September 26, 2022


We cannot continue this way as a nation, and I hope subsequent primaries will see significant improvements in the identified areas. It is time to rethink our politics, party nomination process, the basis of our choices as individuals and the future of our country. Still, I congratulate the presidential candidates of all the parties for winning the slot of their parties.
After a long voyage, all the political parties have concluded their special conventions and primaries, and they now have presidential flag bearers representing the parties at the polls next year. The past two weeks have been a protracted season of tension, permutations, and intrigues. The dramas that brought the two presidential candidates to victory were captivating and pulsating. There were no apparent upsets as the two presidential candidates from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are political heavyweights and they represent the culmination of what Nigerian politics has been in the past two decades.
The symbolisms of both of their candidature are not lost on us – the triumph of the political godfathers, the super rich and high-powered stakeholders in our political firmament. Whether their candidacy is what Nigerians expected or not, whether the process of choosing them was “dollarised” or not, whether their ages would be a factor in their efficiency on the presidential job or not, one of them would likely become the president come May 2023, barring any miracle.
The theatre of presidential politics offers us the rare opportunity to reflect on our politics, our stunted development, and the future of our country. Like most Nigerians, I have conducted a post-mortem on the presidential primaries of the two major political parties in Nigeria, borne out of my critical and sober reflection on all the political theatricals, actions and inactions of significant actors and institutions involved in the primaries. I want to share my five takeaways from the special conventions of the two major political parties.
First, I believe that Nigerians were interested in the primaries because they wanted the parties to choose a candidate who deeply understands the myriad of Nigerian problems and can articulate solutions to them, whilst galvanising all Nigerians to realise our collective aspirations as a people. Most people were disappointed because the primaries did not adequately showcase any candidate, so that Nigerians could start making sense of who he is and what he represents. The profiles, service records, programmes and manifesto speeches of the aspirants did not count for much for the delegates who decided the presidential nominations.
These attributes mattered to the public but not to delegates in their worlds. It was all about schemes, scams, and personal interests. A negligible number of delegates voted on the basis of their conviction about the competence and service record of the aspirants. Throughout the consultation and nomination processes, except for an insignificant number of aspirants, no one spoke about how to solve our most pressing socio-economic problems in Nigeria.
Second, the primaries were auctions of some sort. What was at stake was who would be the highest bidder for an estate worth more than $411 billion – the size of the Nigerian economy in 2019-2020. The leading aspirants, going by what transpired at both conventions, were ready to offer a paltry $100 million for this piece of estate, making it the cheapest auction ever conducted anywhere in the world. If we go by the stories of some delegates who alleged that some aspirants offered them between $5,000 and $20,000 each, a quick calculation will give you a vivid idea of the bid of leading aspirants in both political parties. Similar things happened on a smaller scale in the fringe parties.
In these primaries, we saw the political elite’s insensitivity, manipulation and greed displayed in gargantuan proportions, and even state governors were not exempted. The level of personal greed was embarrassing, and there was no room for principles or conviction. Only a handful in the elite political class could restrain their greed, even for money they do not need.
A lot has been said and written about the “dollarisation” of the presidential nomination processes. It beggers belief that the presidency is for sale to the highest bidder at this stage of our political development. We discussed within and outside the venue of the primaries (on social media, traditional media, and the public sphere) about offering dollars as inducement to delegates to vote for a candidate, as if it is a normal thing to do.
This action is a crime and, if proven, should have severe consequences for both the givers and the receivers. But not in Nigeria, where anything goes. Where is our collective conscience and morality? How do we want to be taken seriously as a country by other nations when the most important political office in the country is bought or sold to the highest bidder? How do we expect good leadership from a foundation of corruption and crass hedonism? Why must we be mercantile about our national leadership and development?
Third, these primaries showcased elitism and elite dominance of the political system and structures. Major stakeholders, including the delegates, are of the elite class or their cronies, and they were there to do the bidding of the privileged class. It was a gathering of the political elite to struggle to control state power. We noticed different factions jostling for control. The gang of the governors was prominent in both the PDP and APC primaries. Governors who control fiefdoms were directly or indirectly in control of delegates from their states, barring a few renegades who refused to be directed by the governors and voted either on the basis of personal conviction or the dictates of the candidates that had paid in dollars.
