How nice a sin­gle-is­sue elec­tion would’ve been

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE -

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.


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