After the massacre of young people peacefully protesting against extortion and police brutality at the Lekki tollbooth on October 20, 2020, there was almost unanimous agreement that young people will unite to teach a bitter lesson to cowards, conniversaries and patronizing Lagos politicians in the 2023 general election for the role they played in the massacre and their eventual cover-up and schemes to deny justice to those killed.

Despite the anger and determination of the youth, I doubted the possibility of youth acting in concert three years later to punish politicians at the polls. My doubt was reported for two reasons.

First, Nigerians have a short attention span for political scandals and abuse of public trust or treasury.

Actions that would normally result in a candidate’s political death elsewhere are fully forgiven or forgotten a few months later and the politician can resume normal political activities as if nothing had happened and without any baggage.

All one needs is time. Heals all things and forgives all things political in Nigeria.

The 2023 election is quickly descending into ethnic squabbling with at least two of the three frontline presidential candidates explicitly deploying the ethnic dog whistle.

Second, ethnicity remains so important in Nigeria that the moment the ethnic dog whistle is blown, young people will quickly abandon any supposed national and generational causes and align themselves to ensure the success of their co-ethnics at the polls. .

True to my expectations, the 2023 election is fast turning into ethnic feud with at least two of the three frontline presidential candidates explicitly deploying the ethnic dog whistle to rally their peers to their causes.

All the talk about politics, the economy, inflation, human rights abuses and the arrest of those who facilitated or looked the other way while protesting youths were being massacred at the Lekki toll gate have now been forgotten.

All one hears and sees as the elections approach is the great importance of ethnicity and ethnic coalitions in determining who becomes the next president of Nigeria.

Much has been written about ethnicity in Nigeria and the pathologies it engenders. I do not intend to go over the arguments again.

The only comment I have to make is that ultimately it is the failure of Nigerian states to build a capable state around which different ethnic groups can unite that is exacerbating centrifugal tendencies and forcing people to identify more with their ethnic groups than with others. Express.

For this reason, for example, in Nigeria elections appear more and more like ethnic censuses, especially for the main candidates and their ethnic groups.

Even for the average man and woman on the street who don’t have much to gain politically and regardless of their level of education, find it extremely difficult to resist the ethnic dog whistle because, while they profess allegiance to the state (as is globally popular and encouraged), in reality, and in their minds, their real allegiance lies with the ethnic group because the state is weak, dysfunctional, and even antagonistic to its citizens.

This appeal to ethnic politics has stifled all social movements for change and continues to hamper popular protests/agitations/uprisings in Nigeria with multi-ethnic nationalities.

While popular protests have erupted in North African and Middle Eastern countries resulting in the overthrow of entrenched dictators, such a protest in Nigeria Africa quickly turns into ethnic battles.

For all the Yoruba sophistication and unwillingness to vote for Obasanjo in 1999 (they had plenty of options then because both presidential candidates were Yoruba anyway), the time when the House of Representatives under Ghali Umar Na’Abba took steps to introduce articles of impeachment against President Obasanjo for his repeated violations of the constitution and abuse of power, the Yoruba opposition party, Alliance for Democracy (AD), quickly dropped all pretenses of political disagreement and began banding together to save to their relatives.

Prominent party members who claimed to be viscerally opposed to Obasanjo and everything he stands for and who you’d think would support the impeachment attempt to curb Obasanjo’s penchant for abuse of power, shamefully descended into the ethnic arena, calling the impeachment of “a stratagem”. taking power from the Southwest” and threatening an ethnic war were the arguments to follow.

Pretty much the same thing happened in 2012 during the Occupy Nigeria protests. While the protests and strikes were successful in the south-west, north-central, north-east and north-west regions of the country, the president’s south-south and neighboring south-eastern regions were initially mere bystanders.

Also Read: How Tribe And Poverty Will Influence The 2023 Election

But as the protests gathered steam and began to threaten Jonathan’s hold on power, his ethnic relatives and friends began to complain loudly and threatened Nigeria’s oil stability if he were forced from office. In fact, in an interview I had with Peter Esele, former president of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), in 2013, he admitted that the unions finally called off strikes and protests when it became clear that the protesters had moved over the edge. removal of the oil subsidy (which was the initial reason for the protests and strike) and now focus on regime change

Of course, we all witnessed the #EndSARS protests against police brutality in October 2020. While quite popular in the south, President Buhari’s north remained silent and as the protests began to gather steam, they began accusing the protesters wanting to overthrow the Buhari government. Even the southwest wing of APC was accused of supporting the protesters.

And with the APC’s southwestern wing desperately hoping to inherit power in 2023 and any act of disloyalty may cost it, they are the top representatives in Buhari’s administration, including the vice president, a law professor, a senior Nigerian lawyer and a shepherd to start. On October 20, 2020, and the Minister of Infrastructure, also Nigeria’s Chief Advocate, remained uncharacteristically mute as soldiers were sent to massacre peaceful protesters. Instead, ethnic foot soldiers were sent to work to accuse other ethnic groups of destroying Lagos.

As I have argued on this page in the past, the ethnic quest for power in 2023 has had a damaging effect on the political bigwigs of the Southwest. They have conveniently concealed their disgust at the dispossession of their region. They have numbed their consciences.

They have tolerated Buhari for eight years and now they will not back down when the time comes to achieve their ultimate goal. They will be banking on ethnic prominence to steer the Southwest on course by 2023, and I hate to admit it, but their calculations are spot on!