So, while Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose became the first aspirant to officially declare intention to run for the position of Nigeria’s president in 2019 on Thursday, September 28, 2017, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, was in another part of Abuja announcing the timetable for the 2019 General Elections.
INEC appears to be excited for the season as the commission already started a countdown on its website, indicating that the election is only 504 days away.
Even though many of us were hoping to survive 2017 before the feverish scramble for the country’s political offices kicks off next year, it might have sneaked up on us already.
We all know what happens now, but in case you haven’t gotten the memo yet, here are five things to expect as the 2019 elections are only days away:
1. Buhari attack adverts
The attack ads against President Muhammadu Buhari in the run up to the 2015 presidential elections were pretty rough, weren’t they?
The most controversial one against him was an AIT documentary that was eventually withdrawn over the furore it caused with its alleged inaccuracy and the mention of the president’s deceased daughter, Zulaiha Buhari, who reportedly suffered from a sickle cell disease.
The president’s two-year long tenure has pretty much armed his opponents with a wealth of ammunition to lob at him to discredit a reelection bid.
He has not officially confirmed if he’ll be seeking reelection in 2019, something his own minister has already exploited to cause him embarrassment, but it’s still widely expected to happen.
When it does, the president’s health situation is sure to be a topic to come up a lot especially since he’s spent more days for medical treatment outside the country this year than he’s spent inside it.
Nigerians should brace for that ugliness.
2. Lack of XX chromosomes
When Professor Remi Sonaiya‘s name appeared on the ballot paper for the 2015 presidential elections, it was an unprecedented development.
The 62-year-old educationalist won only 0.05% of the total votes cast with her 13,076 votes a far cry from the 15,424,921 that paved the way for President Buhari.
Although it’d be a misguided exaggeration to say she lost the election solely because she’s a woman, it was a very notable factor in her overall performance at the polls.
That she lacked political experience for the office surely didn’t help, but the dismissive response to her presence offers a telling insight into the fate of women in Nigerian politics, most especially for elective positions.
More of that is expected for the 2019 elections, sadly, as women continue to be held back by a broken system.
3. The shadow of Donald Trump
He might be thousands of miles across mountains and seas away, but the shadow of United States president, Donald Trump, is going to loom largely on Nigeria’s presidential campaign come next year.
Governor Fayose has stirred that hornet’s nest already, comparing his chances of winning the election to America’s Tweeter-in-Chief on his Twitter account yesterday.
In a lot of ways, he’s right to compare himself to Trump as they’re both aggressive populists who pander to base instincts with an inflated sense of their own achievements, but that’s where it ends.
While others won’t necessarily co-opt Trump’s image to act brand new, they will most certainly use a phrase he’s helped make very popular: FAKE NEWS!
Donald Trump might not be Nigerian, but with the way his name is expected to come up a lot during Nigeria’s election season, he might as well throw his red hat in the ring and Make Nigeria Great…for…the first time(?).
4. Bigotry Olympics
Speaking of base instincts, deep ethnic sentiment is an iconic feature of election season in Nigeria.
During Fayose’s declaration ceremony on Thursday, former Osun state gubernatorial candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore, said he’s supporting the Ekiti governor’s bid because he’s a Yoruba man first before being a Nigerian.
That disturbingly normalised sentiment is going to echo loudly across all different sections of the country as each region will see ethnicity first before actual candidate’s competence, and some of it will devolve into dangerous professions of bigotry that’s a national treasure at this point.
In the end, nobody wins when the tribes feud.
Well, except the innocent politicians who definitely will not manipulate that discourse to help themselves. (They will.)
5. Ridiculous campaign slogans
“Change The Change”
“Here Comes The Only Saviour”
“Together We Can Make Nigeria Work Again”
“The Last Bus Stop”
If you already think this is going to be too much for your mental health, start looking for a rock to crawl under because it’s going to be a bumpy next 504 days.
Those who gave reasons @realDonaldTrump won't be POTUS know better now. I want to be President of Nigeria, that's what I will be.
— Peter Ayodele Fayose (@GovAyoFayose) September 28, 2017