Nigeria is clearly on the match again in search of the best person to step into the big shoe of the President come 2023. After being thoroughly misrule and misled, Nigerians have automatically lost faith on the capacity of politicians to to do as they say. But this angle of reflection is for another day.
Today, our mind is addressing an emerging scenario whereby politicians who want to be President have carved a new tradition of paying homage to the incumbent to unveil their aspiration.
With this emerging modus operandi by political candidates for 2023 Presidency, it is safe to say that the year 2022 has understandably began with a flurry of disclosures of aspirations and ambitions by ambitious aspirants for the Presidential office with some of them literally commencing their campaign even before the whistle is blown for electioneering campaigns to begin by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC is increasingly becoming helpless and uninspiring.
And so this initial spectacular misstep of some of these ambitious aspirants who are mostly governors or former governors is to have made it a new political ritual to embark on a pilgrimage to the office of the outgoing president in Aso Rock to inform him that they are eyeing his seat come 2023 when he, Muhammadu Buhari would have rounded his non-renewable second tenure in office. This marks a new low and offends the provision of the constitution that will be cited hereafter.
Specifically, section 14 (1) 2 (a) of the Nigerian constitution is clear on who is more important to aspirants to any elective offices in Nigeria when it provides thus: “The Federal Republic of Nigeria SHALL be a state base or the principles of democracy and social justice. It is hereby, accordingly, declared that- sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this constitution derives all its powers and authority”.
So those who are trooping to the office of the president to inform the incumbent about their ambition to contest for the office of the President of Nigeria have chosen the very wrong path and this is an early warning that they aspire to be president to satisfy not the collective interests of the citizens who are the voters but that of their selfish objectives and line their pockets with filthy lucre. We will see shortly why the voters must be the primary source of endorsement and not the lame duck President who has just a vote.
The great American philosopher, John Dewey, grew up in Vermont in the late 19th century and attended the University of Vermont before making his mark on American political thought. Mostly, Dewey is remembered for his contributions to the field of education. He believed that education is less about acquiring a fixed body of knowledge and more about developing skills in critical thinking and applying those skills as active citizens. Consequently, the value of education goes well beyond the individual benefits; an educated citizenry supports democratic norms and a more robust civic life.
The Philosopher Dewey was a strong proponent of democracy as the best means for meeting the needs of the public. In his book, The Public and Its Problems (1927), Dewey tried to reconcile civic engagement in American democracy with the depersonalizing forces of industrialism and capitalism. While Dewey recognizes the importance of policy experts, he also argues that popular participation in government is necessary to uncover the problems we collectively face because experts will be too removed from the public to clearly see the problems people confront. “The man who wears the shoe knows best that it pinches and where it pinches, even if the expert shoemaker is the best judge of how the trouble is to be remedied” (p. 207).
Understandably, Political scientists and civics educators often express the idea that voting is important without explaining why that is the case. To many students, and to too many Americans, voting appears to be fruitless and unlikely to make a difference. And yet, the 2016 presidential election hinged on approximately 78,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, or less than 0.06% of the total votes cast in the presidential election. Putting aside presidential elections, there have been many elections at the state and local level where a single vote made the difference. In 2017, the 94th District of the Virginia House of Delegates, wherein 11,608 ballots were cast, resulted in a tie, and the winner was chosen by randomly drawing a name from a hat. More significantly, control of the House of Delegates depended on the outcome of the 94th district, as the Republicans held 50 seats and the Democrats 49.
The researcher who is narrating these stories said that most elections are not closely decided, but that does not mean that one’s vote does not matter. The very act of voting is a form of civic responsibility and the exercise of a right for which many American citizens had to fight. For many Americans, voting is their only form of civic engagement, he stressed, (Rich Clark, Professor of Political Science).
The American Professor of Political Science observed that as Americans, it is part of our common creed that the government’s legitimacy is based on the consent of the governed. Yet, without any formal rites of citizenship or national service mandates, Americans who do not gain citizenship through the naturalization process never explicitly avow their consent to be governed; instead, we accept the idea of tacit consent. Voting is one of the few opportunities for most Americans to weigh in and express one’s preference on the direction of government, thereby recognizing the legitimacy of the government through participation in the process.
