Towards the 2023 General Election: Are Nigerians Transcending Emotional Closures?


In all democracies, the traditional concern in every election year is usually a call for the losing party to wake up and figure out why it is that voters dislike them. It can also be a call for political parties in general to appeal to voters, while giving a renewed attention to the consciousness of the moment.

The forthcoming 2023 election in Nigeria seems to be different. It appears to be a wake-up call for Nigerians to transcend the age-old bane of emotional closure. For the very first time in its democratic awareness, it appears that Nigerians- especially the young people are climbing out of ethnic, party and institutional silos- reaching out and locating central attractors in the personality of individuals.

Looking at Nigeria’s youthful population and articulating the challenges of nationhood since independence from colonization in 1960, as well as seeing through the traumatic legacies of an unfortunate civil war just eight years into this independence, one can notice a population of young people with emotions closed to influences or meanings coming outside of their immediate cultural and social realities. Trapped for so long in this closure, the aftermath trauma became latent. By latency is meant that this emotional closure got hidden and most times goes undetected; thereby giving rise to dysfunctional idea of citizenship.

In the formation of a modern state like Nigeria- one that took place without an analogous process of individual awareness and rise of individuality, social fabric are based on clan, cultural, religious, linguistic, or ethnic ties. This led to weakness of patriotic affiliation and fragility of national institutions, as well as the discrimination of individuals of the same country in law and practice. This lack of individual awareness and resultant weakness of patriotic affiliation, periodically, supply divisive politics and other parochial interests with the emotional closure required to pursue and actualize whatever fragmented aim there is.

Emotion, in the words of Claudius Van Wyk, a foremost South African Holistic Philosopher is “energy seeking purpose”.

In its search for purpose, emotion assists to direct human attention towards coherence. It enables humans to connect with what is not within immediate experience, but insidiously in the background. This simply means that whenever humans are emotionally driven, there is definitely something that is not clear and that seeks for clarity. But this clarity, is rarely intentionally embraced and which explains why almost all emotional outbursts are regretted later.

One can articulate here that the existential aim of emotion is to drive human behaviors towards adaptability, and to signal a deeper need to engage in meaning making.

When engagement with emotion is not based on meaning making and adaptation, emotion could disable the complex adaptive capacities within reach of being human. Inability at complex adaptive intelligence locks one up in a self-imposed prison of emotion driven values, and which renders one an active contributor in the problem that one is trying to solve. Here, instead of emotion directing one to make sense of what one is unconscious about, emotion treats this unconsciousness as absolute and fixates attention on immediate experiences.

It is on this closure and fixation that emotion serves the parochial interest of divisive politics in Nigeria.

However, individual or collective engagement with emotion is not subjectively closed to individual and collective values in such a way that separates those values from changes that are taking place in the wider environment. Thus, emotion-driven values, even though it can be closed, are at the same time, relatively open to the dynamics of the context within which those values are shaped.

Conventionally explained, environmental influences and contexts also influence emotional values in ways irreducible to their closures- a process that- depending on the reach of the influence can evolve or devolve emotion.

It is significant to point out here that emotional openness to environmental influences also happens undetectably as when emotion gets closed to that openness. Both processes are simply dynamics of a living system and one can make sense of the fact that Nigeria at the moment is evident of this process and dynamics.

In our contemporary world driven by the forces of the fourth industrial revolution- where optimization calls for democratic participation that is not just political but also technological, individual awareness, powered with smart phones and access to influences beyond their immediate environment transcend boundaries once set by ethnic, religious, language, political and cultural closures. Emotions are mingling in a wider space and even though it appears like a clash, higher orders of meaning are being generated.

This is relative to the core principle of evolutionary theory which articulates that: the processes of evolution; differentiation, selection and amplification, are driven by the complexity of human experience which, in turn, drives the growing order and complexity of the environment that humans share together.

According to the Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine, entropy (disorder) is the prize of structure. Human beings grow in direct proportion to the amount of pain they can sustain and dissipate.

Looking at Nigeria at the moment, we witness a youthful population that is integrating emotionally and growing in direct proportion to the collective pain they feel- expressing “the organic link between the consciousness of citizenship in practice and the legitimacy of the existing political regimes”. This is a mindset shift that decades of ineffective leadership have stirred.

The question can be asked: will Nigerians transcend emotional closures in the forthcoming general elections? The answer can be Yes or No.

Nevertheless, in the words of legendary Mahatma Gandhi, victory in any human endeavor is not in the outcome but in the commitment.

Therefore, it is significant to point out that as much as Nigerians- especially the young people are faced with the uncertainty of this journey, one can draw a knowledge based consolation from the fact that social learning is taking place, and with it individual and collective awareness are strengthened. This is enabling life conditions that support healthier value expressions.

It is also significant to point out that Nigerians, notwithstanding their diversity and differences have something that they share together, and this is their common human experience.

Human beings are capable of making new sense of their survival. Historically, human evolution tends to weed out counterproductive DNA responses in favor of life enhancing ones. But that process takes time and usually triggered by painful experiences.

It was Albert Einstein who observed that “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels”. Thus, any fundamental transformation in Nigeria will begin with an accompanying mindset shift to provide the broader enabling context. That shift seems to be taking place.

For the first time in Nigeria’s democratic history, emotion seems to be transcending its traditional boundaries and individual awareness seems to be rising from collective slumber. The dynamical coherence and the shared nature of the Nigerian experience are fermenting a mindset shift.

Political personalities who for long have been appealing to difference appear to be the central attractors and utmost beneficiaries.

The Author Kenneth Uchenna Obiakor (LLM) is a Philosopher,Socio-cultural anthropologist and the founder of Leadership Development Foundation for Civic Literacy,a non-profit organisation committed to social change leadership. He is also the assistant program director at Soren Kierkegaard Academic Society Imo State University as well as a director at Victor Nwankwo Leadership Academy.He wrote in from Owerri Imo State Nigeria

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