WHOEVER wins the presidential election in February 2023 is likely to take Nigeria to mark one generation of the return to democracy, if a generation is 30 years. The assumption is that the winner will vie for a second term, and in the nature of Nigeria’s, nay Africa’s, elections he will win again in 2027 and proceed to rule until 2031 when the second term ends. Other things being equal, our fledgling democracy would have run a full cycle of 30 uninterrupted years. It would be the longest period any living Nigerian would have lived under democracy, warts and all. For whatever it is worth, it would be a milestone. We can only hope it won’t be a millstone.
Going by the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] next week, September 28 to be precise, the whistle will blow signalling the commencement of jostling and campaigns for the 2023 national elections which are the presidential and national assembly elections scheduled for February. In reality the campaigns started in February 2019 soon after the incumbent President, General Muhammadu Buhari was declared the winner for his second and final term. For one of the candidates, the quest for the presidency has been, in his own words, a ”lifelong ambition”, meaning that he had nurtured his presidential ambition from his mother’s womb. It is immaterial that the circumstances of his birth, parentage and upbringing remain controversial in his 70 odd years. Even his self-declared age of 70 is disputed. But he is only one person in the midst of many.
Actually, there are 18 political parties and we have as many as that number vying to become president of Nigeria. But as in the Good Book many are called but few are chosen. Indeed, for the presidency only one would be chosen. In the eyes of man in the run up to the February election, only four political parties and their candidates are considered genuine contenders to the presidency- the ruling All Progressives Congress [APC], the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party [PDP], the insurgent Labour Party [LP] and the New Nigerian Political Party [NNPP]. To fly the tickets are Bola Tinubu [APC], Atiku Abubakar [PDP], Peter Obi [LP] and Rabiu Kwankwaso [NNPP]. Are these men fit and proper persons and the best our country can put forward in this trying time for Nigeria? The answer will depend on where you stand in the emerging contest for the soul of this beleaguered country.
In Owerri, Imo state last week Gen. Buhari was strident in claiming that his regime had delivered on its promise in 2015 of ”Change” and ”Next Level” in 2019. It takes quite a level of aloofness and insensitivity for anybody including Gen. Buhari to make these claims unless of course they mean that Nigerians have been changed for the worst and have been taken to the Next level of grinding poverty and hopelessness. He, Gen. Buhari, went ahead to bemoan that those he had engaged and paid to proclaim his sterling performance these past seven years going to eight have been sleeping on duty. No General. They have not really failed. It’s just there is nothing cheery to celebrate. On the premise of the key promises of Buhari and the APC in 2015 and 2019 which included curbing insecurity, combating corruption and growing the economy, the regime’s scorecard is dismal and depressing. The summary of the situation is that the lives of Nigerians are worse today than they were in 2015. And there are no indications they would be better between now and May 29, 2023.
Because Buhari and the APC have contrived to grossly mismanage Nigeria in the last seven years and counting, the country cannot afford the luxury of low energy or indeed ”non-governance” from Day One on May 29, 2023 as has been the sad experience with Buhari since 2015. And this is where Nigerians of good conscience should be worried with the candidacy of Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC. But a prefix for our anxiety will be in order. In my neck of the woods it is said that in a storm a perceived strong and healthy tree could be felled when expectations are that the weak, shrunken and fragile tree would be the first to crack and crash under the weight of the fierce and furious storm. The lesson in this adage which I am unable to capture the core essence in this poor English translation is that man should never play God over another man’s life. However, and in spite of the forgoing man can also be god to man.
For Tinubu, the Parkinson’s-like manifestations in his limbs had been visible from his years as governor of Lagos state between 1999 and 2007 though it was not as severe as what Nigerians see today. Those who were close to him and reporters who interacted with him in those years would affirm the unsteady hands. And it has been 15 years since he vacated the office of the governor and assumed the role of a ruthless godfather in Lagos and to an extent elsewhere in the south west. We will return to the subject of ruthlessness shortly. Soon after Tinubu publicly declared his ”lifelong ambition” to be coronated as president of Nigeria, his journey has been dogged by controversies. His first set of outings was in the south west region of the country. And that was understandable because charity, as they say, begins at home. His homestead could be a subject of dispute but his Yoruba bonafide is widely acknowledged except for a stray entry somewhere that he may actually have a Kanuri blood in his veins. The wild story did not gain traction, anyway.