As a political Strategist, I agree with the aforementioned affirmation of this Professor of Political Science.
However, the early birds who are now jostling to replace President Muhammadu Buhari have shown that they do not subscribe to the time-tested, time-trusted political philosophy which elevates the voter to the pedestal of primary status.
They have demonstrated their poor understanding of the fundamentals of good governance embedded in the truism that governance is all about the people. Utilitarianism says spreading happiness to the greatest number of people is the essence of government.
They, the species of politicians in our clime especially those who chose to tell President rather than the people of Nigeria, that they want to run for the elective office of the President of Nigeria, have by this primitive tendency, demonstrated a disturbing lack of loyalty to the voters who are the people of Nigeria that the constitution decreed as the owners of the sovereignty of Nigeria.
I will take the academic liberty to quote from the book by Mark H. McCormark on the Concept of loyalty.
He wrote thus: “Loyalty is another form of trust. Employees often do not realize the importance almost any company places on it. They will trade off loyalty for a gain that is too small or a goal that is too short-sighted.
Obviously, if you believe another company is about to make an offer you cant refuse, you would be crazy not to pursue it. But if you do not intend to leave you have to be very careful about how to use other opportunities.
If people don’t like to be conned, they don’t like to be threatened either. Your threat of looking for another job only hurts you.
You have, in effect, told your employer that you don’t place much value on loyalty and, worse that you don’t even have anything to show for your attitude. You lose something important while gaining nothing. I have never been favourably impressed by someone telling me he is head-hunter bait.
If you do have another job offer, but would like to remain with the company you work for, stress the importance of your loyalty.
Instead of saying, ‘Look, they’ve offered me this. Either match it or top it or I’m out the door, find out how much more effective it is to use slightly different words: Obviously, this is where my loyalties lie, and what can the company do so that I don’t have to take this other job?”from the book: ‘What they Don’t teach you at Harvard Business School by Mark H. McCormack’.
In the light of the above adumbration of the place of loyalty in human society, it is imperative to say that these whole disloyal practices of trooping into the villa to inform ‘Baba’ of their ambition to succeed him took a turn for the incredible when the former governor of Lagos State Bola Ahmed Tinubu embarked on the self-serving political pilgrimage.
In his interview with State House reporters, Tinubu said it has been his life-long ambition to lead the country one day. It is just a SELFISH AMBITION and not a CALL TO SERVE THE PEOPLE.
Tinubu who became too wealthy after serving for eight years as Lagos governor said: “I have informed the President of my ambition but I have not informed Nigerians yet, I am still consulting. There’s nowhere in the world where a kingmaker cannot himself be king.
“About the cap of a kingmaker. I’ve never seen the cap of a kingmaker before. That is the truth. And I have never seen where it is written in the rulebook anywhere in any country that a kingmaker cannot be a king unless he has committed murder. So, whatever you write is your own opinion. Me, I want to pursue my ambition without the title of a kingmaker,” he said.
The former Lagos State governor added that he plans to actualise his ambition under the platform of the ruling APC, noting that with what he did in Lagos in his time as governor, he has the capacity to lead Nigeria.
“You will soon hear. All you want to hear is the categorical declaration. You’ve gotten that truth from me that I have informed Mr. President of my ambition, and you don’t expect more answers than that,” he said.
He shrugged the question of a potential race for the APC ticket between him and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, whose support groups have since begun mobilising for his candidacy. On Osinbajo’s potential ambition, the APC national leader maintained that he would not be drawn into any discussion on any individual.
Tinubu said: “I don’t want to discuss individuals now. I must discuss myself. I have the confidence, vision and capacity to rule, build on the foundation of Mr. President, and turn Nigeria better. I’ve done that before in Lagos State. You’ve seen that experience and the capacity to turn things around and that is what we are doing.”
