Five things to expect from 2018

Super Eagles. PHOTO: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP

We survived quite a year, haven’t we? We powered through our president’s protracted illness, policy missteps and cringe-worthy comments; danced to hit after hit from Davido; rolled our eyes at Mr. Eazi’s identity crisis; groaned about the fuel subsidy; pumped our fists in the air when the Super Eagles qualified for the World Cup; gasped at the many sexual harassment suits, shootings and disasters both man-made and natural from around the world. And yet, here we are.

2018 is a pre-election year, so it will be full. I have peered into my crystal ball and offer a few predictions.

Polarization will worsen
Let us begin with an unhappy prediction. We have shown that ethnicity, along with religion and, to a lesser extent gender, are our biggest collective mumu buttons. Where issues are absent, ethnicity and religious identity will continue to be effective drivers of our politics, and things will kick into overdrive ahead of the 2019 elections. I predict few substantive policy ideas proffered on how to improve our schools and hospitals, decrease the ever-rising tide of Nigerian youth washing up on Mediterranean shores, among other challenges. What mentions there would be of these will not draw headlines, because those issues are sadly not what our elections are about. We will all be collectively dumber for it.

A silver lining: as we will have two northern presidential candidates and two southwest vice-presidential candidates in the two major parties, I also predict that we will see hate speech around the election markedly reduced, relative to 2015 levels.

Yoots will yoot
I predict that we will see another effort (or two) at creating a youth pressure group (or groups) that will seek to drive conversation and maybe even host debates and policy discussions ahead of the 2019 elections. I must confess, this did not require too hard a squint into the crystal ball. 2015 saw the emergence (and subsequent flaming out) of GenVoices, 2017 saw excellent advocacy around the #NotTooYoungtoRun bill currently in the National Assembly. Coalitions with clear objectives have a higher chance of succeeding and not getting derailed because their mandate is suitably narrow. Besides, when your mission is not clearly defined, it can attract too many people with different, sometimes even competing, aspirations. See our president’s party and his inability to quickly appoint ministers as an example.

The spirit of 2015 endures
2015 was like Anthony Joshua’s uppercut that nearly distended Vladimir Klitschko’s neck before the latter’s eventual loss; it was crucial blow, and we are still reeling. Buhari’s eventual unpopularity has tempered some of the unguarded enthusiasm of 2015, but I do not predict that enough people have learned their lessons. 2018 will be Groundhog Day. Any rays of light that we see following the 2019 election will not be because of anything we managed to do differently, but a happy accident. I, however, also predict that the 2023 elections will be far more important.

A heated polity
Elections and communal violence are similar in that they are both avenues for display of power. More concerning, between normal trial and error to find out what approach works and corruption that happens when large sums of money are involved, the humanitarian disaster that Boko Haram’s campaign of violence and destruction has left in its wake will also take years to address. This year, I predict – nay, I pray – that the Army will continue to help secure the northeast and secure even more areas of the northeast. However, Boko Haram is sadly not the only violent group we have to worry about now. In Nigeria, we have seen time and again that violence earns groups a seat at the negotiation table. This could mean more violence as power blocs move into formation.

And for my final, less grim prediction…

Nigeria will survive the Group of Death
Don’t get me wrong. Like most people, my heart also skipped a beat when I saw that Nigeria was grouped with Croatia, Iceland and Argentina for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Everyone knows how tricky and organized Iceland can be from the last Euros and Argentina has Messi, but Croatia is no walk in the park; their team is packed with talent, with Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic, among other players that would scare you if you were well-acquainted with European football. It will not be easy, and maybe my green-white-green is blinding me, but here I will wholeheartedly allow my national pride to override common sense. Nigeria will beat Argentina, eke a last gasp win against Iceland, and make Croatia cry for mercy.

But how far will Nigeria go in the World Cup? Let’s not get greedy. Even your favourite pastors will charge for the privilege of more predictions. Still, I will leave you with a few more assurances: in typical Nigerian style, we will flourish and look good doing it; our music will still be a source of constant joy; and Nigerian jollof will still reign supreme.



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