You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2022 01 27Article 519949

Opinions of Thursday, 27 January 2022

Columnist: Oloko (punchng. com)

Beginning of the end of an era and 2023 presidential election

Picture used to illustrate the story Picture used to illustrate the story

After a two-term, eight-year tenure, the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari retd.), will expire at noon, May 29, 2023. That is what the constitution prescribes.

As to be expected, succession battles and presidential manoeuvrings, which come alive only at election time, have begun within the ruling All Progressives Congress, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party and the numerous fringe political parties.

As it is typical of presidential politics in Nigeria, much of the early noises are about the section of the country that is entitled to produce President Buhari’s successor.

The two major political parties stand an equal chance of winning the coveted presidential prize but until they conduct their national conventions, the part of the country that might produce the next president, and who that person might be, remain matters of speculation.

Notwithstanding the noises, posturing, apocalyptic threats by socio-political groups and hired presidential support groups, polluting the airwaves and the environment with billboards, knowledgeable insiders and smooth political operators are unmoved by this ritualised game of political brinkmanship because they know that, after eight years of President Buhari, the presidential gravy train would likely head southwards. But that possibility does not provide much clarity, in part because the South comprises three politically antagonistic, ethnically exclusive groups, each with plausible claims to the presidency.

On the face of it, the shift in the presidency to the southern part of the country, though unconstitutional, is sensible realpolitik in a fragile and multiethnic country like Nigeria. It is also good news for the professional politicians from that zone of the country. However, that may not be so for the vast majority of Nigerians, who believe that such an arrangement is no guarantor of good governance and national prosperity, as it had been the tragic case in the past. For the vast majority of Nigerians, the power shift is a ruse, a self-serving mechanism devised by professional politicians to manage access to the national patrimony in, what cynics have termed, ‘turn-by-turn’ presidency. Nigerians acquiesce in this dubious arrangement largely because they are powerless; besides the fear is that any other option might undermine the country’s fragile democracy.

Ordinarily, it would not be out of place to assume that in the event that the presidency goes to the South, for the sake of equity, fairness and justice, the South-East geopolitical zone should claim the big prize. The compelling argument is that in the 4th Republic, both the South-West and South-South zones had their shots at the presidency.

However, any idea that the South-West is out of the equation may be premature, even politically naïve. The fact that President Buhari is from the same North-West geopolitical zone as former President Musa Yar’Adua renders the case against the South-West futile. In practice, there is nothing illegitimate about having two presidents from the same geopolitical zone if the political parties and the electorate allow it. It is for that reason that candidates from the South-West and South-South geopolitical zones might feel encouraged to vie for the top job, notwithstanding the claims and pleas of the South-East. All these make the permutation towards 2023 even more interesting. What is, however, not in doubt is that the 2023 presidential contest is a straight battle between the APC and PDP, as it is rather too late for any third force to displace either of the two mainstream parties.

This is where the Bola Ahmed Tinubu factor and moves by the ruling APC to retain power at the centre come into play. It is also probable that the PDP will concede the presidency to the South-East in view of the sizable support it has in the region and the fact that the party has already produced two presidents from the South-West and South-South respectively. Moreover, the PDP does not have a serious foothold in the South-West. Although the PDP has a large followership in the South-South, it does appear the region is not mobilising for the presidency as of now. Perhaps former President Goodluck Jonathan might fancy his chances and decide to throw his hat into the ring? If he does, on what platform would he pitch his tent, given the rumours making the rounds that he might be drafted by the ruling APC? If that does happen, how would the APC sell his candidacy to a largely PDP-dominated South-South, a disenchanted South-East and an APC-dominated South-West in awe of Tinubu?

Ahmed Bola Tinubu is an intriguing character, given his larger-than-life image in the APC. While his antecedents in Lagos are well known, he appears to lack the temperament of a no-nonsense politician ready to whip Nigerians back into line. Besides, while his style of governance, especially his tendency to emasculate both the executive and legislative branches of government, might have worked for him in Lagos State, such a strategy could come unstuck at the federal level.

Moreover, some analysts believe that his interests are usually at variance with the collective interests of the people. This is to the extent that he may enhance the political fortunes of his loyalists in order to make possible his disposition towards state capture as it is in Lagos, where his political machinery has dominated the landscape since 1999. But should his famed political sagacity disqualify him in the upcoming presidential contest? Certainly not.

The expectation of experts and non-politicians appears to be that, after two decades of the 4th Republic, merit should be uppermost in the minds of all who wish Nigeria well. The argument is that there is no correlation between the well-being of the people of a zone and the factor of the president coming from that particular zone. Examples abound of complaints and dissatisfaction by the peoples of zones that have produced presidents but have struggled with poverty, insecurity and infrastructural deficits in much the way and to the same degree as other less politically favoured parts of Nigeria. Moreover, precisely because the Nigerian president is constitutionally bound to serve the whole country, the occupant of that exalted office cannot, and should not, in good conscience develop one part of the country at the expense of the others. To that extent, some well-meaning Nigerians have argued for a meritocratic presidency that is open to all qualified Nigerians, regardless of ethnic, sectarian or geopolitical affiliations.

The case for an open contest has assumed even more salience in recent times, not least because at the moment none of the rumoured and potential presidential candidates in the two main parties appears really angry enough about the current situation in the country to fundamentally change the direction of governance if elected in 2023. In essence, no one seems to fit the bill of a “change agent” with the vision, discipline and charisma to provide the leadership to finally unlock Nigeria’s mythical potential. What we see are the same old, tired faces, people that are likely to maintain the status quo rather than embark on the radical change that Nigeria needs. We do not see any ‘young Turks’ among the probable or possible presidential hopefuls and, if there are any on the wings, it is unlikely they would prosper in the presidential politics of either of the major political parties.

Thus, for the vast majority of Nigerians, the prognosis for the future is bleak. But Nigerians are desperate for change and change they must get and the time is now. There is little doubt that without a fundamental change; without a major course correction in politics and in governance, Nigeria will remain a country of missed opportunities, a country where potentials, not achievements, are celebrated. One does not have to be clairvoyant to know that the country is not going in the right direction and must change course to realise its potentials for the benefit of all citizens.

The clock is ticking and 2023 is now on the horizon. Let the political fireworks begin.