Fela Anikulapo Kuti, one of the most talented and famous sons of Nigeria and Africa, and the founder of the AfroBeat genre of music, sang that democracy is but only a “demonstration of craze.” To him, African countries and for that matter, his beloved Nigeria (that is why he fought so hard for it), were instead of practising democracy, displaying what could only be described as “democrazy.” 

It is this divide between democracy and democrazy that the rest of the world shall be watching to see what side of the post elections’ coin the 93.4 million registered voters shall be staring at after casting their votes during Nigeria’s forthcoming elections, on 25 February 2022. On this day, Nigerians will vote for their president, vice president, senators and members of the House of Representatives. 

Being Africa’s most populated  nation (c. 213 million) and largest democracy, this colossus has ensured that its size matters. With such a huge market, it boasts one of the largest economies in Africa, which according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has an Overall GDP of just over $1 trillion, second only to Egypt, and has produced the richest man in the continent – Aliko Dangote (worth c. $13.5 billion according to Forbes). Not only has Nigeria soared economically, it has a huge global cultural footprint, with its music booming from speakers, movies beaming from screens and words jumping out of the pages of books, all over the continent and beyond. It is no wonder that when Nigerians go to vote, Africa pays attention. 

The seventh federal elections since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999, this year’s poll shall most likely be decided by the youth, who according to the Independent Nigeria Electoral Commission (INEC) command c. 40 per cent of registered voters. That is if they turn up to vote with the same vigour as  during registration. 

The country’s elections management body’s reports indicate that 76.5 per cent of newly registered voters for these elections are young people (18-34 years old). Linked to this tyrannical showing, of the 9,518,188 newly registered voters,  40 per cent are students, translating to c. 26 million of all voters, the highest occupationally. Considering that only 23 per cent of voters are persons aged over 50, if the registration trends become the pattern during the elections, the young and youthful of Nigeria have definitely made it their responsibility to chart the way for their country’s political, hence socio-economic destiny. This is definitely an election for the young to lose. 

With this backdrop, it is ironic that none of the four frontrunners (of the eighteen presidential candidates) is young. Leading the pack as a favourite amongst the youth (who refer to themselves as ‘Obidients’) is 61 year old Peter Obi of the Labour Party, a somewhat rookie outfit. Obi himself is not a novice in politics. He is a former governor of Anambra State and former member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and is the only Christian amongst the top-four contenders. The youth seem to have identified with him because he does not come from the ‘usual suspects’ of parties that have been running the show, like the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) represented by Bola Tinubu (70), a Muslim and former governor of Lagos, or the PDP, whose flag bearer is former vice president Abubakar Atiku (76) who is seeking to bring his party back to the fray, and Rabiu Kwankaso (66) a Muslim who served as a two-term governor for Kano State, representing the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), deemed accessible and amenable. 

Geographical hence religious identity is important in Nigerian presidential elections because of its commendable unwritten convention of alternating between the north (Muslim) and the south (Christian), in terms of which produces the president. This time around, it seems like this algorithm may be breached. This is because the incumbent APC party, which produced the outgoing president, Muhamud Buhari, a Muslim from the northeast, nominated Bola Tinubu, who though a Southerner, is Muslim. 

Similarly, the PDP has nominated former vice president Atiku Abubakar, a Muslim from the north. Mr Kwankaso completes the list of Muslim candidates in the leadership pack. This ‘imbalance’ has not gone down well in some quarters.

In July 2022, The Christian Today reported that the final list of candidates left Nigerian “Christian citizens in a quandary.” This was because “In selecting candidates to replace the current head of state, Muhammadu Buhari, one dominant political party ignored customary protocols ensuring geographic rotation of power, while the other party—in the face of severe warnings—abandoned the customary commitment to religious representation. Believers may desert them both.” 

63 years into her independence from the British, this complex nation with over five hundred languages and the north-south geo-religious political consciousness described above still seems averse to the pronounced participation of women in politics. 

