Nigerian Elections: A Caustic Diary

by Emmanuel Akinwotu

Elections, for all their gravitas and potential political ramifications, are, at least on planet Nigeria, a box-set series of ceaselessly unravelling drama. Here from London, in February, the most difficult month of the year to scroll through twitter on an iPhone without gloves, it has been gripping at every stage.

None of the classic features of pressure politics in Nigeria have been missing. Public insults left and right, prayers for God to secure landslide victories or punish opponents with crushing defeats, mass campaign rallies, dubious to delirious campaign adverts in several Newspapers.

One advert on the cover of the Sun, a tabloid national newspaper, was cringingly flowery:

goodluckj

The Saturday Telegraph

“February 14th is Valentine’s day, Lovers day. Continue to show love by voting a friend who DEEPLY & SINCERELY LOVES NIGERIA & NIGERIANS. Vote Goodluck Jonathan.” Indded on 2nd January he said “I’m coming up with an anti-corruption plan” we await reports of the details.

Other adverts have indulged in more contentious themes, with a full page advert calling for Nigerians to prevent a northern presidency.

Ayo Fayose, the brutish Governor of Ekiti state, tactfully submitted his inciteful advert in The Punch, the newspaper with the broadest distribution and the highest sales; ensuring the greatest reach for a dangerously provocative message at a delicate moment.

Rumours that elections could be postponed in order to allow all Nigerians to obtain a PVC voting card had simmered but not surfaced, until today. The reports from the Associated Press, confirm a bubbling suspicion. The Government’s desire to ‘secure a multinational force to secure Boko Haram areas, may suitably satisfy a desperate need to buy time. If these reports are confirmed, the risk of unrest will substantially increase. Reaction to reports of poll postponement/short video via @akwasisarpong

The governing PDP have not in any way shied from stoking classic divisions. The APC presidential candidate, ex-General Muhammadu Buhari, has been openly accused by senior figures of the ruling party of seeking to enforce an islamist agenda. But the 72 years young ex-military general is not the negligible figure he seemed a year ago. The APC have a non- trivial chance of winning, but support for the main opposition, as with the discontent with the current President Goodluck Jonathan, is palpable but difficult to measure.

Polls have little credibility. NOI Polls, one of the largest Nigerian polling agencies founded by ‘Coordinating Minister for the Economy’, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was last week mired in controversy. Recent polls giving President Jonathan a 40point lead over General Buhari have been suspicious at best. Press reports last week revealed that their stated US polling partner, Gallup USA  was not affiliated to the company and had not been for years. Relative ambiguity over voting intentions have made what could be the first transfer of power since military rule seem a greater possibility if only because of the degree of uncertainty.

The Valentines day elections, if they commence as planned, will not be closely watched by many foreign journalists. Over 80 have not been granted visas and have predictably cried foul on social media, but the Nigerian visa beaurocracy is a master only to itself.

Their fingers, like mine, will have to scroll through online feeds from afar, and watch and wait on whether Africa’s most populous county will vote for the devil they know, or break from the past and take the unprecedented step.

goodluck-jonathan-nigeria-007

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Emmanuel Akinwotu is a History and History of Ideas student at Goldsmiths, University of London, with a special focus on the Arab Uprisings of 2011. He has written for the Guardian in Lagos, covering Politics and Education. He has been a commentator on Nigerian politics on Ben TV and has also written for student publications and online news forums. He tweets at @ea_akin and blogs at http://britiko.wordpress.com/.

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