By Gersh Ogbuluijah
It is June, 2042. Next year, there is going to be a general election for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and for the members of the federal legislature. The entire nation is in a frenzy. In our usually boisterous Nigerian fashion, candidates are campaigning and jostling for visibility. They are positioning themselves to be seen and be heard by the electorate.
There are just two political parties trying to outdo each other in this campaign. Thirty years ago, there were almost eighty registered political parties in Nigeria. The electoral body had pruned them to 18 in 2020 but now, even those have all collapsed into two parties. To everyone’s bewilderment the two major parties, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Congress (APC) came together to form a Conservative alliance that merged even their names. They are now known as All Peoples Democratic Congress or APDC.
The second party is the Youths United Political Party (YUPP), whose members are popularly called “Yuppies”. During the run up to the 2023 elections, Nigerian youths had massively turned out to register to vote. By the end of that voter registration process, the number of young people that turned out for the exercise was greater than the combined population of Mauritania, Gambia and Guinea Bissau. After that election, the youths moved in droves into the other smaller parties, took them over and started calling the shots. By the election of 2027, they had all come together to form the YUPP.
All eyes are on Nigeria, this 2043 election. The candidate of the APDC, Alhaji Tanko Babangida is from Umuahia in Abia State. His ancestry is chequered, just like most people in this new Nigeria. His parents are originally from the small village of Tunga Nupawa in Nasarawa State, but his great-grandparents had migrated from Bida in Niger State. They had followed the River Niger up to its confluence with River Benue in Lokoja, and from there, they went further upriver until they finally settled on the banks of the Peperuwa Lake in Nasarawa State.
Dokubo Aderibigbe on the other hand, is from Katsina State. He is the Presidential candidate for the Yuppies. His parents had met during their National Youth Service programme in Kano, almost 50 years ago. His mother was originally from Rivers State while his father was born in Ondo State. Dokubo trained as a veterinary doctor and moved to Katsina ten years ago to establish his huge animal husbandry business. He owns several ranches and the brand Tsinama, which supplies about 20% of all the beef consumed in Nigeria.
The Nigeria of 2042 is a lot different from the one of twenty years previously. The landmark election of the year 2023 between two Goliaths and a David was the lightning rod. Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar were the two behemoths in that election, and they represented the APC and the PDP, respectively. They also had deep pockets, which they used to push their political ambitions. And were those two septuagenarians ambitious!
Atiku Abubakar had been vying for the presidency of Nigeria since 1992 when he ran against the very popular Moshood Abiola for the Social Democratic Party ticket. He had run at least twice in the presidential elections since then. Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressive Congress on the other hand had been identifying and grooming political leaders since 1999. In 2022, at a political meeting with his followers, he said he was tired of installing leaders. He told them plainly that it was then his turn to rule.
The David that confronted the two old men that Nigerians humorously referred to as “ancestors” was Peter Obi, the candidate of the Labour Party. Unlike the old men, he did not carry any baggage of unverifiable educational qualifications or allegations of corruption or poor health. He was clean as a whistle morally and physically.
Peter had just turned 60 before the election. He was an economist through and through. He had spent years prior to the election studying several developed and emerging economies to find out why they were developed or emerging. He visited countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. He wanted to know what had kept our own economy from developing, or even emerging. He knew his economics and data was at his fingertips.
The majority of Nigerian political analysts and mainstream politicians did not see the chances of Peter Obi winning the election. Their argument was that he had no “structure”, a Nigerian euphemism for the cocktail of political followers, money (mostly fraudulently acquired) and thugs in several parts of the country. But as was the case with Emmanuel Macron of France, another man who dared to challenge the established ways of political thinking and voter behaviour in 2017, Peter Obi won the 2023 election even though with the slimmest margin in Nigeria’s political history. The young people were the wind behind his sails.
Both Alhaji Tanko and Dr. Dokubo are products of the 2023 election and its outcome. Ethnicity and religion, the cloak under which our politicians hitherto hid to carry out all manner of corrupt and nepotistic activities, nearly ripped the country apart in the run-up to that election. This came to a head during the nomination of Party presidential flag bearers and also the choice of vice presidential candidates. These issues became more touchy because it was the general feeling, of even people from his own part of the country, that President Buhari, the sitting president during the 2023 election grossly mismanaged Nigeria’s diversity. This was evident from his appointments into critical national offices.
Once Peter Obi and Datti Baba-Ahmed, his deputy, were sworn into office on 29th May 2023, they set to work, immediately implementing many of what they had promised Nigerians during their campaigns. They sanitized the procurement system at the federal level and also sent bills to the legislature proposing stiffer penalties for corruption both in government and the private sector. Initially, it was not easy for the legislature and Judiciary to leave the old ways of doing things with pecuniary expectation, but by the third year of the first term of the Obi-Datti administration, the exemplary leadership, so clearly visible at the top started flowing down the rungs. The process of taking back the country from rent seekers and the fresh air it generated was becoming obvious.
One other thing that the Obi government did was to employ the same model that Paul Kagame used in Rwanda after the genocide of 1992. Nigerians were encouraged to see themselves first as Nigerians before anything else. Divisive details such as ethnicity and religion were removed from census databases and government forms.
By the time Obi finished his eight years as President, and Datti Baba-Ahmed took over for the next eight, the policy of Nigerianization of all ethnic groups had firmly taken root and blossomed so well that if you told anyone you were Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa, the would look at you in bewilderment. During that period, internal migration had been greatly encouraged and citizens had tossed themselves around the country so much that nobody cared what your original tribe or tongue was.
It was therefore no surprise that in this election of next year 2043, there is a northern candidate by the name Dokubo Aderibigbe and a candidate with the name Tanko Babangida from South Eastern Nigeria running to be president. Unlike the election of 2023 when religion and the issue of a Muslim-Muslim ticket nearly set the country alight, Nigeria has now properly blended her diversity to the extent that religion and ethnicity mattered little.
A loud bang on the door by my grandson woke me up. So it was all a dream!
May God make this dream come true for our dear country.
15th July, 2022