By Nusaiba Ibrahim Na’abba
As Northern Nigeria continues to be engulfed by violent activities of terrorists by the day, the thoughts of dreadful terror acts of the famous Sunni Ali of Songhai who conquered the old, widely acknowledged historic city of Timbuktu keeps reappearing on my mind. The likes of late Muhammad Yusuf, late Abubakar Shekau and most recently Bello Turji and Dogo Gide, including some of the ‘unknown’ alleged sponsors of these activities, are no different than Sunni Ali – ‘tyrannical, cruel and merciless’.
The only probable difference is that the miniature Sunni Ali’s of our time live under the protection of a democratically elected government that vowed to protect our lives. This system we all thought would salvage us from the brink of destruction. With all the high hopes for this salvation purposely adopted to elect President Buhari into office, it is under his watch that in 2018, the Nigerian army gave an order to halt the near-arrest of late Abubakar Shekau in the depths of Sambisa Forest.
While at secondary school, it used to be quite fascinating to read and learn about the legends of some of the most powerful kings in Africa. Timbuktu’s Mensah Musa, Usmanu Bin Fodio of Sokoto, the rulers of Ghana’s Asante Kingdom and their powers on their followers, especially their strength, have always remained interesting references for their followers, especially history scholars and political leaders around the world. From leadership structure, means of sustenance, warfare and particularly military strength devoid of politicking have remained exemplary and worthy of emulation as legends have primarily documented.
Inherent in today’s Nigeria, a ravaging systemic corruption, unambitious leadership, lack of education prospects contributing to a staggering number of unemployed youths (some even throwing their hats in the ring and retiring from the state of being called youths), poor security apparatuses and myopic economic vision that continues to increase our foreign debt figures without pans of paying back. Not even the vibrancy of our historic leadership structure is being inculcated in the ‘democratic system’ we (African countries) borrowed from our colonial bosses.
Nigerians are already hopeless as the nation races towards the 2023 general elections. About two months back, I went shopping in Abubakar Rimi market (alias Sabon Gari market). All I could hear filling up the sky were words of hopelessness about the state of our dear Nigeria. “I would rather lose my voter’s card than to elect anyone in 2023”, “Our leaders will not make heaven, I tell you,” and “I’m just hoping to make it to next year alive; we are not celebrating anything” among many unending agonies.
It is no coincidence that the President himself vindicated these agonies in an interview NTA aired on January 8, 2022. He warned his political party that “the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could win the 2023 presidential election and return to power, if the All Progressives Congress (APC), does not settle crises that have stymied the party”. Of course, a speech of such nature and coming from the President is subject to multiple interpretations from analysts, experts, particularly politicians and lay-Nigerians. However, the President has undoubtedly depicted a lack of confidence in his party to exacerbate an already hopeless situation. His first thought is PDP winning elections to continue from where they stopped – over a decade of misrule.
Indeed, it is pretty late that Nigerians realize that both APC and PDP are birds of a feather that flock together. During an interview with Talk to Aljazeera on February 15 2015, then-presidential candidate General Buhari highlighted the weakness of PDP’s 16-year-misrule. He, specifically, lamented on the rising insecurity and the deteriorating economy as oil prices dropped significantly. A year later, when he had a similar discussion with the same Aljazeera on his visit to Qatar in early 2016, he tried to admit that he hasn’t failed Nigerians – as Boko Haram held some strategic places in the outskirts of Maiduguri. Over the years of his administration, we now fully understand who has failed Nigerians the most.
Like every race to a general election in Nigeria, we all scale through hurdles and hitches. However, what is particular about the 2023 general elections is that it showcases the real wielders of the entire Nigerian system – the elites. Indeed aspiring candidates are fully aware of problems they will undoubtedly inherit from their predecessors. They also know that they may worsen existing situations in most cases. Thus, they shall race through rising insecurity than ever before, calls for secession from the Eastern part of the country, deteriorating economy, a staggering number of unemployed youths and out of school children, dilapidated schools, bloodshed, brain drain of medical personnel, weak security apparatuses, widely acknowledged electoral violence and, to cap it all, systemic corruption.
Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, every political aspirant has been fully aware of the problems ahead of them, but they always divert followers’ attention by being optimistic. This is why it was pretty easy for most Nigerians to succumb to President Buhari’s change agenda.
Be it as it may and with almost nothing to redeem ourselves, expectations are meagre as the race to 2023 heats up. It’s no longer news that the country’s entire political economy continues to suffer in the hands of the few ‘powerful’. The masses do not wield enormous influence in the system that steers the affairs of Nigeria. So, we absolutely cannot change the country’s political structure without owning the system. Therefore, there is no confidence or trust in the election processes with ‘inconclusive elections’ that have come to stay with us since they favour the wielders of the system.
Nonetheless, we will remain optimistic that Nigeria will prosper as a united and incorruptible country no matter what it takes. This storm shall pass. Borrowing from the words of South Africa’s Apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death”.
Nusaiba Ibrahim Na’abba is a master’s student from the Department of Mass Communication, BUK. She is a freelance writer and researcher. She can be reached via email@example.com.