Aristotle said: “Choice, not chance, determines your destiny”. But can Nigerians say sincerely that there is a choice among the fossilised beings the parties are presenting to us as candidates? The choice we made in 2015 has pushed the Naira from N197 per Dollar to N600 per Dollar, while wellness has gone down south. Many in Katsina and Zamfara, who in 2019, chorused ‘Sai Baba’ (meaning only Baba Buhari can do it) are buried today in unmarked graves dug by bandits. Choice, not chance, will determine if we will live to see beyond 2023. Unfortunately, what faces Nigerians in the coming election is a no-choice. Our situation is something like buying a no-cure for a disease that threatens to kill.
The last three weeks have been very interesting, politically. The hullaballoo that greeted the presidential primaries of the two major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressive Congress, APC, reached its crescendo on Wednesday, June 8, when the APC concluded its tension soaked presidential primaries, which threw up Bola Ahmed Tinubu as its flag bearer for the 2023 general election. The mere fact that nobody paid attention to the activities of the remaining political parties while the PDP and the APC were at their naked dance of perfidy, goes to show that nothing has changed in the country and more importantly, that nothing will change in 2023 and beyond, irrespective of who becomes the president after the election. I say this because the candidates of the two major political parties; Abubakar Atiku of the PDP and Tinubu of the APC, are symptoms of identical lurgy.
It is rather unfortunate that 62 years after Nigeria attained independence, the citizenry are left with the choices of the very dissolute and the invalid fossils as presidential candidates! If you ask me, I will tell you off hand that between Atiku and Tinubu, there is really no choice to be made. While in some instances, it can be said that between two evils, there is the possibility of a lesser evil; but in the case of the two leading presidential candidates, the electorate are presented with the options of two equal characters that, in all parameters, are the same in and out. But at the end of the day, Nigerians must make a choice between the duo. How we make that choice will be determined by a lot of factors; chiefly among which is the monstrous level of poverty in the country at the moment. In the long run, whoever becomes the president among the two candidates will be the one who can outspend the other; and not the one who is more competent, patriotic or loves the masses.
I am not just being pessimistic here. Morning, they say, shows the night. The ways and manners Atiku and Tinubu emerged as the presidential candidates of their respective party, clearly showed the shape of the battle ahead. It is going to be a battle where raw cash will play very significant roles. For the first time in the history of electioneering in Nigeria, and to the shame of the current pilots of our affairs, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, had to move to the venues of the PDP and the APC presidential primaries to monitor the flow of hard currencies. While that act in itself is despicable, and while one can excuse the PDP because it lives by the ignoble reputation of a corruption infested assemblage, it is most embarrassing that EFCC personnel had to be present to monitor the APC elections, even when General Muhammadu Buhari, the president and leader of the party, and who rode to power on the campaign battle cry of anti-corruption, was physically seated.
Except Nigerians want to deliberately deceive themselves, everybody who has conscience will agree that Atiku and Tinubu did not emerge because they have what it takes to turn around the fortunes of this country. The two are driven by personal egos and the life-long ambitions to rule the country at all cost.
This is why they spent and were spent in their make or break parties primaries. Atiku, we would all recall, has been in his interminable presidential race since 1993, when he contested the presidential primaries of the then Social Democratic Party, SDP, with the late MKO Abiola, the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, and Baba Gana Kingibe, who later became Abiola’s running mate but later abandoned the mandate and joined the expired General Sani Abacha, who incarcerated Abiola.
The same Kingibe, some two days ago, visited Tinubu and is being hailed in the social media as a “true democrat”. When this dispensation began in 1989, Atiku was elected Vice President on a joint ticket with General Olusegun Obasanjo. The Waziri of Adamawa was the indisputable leader of the PDP while he held fort as the vice president and he was said to have tormented Obasanjo before he allowed his principal to contest for his second term in 2003. When he realised that his presidential ambition was dead on arrival with Obasanjo as the incumbent president in 2007, Atiku jumped ship and abandoned the PDP for the then Tinubu’s Action Congress, where he contested the presidential election against the late President Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP and General Buhari of the All Nigerians Peoples Party, ANPP.
By 2011, he was back in the PDP again and contested the presidential primaries of the party with President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, which he lost. The following round of election saw the retired Customs officer in the opposition APC and battled for the presidential ticket with Buhari in 2014. With the later emerging as the candidate and eventually elected president, Atiku again packed his bag and baggage and moved back to the PDP. He was the party’s presidential flag bearer in the 2019 election, which he lost again to Buhari. Such has been the political trajectory of Atiku, a man who is presenting himself as the lover of the country’s poor masses.
