Today’s article was inspired by a real life e-battle between learned colleagues of mine. These individuals spent six years together, peacefully attending lectures as students of the same department. Suddenly, battle lines have been drawn, and if not for the electronic nature of WhatsApp, some persons would have suffered unwarranted facial redesign.
The battle by these colleagues would appear isolated. However, as a microcosm of the society, it shows a dangerous mind-set that has silently crept into the minds of millions of Nigerians.
Nigeria is in the midst of a massive election season. The 2015 General Elections have been duly recognised, as a “make or break” point for Africa’s most populous cum largest economy. An egregious prediction by America’s John Campbell lurks in the shadows as a bogeyman waiting for an opportunity to devour this country. It is therefore understandable why emotions are running high at this time.
Time is one thing that never stays at a point. Unlike the ever-dynamic change, which can be positive or negative, time always moves forward. From independence, time has taken Nigeria through different regimes—democratic, pseudo-democratic and military. Since May 1999, the PDP has held the reins of power in the country. Diverse juries are still out on how much the PDP has performed or underperformed so far.
Time has now brought Nigeria to murky crossroads—more of the PDP, or a switch to something else. Amongst the presidential candidates cleared to contest, two stand out—the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, representing the PDP, and fourth time contestant, former military head of state, Muhammadu Buhari, carrying the APC’s banner. The PDP scream “Transformation”, while the APC chant “Change”. Synonyms that illustrate what Nigerians want. What both sides are not saying is that, “This is War!”
As both sides prepare for their Election Day contest cum fight, different high-octane wars are being fought around the country. The belligerents are unaccommodating supporters of both leading candidates. People have become so opinionated, that they see anyone with an opposing view as dumb, or better put, as the devil.
In the WhatsApp battle described earlier, the grouse was that one person said he did not see the two frontline candidates as being fit for the position, and would rather vote for a less-known candidate, irrespective of whether that candidate has any realistic chance of winning. Immediately, criticisms came from those who felt every Nigerian must choose from one of the two frontline candidate, or in fact, must vote for their “own” preferred candidate.
Then began a highly vitriolic debate in which some responders clearly stated that all other candidates apart from Jonathan and Buhari, were pretenders, not contenders. Insults were unequivocally thrown at those with divergent opinions. For each of the combatants, it was very simple—“anyone who does not vote for “my” candidate is an enemy of Nigeria, and does not seek well for the country”.
As the war continued on WhatsApp, I thought about those who I have heard say that, “anyone who votes for Jonathan is a fool that would never progress in life”. At the other end of the spectrum, I have heard another person say “any graduate who votes for Buhari should go and burn his certificate”. Some others have branded opposing supporters as enemies of Christianity, or enemies of Islam. Someone else was asked whether he was blind, just because he asked another person to give reasons why he should vote for Buhari. Another person posted on Facebook that he had warned his dependents not to vote for Jonathan; else, he would leave them in the lurch. The wars continue unabated all over the country.
The wars are fuelled by the inability of many persons to understand what it means to have different opinions. Intolerance leads to one side attempting to force another to agree with their views. It is one thing to convince someone, but it is a totally different thing to compel someone. For many, their modus operandi is compulsion. Intolerance ignores convincing points in favour of ad hominem arguments and blatant trading of insults.
Many Nigerians fail to realise that we expect to remain a country after the elections. These wars would lead us nowhere. Evil seeds of enmity are being sown now. What would they produce after the elections? The bad blood being generated would do Nigeria and Nigerians no good. After the elections, everyone is expected to put away differences and work for the betterment of Nigeria. How can that be possible if you see the next person as the devil? Obviously, no one would want to work with the devil, as a popular idiom advises the use of a long spoon when dining with the devil. That long spoon denotes distrust. How can we work together if there is no trust? Can two walk together except they agree?
It is okay to have personal opinions, and we must acknowledge that every other person has the same right as we do. If only Nigerians can embrace sportsmanship, see the elections as a contest for the betterment of the nation, and disband the winner-takes-all mentality that engenders strife.
While INEC prepares the arena for the March 28 and April 11 contests, let’s end the wars, so that come May 29, 2015, we would still remain as one democratic nation under God.
PS: Please also read Different Lenses – One World. Tolerance is key to peaceful progress.