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  For many Nigerians, among other things like revamping Nigeria’s ailing economy and taking her out of its economic woes, unifying the country that has been bitterly divided along religious and ethnic lines in the past seven years remains the most bothering issue that must be addressed by the next president of the country. While the country has 18 candidates vying for the highest office of the land, four have distinguished themselves as the leading candidates.
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They are Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). One of these men stands the chance, howbeit not equally, to take over from Muhammadu Buhari, whose regime has been dubbed as nepotistic and ethnically divisive. In the past seven years and ten months, many Nigerians have suffered severely under the administration of Muhammadu Buhari whose regime has only favoured his ethnic group, the Hausa-Fulani, especially in the areas of high-profile appointments. Many analysts like Mike Asukwo and Farook Kperoogi, argued that Buhari’s administration lowered the bar and weakened the country’s fragile unity with nepotistic governance and is responsible for the popularization of secessionist movements in the Southeast and Southwest. Analysts have claimed that meritocracy has been relegated to the background, and prebendalism has taken the centre stage under the regime of Buhari. Moreover, the marginalization of the Southern region of the country by the present government, especially the Southeast, has plunged the nation into inter-ethnic hate and bitterness that has never been witnessed since the civil war.  Following his official neglect of the Southeast, there have been revived calls for Biafran secession in the region by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Secessionism in the region has been manhandled with severe military crackdowns by the Buhari dictatorship government. While many have urged diplomacy and political solution to solving the Biafran Question, the administration deployed state power to crush agitators whose protests are a response to the official neglect and marginalization of their region. The Buhari regime has further detained leaders of secessionist movements in the persons of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu of the IPOB and Sunday Igboho of the Yoruba Nation. Utterances and dispositions of Buhari have further divided the country and sown resentment in the hearts of many, leading to national disillusionment. 
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Aside from dealing with secessionist movements severely, Buhari applied gunboat diplomacy against protesters at Lekki Toll gate. On the 20th of October, men of the Nigerian Army under the command of General Buhari opened fire on armless protesters at about 7 PM. The protest, mainly championed by Nigerian youths, was a call to end police brutality through the banning of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police with a long record of abuse on Nigerian citizens. This peaceful protest, which was conducted nationwide, was made under the #EndSARS movement but was sadly cut short when the Nigerian military opened fire on the youths at Lekki. This event built a great wall of distrust between the government and the youth. Hence, it is no longer news that many Nigerians are already disillusioned with the Nigerian project and have joined the people of the Southeast to either call for secession or restructuring so that all regions can have a sense of belonging.  As the nation sets to elect its next president in February 2023, the unity of Nigeria remains a frontline topical discussion that must be addressed urgently or risk the complete disintegration of the country. The four leading candidates have promised to unify the country in their campaigns, interviews, discussions and dispositions. For Rabiu Kwankwanso of the NNPP, who millions wished he had teamed up with Mr Peter Obi of the LP, to join forces together to squash the ruling party has indicated his position on Nigeria’s unity. Kwankwanso who many believed would toe the line of reasoning by zoning the presidency to the South by deputizing Peter Obi stated in an interview that “no northerner would vote for an Igbo man”. This statement received a lot of backlash as it was not only divisive but condescending to a region.  For Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, one can only describe him as a fraud that preaches restructuring in the South but plays ethnic politics in the North. While he has promised his southern supporters restructuring, Atiku who spoke at the Arewa Townhall Policy Dialogue in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, stated categorically,
“This is what the northerner needs. He (the northerner) doesn’t need a Yoruba candidate or an Igbo candidate. This is what the northerner needs. I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of northern origin.”
For Tinubu his infamous “Yoruba Lokan” which is translated as “It is the turn of the Yoruba for president” has only shown that the octogenarian is willing to play the tribal card to get his shot at the presidency. He has never stopped at ringing inflammatory rhetorics that are capable of setting the country on fire. Tinubu has occasionally campaigned in Yoruba to his Yoruba audience to vote for him not the account of his merit but on the account of his tribe. Therefore, the rhetoric and the disposition of Kwankwaso, Atiku, and Tinubu does in any way guarantee the peace and unity of Nigeria, which is the most important task that must be done by the next president. 
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It is important to note that their words ring loud of extreme and mindless desperation and such extremely desperate people cannot and must not be entrusted with the most important job of President – a job whose core duty is that of leading, uniting, and working in the best interest of all in an ethnoreligious pluralistic society as Nigeria. The nation does not need this kind of highly inflammable rhetoric now or ever. What is even more confounding is that one of the presidential candidates, Atiku, has trumpeted himself to be on a mission to unify Nigeria. Finally, Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party at various times and in various places have asked all candidates to refrain from inflammatory speeches and stick to issue-based campaigns, which are uniting the country and leading her out of her economic woes. Also, Mr Peter Obi who spoke at the Assemblies of God Church Annual Peniel held at the Church’s Evangel Camp in Ebonyi in a predominantly Igbo audience told Nigerians not to vote for him because he is an Igbo man, but to vote for him based on his track records as former governor of Anambra State. While his opponents continue to stoke ethnic sentiments to garner votes, Mr Obi remains the man who charges Nigerians to vote based on competence, capacity and character.  If the prayer and desire of Nigerians are to have a president who can heal the country and unify her in the face of disunity and near disintegration, then there is an answer in the person of Mr Peter Obi.  Featured Image Source: Businessday NG
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This article was first published on 1st November 2022

nnaemeka-emmanuel

Nnaemeka is an academic scholar with a degree in History and International Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is also a creative writer, content creator, storyteller, and social analyst.


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