But the race to Aso Rock is largely between incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, of the People’s Democratic Party and Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler who is standing under the ticket of All Progressive Congress. All indications are that the poll will be hotly contested. This is good for democracy in that country, and Africa at large but what has also been the concern of many are fears for election violence. Sectarian differences in Nigeria have never been deadlier. Goodluck Jonathan who is seeking re-election has a large following from the non-Muslim population while reinvigorated Buhari enjoys endorsement from the Muslim population despite the latter’s attempt to present himself as a candidate of compromise with a former Lagos governor as his running mate. In fact, of all the eleven presidential aspirants, only Messrs Jonathan and Buhari did contest in the 2011 presidential elections.
Nigeria is a mirror of the paradox of Africa. It represents many things good and ugly in Africa. As Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria is the melting pot of digital technological transformation in Africa. This is not a surprise, for Nigeria has been a pacesetter in scientific evolution in Africa. In the study of secondary school general science, students in English speaking West Africa learn about Nana Pratt, a Nigerian woman chemist, as one of, if not the only African in the long list of scientists who have made scientific inventions. In the field of literature, the likes of Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe readily come to mind. Moreover, Nigeria has since independence been playing a big brother role in Africa. In the unrest in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Nigerian soldiers stood out. In The Gambia, owing to the dearth of skilled human capital required to steer the wheels of the country, especially after immediately after independence, Nigeria has been providing technical assistance in a wide range of fields, including law, education, health, and military. Even today, very few students in The Gambia would not experience a Nigerian teacher. In terms of economic muscle in Africa, Nigeria has recently overtaken South Africa as the biggest economy in Africa.
Unfortunately, all these positive attributes that are characteristic of Nigeria are overshadowed. Nigeria is more often than not, talked about in terms of poverty and corruption; a country where corrupt, bad people lead the country and take all the resources, while good people go hungry; a country that is synonymous to 419. With Boko Haram now added to the equation, the image of Nigeria cannot be any uglier. Misguided Islamists have torn apart a country that holds so much promise for Africa. The people there have become afraid of ordinary decency. As the country heads to the polls to elect a president next week, the focus has shifted from perennial problems of food, fuel and finance to Boko Haram.
Therefore, as Nigeria counts down, we join our own Fatou Bensouda in enjoining Nigeria’s political leaders and their followers to consolidate the peace pact they have signed. Elections, as we have witnessed in Africa, can be a recipe for violence. It happened in Kenya where the bruises of the 2007 post-election violence have not completely healed. Nigeria itself is not a stranger to bouts of violence during elections. In fact, some theories have it that Boko Haram was not borne out of religious grievances. It was a result of political greed by people who want to cling to power at all cost. This calls for Nigeria’s political leaders to put their country first before self. Any further violence would strengthen Boko Haram. We call on the African Union and Ecowas to not sit idly by. Mechanisms should today have already been in place to guide the election process in Nigeria. To our Nigerian brothers and sisters, we cross our fingers for you.]]>