Ajayi Tolulope
5 min readFeb 1, 2022

Are Nigerians Not Tired of Strongmen?

One would be foolish to assume that after the 2015 and 2019 elections, Nigerians would have learnt a bitter lesson that elections have consequences, but, alas, that’s not the case. What then is the matter?

“GEJ was too weak. His predecessor would be different.” This was the catchphrase that was used, pre-2015. Nigeria wasn’t perfect, but we sure weren’t this bad. What exists as Nigeria today is worse than what has lived in a little over 60 years of domestic rule. Even when we thought the anti-Christ and Lucifer had come in General Abacha’s military regime, it wasn’t this bad. At least that was a military regime. Very little was expected. But for this, post 2015 regime, and this is me calling it what it is, much was expected. Yet, worse was delivered. Today, Nigeria is fast becoming a failed state (I am optimistic).

We should have learnt our lesson after the first four years of the regime, and like Pontius Pilate washed our hands from everything that concerned this regime, what did Nigerians do? They rewarded the regime with a second term. My words might have oversimplified the direness of the situation. So, for better understanding, let me give you a brief analogy. Let us imagine Nigeria is a body that was unknowingly (I won’t be diplomatic) infected with cancer. The body had four years to nurse cancer, and then suddenly, a prospective cure was offered. Still, instead, the body opted to reinfect itself with cancer again. And when it was asked why, it said, “The devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know.” Isn’t that brilliant?

I never understood the obsession fellow Nigerians have with supposed strongmen. It’s pathetic. It’s almost like a Nigerian/African curse. This obsession isn’t a Nigeria only problem. Going around Africa, it’s a wasteland, in mainly west Africa. In the past weeks and months, there has been a series of military coups in neighbouring African countries. It was unsurprising. These countries were ruled by foreign stooges who paraded themselves as strongmen. When it was time to be strong, they all failed. You can’t give what you don’t have. They weren’t inherently strong. The term was only assigned to them to massage their overinflated egos. Like so many African leaders, they lacked imagination. I recently saw a video of a group of citizens celebrating a military takeover in one of the West African nations, and I couldn’t help but feel infuriated. I kept asking myself, “aren’t these people wise? Can’t they see they’re going from bad to worse? Don’t they learn from history?” But those questions were rhetorical. I knew the answers. If you’re reading this now, I’m sure you also know the answers to the questions. After all, you can’t wake those who pretend to be asleep.

After all, it’s nothing different with Nigeria also, with internal security and economic woes, the supposed strongman who could rein the lion called Nigeria is/was nowhere to be found. Not that he ever existed. But one would imagine that even the least a coward could do is pretend to be brave in the face of hostility. Still undeterred, the search for strongmen continues.

Before the 2019 elections, I stopped talking about Nigeria’s politics. I reached my limit. No matter what I or anyone said against voting, the supposed strongmen Nigerians would never listen. So I kept shut and allowed us to learn the bitter lesson, “elections have consequences.” And why I am not happy with the way things turned out. This isn’t an “I told you” essay. We all get to suffer the brunt of this evil some of us gave power. I do not use the word “Evil” likely.

Now we’re building up to a new election season, and I can see our obsessive thirst for strongmen has been aroused again. This time it’s the “kingmaker” who have suddenly gotten tired of making kings and instead wants to crown himself king. We’ve begun the pandering. It can only end in one way, leaving us in a significantly worse situation.

Nigeria is supposed to be a centre of influence for West Africa and Africa in general, but what happens when Nigeria can’t even get her local leadership right? With military coups in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and most recent rumours of an ongoing coup in Guinea Bissau. This only points to one thing, the lack of regional leadership. ECOWAS is too weak, AU (African Union) remains redundant, and Nigeria lacks moral leadership. The effect of all of these issues, I fear, might cause more problems for the already fragile Nigerian state, battling domestic terrorism and banditry. This power vacuum will only encourage these terrorist and criminal groups to fill in the void.

It is in my opinion that we should kill the idea of strongman politics. It’s time for Nigerians to start voting for people who understand the intricacies of democracy and respect the rule of law and order without instigating force or violence. We should remove religious or tribal sentiments and vote for someone with the proper credentials. While I’m pessimistic that Nigerians can do the right thing, I only hope we listened.

I know from experience that addictions are difficult to break. But we must break this our current obsession with Strongman-tism.

I am aware the elderly frail kingmaker is tempting us already. But it’s time to allow common sense to prevail. Elections have consequences, and Nigerians alone won’t be the only ones to suffer the consequences. It’ll spread. Our failure means the failures of our smaller neighbours. So if we Nigerians are on a suicide mission, we may need to reconsider for the sake of our neighbours.

In conclusion, geopolitics explains that the failure of a nation may impact her neighbours terribly. I’m not being sensational now, but not one of Nigeria’s neighbours is failing. Four of them are failing currently; more might follow in a few months. Would our self-appointed strongmen save us? I don’t think so.

Photo credit: Emmanuel Ikwuegbu (Unsplash).