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2023 Presidency: A Contest Between Three Sinners?

2023 Presidential Election
2023 Presidential Election
THEWILL APP ADS 2

September 13, (THEWILL) – The title of this piece is not exactly the terminology used by Adams Oshiomole, former labour leader, ex-Edo state governor, and immediate past chairman of the ruling party at the centre, APC, but he is the one that drew my attention to the fact that all the three presidential candidates with the potential to become President of Nigeria in 2023, are sinners.

Tagging them with such a negative nomenclature or appellation is most probably derived from the general belief amongst Nigerians that anyone that has served in public office must be regarded as a sinner.

And it is a fixed mindset amongst the masses, basically because of the high level of corruption being perpetrated by public servants via fraud and the abysmal level of service delivery to the masses by successive regimes, arising from promises unkept which they approximate to sin

The lack of confidence in our political systems and political class by the electorate is such that regardless of the political platforms that produce the leaders, Nigerians have learnt from experience, after multiple disappointments, which have galvanised their belief that their leaders hardly have their best interests in mind.

And the fact that despite all the endowments that abound in our country, in terms of both human and natural resources, Nigeria is still in the bottom rung of the list of the world’s developed countries, even though she is right on top of the list of the worst countries to live, which is a reality that is stomach-churning to the average Nigerian, hence every known occupant of public office, to put it mildly, is deemed to be a sinner.

In order words, the masses deem their leaders that have occupied public offices as being responsible for the underdevelopment of the country, and therefore, responsible for their plight, so they hold them in contempt.

It is from that general predisposition of Nigerians especially the youths, towards members of the old political class, whom they blame for the misery being visited on them and which they intend to remedy via the 2023 general elections that the energy currently justifying the notion of Nigerian politicians as sinners, is derived.

Taken from the prism highlighted above, it is difficult to deny that all the front runners contesting for the presidency of Nigeria are by and large sinners, as the three of them have served as two terms Vice President in the case of Atiku Abubakar, and governors respectively, in the case of Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi.

Be that as it may, no human being is actually flawless.

Arising from the assertion above, l am urging the electorate to be very pragmatic by looking beyond the veneer, by way of thoroughly scrutinising the candidates to identify, based on past records, the one with the best capacity and ability to rescue our country, as opposed to listening and gyrating to the high decibel music being played by new age and untested politicians with highfaluting, as well as exalting messages emanating from the multifarious political rostrums.

At this juncture, to help the electorate in their choices of who becomes their president in 2023, it is appropriate that we take a cursory look at the unique selling points and Achilles heels of the candidates that are front runners of the leading political platforms. So that Nigerians and indeed the youths, don’t end up throwing away the baby and the bathwater.

Remarkably, APC and its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, are brandishing his accomplishments as Lagos State governor (1999-2007), as opposed to the record of the party in nearly eight (8) years of holding the reins of government.

In addition to the party’s former chairman, Adams Oshiomole’s recent diatribe that candidate Tinubu should not be judged by the performance of APC.

He was more or less distancing Tinubu from president Buhari’s record, which was reinforced by APC vice presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima’s presentation during Nigerian Bar Association, NBA recent conference.

That would be a hard sell.

But Tinubu, who is known to be a maverick, who has succeeded in keeping Nigerians guessing about his ancestry and educational antecedents, would be asking very skeptical Nigerians to trust him with their future, as Lagosians did when he governed them for eight (8) years.

Would he pull the type of stunts that he successfully executed during the APC party’s primaries by clinching the ticket to the bewildered opponents?

With Bola Tinubu as the ruling party’s presidential candidate, he could have been enjoying the benefits of the good legacy that the outgoing party would have left for the good people of Nigeria to cherish if the incumbent government had lived up to expectations.

But unfortunately, the current administration is leaving a legacy of sorrow, tears and blood, to borrow a line from a hit song by the late Afrobeat king and maestro, Fela Ransom Kuti.

