Nigerian politicians are a curious species, and for many reasons. One of those reasons is the fact that they take the term ‘political party’ in the most literal of ways, seeing it as a glitzy, glamorous extravaganza. Much like and actual party: A loud, outlandishly garish, and wasteful gathering masquerading as a celebration. But a recent surprise came from a most unusual place, when President Muhammadu Buhari began to entertain questions regarding his ‘anointed’ successor come 2023. A sensible person would wonder why elections a good number of months away are being brought to the front burner, at a time when the nation is under siege from insurgents and many other kinds of violent criminals.
Well, it could be argued that traditionally, in Nigeria, politicking begins way before the actual date at the polls. We are, after all, the world capital of misplaced priorities. Just take a look at the chaos the prep for the APC’s national convention is causing. But I digress. Like I said, now that President Buhari has joined in, kick-starting the harsh politicking leading to 2023, everyone else will follow suit with a fervor that will almost mark it as official. Even though he clearly said he has not ‘anointed’ anyone, self-appointed pundits are translating it to be Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Whether that turns out to be true or not, the fire has been lit. In no time, billboards will litter every nook and cranny of the nation, while the electorate starves, jobless, and in fear of the stark unknown.
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Theorists are saying it will be a choice between Sen. Bola Tinubu Ahmed, one-time governor of Lagos and party strongman in every sense of that phrase, and VP Osinbajo. That two super-obvious ‘candidates’ are already being touted as the main ones from the ruling party should be alarming, as it shows a critical lack of variety or choice, or even imaginativeness. Even if you widen your scope to include major opposition party PDP, a worse pall is cast. The APC’s main thorn-in-the-flesh doesn’t seem to have its act together, and I doubt if it will in time to counter whatever route the APC decides to take. But that won’t lessen the intensity at the polls come 2023.
The election that saw Buhari emerge winner for the first time was heated, because he was then a highly-favoured candidate, as was Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. But come 2023, it does not appear that a candidate-buffet of any kind will be placed before Nigerians. Even if one gives thought to the possibility of a candidate coming out of nowhere to become the nation’s favourite, it is cuts short quickly by the nagging truth that for now, no such candidate exists. However, it is my sincere hope that I am proven wrong. But as hopeless as I feel, I do have some predictions of myself. You see? They have me ‘partying’ like it is 2023 too.
VP Osinbajo will almost certainly be fielded by the APC, given that many factors are in his favour. He is the current president’s second-in-command, and he has shown while acting in his Oga’s stead that he’s quite capable of making things happen. He is also popular on social media with the youths even as the precocious demographic bestowing upon him the nickname ‘Star Boy’ (an explanation of that nickname would require a whole column, so I’ll leave if for another day). It also appears – and is being bandied about in serious political circles – that Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasiru El-Rufai, who will have by then finished his last term, will hop onto the ticket as running mate.
When I heard that theory, I scratched my head a bit. But I also remembered that stranger things have happened. Between Buhari’s apparent decoy-planting and evasive dribbling, Osinbajo’s pin-drop silence, and El-Rufai’s recent comments explaining the ‘unwritten’ code of zoning, I am inclined to go in the direction of the ‘Star Boy’ candidature. Because, really, at the moment what else seems to be a viable option? The honest truth is that a Tinubu presidency is going to be a tricky thing to achieve, for a variety of reasons which I won’t list here, lest I’m accused of ‘de-campaigning’.
All these factors, however, won’t stop our party-loving politicians from plotting all kinds of intrigues, replete with intricately-woven shenanigans, and big-budget campaigns. The problem with the type of intense politicking we see in these climes is that the very people the elected officials are supposed to serve are left biting the dust. Sometimes, even in the most literal of ways. But that won’t change anything, as a dramatic playing field has practically become tradition and culture. Buhari can only distract with his comments or inadvertently-imparted insight into the process all he likes, but that won’t stop the politicians – the real, truly Nigerian ones anyway – from ‘partying’ like it is 2023 already.