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How feelings can decide where the pendulum swings

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With the 2023 general election just months away, commentary on the presidential election is shifting towards ethnic and religious debates, suggesting that the poll’s outcome could be swayed by sentiment. TOPE SUNDAY writes.

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

As things stand, the main bases of support for the three main 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 Labor Party (LP); who are Hausa, Yoruba and extractions are from their ethnic groups.

The commotions

Prior to the major political party primaries, Southern agitations for a Southern-born president were very intense, with the Southeast and Southwest geopolitical zones leading the rhetoric.

In addition to the PDP and the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), whose candidates for the presidency are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, from the North, others have contented themselves with candidates from the South.

Agitation for the Igbo presidency became a repeated song with feelings of being betrayed and neglected. The Southeast geopolitical zone is agitating for the chance to produce Nigeria’s next president.

They argue that for the past 20 years, the zone had produced no president or vice president of Nigeria.

The Southwest, however, maintained that it was now the zone’s turn to produce the president.

Feelings

Delivering a keynote speech at the Blueprint Annual Public Lecturers and Impact Series Awards 2021, in Abuja recently, former Home Minister Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau said the politics of 2023 started with the mundane issues that brought the country to the level of insecurity and instability that afflicted it.

Dambazau, a former army chief of staff, said: “It is obvious that we started the 2023 policy with the mundane problems that brought us to the level of insecurity and instability that we know. today. We have more than enough challenges or issues facing us.

“Rather than directing our energy to religious or ethnic controversies, we should focus more on issues such as poverty reduction; food safety; youth unemployment; improvement of the electricity sector; quality and affordable health services; and improving the education system.

“As it stands, comments and debate in some quarters indicate that religion and tribal sentiment could play a key role in next year’s election. Some Nigerians oppose the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket for the election, and others steal the ethics card.

“Based on social media comments and ensuing commotion, some Christians may be content with a Christian presidential candidate, while others may vote based on their ethnicity.

“Today is now ‘Obidents’ for supporters of the Labor presidential candidate; Atikulé for the PDP presidential candidate; and BAT for the APC presidential candidate.

Sentiment will play, says media consultant

A media consultant, Mr. Denis Matthew, from Taraba State, told Blueprint Weekend that the sentiment will play out in the presidential election next year due to 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 replace it with “State of residence”. This, he said, would ensure unity as is done in advanced countries.

He said: “My view is that Nigeria at this critical time is witnessing threats of secession and disintegration from some acclaimed activists and civil society organizations.

“We are not ripe for a single Christian/Christian or Muslim/Muslim religion to occupy the position of president and vice-president because we are still struggling with the balances in government.

“For decades, our politicians have divided the country along nepotism, segregation, regionalism, class, ethnicity and patronage. Our expectations that criss-cross all political parties preparing for the 2023 general elections are to strike a balance between the two major religions (Christian/Muslim) vice versa by occupying the positions of President and Vice President to extinguish the already tense atmosphere .

“The contextual sentiment will obviously play through the electorate in determining the next president since the country is already bleeding from insecurity, corruption and the manipulation of our resources by some loyal, cabals in some parts of the country.

“Political party centric, APC Presidential ticket holder and former Governor of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu hails from the Southern Zone, so a balance was expected with a Christian from the North for Vice President . This is because as a northerner it is wrong to say that Christians have no population in the North.

“Precisely, Christians are dominant in the Center-North zone of the country. We also have dominant Christians in Taraba State, which is a northeastern state. We have a large number of Christians in Adamawa, Kaduna and South Borno, and other states.

“Similarly, we expected the PDP to have shifted the presidential slot to the south, strictly taking into account that President Muhammadu Buhari has occupied the northern slot for eight years. It is already tearing the country apart.

“Beyond this argument, the major political parties (APC and PDP) already have their strongholds that cross all areas. Therefore, our voters will continue to vote according to their feelings in the 2023 election until our political elites decide to emulate real leadership on the framework of fairness, justice and reflection and representation of the federal character in political positions and the sharing of resources. “In the meantime, my recap is that we need to amend the 1999 Constitution perhaps to eradicate the term State of Origin and change it to ‘State of Residence’ to ensure unity as is done in advanced countries.”

“Elections in Nigeria are now tribal”

Speaking on the upcoming elections, a public affairs analyst Comrade Sunday Alifia told this outlet that the election is now tribalised. He, however, maintained that politics in Nigeria cannot be separated from emotion.

He said, “Politically and using the Nigerian script, you can’t get away from emotion, but when it gets too pronounced, there’s bound to be a problem.

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

“In the run-up to the 2023 general election, can this emotional attachment (feeling) be replicated? Yes, it is already here with us and of course it is already determining to some extent where the pendulum swings.

“With Yoruba from every nook and cranny aligned with their man, Tinubu; in fact, you dare not criticize him where the Yoruba are although they know he might not make it.

“The same applies to Peter Obi of the Labor Party and to Atiku and his men in the North. The whole is tribalized. We had rounds of anti and pro candidacies of the same faith; all of this is born out of our individual emotion and does not translate into favorable outcomes.

“Will this inform our sense of judgment and voting pattern? Yes, but may not work in some cases because politics is a numbers game and if your sentiment has no numbers then bury it.