Which is perhaps, why the former APC chairman, Adams Oshiomole, has urged Nigerians not to judge Bola Tinubu based on president Mohammadu Buhari’s records which, is sordid, no matter how Buharists try to spin it.

But would it not be uncharitable and disingenuous for Tinubu to distance himself from Buhari?

It is needless to point out that the Tinubu/Shettima agenda for Nigeria would likely be different from the well-known APC and Buhari’s agenda.

As such, they would definitely be walking a tightrope especially if president Buhari is expected to join in the campaign for Tinubu as a candidate.

To contextualise the dilemma, Al Gore tried to detach himself from the administration that he was aiming to replace in the United States of America, USA, when as Vice President to Bill Clinton, he was contesting to succeed his principal, but distanced himself from his boss, owing to the scandal about Clinton’s alleged sexual escapade with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, which is an event that sullied Clinton’s reputation in the twilight days of his watch.

Of course, Al Gore failed to become president.

Perhaps, not appropriating Clinton’s Sterling records was a contributing factor to his failure.

Therefore, how Tinubu would fair with the strategy of distancing himself from Buhari’s regime, is a demon that he must deal with in the coming days and weeks.

PDP presidential flag bearer, Turaki Atiku Abubakar, is leveraging what he accomplished as Vice President (1999-2007), in the area of telecoms revolution (GSM, etc) and the liberalisation of the Nigerian economy, as well as his personal accomplishments as a successful entrepreneur.

He will also likely be asking Nigerians if they are better off where they are today than where they were in 2015, in terms of socioeconomic development.

The answer of which is obviously, no.

But would that reality spur Nigerians, who are at their wits’ end to trust him to transform their lives as he did with the telecoms sector in Nigeria?

To succeed in becoming president, is the task the PDP presidential candidate must accomplish, now or never.

Given his successful change of PDP policy of rotation of the presidency between the north and south, his ability to mobilise and galvanise voters, drawing from his last contest against the incumbent for the office of the president in 2019, is being tested.

Would he prevail as he did during his party’s primary elections, despite the gaslighting of the party by Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers state, which has stirred up what looks like a hornets’ nest within the PDP?

As a man known for his indomitable spirit, Atiku Abubakar is clearly poised to succeed in his fifth contest for the presidency of Nigeria. So all eyes are on him, even as he is pulling out all the stops.

To the advantage of Turaki Atiku Abubakar, he was on the ballot running against the incumbent for the same office in 2019, which is less than 4 years ago.

Therefore, he is building up on the gains that he made in 2019.

Fortuitously, candidate Buhari, whom he contested against and who garnered about fifteen (15) million votes against Atiku Abubakar’s, which was in excess of thirteen (13) million in 2019, will not be on the ballot in 2023.

That should give the former Vice President some heft and bounce.

Now, some videos have been trending online, wherein allegations that under the watch of PDP presidential candidate as the Vice President to President Olusegun Obasanjo, privatisation of government corporations was under his purview as chairman of the economic council.

But instead of acknowledging his critical role in the process of introducing the GSM telephone that we are currently enjoying, and which was introduced by the council that he chaired, what is being held up against him is the process of privatising the petroleum and electricity sectors, which were not concluded before their time was up in 2007, hence Nigeria is still suffering from epileptic electricity power supply and the masses still struggle to purchase petrol, a drudgery that has remained perennial.

Nasir El Rufai, present Kaduna state governor and APC chieftain, was the Director General, DG of the agency that privatised the corporations which were not doing well.

In my reckoning, if Atiku Abubakar influenced him unduly in the privatisation of government assets exercise, l assume that he would have carpeted him in his controversial book: “Accidental Public Servant”, especially since they are now in opposing political camps.

Evidently, Atiku Abubakar may not have selfishly influenced the sale of the public assets that were underperforming and therefore, a drain on the public treasury.

It is commendable that it has remained unproven that he owns any of the privatised firms, despite the continuous search for evidence, just as no known associate of his, has been established to also own any.

Yet, he is still being vilified for seeking government assets for himself and his cronies.

