Revisiting the toxic February 2023

Year 2023 which rolls off in about four days time, was an eventful one for both Nigeria and Nigerians. Unarguably, the year was dominated by politics and politicking, and it can be framed into two major segments, viz, the campaign and post election periods.The campaigns peaked in February, leading to the eagerly awaited February 25 Presidential and National Assembly polls. I reproduce below my column that summarises the essence of February 2023 which was, indeed, a raging, toxic, combustible month.

Since start of political campaigns for the general elections, many people had been wishing that the month of February 2023 arrives and ends speedily so that the pernicious air that is enveloping our country would disperse with conclusion of the presidential poll. For the tension in our land is rooted in the pending polls and it is believed that once the presidential election (the most anticipated one is over) some semblance of normality would return to our country and that we would be able to begin to breathe some fresh air from March.

Alas, the combustible nature, rage and toxicity of February 2023 has continued to evince itself with passing of each day of the month. It is threatening to boil over. Indications are that the high wire politicking by our political class, characterised by unmitigated intrigues, blackmail, betrayals, high handedness, etc., would continue well after the general elections until the new government takes over in May. The back biting, intrigues in high places are becoming bare faced and those behind them are no longer masking their intentions. The battle line is drawn, positions are hardening. It is a battle to finish with each side of the political divide literally vowing not to retreat nor surrender.

It is as though from all angles, fires are being stoked hither and thither, they are increasing in intensity as the elections draw nearer day by day, threatening to consume the masses and the nation itself. While we ordinary folks are watching helplessly, those who are in a position to do something, take action to dispel the raging storm somehow, are seemingly unconcerned, watching hands akimbo. The nation is now deeply divided down the middle politically. 

Unlike before when Nigerians are generally indifferent to elections, far more Nigerians than ever before are interested in outcome of especially the presidential poll, each Nigerian of voting age believes he/she has a stake in it. And although the leading gladiators have said that they are not desperate about becoming president, fact of the matter is that this is perhaps the last opportunity for each of the two notable candidates to vie for this position. 

So, they are lining up their arsenals, covertly and overtly; they are making use of both conventional and unconventional methods, fighting a battle for which all methods are seemingly fair – blackmail, bullying, resort to primordial sentiments, etc, etc. Their supporters both within and without, online and offline, highly placed and lowly placed, are becoming unhinged, saying and doing things that are to say the least, provocative, inciting, to decent people. I am afraid that even if the elections are free and fair, the losing candidate would cry foul and there might be some crisis.  

‘Elder statesman’ Chief Ayo Adebanjo is urging us to prepare for war, adding that a particular presidential candidate “must win”, otherwise we should “forget about Nigeria”. The political parties, especially the big two, are engaged in insidious accusations and counter accusations against each other. And the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has fined some television stations for re-echoing what it termed “hate speeches” in the course of the campaigns.

Indeed, Femi Fani-Kayode, FFK, and Dino Melaye, DM, are notorious for dishing out slanderous statements on each other’s candidate. Their no holds barred spiteful effusions full of bile easily qualify for at least a page in the infamous ‘Book of Insults’. And each has its supporters cheering. In fact, campaigns for the 2023 political race rank as the most toxic since the birth of this fourth republic in 1999. It is a fallout from the cantankerous, bitter primaries. 

The ruling APC now has powerful elements within the seat of power who, we are told, are opposed to its presidential candidate and are constructing stumbling blocks for him. Ditto the main opposition PDP presidential candidate. There are within the PDP itself, some former high ranking officials as well as some sitting governors (G5) that have literally vowed that their party’s presidential flag bearer would be president over their dead bodies. 

You can then picture the combustible nature of our current political terrain and what we are witnessing. Peter Obi parted ways with his former party, PDP, in a rather acrimonious manner to go pitch his tent with Labour Party; snatched its presidential ticket by prodding its already emerged candidate to step down for him. Although he is considered to be mild in character and has generally not engaged in any foul language as such, his supporters are just as toxic online, literally, bullying and insulting anyone that disagrees or says anything disagreeable about their candidate. They are kings of the cyberspace so to speak. 

Yet another factor that has contributed to the political conflagration is the so-called spilling of beans by those that had once worked with the presidential candidates. First was a former aide of Atiku Abubakar, named Michael who regaled us with ‘misdeeds’ of his former boss while he was vice president. Then came Najaatu who went roaring after resigning as a director in the APC presidential campaign council, dishing out information about the personality of Bola Tinubu. What they said were like sour grapes and they set tongues wagging. In sum, the clouds are gathering, the storm is raging. Hatred has been planted into the hearts of the citizenry. 

Peacemakers are needed to wade in and help douse the tension in our land. Let it not be said that men and women of goodwill fiddled while our country boils. The ardent longing and prayer of all genuine peace lovers is first for a peaceful poll and secondly, a peaceful transition thereafter.

(This article was first published in February 2023)

Ikeano writes via [email protected] 08033077519