I’m not much of a political commentator, but it just seems to me like there’s something different about Nigeria in 2011. Maybe it’s all in my head. Maybe I only feel this way because, coming to a certain age, and with it a certain consciousness, I’ve taken a greater interest in the affairs of my country. (I still don’t know much about Nigerian politics, but I know more now than I ever have.) Or maybe it’s just that I’ve gotten tired of Nigeria’s status as the ‘sleeping giant’, the laughing stock of Africa, and indeed the world. It could be that I’m just seeing what I want so badly to see.
But somehow I don’t think it’s just me, and these are just some of the reasons why. In 2011, for the first time ever in Nigeria, presidential debates were organised by different groups (I’m particularly proud of Kola Oyeneyin and the Sleeves Up group). Also in 2011, we have witnessed more active participation of Nigerian youth in the country’s affairs, particularly through the use of social media. The nonchalant attitude of youths to politics has reduced considerably as we now ask questions that cannot be answered by vague promises and clumsy rhetoric. It also seems to me that this year there is a certain decline in tribal and religious sentiment in choosing our leaders (and in this, more than anything else, I might be wrong). I’ve heard many Nigerians say that they don’t care if our next president comes from the moon; they just want someone that will do the job well. But maybe the people around me don’t count for much in the grand scheme of things and are just a negligible part of the Nigerian population, but I sure hope not. We’ve actually heard reports of people staying back at the polling centres after casting their votes to ensure that they are counted. We’ve heard of suspicious characters found with voting materials being handed over to the police – after correct beating, of course – by highly vigilant civilians.
So is it just me, or is there something different about Nigeria in 2011? I think there’s something in the air this time. Smells like the start of something new.