For instance, how many people remember the nearly two weeks of fuel subsidy strike/protest? That was one protest that a lot of us will not forget in a hurry - the sights, the sounds, the food, the talks and discussions and the fashion. What! For the first time in the history of Nigeria protests, Mainland and Island united for a common purpose. Area boys and fashionista babes hung out together with a mutual purpose - to bring down the fuel price, engage and drive a discuss on the so-called "subsidy" that was removed, and most importantly to demand for a better , more purposeful and engaged government. Armed with Facebook, twitter, and a smart phone that can take selfies (no matter the quality of the picture) the excitement at the make shift Freedom Square in Lagos was even more palpable, the music, the dance, the showmanship, the picture poses, the sunglasses, power bikes, the energy, the argument, the yabbis, everything was on point. It was one protest people described with such words as exciting, sweet, interesting, engaging - words that we would not normally have used when talking about Aluta.
How about the Ebola fight? That was another issue of national concern that generated so much excitement. When you say news went viral overnight, news about bathing and drinking salt and water went viral across the nation. The country was on rampage; people were bathing salt water and drinking like no man's business, even people who lived thousands of Kilometers away from the Ebola epicenters of Lagos and PH. People bought and sold sanitizers like it was running out of the market. Nigerians fought, prayed and worked together to eliminate Ebola from our shores.
Yet not issue of national concern has been quite as exciting as the 2015 election season. This is arguably one of the most contested elections in Nigeria. The other election that was sort of close to it, as far as my memory can serve me, was the 1983 elections. The election had the like of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Aminu Kano, Obafemi Awolowo and the incumbent Shehu Shagari. All of them were well known people with National appeal. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo were deeply involved with the emancipation of Nigeria from the colonial masters. They fought from both ends for the independence. They were principal actors in the Civil war, they had served in government at the same time, Zik as Premier of Eastern Region and Awolowo as Governor or Premier, as they were called, of the then Western Region. They both were intellectuals, Zik a PhD from the United States and Awolowo, a Lawyer from the London School of Economics. They were men of high repute, Zik was called Zik of Africa and Awolowo was largely honoured as a reformer. They both lost the election with Awolowo coming in second place and Zik third. But it ended well, they both eventually made it to the face of our Naira Note.
I remember watching Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo’ s campaign., I can't remember much of what Zik said, only that I remember seeing him on TV with that his characteristic cap corked to the side of his head, and the NPP song - NPP, Nigeria peoples, party. . .power , power, power to the people. . . bla, bla, bla. But I remember the crux of Obafemi Awolowo’s campaign, because I lived in Yoruba land, and it was free education, free healthcare. In retrospect, it feels exhilarating to think that those two great men lived side by side at one time in this nation and they campaigned about issues. I can bet that the issues have not changed - Corruption, healthcare and education. The only issues that probably were not in discussion then were electricity and pipe borne water, today; those are major issues, including the issue of Boko Haram, road, food sufficiency, building of refineries, and the big old corruption. I wonder when they will start asking Nigerian presidents about their International Policy for Africa (a continent where we are the supposedly biggest economy and the largest population) or for Europe (for whom we are the biggest ally in Africa), or about protecting our National interests in foreign lands. No one is asking those questions because we have more "salient" issues to deal with, issues like fuel availability, Boko Haram, good roads, food sufficiency, pipe borne water, corruption etc. to deal with.
Anyway about the 2015 election, see what is going on social media, friends with similar ideologies completely disagree on whom they are supporting. You start a comment on GEJ or GMB and see how long the chain of responses for and against will be. The contest is so intense that even church members are begging to differ from their pastors, and openly too. The upside of the engagement in the market place is that we are all becoming increasingly politically aware. The point is that though we may differ on who should be president or governor; we do not differ on what we want. The discussions show that we all want good, accountable and performing governments. We want a situation where every vote will count. We want a situation where any person appointed into office will know that he has the mandate of the people and that if he does not perform to their satisfaction, the people have a right to vote him or her out. I think that for the first time, Nigerians are coming to terms with their "Voter Powers", the power they have to determine who leads them.
The second upside is that the engagement is breeding what I term "Political liberality". Political liberality re-emphasizes my right to make my choice regardless of any Godfather or mother's whims and caprices. It also restates my right to speak with my thumb instead of speaking in violence, with a stick or worst still machete. By the way it is savagery to be involved in election violence, we say a categorical NO to election violence. Political liberality also means that I recognize that others have a right to vote anyone of their choosing whether that choice is good in my opinion or bad and I do not have any right to castigate them on their choice of candidate.
The third upside is that as we engage in this political discuss, Step by step we are demystifying politics in Nigeria, They have said politics is dirty, politics is for the hooligans, but politics affects us all. The elected person makes binding decisions on behalf of all of us, so why would the best of us sit at home and leave politics to the worst of us. People are beginning to say, "I can contest and I will probably win". Now people are challenging the status quo, joining political parties or forming one, even yours truly is already considering a political party. Most importantly those that have been sitting on the political fences are finally coming down to join the parade.
The only issue I have with all the discussion going on is that quite a number of the people who are even making these arguments do not have their Permanent Voters Card (PVC), and some do not intend to vote during the elections. For me, I think every Nigerian has a duty to perform their civic responsibility of voting. If anyone does not vote, he should not complain. If you do not exercise your right to pick a candidate of your choice, then you must make do with what others chose on your behalf. You need to pick up your PVC and vote a candidate of your choice, and if you do not like any of them, you have a right to form and register your own political party, contest in it, solicit for votes and vote for yourself. But you have more to lose by doing nothing.
My parting words to you is this, get your PVC and please VOTE.