Do you have a voter’s card? If so, you are truly precious as the 2023 elections approach. Precious because you can help determine whether Nigeria lives or dies, and what your children remember you to be.
It is a straightforward election for the soul masquerading as one for the stomach. If you buy the propaganda that it is for your stomach, you could sell your voter’s card or vote for those who are waving stacks of money at you.
The entire world saw this scenario play out only a few months ago in the party primaries as delegates were bought and sold, sometimes shamelessly in front of video cameras.
Similarly, you could take the money next February, having persuaded yourself that that money would feed you for life. This is the stomach argument, but deeper down than your stomach, you know that that money will not satisfy the burning in your soul, leaving you to hurt permanently in both your stomach and your heart.
So this is your first voter’s card? That mostly means you were born when the Fourth Republic began or soon after that. You are most probably therefore excited to be preparing to cast your vote for the first time. I share your excitement but let me now share some thoughts about this election: vote for the future, not the present.
A lot of the candidates: from the local levels up to the presidency, are counting on your gullibility, not your intelligence. It is why you are now seeing and hearing from office-holders at various levels that you have not seen for four years because they are once again candidates. They are counting on you to be gullible enough to believe in their promises rather than their track record and character.
This applies most spectacularly to the presidential election, which is understandably the most advertised.
So how gullible are you? Predictably, the leading candidates are delivering manifestoes and homilies as we speak. Have you bought into one yet?
Well, they are expecting you to buy all the rosy plans and promises they are marketing, and you are probably painstakingly examining them to determine WHICH is the best towards determining WHO is the best.
That is a magician’s trick. The test of your gullibility. The proper order is WHO is the best before WHICH. If a candidate is defective, his candidature is defective and therefore irremediable. One or two errors of judgement should not kill a candidate or candidature, but a man who has swum in excrement and mud all his life cannot claim he cares about potable water. The blind cannot lead the blind, simple.
To that end, I hereby examine the five persons most related to the presidency and the race for it. The first is Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent, not because he is running, but because he is key to who wins it.
Once again Buhari lies in a British hospital bed as we speak, as he has done at will for an otherwise embarrassing total of about seven months since he took office in 2015.
The APC leader claims to be an effective leader and a corruption combatant, yet he has serially-contradicted his own April 2016 directive stopping medical tourism for officials, refused to disclose to Nigerians the nature of his ailment and what he is spending to care for himself at public expense. He has neither built any hospitals to cater for Nigerians nor honoured them for their massive support in 2015. That is: he has made hypocrisy a personal standard.
In alphabetical order, the second is Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, a party so abominable it made electing Buhari seven years ago not only logical, but easy.
Beyond the party, only in Nigeria would a candidate of his background be in this conversation. He proclaims a manifesto unpreceded by his introduction. Any self-respecting voter must interrogate the character first, and not bother to read the manifesto unless he is satisfied.
Who is Atiku? His embarrassing public war with President Olusegun was in all the headlines in 2007. He has publicly confirmed how their government squandered $16bn on electricity, with nothing achieved, although some contractors were paid “100 per cent.” The Senate held him responsible for diverting $145 in public funds, which had been approved for specific projects, “to deposits in banks, some of which were fraudulently converted as loans (to private companies).”
You may not know this, but a 2009 report of the Special Investigation Panel of the Halliburton scandal headed by Inspector-General of Police also identified VP Atiku as one of those with whom Obasanjo shared $74 million sometime between 2000 and 2001. In the United States, Atiku is officially regarded as a public warning against money-laundering.
Peter Obi, the sensational newcomer to the presidential race who runs on the Labour Party ticket, is the third. As in other cases, his values and principles must be questioned. How did he treat public office when he was in it? Is he a kleptocrat? What about his” illegal and secret offshore activities,” as reported by Premium Times from the Pandora Papers? Does he understand the concept of accountability and the public declaration of assets? Would he probe Buhari should he succeed him?
SaharaReporters publisher Omoyele Sowore enters this list because he represents the other end of the spectrum as a presidential aspirant who believes Nigeria to be too far gone to qualify for restoration through anything less than a revolution. He deserves to be taken seriously because he is a threat to the established order given that to him and his followers, other candidates are simply defendants. He holds the moral high ground as Nigeria continues to slide, and will be the principal reason that some candidates try to avoid forthcoming debates.
APC candidate Bola Tinubu is the fifth. Like Atiku, the presence of Tinubu as a presidential candidate reflects the collapse of Buhari’s claims as a leader. Ironically, Buhari recently launched Tinubu’s campaign, while Tinubu has affirmed that his leadership will be a continuation of Buhari’s. Many Nigerians interpret that to be months of a so-called leader on a foreign sick bed while Nigeria rots.
Like Atiku, Tinubu approaches the electorate with a certain arrogance. He mistakes republican democracy for a chieftaincy or an Obaship system in which, when the holder passes, his successor takes his “turn.”
Worse still, he offers in confetti form an outbreak of electoral promises without responding to the avalanche of questions about himself, his health, his wealth, and his track record until and following his governorship of Lagos State. No voter, anywhere, deserves to be treated with such disrespect by a man who wishes to govern and speak for him.
That is why, Nigerian voter, you have a momentous February up ahead. Are you gullible? Slave or prisoner you can be: purchased or placed in invisible handcuffs while they drink and laugh.
Or you can stop being a spectator, and fight back.
[I welcome public response, in 100 words or fewer, to this column.]
This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials.