The Nigerian Voter is a series that seeks to understand the motivations that drive the voting decisions of Nigerians — why they vote, how they choose their candidates, why some have never voted, and their wildest stories around elections.

This week’s subject of The Nigerian Voter is Umar, a tech freelancer in his early twenties who refuses to vote because none of the 2023 presidential candidates are worthy of his standards.

Have you ever voted before?

No, and I don’t plan on voting anytime soon.

What made you take this decision?

I don’t think Nigeria has gone forward over the years, except when Yar’Adua came on, but he died too soon. I don’t see the point in voting when I know whoever is coming in is going to be the same as, or worse than, the last government. 

How did Yar’Adua stand out for you? 

It was the models he had in mind — his seven-point agenda felt so packed and comprehensive. One could see how he was trying to unify Nigeria with the peace treaty with the Niger Delta boys. He was a man who tried to make Nigeria function as a single unit. I feel every candidate should be able to transcend every form of tribal bias that Nigerians have come to accept.

Were there any other factors that stood out for you?

Honestly, trying to sign the peace treaty with the Niger Delta was a huge step because the Niger Delta was, and still is, a huge revenue point for us. I also feel that as Yar’Adua went on, he would have addressed the issues of education, power, and some other issues. 

I believe if we have power as a country, it’ll drive industrialisation and production, which is what the success of an economy is all about. What can you offer other parts of the world in exchange for money? I feel he’d have solved all these during his time. 

Others that came after him haven’t lived up to that. Look at Jonathan’s time, for instance. People felt they were enjoying his tenure, but he just ended up eating away all of our reserves. Nigeria is still a young country compared to the United States, or the United Kingdom, so we can still get it right but with the right orientation. We need a Nigerian who can think of the future and not just the present. We also need a president who can sacrifice for this country.

I’m curious about what you think of Buhari

Buhari was very sluggish when he came into the office. He had contested in three elections before he won but choosing his cabinet took a long time. You don’t start to find soldiers when you’re already on your way to the battlefield. You’re meant to know who can do what, with their administrative capacity and what not. 

However, I believe he was trying for some time, and then came the issue of his health. I feel that after he came back from his medical trip to the UK, that was just the end of Buhari’s government. 

What does your dream president look like?

The first characteristic has to be a good track record of good governance. Whoever you’ve managed or whichever portfolio you have, I’d ask myself  — was this person a visionary, or was this person just following orders? Some people make it to the top, but they still have nothing to offer.

This is part of the reason I believed in Buhari at some point, because of his track record in the military regime. But then, we saw that he couldn’t replicate what he did in a democracy, because it’s trickier. And if I’m to be very honest, Nigeria isn’t ready for democracy. We’re very unruly and we’re always trying to cut corners. I feel that democracy is made for people with a sane orientation, people that follow rules.

So, you don’t think you’ll ever vote? 

Eventually, if I ever see someone who truly has Nigeria at heart, then I know I’m going to vote. The frontrunners right now all have bad records. These are people I know I don’t want to vote for, so I just choose to stay neutral.

What do you have against the frontrunners?

Let’s start with Peter Obi. The people of Anambra can fully attest to whether he did good work in the state or not. Now, I feel he’s made the election saga turn into a tribal game. I don’t believe in that, as I’m from the North-Central.

With Tinubu and the system of thuggery in Lagos, I fear how the country would be if he becomes president. Nigeria would be in ruins. Atiku is the least favourite for me because that man has nothing to offer Nigeria.

But Peter Obi seems aligned with your positions. Why not him still?

I don’t think he left Anambra in a good state. And as for him leaving money in his cabinet when he left office, how’s that a good thing? How can there be famine in the land and you’re saving all the farm produce? Some of these things don’t make sense. I feel it was just a ploy to gain followers for when he runs for the presidency. The person I’d choose as president is Babatunde Fashola. If he says now that he’s running for the presidency, I’ll definitely get my Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and vote for him.

Why does Fashola deserve your vote?

I was in Lagos when he was governor, and I believe he’s someone who would be able to manage Nigeria’s resources adequately. I feel he has the administrative ability to rule the country. 

When he saw a gap in the transportation system and commuting wasn’t all that easy, what did he do? He introduced the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system. During his time, Lagos was as clean and as safe as could be. What else do I need asides from security, good roads, and an effective transportation system? 

Have you considered candidates from lesser-known parties?

The problem is they’re not frontrunners. In Nigeria, it’s mostly a two-party system if we tell ourselves the truth. This is the first time we can see someone from a smaller party as part of the frontrunners. I also feel if there was a candidate that was from a smaller party, had a good track record, and also had the same hype as Peter Obi, I’d vote for him.

Since you’re not voting, are you willing to live with the consequences of whoever becomes president?

Even if I had a candidate in mind and I vote, and others don’t have the same mindset as me, he wouldn’t win. I believe Nigeria is going to get it right someday. Even if I leave the country, I’d most likely just study and come back. If I wanted to japa, I’d have done it long before now. Nigeria would be better if we know that all the tribalistic madness can be done away with. But with the high level of illiteracy in the country, I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon.

I know that no one man can change Nigeria alone. Whoever becomes the next president, we’d all be here to enjoy the rewards or suffer the consequences.


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