-west, however, maintained that it was now the turn of the zone to produce the president.

The sentiments

Delivering a keynote address at the 2021 Blueprint Annual Public Lecturers and Impact Series Awards, in Abuja recently, the former Minister of Interior, Lt.-General Abdulrahman Dambazau, said the 2023 politics had started off with the mundane issues that brought the country to the level of insecurity and instability that were bedeviling it.

Dambazau, a former Chief of Army Staff, said: “It is apparent that we have started 2023 politics with the mundane issues that brought us to the level of insecurity and instability we are today. We have more than enough challenges or issues confronting us.

“Rather than directing our energy on religious or ethnic controversies, we should be more interested in such issues as poverty reduction; food security; youth unemployment; improved power sector; quality and affordable healthcare services; and improved education system.

“As it stands today, the comments and debates in some quarters are pointers to the fact that religion and tribal sentiments may play key roles in the next year’s elections. Some Nigerians are kicking against the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC for the election, and others are flying the ethic card.

“Going by the comments on the social media, and the attending agitations, some Christians may settle for a Christian presidential candidate, while others may vote according to ethnicity.

“Today, it is now ‘Obidents’ for the supporters of the Labour Party presidential candidate; Atikulated for the PDP presidential candidate; and BAT for the APC presidential candidate.”

Sentiment’ll play out, says media consultant

A Media Consultant, Mr. Denis Matthew, who hails from Taraba state, told Blueprint Weekend that sentiment would play out in the next year’s presidential election because of alleged corruption in the system, and the Muslim/Muslim ticket.

He called for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to eradicate the term ‘State of Origin’, and change it to the ‘State of Residence’. This, he said, would ensure oneness as it’s done in advanced countries.

He said: “My perspective is that Nigeria at this critical period is witnessing secession and disintegration threats by some acclaimed activists and civil society organisations.

“We are not matured for a single religion’s ticket of either Christian/ Christian or Muslim/Muslim ticket to occupy the position of the President and vice president because we’re still battling with in balances in government.

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“For decades, our politicians have divided the country along nepotism, segregation, regionalism, class, ethnicity and godfatherism. Our expectations crisscrossing all political parties gearing towards the 2023 general elections are to strike a balance of the two major religions (Christian/Muslim) vice versa as occupying the president and vice president positions to douse the already tensed atmosphere.

“The context sentiment will obviously play out by the electorate in determining the next president since the country is already bleeding of insecurity, corruption, and manipulation of our resources by some stalwarts, cabals to certain regions of the country.

“Focusing on the political parties, the APC presidential ticket bearer and former governor of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is from the Southern zone, so we expected a balance with a Northern Christian for the vice president. This is because as a northerner, it’s untrue that Christians don’t have population in the North.

“Precisely, Christians are dominant in the North Central zone of the country. We also have dominant Christians in Taraba state, which a North-eastern state. We have a large number of Christians in Adamawa, Kaduna, and Southern Borno, and in other states.

“Similarly, we had expected PDP to have shifted the presidential slot to the South, strictly considering the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is serving the Northern slot for eight years. This is already tearing the country apart.

“Beyond this argument, the major political parties (APC and PDP) already have their strongholds which cut across all the zones. Therefore, our voters will continue to vote along sentiments in 2023 elections until when our political elites decide to emulate true leadership on the framework of equity, fairness and accurate reflection and representation of federal character in political positions and resources sharing. “Meanwhile, my recap is that we need to amend the 1999 Constitution perhaps to eradicate the term State Of Origin and to change it to ‘State Of Residence’ in ensuring oneness as it’s done in advanced countries.”

‘Nigeria’s elections now tribal’

Speaking on the forthcoming election, a Public Affairs Analyst, Comrade Sunday Alifia, told this medium that election was now tribalised. He, however, maintained that politics in Nigeria can’t be separated from emotion.

He said: “Politically and using Nigeria scenario, you can’t do without emotion but when it becomes too pronounced, there is bound to be problem.

“The reason is simple; it affects your choice of judgment on a particular candidate in an election. It breeds a wrong choice of candidate and that is why until tomorrow, until our electoral process and selection or election process is devoid of this menace, Nigeria would not produce a square peg in a round hole.

“In the build up to the 2023 general election, can this emotion attachment (sentiment) be replicated? Yes, it’s already here with us and of course, it’s already determining to some extent, where the pendulum is swinging to.

“With Yoruba from all nook and cranny aligning with their man, Tinubu; in fact, you dare not criticise him where the Yoruba are though they know that he might not make it.

“Same thing is applicable to Peter Obi of the Labour Party and likewise Atiku and his men from the North. The whole thing is tribalised. We have had series of anti and pro same faith candidacy; all these are born out of our individual emotion and do not translate to favourable results.

“Will it inform our sense of judgment, and the voting pattern? Yes, but might not give results in some cases because politics is a game of number and if where your sentiment lies does not have the numbers, then bury it.”

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