While Nigerians waited with bated breath for President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, to pick his successor via consensus as he had earlier pleaded with governors and other prominent stakeholders of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), the President made an about-turn.
He announced, through one of his spokespersons, that all aspirants should slug it out at the convention. Translation: He no longer had a preferred candidate. Or if he ever had, as he once told Channels Television, he had changed his mind.
But even before the convention, which led to the emergence of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, as the undisputed candidate of the APC, there was a surfeit of intrigues.
Against the grain of the sentiment that power should rotate to the South, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, was suddenly and stridently canvassed as a consensus candidate.
The canvassing for Lawan’s fly-by-night candidature was said to be guided by the need to counter the emergence of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, as the standard-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the North-East geo-political zone. Besides, the argument further went, the North East where Lawan also hailed from, had never had a President, either in a civilian or a military dispensation.
The speculated Lawan candidature drew so much traction as to compel the Northern governors to once more re-state their preference for a Southern candidate and to take their case to the Presidential Villa. It is instructive that in spite of their assertion, Lawan remained on the ballot until he was finally trounced with other contestants by Tinubu.
If the APC convention led to the emergence of a Southerner and tended to address concerns of equity and justice in the political space, the process, like all such conventions, was noted for tough negotiations and horse-trading. Not a few lightweight aspirants stepped down for the more formidable contestants jockeying for the coveted APC flag. It turned out that these lightweights were either fronts or proxies for Asiwaju Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi.
Horse trading was compounded by intrigues. For shortly before the accreditation of delegates and actual voting at the convention, it was bruited that Ahmad Lawan was President Buhari’s choice and consensus candidate. This kite trended in cyberspace and flew in the media space for twelve hours before it was finally shot down by a terse disclaimer by the presidency.
Apart from the confusion and uncertainty that Ahmad Lawan’s purported endorsement caused, it brought suspense to avid observers of the convention. This thrill was nearly at par with, if not surpassing the exciting cliffhanger, which witnessed the keen contest between Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Also noteworthy are the tantrums and boasts, which were famously thrown and issued by Tinubu in Abeokuta ahead of the APC convention. To the extent that these tantrums have helped or hindered Tinubu’s candidature remains to be seen. What is clear is that Tinubu eventually emerged, thanks chiefly to the block votes of delegates from the South West and North West geo-political zones.
If the conventions of the APC and PDP were exciting and were the stuff of political thrillers, the sickening deployment of money to secure the votes of delegates must be deeply concerning. Not only was it brazenly done, but it was also dirty and nauseating, especially given our self-inflicted destitution and privation.
One is mindful of the fact that liberal democracy and the presidential system, as copied, are expensive. An aspirant needs to consult widely. He needs to secure the buy-in and robust support of stakeholders and influencers across board. In doing so he/she needs to traverse the length and breadth of the country with his entourage at a time of growing insecurity.
Before the convention, some better-heeled aspirants had to charter private jets to meet delegates across the country. Even then, the wanton display of money, and in hard currency, during the conventions was egregious. The questions that arise from this are: What are the sources of these monies? What assurance do we have that a candidate who has spent so much will not pre-occupy himself with recouping his “investment” when he gets the presidency or whatever office he/she is hankering after?
Would such a huge spender bother about delivering good governance or addressing the challenges that buffet this country? How can a credible person who is determined to change the country’s fortunes for the better emerge in a situation where the presidency is for sale to the highest bidder or the deepest pocket? What are the implications for our democracy when the big players are the filthy rich or those proximate to them?
These questions are pertinent because the media, which should set agenda for public discussion, are already awash with speculations that the 2023 presidential election is a two-horse race between the APC and the PDP. Given this disquieting scenario, in which filthy lucre and its obscene deployment are the fad, is it not time that other like-minded political parties who set store by salvaging the country from the mire it is bogged in and who subscribe to uplifting values, considered coming together to wrest power from these plutocrats?
A straight contest for power between the APC and PDP, devoid of a third hegemon, would appear to give us more of the same. The two are as similar in disposition, outlook and strategy. They are Tweedledum and Tweedledee, what the Hausa refer to as Danjuma and Danjummai.
They have made salvaging the country appears like a bridge too far. I have serious misgivings if they or their candidates can salvage us from our challenges. We would have had an inkling since they started holding sway or superintending our affairs in 1999.
Dazang is the immediate past Director of Media and Public Enlightenment of INEC.