What if your candidate does not win? By Simbo Olorunfemi

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A few more suspense-filled days to go. By this time next week, Nigerians should have been done at the polls carrying out the highly important civic duty of electing the next President along with members of the National Assembly for the 2023-2027 session.. All things being equal, that is. Results might even be largely in.

For reasons I cannot immediately place my finger on, there is something different about the air in the build-up to this crucial election. Perhaps it is just me. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that for this election, one is more of an Observer than a Participant-Observer one was in the last two elections.

Indeed, there is some level of excitement out there, but, as I see it, rather than for it climaxing onto the last leg of the campaign as we are used to seeing, the level of enthusiasm seems to have waned. There appears to be a dampening of spirit on the part of many of those who had been overtly optimistic only a few months back Even the most vociferous ones who had magisterially declared who would be President months ago have calmed down.

The rollback on enthusiasm is most evident on the part of some of the supporters of the party in government. In place of enthusiasm, what we are seeing is restiveness and combativeness directed at the President and whoever they assume to not be on the same page with them. Some can barely restrain themselves from turning on the President and all that they have professed in the last 8 years. Their frustration and pent-up anger being quite palpable.

But it is what it is. As we have always cautioned, it is always important to moderate expectations, avoid over-the-top proclamations. Afterall, it is politics and it doesn’t take so much for things to turn on its head. But as usual, there has been the unusually high emotional investment in the election on the part of many, foreclosing any other outcome than that which they have projected or invested in.

As I have always counselled, in a contest of this nature, one must always prepare oneself for any possible outcome, while being mindful that there will always be a tomorrow.

Where many (analysts and supporters) often miss it is that they see elections as a single-factor affair. They erroneously see it as a monochrome. People often cite the James Carville phrase ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ to explain the pervasive influence of the state of the economy on outcome of elections.

What they miss is that neither the Clinton victory, nor the subsequent elections can be explained as exclusively determined by the state of the economy. Were that to be so, more red states would have gone blue. The margin of victory would have been higher. The switch from one end of the spectrum would have been more drastic, were that to be the case.

That other factors are always at play, even in America, explains the hold that a candidate like Trump had over his base, in spite of everything else. It was a case of othe factors trumping the factor that was played up more by the media.

As it is in America, so is it in Nigeria. The state of the economy is even less of a factor in Nigeria. Whoever you support, whatever permutations or projections you make, be mindful of the fact that electoral choices and outcomes are determined by a multiplicity of factors. You might be looking at the head and the other person is looking at the bottom. One choice is not superior to the other. For many, the decision on whom to vote is purely an emotional one, defiantly opposed to logic.

But that is what it is. Be careful with your level of emotional exposure, the outcome might not align with your expectation. To narrow the election to only one issue, especially one that you consider germaine, can lead to error of assumption and conclusion. It is not enough to simply say ”things have never been this bad’ or ‘we have never been this divided’ and simply assume everyone is or should be on the same page with you.

There are some who might not agree with your conclusion. There are others who might agree with you, but will dig deep to interrogate why that might be so, coming up with a conclusion that is not as simplistic as yours. The bottomline is that elections, anywhere in the world, are not determined by only one issue.

The electorate in Nigeria is not generally seen as sophisticated. It is said that people vote simply on the basis of ethnicity or religious affiliation, or on the basis of financial inducement. While that might be the case for some, on a general note, what I have found from years of study is that voting decisions are often more sophisticated than many assume.

Take the North, for instance. The first erroneous assumption often made about the North is that it is a monolith, a single voting bloc. Yet, the North has never voted as one. It always voted across many party lines. NPC might have been dominant in the First Republic, but there was NEPU and other parties in North-Central. In the second republic, GNPP, NPP and even UPN had presence in the North.

The same Northern electorate massively voted for MKO Abiola in opposition to Bashir Tofa from Kano. They voted for Dr Jonathan, a Christian from the South and kept faith with President Buhari over many elections, largely on the basis of admiration for his Spartan outlook to life, self-discipline and assumption that he is a friend of the Talakawa.

The point I restate here is that voting decisions are often more sophisticated than generally assumed. Many of the people might not consider what you will rather have them consider. Majority of the people might not be motivated by what motivates the elite, but in their own way, they have a way of placing all the issues on the table and taking a decision on the basis of what best resonates with them, AT THAT TIME, on that occasion. It is not a guarantee that they will vote same way on another occasion, even if the circumstances were exactly the same.

You will do well not building castles in the air, in forging expectations, lest they come crashing. People vote on the basis of a multiplicity of factors, a variety of reasons. It is not everyone who will simply compare the exchange rate in 2015 and 2023 or the price of a bag of rice in 2015 and 2023 and vote on that basis. Some are more sophisticated than that. You must respect their right to see things differently and vote differently.

People vote on the basis of different affinities. What will move the needle in one location will not do so in another. What you find repulsive is what resonates with the other. In the game, what might further alienate non-supporters usually find resonance with the base. A message that might put you off might not have been targeted at you, but deployed to mobilise and galvanise the base.

There is also the place of misinformation and disinformation that have become tools in political campaign. What has formed the basis of your assumption and decision might even be false, which others are able to see through. What you are seeing might be different from what others are seeing. You need to understand that at the end of it all, it is simply a game and a winner, who might not be your preference, might just emerge.

Moderate your emotions, assumptions and expectations so that you don’t get too disappointed at the outcome of the election. Consider the possibility that your candidate does not win the election. You say, ‘God forbid ‘. There is a chance that he might not win and you must prepare your mind for that ahead of time. We don’t want a situation where people with exaggerated assumptions of their preferred candidate’s strength coming out after the election to cry foul, allege cheating or robbery, where there might have been none.

You must remember that no matter how sophisticated, patriotic or altruistic your choice is, you have only one vote. Others have theirs too and they must be allowed to express themselves, based on how they see things, and how they see things might differ from yours. We can only appeal that people vote according to their conscience and put the country first. We cannot do more than that.

As I have stated before now, I foresee a tight election. I still do not see a winner emerging on the first ballot. But we still have a week to go and 24 hours is like eternity in politics. Anything can happen. That is one of the reasons I feel compelled to restate my call for caution.You will do well to be prepared for all possible outcomes. Be moderate with your expectation. Think about it – What if your candidate does not win?

May we find the courage, as often as it is needed, to do that which is right for country and conscience, as we see it, over and above shallow self-interest.

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