How nice a single-issue election would’ve been
Af riend asked mean interesting question this week about the Nigerian election (we really do talk of little else at the moment). He was visiting on a work trip to see how things are ticking over before the poll, which is slated for 28 March following a delay to the original midFebruary date and will see President Goodluck Jonathan run against General Muhammadu Buhari.
“For people who vote on the basis of issues rather than religion or ethnicity, do you think security is the number one deciding factor for Nigerians?”
The question was timely: he’d come in from London, where the papers for the last week had been full of Islamist militant group Boko Haram’s recent declaration of allegiance to Islamic State, and Islamic State’s subsequent acknowledgement and acceptance of the Islamist militant group that has plagued the Nigerian northeast for the last six years.
Much of t he coverage has been i l l-informed, incendiary and based on commentary f rom analysts and journalists who seem much keener on talking about Nigeria than actually coming here.
From the outside, it ’s easy to see Nigeria as a single-issue story at the moment, and therefore its election as a single-issue poll.
From the inside, does it feel as if security is the number one deciding factor? As with everything in Nigeria, it’s not straightforward.
Yes, people want to feel safe, they want to be able to go to work and come home in one piece, they want their children to go to school without fear.
But Nigeria is a large, diverse and complex landscape with peculiar regional concerns and challenges.
If you’re a parent in Borno State in Nigeria’s far northeast whose home has been razed and whose children have been kidnapped or killed by Boko Haram, naturally you want some semblance of safety back in your life.
If you’re a small business owner in Lagos, Nigeria’s sprawling southern behemoth, you might be prioritising the candidate who you think will help improve the road infrastructure, meaning you don’t have to spend half your life in a traffic jam.
If you’re a taxi driver or an okada rider, you might be wondering when you’ll finally see the results of the cheaper crude oil prices that you’ve heard so much about at the petrol pumps.
If you’ve just been shaken down for a bribe in Abuja, you may well have an eye on the candidate that’s promising a corruption crackdown.
And then there’s light. Everyone would like a little more light in their lives, and no one takes for granted how egregious it is that one of the world’s biggest oil producers also has one of the world’s punier grids.
Illustrating the point nicely as I was answering my friend’s question, the power went out, the lights went off, the surge protector started its maddening beeping and we were left talking about the prospects for Africa’s largest economy by the light of a guttering candle.
Nigeria is a million-issue country; bring on the day it can have just a singleissue election.
NIGERIA IS A MILLION-ISSUE COUNTRY; BRING ON THE DAY IT CAN HAVE JUST A SINGLE-ISSUE ELECTION.