It would interest critics of Atiku Abubakar’s role as chairman of the privatisation council to know that the Ajaokuta steel complex, which could have been but was not privatised under president Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime, is still there rotting away. If it were to be offered for sale today, it would be sold as scrap since its value has become much worse than it was during Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure two decades ago.

Yet like all the other government assets sold for less, multi-billion dollars was invested about four (4) decades ago in setting up the Ajaokuta steel mill.

Despite the reality above, the false narrative that the former Vice President sold public assets to himself and the cronies, which is a fallacy, has somehow, remained stuck on the PDP presidential flag bearer like a badge of dishonour.

How he scrubs himself off, of that blight or stigma, is a mission that must be accomplished by laying bare for public assessment what he knows about the privatisation exercise during his time as Vice President, with a view to convincing the electorate on how he plans to replicate the superlative turn-around of the telecommunications sector through privatisation under his watch, which is now under the firm control of the private sector and performing efficiently and effectively by helping create employment and boosting the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of our country which is in the best interests of Nigerians.

And Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential standard bearer, is similarly driving his campaign based on his accomplishments in Anambra state, where he served as governor (2006-2014), as well as his personal achievements as an accomplished entrepreneur.

By constantly imploring the youths to replace the old political class with him, based on his fantastic message of changing Nigeria from a consuming country to a producing one, he might have hit the bull’s eye. Or so it seems.

But would that popularity leadership be sustainable when the chips are down, and all the presidential candidates put their campaigns in full throttle, as the campaign trains are fired from all four cylinders?

Willy nilly, all the three under-listed leading contenders for the presidency highlighted above would from September 28, try to hoodwink the electorate with outright lies and bogus claims about their accomplishments, and thereafter, make irresistible promises to provide solutions to a litany of unfulfilled promises made in 2015, 2019 and even much earlier.

The question boggling the minds of anxious Nigerians this time around is, “would our politicians, especially those contending for the office of the president in 2023 be promise breakers or promise keepers?

It may be recalled that immediately after the current ruling party’s candidate, Mohammadu Buhari, won the elections in 2015, APC disowned all the lofty promises that it made pre-election. Its excuse is that the phantasmagorical promises were not made by the party, but by supporters, who did so without the party’s consent.

Why did the party not disclaim the promises pre-election and only did so post-election?

It is unlikely that Nigerians, who are now more savvy and wary, would fall for the antics of politicians, who over-promise and under-deliver.

Right now, Peter Obi, the labour party presidential flagbearer, has had a head start through his ingenious strategy of campaigning online ahead of other contenders due to the fact that INEC is yet to figure out how to effectively enforce the rules in the electoral act 2022, which has set September 28, as the commencement date for campaigns, but the election regulatory body did not envisage that campaigns could be taken online, as ‘Obi-Dients’ have been doing without being sanctioned, particularly because the internet, which they have maximally utilised to market Peter Obi is a largely ungoverned space.

That has enabled the LP candidate to key into the anger of our youths against the incumbent government, which they had earlier expressed via the #Endsars protests of October 2020 that threatened our country to its very foundation.

So, basically, Obi-dients, which is the monicker that the labour party candidate’s followers have tagged themselves, in my view, is ordinarily a movement and simply #Endsars 2.0.

In other words, OBIDIENT movement is #Endsars encore with a smattering of adult buy-in.

And I earnestly believe that Obi’s leadership in popularity amongst the youths may be transitory because he has been the only one literarily on top of the roof telling Nigerians that he would move the country from consumption to a production economy, which sounds like music to the ears of the electorate, particularly the youths cadre, who are largely unemployed and neglected by the government for too long.

Because they have an axe to grind with the incumbent government, they seem to have been sucked into the notion of anyone else would be better in Aso Rock Villa than members of the old political class.

Right now, Obi is not telling anyone how he would create employment for the youths and boost the nation’s empty treasury, reduce galloping inflation, crash the dollar/naira exchange rate and lower petrol pump price and drastically rein in insecurity, driven by religious fanaticism and ethnic nationalism, triggered by the zero-sum politics of the incumbent regime.

