The polls will open in about four weeks to elect a President for Nigeria, one that will lead Nigeria into the Eldorado that every Nigerian is looking forward to with so much hope. As it is natural, every Nigerian has a choice from the pack of 18 candidates that have been jostling for their votes.
Though they are 18, only four are seen to be serious. The rest may just be on the ballot for the sake of being there. They will make no impact in the election, though they will still have some votes wasted on them.
However, the most interesting thing about the forthcoming election is that almost every Nigerian is looking forward to a Nigeria different from the one they already know, as a consequence of their investment in the election of one of the frontrunners.
And, if we analyze expectations from Nigerians of the post-Muhammadu Buhari Nigeria, one is easy to conclude that Nigerians are actually expecting a jinni for a President.
A jinni, in Arabic mythology, is a spirit that appears magically with the capacity to fulfill every person’s wish. That is exactly who many Nigerians, especially the youth, expect to become their president. They expect him to just happen on the leadership of the country and decree the good life into being.
It is unfortunate that Nigeria has come full cycle with poor leadership. And the desire to exit that state of leadership led to the support that Buhari got in 2015.
Many Nigerians, especially her youths, backed Buhari because of the impression created of him, of a superhuman who is imbued with magical powers to decree a new Nigerian into being. He was seen as the only one who had the capacity to erase that thing called corruption from the surface of Nigeria. He was believed to be the only man born of a woman who has the capacity to order petrol subsidy out of existence.
Many youths believed that he was the only Nigerian who abhorred the good life and as such will never travel overseas for medical care and will transform Nigerian from a third world to a classic first world, within months in office.
Well, the reality eventually dawned. However, Nigerians seem not to have learned any lessons from the reality of the 2015-2023 era. This is a reality that has forced the ruling party to distance itself from itself and further seek the validation of Nigerians to rescue Nigeria from its own grip.
This is a reality that many Nigerians prefer to be blind to. For them, it is about electing a jinni who, from his first day in office, will decree every state capital to become like New York and every local government headquarters to become like London. For many Nigerians, especially the youths, the next election is about picking an ubermensche who, with a stroke of his pen, will write off Nigeria’s $98.6 billion debt and liberate the country from donor’s headaches.
For many too, it is about electing someone who, by a dint of jinni magic, would decree uninterruptible electricity and make insecurity history. Many Nigerians want a man who, by bodily swagger, will force the pump price of petroleum products back to pre-2015 days; they want someone whose sighs are just enough to gift every Nigerian youth a job.
Well, the reality is that no jinni ever gets to become president. They exist only in mythology. And that is why by the end of next month, Nigerians will elect a human being as President –one who has blood running in his veins and one who has equal capacity for good and bad deeds.
The human being who takes after Buhari will be a moral being who could act wrongly and who also, could act rightly. He will be someone who struggles to sustain a balance between the two extreme poles of good and evil. And, of course, he will be someone who lacks the capacity to turn Nigeria into the Eldorado that many expect within eight years. No nation ever achieved that within such a short time.
This is where Nigeria’s youths need to begin to moderate their expectations and seek to strike a balance between exuberance and pure reason.
This has become imperative because most of the views expressed about the sort of human being that ought to lead Nigeria into the next four years have largely been imaginative. Many look forward to a superhuman being who would override everything that we call the problem of building a nation and automatically change the country even without adherence to constitutional provisions and the rule of law.
This expectation is not different from the calls made in 2015, in support of Buhari, for the suspension of the constitution and granting him absolute powers to enable him to transform Nigeria.
The fact, however, is that Nigeria will not be led by a jinni. It will have a human being as President. One that will work with the very strict Nigerian constitution and as such will find it very difficult to swing expected transformational changes unless he is able to adopt a more diplomatic approach in achieving the support and buy-in of the state governors for certain changes to happen. To make this possible, it is much easier to unlock certain national chains and restructure the Nigerian polity, and economy, if the majority of the National Assembly, and indeed, the State Houses of Assembly, are of the same political platform as the president and are also desirous of leading change. Outside this, we may still roll by crying.
It is therefore imperative that Nigerians moderate their expectations from the next administration.
Though it does not look to be exactly like the outgoing government, the reality suggests that the road to Eldorado is still very far away. Whoever takes over from Buhari will certainly try to make adjustments but the law of cause and effect will not fail. Even the incurable optimist knows that whatever decisions a new government takes within its first six months -when people are most likely to accept a new government’s hard decisions- the effects will not be immediately seen. This will likely breed more discontent, more disappointments, and more anger among the youth. So, while we expect a president who will wave a magic wand and get everything fixed like a jinni, it is also imperative for us to grow our shock absorbers and be prepared for the worse because things won’t get easier just immediately.
The results of a restructured economy and polity cannot be instant.