The first distraction from his message while Tinubu consulted and intimated Yoruba monarchs of his quest for the presidency was the picture of the seat of his flowing gown which allegedly was stained with water which some people swore was urine. The same reportedly repeated itself while he was in Calabar, Cross River state on consultation. Some Nigerians who were alarmed threw caution to the winds and started to openly ask questions about the state of health of the then aspirant. The questions were vehemently and vigorously dismissed by his supporters and promoters who questioned the credentials of those who said Tinubu was unwell. But the anxiety has persisted and the fears have not been helped by each and every public outing of the candidate. In early June after he had won the primary election of his party, Nigerians and indeed the world watched in utter disbelief as Tinubu struggled to leaf through and read a two or three page acceptance speech. Worse still was the image of torture he portrayed while taking and holding up the flag of his party.
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Tinubu’s spin doctors went to work to change the narrative that we have a severely ailing individual who could become president after Buhari’s years eaten by locusts caused by incompetence and partly also by debilitating ill health. They said that the presidency was not a job for weightlifters or akpu obi or persons with six packs or truck pushers at Mile 12 market in Lagos. They had a point. But they failed to acknowledge that it was not often that a diseased body accommodated a sound mind. Tinubu’s cheerleaders have their work cut out for them as the anxiety of Nigerians heightens with every and all of his outings. When he paid a condolence visit to Nduka Obaigbena, a publisher of one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, a picture emerged which appeared to show his hand being supported to effect a handshake with his host. Again, last weekend, yet another picture made the rounds of a dozing or meditating or contemplating Tinubu in a near slouching position at the palace of a traditional ruler in Gombe. The story accompanying the pathetic picture appeared to suggest that the less than one hour flight from Abuja to Gombe had sapped the strength of the candidate.
The presidential campaign may be short but it is expected to be bruising and gruelling. The whole country is the constituency of the presidential candidates. Functional and serviceable airports are limited which means that travels by other means including roads and waterways to canvass for support in the nooks and crannies would be inevitable. If a short shuttle by air could be so draining for Tinubu, what would happen otherwise? Are mine taking a pain reliever for another person’s headache? You could say so. You can also say that in presidential or any campaign for that matter, there will be surrogates. On that score and on the evidence before many Nigerians, Tinubu appears not to be fortunate. The bombastic inclinations of his vice presidential candidate Kashim Shettima has done little good to the principal. Shettima has a history of misdressing and misspeaking. After the sartorial debacle at the Nigerian Bar Association event recently, Shettima was back in Lagos at the 96th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Yoruba Tennis Club. There he sold Tinubu to Nigerians as a ruthless person in the mode of a former Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha.
He told his audience some of who may be astounded that: ”We need a leader with a dose of ruthlessness and taciturnity of Gen Sani Abacha… Nice men do not make good leaders… There is no one, with due respect, that fits this better than Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu”. Faced with a push back and a backlash, Shettime took to twitter to explain himself wherein he doubled down on ”ruthlessness” as a unique selling point for Tinubu. The irony is that it was the same ”ruthlessness” of Abacha that Tinubu’s promoters claimed drove him [Tinubu] into exile during the struggle for the restoration of democracy in the 1990s. The worrisome thing is that Tinubu’s other surrogates or spokespersons including Bayo Onanuga, Dele Alake and Festus Keyamo, appear not to be doing any better in marketing their candidate. While Keyamo’s advocacy centres on ”when jungle mature”, Onanuga grapples with APC’s creation of bishops of Baal and Alake wrestles with the shadowy origins of Tinubu’s wealth and his association with a drug cartel in Chicago, United States in the early 1990s. Tinubu was famously or notoriously known as Bobo Chicago then.
In the quest to foist Tinubu on Nigeria, his promoters, cheerleaders and backers do not spare a thought for Nigerians. They say Tinubu is an unrivalled head hunter but they keep quiet when you remind them that his headhunting included making Buhari, a disaster, president of Nigeria. In their sober moments Tinubu’s supporters admit that the country is in a terrible shape. They acknowledge that it urgently needs a president with the presence and prescience of mind inside a healthy body to arrest the descent to a slippery slope. But they insist that they have a job to do. The pay is good. And the pay off could even be more rewarding. For them Nigeria has a way of pulling back from the precipice. They are convinced that the 2015 Buhari template of dodgy credentials, cult following and avoiding public appearances and debates is in their favour. So for them securing the country is not urgent. Reviving the economy can wait. Combating corruption is not a compelling reason to change the status quo. Tackling poverty is not that important after all the Good Book says that there will always be the poor in our midst. For them it does not matter that they are quoting the scriptures out of context. Nigeria must be delivered as thanks offering to Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
AUTHOR: Ugo Onuoha…
Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the writers and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial stand.
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