Hopefully, he would be sharing his plans with Nigerians during the campaign proper.

Before the end of October, which would be about one month of being on the campaign trail by all the candidates, the true leaders in the polls would have been established when Nigerians judge the candidates by the content of their manifestos and their workability, and not in the manner that they are bemoaning the misery visited upon them via uninspiring and unimaginative leadership.

And it is doubtful if Peter Obi would still be ahead of the pack, as it currently appears, but comes to the brass tacts.

Further evidence of Obi’s campaign activities are his fundraising and campaign stomps in Europe and North America, which is raising the eyebrow of INEC and other relevant authorities that are keen to determine the impropriety or otherwise of Obi-Dients activities since it might be conferring undue advantage on the LP presidential candidate and as such, it may imperil the chances of other candidates in the race.

It does not help Peter Obi that his supporters, who have been very fiery, have been overselling him via deliberate misinformation by hair-brushing their claims about their candidate’s prowess, here and there.

There is even a cartoon that l have seen on social media portraying him as Jesus, where he is ensconced in between Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar with the caption: “A rare picture of Jesus and the two thieves.”

It may be attributed to his followers, but its negative vibe is rubbing off on candidate Obi.

I have had cause in the past to caution the Obi campaign team against such antics in previous articles.

In light of the above, the inability of Obi-Dients to separate facts from fiction may be the Achilles’ heel of Peter Obi.

And the LP presidential candidate has not only been likened to Jesus, he been portrayed by Obi-Dients as Nigeria’s equivalent of Barack Obama of the USA, Emmanuel Macron of France, and even the president-elect of Kenya, William Ruto, whose emergence as president of their respective countries were against the run of play.

Would their dream materialise?

In conclusion, as Mr Adams Oshiomole, a former labour leader, one time governor of Edo state, and immediate past chairman of APC told me in the course of the ceremonies for Thisday newspaper and AriseTv chairman, Nduka Obaigbena mum’s funeral in Owa-Oyibu, a couple of weeks ago, Nigerians are faced with the choice of three ‘sinners’ vying for the post of president in the 2023 general elections.

And as l have elucidated in this piece, he is on point essentially because all three of the presidential front runners have occupied public offices.

That implies that they have all been like fishes swimming in transparent bowls like the aquarium and all their skeletons and warts have been exposed, having been closely scrutinised by politically conscious Nigerians, that might have adjudged them to be guilty as charged as sinners.

Having identified the baggage that they are now carrying and which has affirmed the verdict of being guilty that has been passed by Nigerians on them, and as such, indicating that they are not saints, we can all agree that they are all sinners.

Nevertheless, one of them would be given another chance to redeem or reverse that negative image when he returns to public office as president of Nigeria on May 29, next year.

Any of them pretending to be a Saint amongst the three would be unravelled by the highly discerning and critical masses in the cause of the campaigns, which begins in earnest, later this month.

Taking it all together, my hunch is that corruption would not be a hot-button issue in the campaigns for the 2023 general elections, as it was in 2019 when campaigns in the election circle commences.

That is probably because conversations around corruption allegations against the three candidates might have been exhausted and focusing on such matters may amount to over-flogging the issue.

Rather, l am predicting that fake news would be a potent weapon of mass deception if it were to be deployed by unscrupulous politicians, mainly because it had worked for them in 2015 and 2019 without repercussions.

Owing to the capacity of the so-called alternative reality to pervert democracy, it is of critical concern to democracy advocates like me and as such, it is the raison dete for my intervention via this piece, urging Nigerians to stand up against fake news.

Fortuitously, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is lobbying NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, NASS, for the establishment of a special court for reining in electoral laws defaulters.

The INEC initiative is welcomed, as it tallies with my intent for alerting Nigerians about the insidious effects of twisted information on outcomes of elections as evidenced by the horrendous experience that the masses have been coping with, signposted by the series of disappointments that they have suffered, owing to failed promises by desperate and deceptive politicians in 2015 and 2019.

