CAN ONE VOICE SAVE THE FUTURE OF NIGERIA?
BY SOLOMON EDEBIRI, PH.D, JP, MON
2023 general election is beginning to be very intriguing with all the drama surrounding the primaries, especially the Presidential primaries. The political party ownership syndrome has led to the emergence of at least 4 major Political parties with key personalities having the capacity to upset the two major parties.
The NNPP has Kwankwaso as its presidential candidate, and Peter Obi as presidential candidate for the Labour Party. Nigerians will agree that, this development certainly has a great influence on the political narrative of the country especially at the level of the presidency.The choice of who flies the party flag at the presidential election has been of great concern, having been characterized with different manoeuvrings, intrigues and antics. Interestingly, personal interest and the desire to be President by all means, rather than national considerations, has taken the center stage; a development that is most regrettable. How this can guarantee the right choice of candidate that fits into the expectations of Nigerians has continued to puzzle the minds of many.
According to Seun Okinbaloye of Channels Television, the president Nigerians must hire must possess the following qualities; knowledgeability/crisis management Skills, character and integrity, vision and courage to make tough decisions, effective communication skills and the ability to unite the nation. The concern expressed by so many Nigerians is whether the processes adopted by the Political Parties in choosing a candidate can produce candidates with these qualities especially the two frontline parties. I have read different views regarding Buhari’s request from the APC Governors to allow him choose his successor. Some schools of thought see it as a wrong political trajectory to follow; rather, they opine that delegates should be allowed to make their choices. Though this may appear to be the actual tenet of democracy, but in the current Nigerian State, party delegates do not have the mind for a freewill decision as the Nigerian political system has become the-highest-bidder-takes-it-all system. A quick example can be spotted from the recently concluded PDP special convention for electing a presidential candidate; the aspirants who withdrew from the race ascribed their reasons to the monetisation of the political process which completely eroded the tenets of fairness and transparency. So many have argued in favour of these opinions, fearing that the entire political system will be hijacked by moneybags as was evident at the PDP convention. A process which rests on candidate dispensing excess of 10 billion naira to win the ticket of a political party certainly shuts out so many candidates who do not have that financial capacity, though possess the qualities required to take the country to the desired destination. Many have begun to ponder on the viability of the delegate system, especially viewing it from the current context.Some international analysts say that Nigerian politics has fallen into the hands of the elite, a class of people who purely are business politicians; they argue that you cannot survive in Nigerian Politics without being a moneybag. They further posit that, no poor man can stand for election into political offices in Nigeria, no matter the idea he has. The World Bank has said that over 70% of Africa’s wealth is shipped out to banks in Europe, America, Asia and etcetera. They argue that the very few actually suck the wealth of the country. . I am sure many Nigerians other than the less than 0.1% of our population who form the elite club will agree with the position of these analysts.Clearly, Africa, especially Nigeria needs a crop of new generation mind-set to re-engineer the Nigerian economic and political state. By new generation, I do not particularly refer to young people, as opportunities have arisen for lots of young people in political positions, from Governors, Speakers to Ministers, yet the status quo remains the same and in many cases, worse. The new generation we demand are the new in mind and spirit, in thinking and acting. In aligning therefore with the analyses of some foreign analysts, it becomes foolhardy to imagine that the likes of Peter Obi would have survived in PDP. Worried about the kind of candidates the two major political Parties will provide that can balance regional bias, meet set standards for the kind of President Nigerians need to hire, and having watched the PDP process for electing their candidates, all eyes have now shifted to the ruling party who will be electing their candidates on the 6th and 7th of June, 2022. No fewer than 23 candidates have been screened and 10 disqualified, which leaves the Party with 13 candidates to make a choice from. However, the question of zoning has been buried, knowing fully well that all 23 aspirants cut across the North and South of the country. The APC must however not jettison the power shift principle as it is one antidote to national political crisis.Last week, the president had a meeting with the Governors and requested their support to enable him choose his successor. His argument was based on the fact that he had allowed them (the Governors) the right of first refusal for the first timers in their States to return and also those on their last lap to anoint a successor. Personally, I cannot blame Mr. President. They say he who must come to equity must come with clean hands. The Governors cannot have their cake in their mouth and also have it on their palm; what you cannot give to people, do not ask others to give same to you.Arising from this position and the current state of money politics which could be worse in APC, and bearing in mind the weight of most of the aspirants when it comes to money, the idea of delegate election may also turn out to be a disaster. With the new electoral act, APC delegation will be just under 2,400, however, if the Kano judgement is anything to go by, the expected numbers of delegates will be over 7000, as statutory delegates will now be involved in the voting process. With this number, and the calibre of moneybags amongst the APC aspirants, monetizing the presidential primaries will be a piece of cake.This fear has made me over the last few days to ponder upon the request of Mr. President. If he can be guided by fairness to national polity, ensure balance of regional provisions, put the interest of Nigerians on top of his mind, his intervention can eliminate the prospect of monetizing the primaries. And depending on the strength of the binoculars he is wearing, he might also be able to select a more competent person with little or no history of corruption whether indicted or not indicted, as long as such candidate possesses the requisite knowledge of leadership and the qualities earlier mentioned, as canvassed by Seun Okinbaloye of Channels.The President’s choice might be the solution to the challenges. In his wisdom and in the principle of fairness and equity, a southern candidate will create the right balance. In Nigeria today, we are at a cross road politically, delegates election can no longer guarantee fair electioneering process and selection of the right candidate, hence I ask, can one voice save the future of Nigeria?