I arrived in Ilorin on Monday evening because of a most tragic family death, that’s shocked our entire community. My original plan was to arrive a few days before we go to the polls; but the passing of Her Worship Mariam Kawu-Said hastened my return to Ilorin. This tragedy enveloped us all but the community was also bursting at the seams with the undercurrents of the political situation in the country, with the admixture of the strange economic environment, similarly providing a ghostly backdrop to the last days before Nigeria goes to the polls. If existential issues predominate in talk and attitude, politics is also not too far from the surface of general concerns amongst people in our community.
The title of this piece has actually been taken from overhearing two people in conversation in the solemn setting of the fidau prayers on Tuesday morning. They had obviously been exchanging views about the political situation, and that statement became the defining summary of the exchange. It struck me that the two guys, in their exchange, have actually spoken to the general feeling, not only at the gathering but in most parts of our country. I say that honourably, as a watcher of the Nigerian sociopolitical space, and passionately, as a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council.
The past few weeks have been some of the most difficult in Nigeria, and the angst is palpable. The harebrained currency redesign and exchange process has let loose despair that is frightening. And as different cities report the expression of frustration, in the touching of banks and financial institutions, the stubborn insistence by the government and the monetary authority to stick to their guns, offered a very depressing backdrop to the final days of the political campaigns.
But what has also seeped to the surface of the murky waters of politics is the way that the situation which looked like a liability for the APC ticket, has flipped, and become the harbinger of an unusual streak of empathy for the party, but especially the Tinubu-Shettima ticket. Nigerians have seen through the smokescreen of excuses about the difficulties around the currency issue. The feeling that there’s an effort to torpedo the APC ticket has become so strong around Nigeria, and the response is that groundswell of empathy and a determination to vote, despite the hardships. That was the determination which the exchange I overheard, spoke so lucidly for.
Nigerians are far smarter than many politicians and observers are willing to admit. In their summation of all that’s transpired, the government of the day has been, increasingly and neatly, separated from the APC ticket in most people’s minds. That is why there’s been an incredible surge in the feeling for the Tinubu-Shettima ticket over the past few weeks.
What was turning out to be an albatross at the onset has now become the basis for renewal of commitment to the message of the APC and the magnetism of the candidates. These were conveyed most vividly in the outpouring of emotions at the Maiduguri rally and the finale in Lagos. In those two locations, Nigerians spoke very eloquently about their preference. And that was further underscored when President Muhammadu Buhari raised aloft the hands of the APC candidates in Lagos. It was the symbolic passing of the victory touch. This is an election that Tinubu-Shettima will win comfortably!
And why won’t they? They have traversed Nigeria in a way that expressed their determination not only to win but also with a clear perspective about what they are offering the Nigerian people when they commence governance. Campaigning across a huge country like ours is a very punishing process, and seeing how the duo navigated from plain to creek, savannah to the forest region, with an unusual level of energy, put to lie so many assumptions.
For me, a most poignant point of the criss-cross around Nigeria must be the trip to Birnin-Gwari, eight hours to and from Kaduna. That trip underscored a commitment to the agenda at hand and a determination to experience first hand the lived reality of one of our most troubled communities. By doing that trip, the Tinubu-Shettima tag team made a statement that was not lost to the Nigerian people. This is a ticket that cares, and it was also demonstrating that the people would be at the centre of its actions in governance. That fact surely wasn’t lost even to the putative and badly disordered opposition.
Fast forward to the last few weeks, and the very assured response of the ticket, the APC, our governors, other leaders, and stakeholders, to the difficulties enveloping the country, in the wake of the monetary crisis, further strengthened faith amongst a broad swathe of Nigerians that the ticket should not be made the strawman for the iniquities associated with the suffering that all are dealing with. If that was the intention of the designers of the monetary policy, then it is not likely to affect the ticket negatively as they envisaged.
At the finale in Lagos, Bola Tinubu reminded the excited crowd that vote we all must, even if we don’t have money in our pockets, nor petrol in our vehicles. The appreciative response spoke to the determination to vote. This is a defining moment in recent history in our country’s democratic journey. Warts and all, we are consolidating the democratic process in Nigeria. And even when there’s still that frightening pall that’s often cast upon every electoral cycle, it’s clear that the electoral literacy in Nigeria is very high, and the Nigerian people know who stands for their best interests. That’s why doomsday scenarios are so much off mark. Nigerians will exercise their franchise freely, and it’s looking clearer by the minute that their votes would massively be delivered to the APC candidates.
The entire political trajectory of the APC’s Tinubu-Shettima ticket reflects the deepest connection with the people. There was Tinubu’s incredible work in Lagos; his visionary creation of an ambience of progress; the laying of the building blocks of development upon which successors have continuously built. Similarly, Shettima defied some of the most horrifying security challenges, to create a new platform for Borno in every area of human development as well as in transformation of infrastructure, and he capped that with the recruitment of a successor, who knew that continuity was vital to progress. It was, therefore, no accident that Tinubu and Shettima became the flag bearers for the APC. It’s certainly a match made for Nigeria’s progress.
That is the message that was taken around Nigeria over the past few months of an intense campaign, which connected so well with the people. The message is very clear, it is loud, and it is certainly unambiguous. On Saturday, February 25th, 2023, the Nigerian people will vote massively for the APC ticket; and Tinubu-Shettima will win. I’m not just saying so; that’s the overwhelming feeling of the Nigerian people. We are getting ready to celebrate a defining electoral triumph. But more importantly, Tinubu and Shettima are very much prepared for leadership. Indeed, Nigeria’s time has arrived!