The net effect of the letdown is the manifestation of Nigeria as a country that is like hell on earth, where life is a-dime-a-dozen and fellow humans who happen to be alive are gnashing their teeth in Internally Displaced Persons, IDP, camps where they are languishing, and a reminder that even though we are not at war in a conventional way, our country is fast becoming like Ukraine, which is an active war zone.

Now, as if dealing with fake news is not bad enough, a new political malaise that is very disconcerting to most Nigerians is the temperament of the spokesmen of the presidential front runners who have become not only footloose, but also uncouth.

The culprits in this instance, the spokesmen for the ruling party, APC, in the persons of Femi Fani-Kayode and PDP’s Dino Melaye, have become so unhinged that instead of being image makers they are now newsmakers.

One was scandalised by the resort of the duo to the childish use of skits to denigrate one another like clowns, thereby, debasing their principals who are serious contenders for the presidency that deserve to be presented to Nigerians in more dignified manners, and also denigrating politics which is supposed to be a serious business, not a comedy show, which is the low level that the aforementioned presidential reputation managers have reduced it.

And one can bet that the absurd mannerisms displayed by the pair of Fani-Kayode and Melaye in the trending videos that suggests that they may be laden with negative energies, would rub off badly on their principals, whose image they are supposed to be burnishing.

It is unedifying that at such a critical time, the exchange of ideas full of intellectual and practical perspectives in leadership between the candidates should be dominating the political atmosphere, the trading of barbs (focused on personal idiosyncrasies), rather than what’s ailing Nigerians and how to cure them, is the main thing occupying the minds of presidential image makers and with which they are fouling up the public space.

Does it not amount to double jeopardy that the presidential candidates would not only be trying to erase their reputation as sinners, which Nigerians have labelled them, but they would also have to contend with the consequences of the oversized egos of those responsible for doing the job of marketing them to the masses, but who happen to have worse image deficits than their principals?

I recall with nostalgia the days of Abba Daboh and Godwin Tarka – both of whom hail from Benue state and were political foes, whose feud that started in the 1970s continued into the 1980s.

They were so famous that the anecdote: “if you tarka me, l will daboh you’ – a creative conversion of their last names into curse words in 1974, became part of the political lexicon at that time.

Unlike the current Fani-Kayode and Melaye feud which appears to me as mere ego trips and of zero or rather nuisance value to Nigerians, Daboh’s attack on Tarka, which bordered on integrity, compelled the latter to resign from office as communications minister, represents one of the rare show of courage and dignity by a minister when his ‘sins’ were exposed.

So, political quarrels which are intrinsic to politicking had substance and purpose in the days of yore and in the present times, Integrity and dignity seem to have been thrown to the dogs.

Nigerians deserve better than is presently being served them by the demagogues currently bestriding the political space.

If the aphorism ‘the morning foretells the evening’ is to be taken to heart, then the political campaigns that would officially commence by September 28, unless measures are taken by the presidential candidates to rein in their propagandists, would be full of drama and infantile tirades, instead of debates on ideas, policies, and programs of the candidates seeking to rule over Nigeria from 2023

I would like to end this dialogue with the aphorism made popular by the politician, Anthony Weldon.

“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”

It is a witty way to say that you should learn from someone’s tricks on you. If you don’t, you’re the only one to blame.

And that is a principle by which l am recommending that Nigerians should be guided in choosing who would lead them politically.

The question now is: would the electorate allow some despicable (not the patriotic and conscientious) politicians that have fooled them before, to fool them once again in 2023?

In the event that the unthinkable happens, then the Steven king modification of the aforementioned wisecrack would be in order as it would aptly describe the yoke around the neck of Nigerians:

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us.”

Would it not be such a pity party for Nigeria and Nigerians if at the end of this election circle we bow our heads in shame if the latter rather than the former once again becomes our lot?

Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.

To continue with this conversation, please visit www.magnum.ng