Its reputation precedes it. The talk about 2019 started immediately after the 2015 elections, some four years ago. Although it is generally the way of politicians to project years ahead, the difference between Nigerian politicians and their counterparts in more civilised climes is that the projections of the latter category are usually intertwined with the development and the growth of their societies.
But back home here, it is always purely self-serving and often at the collective expense. When a Nigerian politician is discussing the dynamics of an election that is some three or four years away, if you looked closely, it is because he has a vested interest, either directly or in directly. And typically, none of their extrapolations would be development-based. It is either about power sharing or the advancement of their personal economic interests.
Thus, between February and March this year, there will be a elections, holding in every village and community in the country – presidential, governorship and state and federal legislative elections.
However, for many a politician, the elections this year are about the balance of power – the struggle for what the geo-political zones consider their rights. Therefore, by implication, the struggle in this year’s elections is largely about the positioning for 2023 on the one hand and the campaign for a more effective and efficient leadership on the other, in a sense that does not reinforce whatever is considered the failure of the current administration.
With the many unpleasant characters of 2018, the fact that many had looked forward to 2019 with as much trepidation and huge expectation is not unexpected. For a majority, it is definitely not exciting. Such fears are believed to have been compounded by the deteriorating security situations in many parts of the country, the fears of a gloomy economic status and the general uninspiring leadership.
In the campaign for this year’s election, therefore, there are three competing narratives. The first is the argument that the South-east must own their right to the presidency by playing their politics right. What do these theorists mean? That if the South-east truly desires to have a good shot at the presidency, it must tag along with the Buhari presidency, support him and be seen to have a played such role that would encourage no one to stand in their way in 2023.
Then, there is a variant narrative from the South-west geo-political zone, which is the second narrative. Leaders from this zone have been going about saying the only way power could return to the zone is by re-electing the current government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) into power, whether or not the government is running on a well-off record of performance.
Of course, the South-west campaign is fast generating controversy as many stakeholders from other zones consider it selfish. But guess what? The leaders are not bothered. Instead, they have continued to concentrate on their campaign and appear to be making a significant progress, justifying the fact that a vote for the Muhammadu Buhari/Yemi Osinbajo ticket is a sure bet for the Yoruba presidency in 2023.
The third narrative, however, is being pushed by those who have refused to toe the ethnic path as far as the 2019 campaigns are concerned, saying with the current state of the nation, the best approach in 2019 is to elect the person, who can do it and not just campaigning for power to return to any particular zone.
The argument here is further predicated on the fact that even if the presidency would have to be taken elsewhere in 2023, 2019 provides an opportunity for Nigeria to get its leadership choice right, devoid of ethnic sentiments but inspired by the need to put into office, a man who understands the issues and can sell them convincingly based on his capacity.
Although not hinged on any sound ideology especially, the first and second, these three narratives are the ones that would do the battle for this year’s general election. And with a largely illiterate voting population, the likelihood for an informed voting that is based on sound choice is slim.
Yet, the challenge of development and nation-building are constant: economy, security, corruption, infrastructure, education, health, agriculture, technology and the many familiar challenges that have hitherto militated against the growth of the country.
Hopefully, the presidential debate would hold as scheduled on the 19th of this month just like the vice-presidential leg of the exercise, which held last December, with Yemi Osinbajo and Peter Obi, dominating the stage. The presidential debate is expected to open more conversations on these issues and situate them as huge influencers of the voting pattern, though a majority of the voters is often not swayed by such in this clime.
For many Nigerians, therefore, this is the year they have been waiting for. It is a make or mar year. A year their choice of leadership has been reduced to two: either inching to the next level or embracing the option that is poised to make the system work again. But whatever option they eventually settle for would be unveiled on February 16, when the presidential election will be held.