The north and politics of 2023
The level of political dynamism across the Northern part of the country as we count down to the February Presidential election is palpably unprecedented.
All through the states that are often dubbed the major voting blocs and the other states too, there is a simmering voter revolution gathering steam; majority of citizens of voting age cannot wait to use their PVCs to make a loud statement to the world on the type of fate the ruling party has dealt their lives in the past eight years. As it happened in 2015, there is what is clearly seen by all discerning watchers of Northern politics as a looming rejection of the party in power for a more viable opposition candidate to mount the saddle. The February Presidential election will certainly present the APC scorecard as prepared by the people.
Even the average non-literate Northerner understands that the election will have a great impact on how the North and its peoples will fare in Nigeria, going forward. The power of incumbency is definitely not going to count for anything. Like all Northerners, even the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have correctly gauged the pervading feeling and resolution of Northern voters to vote their conscience, come February. That may be why he has joined the popular refrain in the North today where people are being admonished to see the choice of the next president as a moral obligation and a vote of conscience.
The Buhari message of Vote Your Conscience of today is different from his APC, Top to Bottom of four years ago. This is because even he knows the truth; the Northern people cannot be cajoled to do otherwise. No doubt, President Buhari has tried to play appeasement politics in the North with the Kano-Maradi Railway project and the Northern Oil Drilling project; all in the bid to soften the ground for his party. However, Northerners know these are all pipeline projects and have no immediate succor or relief for them. The North has been left to bleed too much; it needs immediate reliefs or it has to look elsewhere for hope. In February, all indices on ground point to the only sensible option: APC does not represent the needed hope for realistic change.
The last eight years have brought untold devastation to the North. Boko Haram and banditry have turned the entire area into a land of misery, death and emptiness. Life is harsher than ever. Communities in almost all the Northern states are paying ransom to organised banditry groups regularly to have freedom to life. The entire North West and North East have become IDP enclaves. Farming, the major occupation of citizens, is on hold. Hardly do the people gather again for communal events that define their culture and livelihood. Ullamahs, traditional rulers and district heads are pained but powerless while citizens cry vainly for help. Sadly, in eight years, no help has come from APC. There is no realistic hope that another four years of the party can bring a different lease of life. APC has frittered the people’s trust; not even its current same faith ticket has brought a sizable shift in the people’s thinking. The general belief in the North is that the muslim-muslim ticket is a mere trap by the party to attract Northern votes, which its performance in the last eight years does not deserve.
Conversely, the biggest beneficiary is the PDP which has now bounced back to enjoy improved trust and embrace of voters across the key voting blocs. A major reason for this is the recognition of the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, as a grassroots and sincere leader whose entrepreneurial and administrative antecedents can be easily referenced. His business footprints from agriculture, manufacturing, education and other services are all over the North; unlike the APC candidate who is generally seen as having no deep understanding of the environment, the people and their needs beyond what he is often fed by his fawning band of political promoters who, in themselves, are glory seekers who do not care for the conditions of the masses.
From 1999 to 2015, the North recognised two national political parties namely PDP and ANPP. From 2015, it has been PDP and APC. Going into the February election, this political culture is not about to change markedly. APC has failed woefully in the North. The only real option for remedy the people see is the PDP. Right now, the North does not trust the APC because the general thinking is if the Buhari-Osinbajo ticket which was touted as far more credible and APC’S best foot forward could perform as abysmally as it has, the current ticket of APC is much weaker in all respects and could therefore not be trusted not to make things worse. Atiku’s antecedents and pedigree, the people believe, rank him far above what APC has on offer.
To people of Northern Nigeria, the February election is all about assessment and realignment. Over 70% of the Nigerians APC’s government has pushed into poverty are in the North. Over 70% of the out-of-school children the APC government has not been able to help are in the North. Hundreds of Northern children abducted by insurgents and bandits have not returned. Families have been violently destroyed and homes and livelihood upturned. Despite all the noise about ranching and refining the agricultural process and value-chain in the country, nothing has been done in practical terms. Northern youths have been rendered hopeless and pushed into drugs and crime. In the last eight years of APC, the existential fabrics of most Northern communities have been destroyed. The life of the average Northerner is today far worse than it was in 2015.
On the streets of all the Northern states today, it is all about voting your conscience in the February election. There is a clear sign that majority will vote PDP for the presidency. This is based in part on the nostalgic feeling of the relatively more peaceful, progressive and humane life the people enjoyed while PDP was in power at the centre, especially from 1999 to 2012 as compared to the short, nasty and brutish life served them in the last eight years of the APC presidency. It is also based on the cosmopolitan personality as well as the progressive and eminently democratic outlook of the politics of Atiku Abubakar as seen in his pan-Nigeria centred political journey from the early 90s to date which is different from what is jocularly referred to in Northern political circles as the ‘grab, grab, do-or-die, self-centered narcissist politics’ of the APC candidate whose intolerant political style and imperialist hegemony in the South-west of the country do not serve as the type of dish the North wants or needs at this point in time.
• Abdul-Hakeem, a political analyst, journalist and publisher, writes in from Abuja.