From the beginning of democratic experiment in Nigeria, from as far back as 1954, our political elites have been concocting all sorts of schemes, schisms and systems, including peculiar doctrines that democrats in the larger world would be stunned by the colour and candour of our home-groomed manipulative tendencies. Progressively, later generations of politicians have deepened and muddled the concepts and tenets that underpin the survival of our politics through different “republics” punctuated by military interregna.
We have devised convenient and sometimes abject conventions to circumvent merit, competence and selfless service, in order to maintain sectional or regional hold on power, or to prevent others from having “undue” advantages: Zoning, catchment areas, quota system, ecologically disadvantaged, dubious census, federal character, sectional balance, turn-by-turn selections, imposition of candidates and party officers, coercive withdrawal (or step-down), proxy succession (or placeholder election), cash-and-carry primaries, monitised and ‘souvenired’ electoral processes, fake delegates, sundry malpractices, and more nauseating exercises of political rascality and harlotry.
Nowadays, the cookies are crumbling all over their heads. Our years of obnoxious politicking and sickening politricks have turned around to push us to the brink of overwhelming consternation. Yet, those who truly love Nigeria would be sad and worried at what is playing out in our major political parties.
In a couple of day, the ruling party, All Progressives’ Congress (APC) will host its national convention in Abuja (June 6-8, 2022)…but the road to that historic venue, Eagle Square, less than a week to the June 12 Democracy Day, is anything but buoyant or groundbreaking to many interest groups and blocs within the party. In fact, despite its many postponements, and the flip flops of its national executive committee, many would not want the day to come any time soon.
This current impasse in the selection process for the presidential flag bearer of APC, was violently triggered by the emergence of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) at the recent Special Convention held in MKO National Stadium, Abuja on Saturday, May 29 (formally the Democracy Day). This was after PDP jettisoned their hitherto conveniently expedient zoning system. Apparently, Abubakar was a slightly remote possibility, in the permutations of some spin doctors and pollsters within the rival party, who has suddenly become a horrendously uncomfortable reality!
Now, the APC is in the shallow waters of indecision, and many of their members in disarray. Arguably, their most formidable chieftain, Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT), was a perfect fit to swallow any opposition to the presidency in 2023, if PDP had picked anyone but Abubakar… in fact, all hopes were seemingly pinned on the emergence of vociferous Nyesom Wike or, at worst, the urbane and prudential Peter Obi. Then, Obi took flight a few days to the PDP primaries, grumbling about befuddling dollar bazaars the selection process had become. He resigned from PDP, and strolled over to the Labour Party, and the permutations got curiouser.
Now, the BAT crowd are confused – and the president then added insult upon injury by his doctrine of reciprocity! Readers of PMB’s body and lexical languages went apoplectic with also sorts of interpretations!
Here is the naked quandary: if BAT insists on following through with the primaries, and he eventually wins the APC ticket (which is within a reasonable conjecture, considering his whirlwind nationwide concourses in search of delegates, and in spite of the last-minute dissent of the president to sign the amendment to the 2022 Electoral Law which whittled the delegates population to 2,340 ad-hoc delegates only for APC, down from the more unwieldy but advantageous excess of over 7000 people, including statutory or automatic delegates)… who will be his running mate? That is the bull in his china shop!
Being a Moslem (as defined by our archaic bastardisation of leadership succession), his vice has to be a Christian northerner. Now, where is the formidable northerner who doubles as a passable Christian who is “acceptable” to the core Moslem northerners, and their puppeteers, as being pure enough to “protect northern interest”? Is it TY Danjuma, Babachir Lawal, Yakubu Dogara, Boss Mustapha, or Jonathan Zwingina? Even a fire-spitting Rev. Father Matthew Kukah would fail miserably in the eyes of the northern power calculators.
But to pick a fellow Moslem, however well endowed and entrenched in the northern calculus of power, would raise the much-feared spectre of a forbidden Moslem/Moslem ticket – currently, a guaranteed self-explosive device that will ultimately consume its architects in this our constipated political atmosphere. Patriots still growl in suppressed anger at the recollection that had the military junta allowed the MKO Abiola/Baba Gana Kingibe combo that won the 1993 presidential election, the nation would have, most likely, soared into more mature and tolerant pedestal where religion and ethnicity would have regressed from our unconscious political mindsets. But I digress, in wishful fantasy.
As things stand, the BAT folks, and their leaders, would rather choke to death than put their formidable “structure” at the service of a Yemi Oshinbajo, or a Tunde Bakare, an Emeka Nwajiuba or an Ogbonnaya Onu! Would they consider the pursuit of a larger picture on account of the prevalent iniquities which make seemingly competent individuals ineligible for the highest office, only because of their places of birth, faiths and tongues? God forbid bad things! They may not be able to bring themselves up to a platform where to lose the battle is to win the war.
That these other aspirants are Christians, fellow Southerners, capable, and if supported by a “truly” northern Moslem, competent and strategic running mate (equally buffeted by the full weight of the entire party machinery, including the active and supportive presence, messaging and whatever remains of the potent charisma of the incumbent president) could possibly save APC from potential defeat, would not convince the Jagaban movement to fall in line, and moderate their ambitions.
The impasse is real. The frustration is lamentable, and yet understandable. There has to be some sort of pragmatic, if not teutonic, compromise to save the day, and have a good chance of keeping APC in power… a counsel which may be completely ignored.
Clearly, if the contests and participants remain unbending, and fixated on the same spot, then, the end will, most likely, provide ample evidence and materials for political scientists and historians to excavate and escalate as lessons for generations unborn: how hubris and poor mental acuity can lead a nation into societal turmoil and unending political rigmarole with attendant negative consequences on the health, progress and prosperity of Nigerians.