Nigeria 2019 election: There is no choice.

We didn't expect our lives to change immediately, but we expected ordinary miracles. A miracle, in Nigerian terms, would simply be to do something right.

'Laolu Samuel-Biyi
Nigeria 2019 election: There is no choice.

February 2015 was a great month. It was finally time for the general elections in Nigeria and I was fired up. For once, it seemed like most Nigerians have reached consensus about the deteriorating state of the country. Things have always been deteriorating, but most of the population were desensitized to it. Not this time, however. We’ve always had corrupt and incompetent politicians, but it was now too brazen and comical and things just had to change.

Buhari had been persistently running for the top job and he’d been faring better with each outing. He stepped up to run again, for what looked like the last time, and his message this time was appropriate: Change. It was time to change things and that was our one last chance to activate the systemic purge. We didn’t need a spectacular orator or an especially smart person to lead the ticket; we just needed someone with enough integrity and conviction to take decisive and radical actions. For everything else, he should be sensible enough to recruit the best people to execute. Indeed, Buhari’s first recruit, the Vice Presidential candidate, was going to be the first of many brilliant choices he’ll make during his presidency. The message was communicated that the former military ruler was “reformed” and ready to beat an inclusive path towards a glorious future.

Buhari was always popular in the North and he needed more Southern votes this time. He ran a sophisticated and modern campaign that appealed to young people and encouraged their participation. Articulate members of the APC party’s youth wing led the conversations and debated online and across media. The campaign was fact-based, even gender-balanced sometimes, the promises were grand and radical, and the seat of the incumbent was truly threatened in a way that was unprecedented.

Outside of the activities of the vocal, public party members and campaign managers, there was an invisible but large army of believers. I watched as young people around me committed personal resources towards the campaign in a variety of ways. Many contributed to debates online, some preached daily to anyone who would listen, and others actively evangelized outdoors. I personally retweeted my share of tweets and called out a few sensational opposition arguments. I was impressed by the Vice Presidential candidate, Osinbajo, and since I was in the tech space, I did my bit by buying up all ‘Osinbajo’-related domain names that could potentially be used for dirty campaigning by the opposition. Buhari must win, and everyone around me did whatever they could to ensure that. It didn’t take any single person’s genius or marketing, but individual convictions and efforts of the crowd.

The day came and we watched as the votes counted in favor of Buhari. The incumbent had been ousted, and to validate our choice, we got our final comical display from “Orubebe” (a high-level PDP party agent) as he attempted to disrupt the announcement of results. It felt great. I was young when it was announced that Abacha, a former military dictator, was dead, but I remember feeling the same way then. The next morning, Buhari’s presidential portrait was already being hawked all over the streets of Lagos, and one made its way to the wall of our office right over the coffee machine. Good morning, new Nigeria!

We didn’t expect our lives to change immediately, but we expected ordinary miracles. A miracle, in Nigerian terms, would simply be to do something right. For me, a miracle would be even easier; it would be to do things that could be considered commonsensical. For example, to leverage the incredible goodwill going into the position to finally bury petrol subsidies, or to announce a competent cabinet within weeks of assuming office.

Six months, then one year, then three, and it became clear that the government had lost an incredible chance. The first year was characterized by foot-dragging, excuses, finger-pointing, and unbelievable hiring decisions. Things didn’t really get worse, it was just more of the same. It was the same old Nigeria with cabinet appointments distributed as rewards to loyalists. It was the same old shameful police force, bloated and archaic civil service, directionless educational system, nasty airport, and incompetent officials. The president quickly acquired a reputation for pussyfooting when it comes to making important, radical decisions, and absenteeism from office for health reasons without transparency didn’t help. If there was one thing I expected from the new government, it was an ability to fire swiftly, break things and send strong messages. The mass goodwill was quickly squandered, and the people around him suddenly became blind to that fact. It reminds me exactly of the delusion that the people in the previous government had. Now, I fear proximity to government if delusion is an unavoidable consequence.

Today, Nigeria remains the cesspit it has always been. The country still leads the ranking table for everything bad and worsening, and the government is focused on blaming previous administrations, although it is not the previous administration’s fault, for example, that half the current cabinet still have their jobs. Look at the Minister for Education, or Sports, or Communications, or Information, or Environment, or Women Affairs, or Transportation, or Interior, or Labour and Employment, etc. It’s hard to describe anyone leading those ministries as a visionary in any way. Think about it. How has Nigerian sports or education or the tech sector changed over the past few years? Has there been any movement at all? The Women Affairs ministry is so useless, it shouldn’t even exist. It is extremely difficult to imagine a progressive and modernized future with any of these people there at the helm and one can only imagine what the Heads of hundreds of agencies and departments are like. It’s exhausting to think about.

There is a mass exodus happening in Nigeria right now, and I cannot advise people to stay back as I would have four years ago, during the last election campaign season. The picture over the coffee machine at the office has since gone down and with it any expectation of progress in the near future. It’s election season again, and there apathy in the air. There are some good candidates on the ballot, but the depth of illiteracy and weaponized poverty across the country means that most of these candidates have no chance, unless they run a consistent campaign and remain vocal oppositions over several election cycles. The main challenger stands a chance, but he’s also a familiar player, and his message is reminiscent of the incumbent’s message four years ago. It’s the same nonchalance you feel about getting into a new relationship after a heart-break from someone you had major hopes for, even though the new person might be better for you, and it’s understandable. It could take time.

There’s no excitement; there’s just lethargy. It’s the same old Nigeria: in a perpetual state of deterioration, where it’s every man for himself. It will be tough for anybody to rally the enthusiasm and achieve a similar level of goodwill that Buhari once enjoyed, but somebody will, one day. In a few months at the polls, run your personal maths and decide what’s best for you, until we can all come together again to decide what’s best for us. For now, it’s goodnight, same old Nigeria.

Show Comments (2)


  • Mustee_Gwandu

    Solid sense without sentimentalism👌. Iam politically buharist, I cannot but to believe 65% of what you have said.

    To be honest, this our current administration has been failing in some sectors. Though better than the previous endemic graft.

    But Sir do you think we have an alternate option that can outweighs buhari’s performance?

    I respect you anyway ✊️

    • Article Author
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    • ‘Laolu Samuel-Biyi

      To be honest, I’m not sure. The (new) change needs to be radical, and it needs to be from someone that can drive consensus nationally.

      • Article Author
      • Reply

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