I have been accused of being unnecessarily anti-establishment. I suppose I am, it’s the circles I run in these days; it’s fashionable to be contrary and leftist enough to alarm your parents. At home, I pontificate on why I’m not voting for X, Y and Z and why I’m voting A, B, or C. And my family watches me in a mixture of admiration and pity. Admiration from the ones who are ineligible to vote and who can’t wait to hold such ‘eloquent opinions’ on nation-building. And pity from the older ones. Pity.
On Saturday, I proudly took my place at the polling booth to get accredited before the elections started. And behind me, a conversation started between two men, roughly my father’s age. The first announced that this was the first time he was voting since he arrived Lagos and that he’d registered to vote only because Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was running for President. If it had been yet another northerner running on the PDP platform, he’d not have bothered registering. He mentioned that he liked the president for his humility, his apparent sincerity and his down-to-earthiness. The second replied that he was Yoruba, and he was voting a South-South President because he thought the Niger Deltans had endured enough ‘sufferment’ at the hands of our leaders. He understood that Lagos, Abuja and some parts of the North had been developed with oil money and he considered it only fair that the South South get a shot at the Presidency.
I confess these are opinions that would never have occurred to me. And hearing them voiced out made me consider just what Dr. Goodluck Jonathan means to ‘regular Nigerians’, the everyday, hustling masses who make up a majority of this country. Many people identify with him and consider him their Obama (disadvantaged guy pulls himself up by his boot-strings). He is an inspiration. Fine, he may not have campaigns I consider “intelligent”. True, he hasn’t outlined his policies or displayed the sort of backbone I’d expect from a President (and Ijaw to boot! Why, oh why, did he evade that debate?). But he represents an ideal for the Nigerian people, and that at least is more than I can say for the other candidates. Besides, I (and people who think like me and are won over by passionate, intellectual, quite moving oratory) are a minority in this country. Why would he want to appeal to us when he has a bigger, less quarrelsome, not so finicky majority to win over?
On a parallel note, most of my older friends and cousins(about ten years older) are voting Jonathan for other reasons. Ironically, they like that he doesn’t seem to getting on fabulously with the Niger Delta militants. It shows that he’s not about pleasing the Niger Delta people, they say. He’s more oriented towards the nation as a whole, they think. Some of my friends, are just virulently anti-northerner. We’ll vote anyone, even a foreigner before we vote another northerner into power. Some people just want to ‘tap into his anointing’. Lol! And some of them like the cabinet reshuffle he’s done, that he’s made a genuine campaign effort and that he ‘seems’ to be pro-democracy and anti-rigging.
And a weird thought occurred. If Jonathan loses this election, it would mean that he did not put his political will and presidential might behind somehow manipulating the results to favour himself. In that case, it would make him a good person and just the right sort of leader we need. Catch-22, anyone? Of course, if he wins it doesn’t automatically follow that he must have rigged. But if he loses…hmmm.
Let there be no mistake. I’m still not voting Dr. Jonathan. This is a democracy and I’m allowed to support opposition parties. But this is me withdrawing every uncharitable thing I ever said about him/his campaign. For all his flaws, he’s given people a reason to vote. And cliché as it might sound, he’s given people hope. One man at the polling booth said, with something akin to wonder in his voice, “He went to school without shoes and now he’s President. I’ve named my son Goodluck…”
I wish the President all the luck his name implies, in the coming election.