Prior to the election that produced President Shehu Shagari in 1979, there were five political parties in the nation. One of them was Great Nigeria People Party (GNPP), led by Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri, a jolly good fellow who popularized the concept of politics without bitterness. He held that politics was not a do-or-die matter and there was life after politics. Those in the field today should do a study of how that man ran his politics before he passed away. Now that the major parties in Nigeria have chosen their standard-bearers, and the standard-bearers have begun fence-mending visits to those who lost at the primaries, there is a move to consign the acrimony generated before the primaries to the past. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who emerged on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), hit the road the day after he won the party’s ticket, in a move to reconcile with his colleagues in the race and seek their support, given that he cannot make major impact in the general election without their input. Former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has the flag of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC), after a hard-won battle within the party, also hit the road to bring his fellow contestants to the same page with him. He made them know that their collective eye ought to be on the ball, the Presidency, in the interest of the party. Peter Obi did not need to do any fence mending, given that other contestants stepped down for him without compulsion.
Those three are the frontrunners in the presidential race, as things stand. The move at the ruling party to foist a concensus candidate hit the rocks, and was, indeed, denied by President Muhammadu Buhari. We must concede that Buhari has moved a notch higher in his claim to being a democrat in the way he allowed his party’s primaries to run without interference. Many people, including me, would have taken it to the bank that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was Buhari’s preferred candidate, and the President would influence his emergence. He did no such thing. He allowed the process to run, and the candidates engaged in a fair contest. Tinubu emerged winner. He worked hard and had the war chest, euphemism for money. He was equal to the task. But he has a challenge in choosing a running-mate. It has been touted that he would have no choice than to choose a Christian from the North. But the physical structure of Nigeria is such that there are more Muslims in the north than the south. Tinubu is a Muslim, which is why he must do the balancing act of taking a running-mate from the other religion. It has been said that he lost the chance of being Buhari’s running-mate on account of his religion. He would, therefore, be hard-pressed to do what was not viable in 2015. In 1993, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola could chose Babagana Kingibe as his running-mate. It would be political suicide to do so today. Tinubu’s dimemma is that the voting population in the North, where his winning votes would emanate, are largely Muslims. He would shoot himself in the foot if he chooses a Christian in a society that has increasingly been divided along ethnic and religious lines. Governor Nasir el-Rufai, whose name is said to be on the cards for the position insists that a Muslim-Muslim ticket can still fly. He said heavens did not fall when he did it in Kaduna and still won his second term election. He forgot to say that, at a point, he apologized to the people for that act. The implication of his recent comments is that he was insincere in that apology or that his new stance is self-serving.
The truth is that no one should contemplate a decision that sidelines any major group in the nation. It is not politically expedient to do so now. The parties were battling to beat the deadline for submission of running-mates by INEC when this was on the way to the press. Peter Obi, the third force in Nigerian politics, should also be equitable in the choice of a running-mate. I understand some people want him to come on board as their running-mate. That would be his greatest political undoing. He cannot be leading a potential revolution and back out midstream. Those may be mere speculations, just as former President Goodluck Jonathan was said to be in the picture. The former President refused to dignify the rumour with a verbal response when it became evident that the purveyors wanted the rumour to linger. His alleged move to join the ruling party assumed a life of its own when he was conspicuously absent from the meetings and primaries of the party that brought him to power. Tinibu’s emergence made it obvious that Jonathan was not in the picture. For Obi not to touch the sore nerve of his supporters, he should see this to an end. He has become a leader of an emergent new normal and would plummet into abyss should he take a step against the expectations of his followers. It will take plenty damage control to regain their confidence.
For now, candidates should market themselves any way they can without name-calling and mudslinging. The 2014 campaigns may go into history as the dirtiest, where sheer propaganda was deployed. INEC has not blown the whistle for campaigns to commence. From the mudslinging and lies one sees on the social media, where the campaign seem to have commenced, we need to be reminded that there is life after politics, and that politics should not give birth to bitterness. The struggle should be about the betterment of Nigeria, not an ethnic, tribal or religious war.
Foot note: The abducted and later released Prelate of the Methodist Church should not have made public the ransom paid for his freedom. The kidnappers are encouraged and emboldened. The Bishop of Diocese of Jebba, Rt. Rev. Adeyinka Aderogba, his wife and driver were kidnaped last Sunday at the Oyo end of the Oyo Ogbomoso road. They asked for N50 million. On Tuesday evening they were set free. I don’t think the church should disclose if and how much it paid.
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