Tinubu on his own makes no pretense about his ambition to be president of Nigeria. Since his foray into politics in 1993 and all his has done, his focus has been the number one seat. In order to actualise his long-life ambition, the Jagaban Borgu spares no efforts. He pacifies, cajoles, massages people’s egos and bruises some as the occasion presents itself. Tinubu, in the pursuit of his presidential ambition, is the living Niccolo Machiavelli of our epoch. Using Lagos State, where he was a two term governor, as his launching pad, his political wave, like a malignant cancer, spreads across the country.
It does not matter if he has to dine with the devil, the Asiwaju of Lagos jumps into any political bed and have conjugal affair with any political element irrespective of his or her state of health. Where he needs to trade, Tinubu sells off the most precious jewel handy like he did in 2011, when he traded off the House of Representatives Speakership zoned to his home base of South West, by endorsing and supporting Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State to defeat Mulikat Adeola Akande.
He, at different times, sowed political IOUs by making Atiku and Nuhu Ribadu, both of Adamawa State, the presidential candidates of his political parties, the AC and the ACN respectively. He deployed his arsenals in support of the current Senate President, Ahamad Lawan in 2019. At the moment, his best friend is Governor Abdulahi Ganduje of Kano State. Where he needs to buy, Tinubu offers the highest bid ever.
Political watchers said that what played out in last week’s APC presidential primaries, where seven “aspirants” stepped down for Tinubu, was high net worth trading. The summary of his political persona is that in the bid to realise his ambition to be president, Tinubu does not blink before he trades off anything, no matter how noble it is.
The two characters are the choices before Nigerians as the nation drifts towards the 2023 general elections. Both the PDP and the APC do not give any hope, not even in the slightest of all ways, that the nation is due for the desired change. Whoever wins the presidential election next year is not going to make any difference. It is going to be business as usual.
The earlier the citizenry prepares for this sad reality, the better. I have been reflecting on the primaries of the two parties and I keep on wondering who we are as a people. Think about how PDP delegates gave a fantastic figure like Sam Ohuanbunwa just one vote and Bashorun Dele Momodu, with his brilliant ideas, zero vote, in a primary election, where Atiku scored 371 and Nyelsom Wike polled 237!
Ask why a Tunde Bakare, with his eloquence and complete understanding of his mission, would score zero vote, in an election, where Tinubu, who struggled to climb the stairs to the podium, jumbled in his reading of a prepared speech and fumbled and struggled to open next page of the speech, scored 1,271 votes. Is that a party of hope? Is PDP which settled for the very dissolute character among its array of personages that sought the party’s flag the one to rescue the nation? Is the party which moved from the grandiose to the buffoonery by picking the fossil and invalid above cerebral and highly coordinated individuals the one to salvage what is remaining of Buhari’s abysmal failure? Pray, what name do you give a party which gave the incubated Yaya Bello of Kogi State 47 votes and awarded zero vote to a Bakare after such a superlative rendition at the primaries?
And for the promoters of the avant garde president, Peter Obi, who appears to be an alternative, they should know that the undoing of their project boy in politics is his ambulatory and constant political flight like “a bird of passage that lacks the quality of permanence”. I don’t want to dismiss Obi as a dreamer but I am tempted to submit that I don’t see his ambition going beyond dreams.
The sad truth is that Obi is in no way better than Atiku and Tinubu in character; his sententious postures notwithstanding. The three are driven by the same pull of force; to wit: ambition! While in the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, under which he became two term governor of Anambra State, Obi vowed that he would never join the PDP. But shortly after he left power, he befriended the same PDP, such that 2019, to the embarrassment of those who saw him as a different species of politician, he elected to be a running mate to Atiku.
What are we talking about? Show me your friend, and I will tell you the type of person you are, says the axiom. He bolted to the Labour Party, when he realised that the PDP would not give him the presidential ticket and developed the fantasies about how the imaginary 35 million unemployed youths are his structures across the country. The reality will soon catch up with everyone in his badly carved political canoe that Nigerian politics is not about polemics. He, however, has eight months to perfect his strategies and take some tutorials in political maneuverings, scheming and network building. The 2023 election is not going to be like the 2020 EndSARS protests because there are diverse interests involved this time around. Again I ask: are there really choices before Nigerians?