Answering a question on President Buhari’s response, Tinubu said: “That’s our business. He is a democrat. He didn’t ask me to stop. He didn’t ask me not to attempt and pursue my ambition. It is a lifelong ambition. So, why do I expect him to say more than that?
Immediately Tinubu’s political pilgrimage gained currency as the hottest story in town the Ebonyi State Governor jumped into a plane from Enugu Akanu Ibiam International Airport off to Abuja to perform his own contrived political pilgrimage of informing their ‘godfather’ that he too, wants to run for the office of President in March of next year.
Mr Umahi, in an interview with State House correspondents, said he has told the president about his ambition to contest for the seat if the party zones the ticket to the Southern region.
“We discussed politics as the growth of our party, APC, in Nigeria, and the South East. And, of course, you know, the interest of the South East, for the seat of presidency in 2023.
“And, of course, I told Mr President, that without prejudice to whatever will be the decision of the party, which we shall abide by, that if the party throws the ticket open or zones to Southern part of Nigeria that I believe that with what I have put in place in the past six years plus, that I will be running for presidency on the platform of the APC.
“So, I told him and of course, he believes that whoever wants to run for president of this country must have to consult widely, go to all the leaders and that we must do everything to remove ethnicity and religion in our politics so that this country can grow,” he said.
Like the APC national leader, Mr Umahi promised to replicate his feats as a governor at the national level if he eventually gets to fly the party ticket and win the presidential election.
The governor, who will round off his second term in office in 2023, was one of the three Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors that dumped the party for the ruling party between late November 2020 and June 2021.
Mr Umahi left the PDP in November 2020, six months before his Cross River counterpart, Ben Ayade defected. Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State was the last to dump the PDP last year.
The Ebonyi governor had argued that his defection had nothing to do with the 2023 presidential ticket but to take the Southeast region to the centre.
“I want to clear the air that I never sought (for) PDP presidential ticket and I will not. So whoever said that I moved to APC because they refused to zone the ticket to me is being very mischievous,” the governor had explained at the time.
However, with Mr Umahi’s declaration, he may be jostling for the APC presidential ticket with Mr Tinubu and the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, who had declared his intention to contest the presidential election on the APC platform.
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, also of the APC, may be a contender but he has not officially declared his intention to run.
The Ebonyi governor joins some of the South-east politicians who have indicated interest in occupying the nation’s highest political office.
Last year, a former Senate President, Paul Anyim, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), announced his plan to run for president whether his party zones the slot to the South-east or not. These are those we can consider to have shown the ugliest side of politics. Their actions have also ignited a political earthquake in the sense that others have started following this pattern of informing the President before informing the people.
Former Abia State Governor and Chief Whip of the Senate Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has said he will be ready to contest the All Progressives Congress(APC) Presidential ticket with Former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu if the party zones it to the South.
Speaking in an interview on Tuesday, Kalu said while he has nothing against the aspiration of Tinubu, he believes that his own Southeast is ripe for the Presidency and that it should be the turn of the region to produce the next President that should be him.
According to Kalu, he has all that it takes to match Tinubu grit for grit and campaign for campaign if need be for the APC ticket in 2023.
Tinubu had on Monday declared his ambition to take the reins of power as Nigeria’s next President; a move many believe may have foreclosed the clamour for Igbo Presidency.
Tinubu had last November visited Kalu in his Villa mansion where he intimated the federal lawmaker about his Presidential ambition.
Orji Uzor Kalu just wrote to Nigerians thus: “I have been inundated with pressured requests to also declare my intention to run for the Presidency of our dear country and visit Mr. President following visits by my other brothers to Mr. President yesterday.
I have taken off time to inform ourselves through the media that as a party man who believes in the supremacy of our party. I shall as soon as the party zones the Presidency and southern Nigeria is zoned to produce the Presidential candidate of our party, my train which is already steaming shall take off with a visit to Aso Rock Villa and brief Mr. President of our collective decision. May God bless you all”.
* EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and was federal commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.