In these primaries, we saw the political elite’s insensitivity, manipulation and greed displayed in gargantuan proportions, and even state governors were not exempted. The level of personal greed was embarrassing, and there was no room for principles or conviction. Only a handful in the elite political class could restrain their greed, even for money they do not need.
Fourth, loyalty, morality and friendship are meaningless in Nigerian politics. The only thing that matters is shifting interests. We saw politicians who had been long-time allies work at cross-purposes and those who had conversely been at each other’s throats for ages collaborate for personal gains and unfounded promises. Alliances and counter-alliances were formed and broken. Politicians slaughtered personal relationships at the altar of political expediencies. Primordial sentiments and attachments led to friends and counterparts betraying each other.
At long last, we saw ethnic feelings dictating the choices made by some without considering what is best for Nigeria and the public that the delegates were representing. Advocates of zoning felt hard done and cried wolf in both primaries, although the Northern Governors Forum of the APC, in a heroic act, displayed unusual patriotism when the group insisted on the presidential ticket of the party going South. It may take time for the wounds created during these primaries to heal, and it may take time to rebuild trust and harmony among party members who felt betrayed and used by the system.
…these past conventions or presidential nomination processes revealed everything wrong with our politics – the weak ideological foundation of the parties, the attitude of our people to a democratic culture, the influence of poverty or the lack of economic empowerment on political choices, the absence of citizenship rights and responsibilities in our politics, the vanishing moral values and desperation of the elite to hang on to power as the only means of survival and wealth…
Fifth, delegates did not vote for aspirants based on the issues of interest to the people they were supposed to represent. The welfare, interest and progress of the ordinary persons did not matter. Everything was purely a transactional enterprise. Most Nigerians watching the primaries from home felt betrayed by the lack of sincerity of some aspirants who, at the last minute and when it mattered the most for them to sell their presidential aspirations to Nigerians, jettisoned the aspiration altogether and “en mass”, in some instances, engaged in the endorsement of other aspirants, thereby changing the equation of the selection process.
These primaries illustrate the dire state of our politics and the need for a review of the whole democratic process. The monetisation and dollarisation of our politics leave a sour taste in the mouth of every democratic person. Although we have faulted the process, only time will tell whether the products of these processes will deliver Nigeria from this state of quagmire, and raise the hopes and aspirations of many hopeless Nigerians who have given up on the country. The candidates of the two major political parties, who are wealthy political juggernauts, have been part of the orthodoxy, have planned for the presidency for many years, and have fought hard to clinch the tickets of their parties. We sincerely hope they have the elixir to Nigeria’s problems.
At the end of my review, these past conventions or presidential nomination processes revealed everything wrong with our politics – the weak ideological foundation of the parties, the attitude of our people to a democratic culture, the influence of poverty or the lack of economic empowerment on political choices, the absence of citizenship rights and responsibilities in our politics, the vanishing moral values and desperation of the elite to hang on to power as the only means of survival and wealth in an economy that is very hard to create wealth privately within.
The whole charade and shenanigans of the political class and their desperation to grab power at all costs are linked to poverty and hopelessness in the land, as poor people pay little or no attention to issues. Most ordinary Nigerians suffer from physical and material deprivation, whilst our political elites are afflicted by moral and mental poverty, as seen in their attitudes and behaviours in the presidential nomination of the two major parties .


We cannot continue this way as a nation, and I hope subsequent primaries will see significant improvements in the identified areas. It is time to rethink our politics, party nomination process, the basis of our choices as individuals and the future of our country. Still, I congratulate the presidential candidates of all the parties for winning the slot of their parties.
I look forward to an issue-based campaign devoid of sleaze, mudslinging, ethnic and religious chauvinism, and campaign monetisation. We must get it right this time because we cannot afford to gamble with our collective destiny.
Dakuku Peterside is a policy and leadership expert. 
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