This land of great women like Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a hero of its independence struggle, a women’s rights fighter and mother of Fela Kuti, will during this elections feature only one female presidential candidate, Chichi Ojei, of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), which if recent reports are to go by, has already been ditched by her party. Instructively, only 10 per cent of candidates in all positions are female. 

The Premium Times reported in November 2022 that “The United Nations Women Office in Nigeria has disclosed that only 1,553 of the total 15,307 candidates…are women.” It may be no wonder when considered that and as reported in Ms. Magazine, “…only 6.4 per cent of women [are] taking active roles in public office…”. This does not mean that women do not play a big role in politics, only that they play king or Oga-makers at best. This is testified through INEC’s reports which indicate that 13 per cent or 13,006,939 million of registered voters are housewives, with women representing 47.5 per cent of the voters’ roll. 

Like most elections in Africa and globally, economic and security issues dominate priorities. To an outsider, and through the preponderance of news items, Nigeria is typified as having perennially corrupt administrations, who like proverbial ogres, have insatiable appetites for devouring the country’s wealth and washing it down their throats with its crude oil. Another stereotype is that of enterprising, hard working people and ‘hustlers’ who spend every waking hour striving to earn Nairas, Nigeria’s currency whose circulation has recently become scarce (whether this was as a result of the change of currency exercise which went awry or other reasons, the truth shall reveal with time. The wonder is, why did the currency change happen hardly a month to the vote? It invites questions because, after all, Nigeria is in Africa, and in Africa, strange (including voter bribery) things do happen during elections). 

It is hoped that the good people of Naija, the youth especially, will make the choice of a leadership that shall completely get rid of the Boko Haram menace, another contemporary image marker of the country. 

There is hope that the choices made shall ensure that the oil Nigeria produces shall in the future, grease the smooth delivery of health, education, transport and security services for the broader citizenry and not a few Ogas…or should it be ogres? 

May the words of another famous son of the country, the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Fela Kuti’s cousin, guide our Nigerian brothers and sisters as they search deep in their souls in order to make the best decision during the forthcoming elections. “The hand that dips into the bottom of the pot,’’ Soyinka said, ‘‘will eat the biggest snail.”

Author

  • Bobby Mkangi

    Bobby Mkangi served as a Commissioner in the nine-member Committee of Experts for Constitutional Review (CoE) in Kenya that delivered the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 (CoK-2010). In that process Mkangi convened and chaired the human rights, and civic education and public engagement sub-committees of the CoE. Thereafter, Mkangi worked on various transitional justice constitution-making processes in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and The Gambia. In 2012, Mkangi spoke at Tokyo’s Toyo University on Constitutions as Platforms of Change in Africa: The Kenyan Case, and is concluding a semi-autobiographical book, provisionally entitled It Was Written: Personal Reflections on Constitution Making Process in Kenya. A children rights advocate, Mkangi participated in an Experts’ Meeting convened by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children and the Office of the UN Commissioner on Human Rights (OCHR) on Legal Framework for the Prohibition, Elimination and Response to Violence against Children in Geneva, Switzerland in 2012. On the same issue, Mkangi has finalised two manuscripts provisionally titled The Legal Framework for Child Protection in Kenya and The Anatomy of Child Sexual Abuse: Kenya’s Silent Monster. Mkangi is affiliated to the African Network for Constitutional Lawyers (ANCL) and serve in various boards including the National Democratic Institute (NDI)/Kenya Board (Secretary), the Kampala based Eastern Africa Centre for Constitutional Development (Kituo Cha Katiba -KcK) in which he chairs the board, and Moyo Children’s Centre (MCC) where he sits as Chairperson. Mkangi previously served in the board of the African Network for Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) – Kenya Chapter as Treasurer. In 2010, Mkangi was awarded the Member of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS) by the President of The Republic of Kenya for exemplary service during Kenya’s constitution-making process. In similar context, Mkangi was awarded the Shujaa Wetu (our hero) Award by the National Council For Community Based Organisations. In 2004, he was awarded Honorary Membership (2004-2006) by the International Society for the Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN). Mkangi works as an independent legal consultant, and lives in Nairobi, Kenya.