Buhari's Resurgence in Nigeria

Photo Source: Guardian

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe UpFront

The 2019 Nigerian Election was unique in many ways. It was the costliest election till date in Africa, with costs going up to 242 billion naira. Around ninety-one political parties contested polls and 84 million visited the polling booths.

These figures itself reflect the hope that democratic values give to the common Nigerians, as the country reemerged from the military rule since 1999, after General Sani Abacha, died in 1998. Since then, Nigerians longed for a civilian leading them. Due to a young and educated workforce, oil reserves, they have high ambitions to transform the country, all along, despite greed, tribalism and corruption harming public's collective interests. The country still faces rising conflicts in land use, and in generating oil revenues in the Delta.

Despite these growing problems, the 2019 Nigerian election, in a way, embodied the thought of change. It was also the country’s biggest ever election, despite the fact that the voter turnout has been declining since 2003. The voter turnout has been down from 44% in 2015 to 35% in 2019.

There were some important things to ponder upon, this time around, such as voting irregularities, logistical delays, and pre-election violence, which resulted in the killing of at least 58 Nigerians.

Some analysts even questioned the overall democratic credibility of the election, as the military was seen stealing election material, harassing INEC officials, UN and civil society observers, mostly in the state of Rivers. There were reports of cancelled ballots that affected around three million votes, signifying brazen misconduct and major electoral offences. However, the officials of the Nigerian army insisted that there were fair in doing their duties, and were, in fact, betrayed by the local commission.

Tensions ran high between incumbent President Buhari and his main rival, Atiku Abu Bakr. Infact, several electoral booths were destroyed that included electronic smart cards. As elections were delayed for a week, the stocks plummeted, and it affected the country’s investors on a large scale. Election delays have been common in Africa. These delays reflect poor organisation skills. It not only caused frustration to the common people but also paranoias about politicians, who seemingly used these delays for their own favour.

In the past, several national elections didn’t happen on time that included elections in Congo that happened two years after. In Kenya, Kenyatta’s win put the country into crises. Voting, in general, is often a tiring process, where people wait in long queues for hours, and it makes the process not only a hassle, but it also disinterests several prospective voters.

In this tumultuous time, the economic shocks were also apparent. Analysts at Vetiva Capital commented: “the economic consequences of this decision will be felt significantly, as what was supposed to be a smooth process is now mired in lengthened uncertainty and controversy, shaking investor confidence and eroding the renewed interest from both foreign and domestic investors.”

The election also proved as Buhari’s resurgence, as he has a strong voter base in the north, where people call him as the “man of the people.” The voter turnout in the north was high, despite the presence of Islamist militant group, Boko Haram. On the contrary, the turnout in the south was very low, where his rival, Abu Bakr had hoped for a significant increase in voter share.

Buhari secured 56 per cent of the total vote, and his rival finished at 46 per cent. The winning margin was 3.9 million votes, as per inputs by the officials.

However, many Christian dwellers in the south complain that Buhari is prejudiced towards them, and that he favours Muslim support. In fact, both politicians belong from the Fulani ethnic group that has dominated Nigerian politics since the 1960s. They believe that both leading parties, namely All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party, descended from military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, are mainly focused on winning elections, and increasing their voter base, often by spurious means. They are also mute on dissenting concerns from several activists, who vow for climate change and urbanisation.

As per reports by The Economist, politicians from both leading political parties were culpable for vote buying. In Lagos, some common people saw party workers handing cash to prospective voters. In Yola, a politician gave several sachets of spices to the wife of a prominent journalist. Some locals believed that it necessary for them to vote for Buhari, despite not being satisfied with his first term, because they saw a more corrupt politician in Abu Bakr.

Many Christian dwellers in the south complain that Buhari is prejudiced towards them, and favours Muslim support. In fact, both politicians belong from the Fulani ethnic group, that has dominated Nigerian politics since the 1960s.

The Situation Room, an umbrella organisation of Nigerian civil society groups, said: “the vote marked a step back from the 2015 general election and actions should be taken to identify what has gone wrong and what can be corrected.”

Poverty still remains the most serious problem, among other problems. The economy is very slow from recovery since the 2016 recession. In an industrial hub of Kano, entrepreneurs complain of manufacturing only 10% of the total output, due to prevailing problems.

In 2018, Nigeria overtook India in terms of people living under the poverty line. In the State of Borno, Islamic insurgency is running high. Nigeria is also running short of doctors. There are only 40 thousand doctors for a population of 170 million people.

In a Guardian Oped, Chigozie Obioma, wrote: “For me, the underlying problem is the lack of a coherent national value system. Currently, it’s a mix of various tribal traditions and western values cast within a western framework, leading to a unique political system that is not democracy but one that can best be described as mitigated chaos. Since chaos breeds’ monsters and monstrosities, the value system has continued to degenerate, despite Nigerians wanting badly for it to improve (many voted for Buhari in 2015 in the hope that he would tackle corruption). But it is now an epidemic, with distrust infecting every sector of Nigerian society.”


Popular Posts