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 Ezechukwu*, a retiree in his early sixties who has voted seven times from 1993 to 2019 and has been utterly disappointed by all the candidates he ever voted for.
Have you ever voted?
Seven times, in fact. I voted in 1993 — the M.K.O. Abiola election — 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019.
Wow. What was your first experience like?
I voted for Abiola in 1993 because he seemed to be very prepared. That man travelled around regions helping people and assisting communities. He was also able to connect with Nigerians through his love of football — I believe he was the head of the Nigerian Olympics committee at the time. He also awarded scholarships to university students. I believe these were part of the things that made him popular.
It’s not a surprise he won that election, he even won his opponent Bashir Tofa’s local government area in Kano. There was no internet facility for that election, it was tube wires that very few people had. Even though Abiola and his running mate were Muslims, people loved them.
Unfortunately, General Ibrahim Babangida — the Head of State at the time — annulled the election. That was even the first time I ever heard the word “annulled.” I can remember the nationwide protests that happened in my area and all over Nigeria because the hopes of many were dashed. Honestly, that’s the only free and fair election I ever had.
Did things change in 1999?
There was a clamour for democratic rule at that time. I voted for Olusegun Obasanjo of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) because I believed he’d be able to lead Nigeria right due to his belief in the democratic system and past military experience. I also believed in democracy so much because that’s what books and public speakers taught us to believe. But then again, I was disappointed. The level of corruption during Obasanjo’s time was too much.
But I voted for him again in 2003. I wanted to give him a second chance, but I think the man just made up his mind to be worse than his military counterparts in civilian rule.
Did you get a fresh start in 2007?
I voted for Yar’Adua because he seemed to be a better civilian president, but sadly didn’t live long enough. He implemented some things I liked such as the Niger Delta peace treaty. It’s such a shame he died.
I felt Jonathan would carry on the good work of Yar’Adua and voted for him in 2011. I can remember standing in the sun just to vote and yet, I was disappointed when he came into power with more corruption. All these politicians are just devils.
I voted for Buhari in the 2015 elections. It was a time of high insecurity and I was scared to go out to vote at first because I was afraid of getting shot. Looking back now, I wish I didn’t vote because I now realise there was a lot of deceit and falsehood in that election. So many beautiful promises, especially of the dollar to a naira exchange rate, never got fulfilled.
Did that change anything for 2019?
I still voted for the Buhari government thinking things could improve. In fact, the rain beat my wife and I just because we wanted to exercise our right to vote. But I’m not seeing any improvements still. The poor state of security and infrastructure hasn’t changed. I remember traveling from Lagos to Makurdi in my younger days but that kind of trip is a death wish now.
I hate the way elections are intriguing, with songs and different stories and rivalries. But once you vote, that person will be sure to disappoint. And this is what’ll still happen with those three frontrunners for 2023 election. Any of them that gets into power will surely disappoint.
How are you so sure about that?
I’ve voted in seven elections in my lifetime, and with the exception of Yar’Adua, all of them disappointed. They all said that Nigeria would be better but it still isn’t. I’m definitely not voting for any of the candidates come 2023 because I don’t want to be disappointed again.
Which election is your favourite?
It’s definitely the 1993 election, and this was because of the Option A4 form. I believe if we continued to use this, it would have brought about a very great system of governance.
What’s the Option A4 form?
Before you campaign as a presidential candidate, the Option A4 form would be passed round your ward for indigenes to vote for you, then your local government area, then your state and even your political party before you finally kickstart national campaigns. But all these levels must vote for you or approve of you running for president using the Option A4 form before you can proceed to the next stage. That system makes sure whoever is campaigning is capable of the job and has a good track record. But now, any godfather can just step in and put his preferred candidate on the ballot.
What’s your least favourite thing about the electoral process?
Vote-buying. I hate the way politicians can buy off a whole village to win an election. It’s largely due to the high level of poverty. I also hate the use of thugs to harass you into voting. I really hate it.
What would you like the next government to change about Nigeria?
First of all, I’d like for the government to be objective. For instance, I know Buhari doesn’t interfere with elections — PDP wouldn’t have won in Osun State. The next president should also be that way. Let the campaigns run their course.
I’d also like the naira to dollar exchange rate to change, and I want to feel safe travelling from one state to another without issues. The next government should try and be sincere about the real state of insecurity in Nigeria.
If the next government can put aside its self-interest, the country will be a better place.