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Peter Obi
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people  — Karl Marx
For those who care to know, Nigeria is not only bedevilled by corruption embedded in our cultural instincts but also by the toxicity of ethnicity, tribalism and religious bigotry. Because of these monsters, public accountability is measured and demanded based on the ethnic group and the religion you profess. Even in cases where the number one job and duty of the state is to punish and reprimand crime and wrong-doing, these twin monsters could exonerate publicly caught criminals with a fiat. It is not surprising, therefore, that for all the clueless policies the current regime has melted to Nigeria, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and his cronies are not being held to account.
Therefore, crime and wrong-doing in public institutions are given meaning depending on the social and cultural group one belongs. This phenomenon aligns with Criminologist Nils Christie in his work, A suitable amount of crime (2004), where he argued that there is no crime; that crime only exists as an act defined by social frameworks and identities. In Nigeria, crime and criminality are often shaped by the identities of tribe and religion. The centralisation of tribe and religion in our public policy, politics and regrettably in elections has been Nigeria’s greatest undoing. This is not to argue against the imperative of religion, which should act as a guiding moral template for our public institutions. Rather,  the deployment of religion to catapult incompetent, corrupt persons into positions of authority is highly disingenuous to our democracy. Ronald E. Thiemann in his book, Religion in Public Life: A Dilemma for Democracy, while x-raying the nexus between religion and politics, stressed that the idea of political liberalism compels both the separation of religion from politics in terms of practice and the relation of religion to politics in view of a consensus moral guide.
As the 2023 presidential election draws closer: the country is sick; Buhari is tired and willing to go home and retire back to his hometown in Daura, Katsina. Aso Rock was a sort of retirement home. Old age is good and enjoyable but after experiencing Buhari, Nigerians should resist the temptation of electing another septuagenarian, who will turn the presidential villa into a retirement abode. Such candidates won’t be able to address any of the challenges the country is confronting at this critical juncture.
A vote for the All Progressive Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party cannot guarantee that Boko Haram and ISWAP will not carry out their threat. Nigeria needs a neutral face that can deal a heavy blow to terrorism.
Beyond the threats from religious fundamentalists, for 62 years, the corrupt Nigerian political elites in the major parties have not been able to fix roads, education, electricity, agriculture, housing, food and security and healthcare; no innovation, creativity and a galvanising aggregation of the nation for greatness. The only excellent mark achieved is looting. The elites are busy hiding dark money and slush funds while impoverishing Nigeria and its citizens. Some Nigerian politicians are even richer in property than the Catholic Church.
In July, Ogochukwu Alika, a physically challenged street vendor, was brutally murdered in broad daylight in Italy for stretching his goods too close to an Italian woman. The woman’s Italian husband had to kill Alika. The Italian racist killed Alika because Nigeria failed him woefully. The political elites who are supposed to govern Nigeria for the betterment of every citizen will rather loot the resources for themselves and their families and take such loot abroad, leaving the likes of Alika in misery. Italy is not richer than Nigeria in terms of human and natural resources, but their political elites are wise, not wicked. In Nigeria, political elites propped up by fraudulent and rigged elections are protected and shielded by the evils of tribe and religion and are only concerned with ravaging the country. Therefore, the 2023 presidential election provides an opportunity for Nigerians to change the status quo—take back the country from the kleptos; fight, not engage in violence, but participate in the 2023 presidential election, vote the right presidential candidate and defend your vote.

Again, if we are tired of the evil of corruption, insecurity, terrorism, lack of infrastructure, unemployment, joblessness and criminality in public spaces, we should throw away the monstrous sentiments of tribalism and religious alignment to support the most competent and people-oriented presidential candidate in the 2023 election. Any mistake in voting the wrong presidential candidate, Nigeria may dive into a dire situation beyond our present quagmire. The presidential candidates—Labour Party’s Peter Obi,  APC’s Bola Tinubu and PDP’s Atiku Abubakar—have their strengths and weaknesses, but because it is crucial that Nigerians clear the Austen Table, it will be suicidal for Nigerians to vote old politicians of yesteryear.
When you consider age, competence, track records, capacity to govern and stay the course, and accountability to the people then Obi comes top between Tinubu and Atiku. Tinubu has the capacity to govern but age is not on his side. The experiences of Buhari’s years make a Tinubu presidency scary. Also, Tinubu’s life is shrouded in controversy. More fundamentally, APC’s decision to fly a Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket is indicative that the party has a hidden agenda for Nigeria. The insensitivity to the more than 100 million Christians in Nigeria is a serious cause for alarm.
Atiku is an astute politician with a vast network and stoic political machinery; he’s also more liberal than Buhari. But it will be a great injustice should a northerner be given the Nigerian Presidency in 2023 after eight excruciating years of the Buhari regime. Why should the South-East which has been supporting PDP far more than the North-East be denied the presidency under the fraudulent excuse of “let’s get power first?” Considering his age, will Waziri be physically agile to pursue the rigorous work required of the oval office?
In his work, The Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Rights, written in 1843, Karl Marx, a German sociologist and economic theorist represented in the opening quote, sort to deconstruct the dialectical theory of alienation revolving within the state, civil and political societies. Just like tribe and ethnicity, Marx reasoned that religion was an instrument deployed in the public sphere to weaponise and instrumentalise divisions within the state. Similarly, as Marx postulated, for 108 years since Nigeria’s amalgamation, 62 years since independence and 23 years since the return to democracy, tribe and religion have been incentivised as a toxicant for social control in Nigeria’s political and electoral systems, all for the wrong reasons.
With our votes, we have rejected individuals with competence, sincerity, transparency and capacity to govern, while electing corrupt, tribalists and quintessentially clueless folks into Nigeria’s presidency. The country is now in great ruin and the people left in penury.
Elections carry consequences; elections are instruments for reward and punishment; you reward politicians who have done well and punished the bad ones. Since 1999, we have not had good. In 2023, let’s vote for competence and sincerity of purpose which Obi represents. Otherwise, we will be using our bare hands to truncate and short-change Nigeria. Nigeria’s destiny is now in our votes and the choices we make.

  • Obi, a journalist and researcher, writes from Abuja
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