The battle for Nigeria is rapidly heating up. And it is no joke. Self-confident men are stepping into the ring and offering themselves as authentic replacement for President Buhari in 2023. They have fanned out all over the country making what they call consultations with past and present political heavy weights they believe hold the key to the realisation of their holy ambition. They are actually seeking endorsements from those who matter and whose support matters in this do-or-die battle. I am as intrigued as you should be.
The presidency is a serious job. In a less imperfect world, the job should attract serious-minded men and women who are mentally and emotionally prepared for effective leadership. It ought not be for jokers who take the absurdity of leadership as a can-do business beyond reason. Such men and women make a brief appearance in the news media and are soon swamped by their own anonymity. They are the Charlie-Charlie of political entertainment. Power attracts and political power attracts hordes of serious men and women and hordes of jokers.
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I find it disappointing that the politicians are still treating the leadership recruitment process as some kind of an absurd joke. They are still unable to wean themselves from their incapacity to make a mess of eating boiled yams. In a nation in which nothing is ever settled, even less is settled among the politicians. Each time they move forward, they roll back. They cannot make up their mind on the locus of power post Buhari. Should his successor emerge through power rotation between the north and the south or from a particular geo-political zone?
It is a weighty question but one the politicians would not bother to answer because money will determine who the next president is and where he comes from. Our politicians purchase power in the executive and the legislative branches of government at federal and state levels. Money matters but it fouls up the leadership recruitment process.
The purchase of political power begins innocently. Here is how it happens. The political power seeker first beats the paved road to the mansion of either his godfather or the godfather of his political party. He tenders his ambition before the big man. The big man picks his teeth as he listens to the power seeker. He pretends not to understand the mission of the power seeker. For all he knows, the man might be speaking in tongues. Both men engage in a bit of running around with promises offered and promises considered. The power seeker then drops something for the big man. A man who goes to a shrine must do so with choice items of sacrifice.
With that the power seeker has secured the big man’s endorsement. He goes home nursing the fond hope that there would be no intervening ugly variables such as the appearance of another power seeker who drops something much bigger than his. You may think politicians are not gentlemen, but they act on the basis of a gentleman’s agreement in how they sell and buy power. Money changes hands without receipts; agreements are reached but none is signed. If you thought that honour does not rank highly among politicians, you are wrong. Remember there is honour among thieves, the thieves of our common purse not an exception.
The power seeker next beats the narrow path to the shrine of the authentic African medicine man, known among the Igbo as the eyes and the ears of the gods. The juju man consults the gods and gives the power seeker the message of the gods he is dying to hear. He then drops something and leaves the shrine with the endorsement of the gods ringing in his ears.
The power seeker turns to the pastor and the imam. In this business, it pays to enlist the support of God/Allah, the gods, and other powerful deities. If one set of deities disappoints the power seeker, the other set kicks in. Assured of the clear support of the deities, the power does the needful. He drops something.
The power seeker goes to the well-appointed palace of a traditional ruler to seek his special royal blessings as the father of the people and the custodian of our revered traditional institution. Here he does not drop something; he drops some things. He emerges from the palace with the sweet smell of royal blessings.
Endorsements are expensive. They are the tradition by which political power is purchased in our country. There is a well-oiled tradition in the endorsement business. No man who seeks and drops something for his endorsement is turned away by his potential endorser. If the power seeker has a well-known unsavoury past, the endorser is forbidden to tell him so. If he can drop something or some things, his sins, the colour of scarlet, are forgiven. The executive and the legislative branches of government boast of men and women whose only qualification for leadership is their sudden but dubious wealth that nobody questions.
So, the godfather says to the power seeker, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well-pleased. Our party needs someone like you to take it to the next level.”
The traditional priest says to the power seeker, “The gods have filled your ballot box already. You are the chosen one. Your opponents are wasting their time and money”
The priest or the imam says to the power seeker, “The almighty has written your name in the sky. That which you seek is yours already; the rest is a mere formality.”
The traditional ruler says to the power seeker: “You are our son. Our ancestors are fully in support of your worthy ambition. We know that when you go up there, good things will come to us. You will remember us and our ancestors. Go, my son, and bring home the political crown to your people.”
These pronouncements make the power seeker feel good, very good. He dreams sweet dreams. But both sides know that an endorsement is not a commitment cast in Olumo rock. In the business of politics, there is no legal or moral issue involved in an endorsement. A man is free to change his mind at any time and thus change his yes to no and vice versa in the interplay of money politics. The size of Ghana-must-go bags has a lot to do with a wavering endorsement or a committed endorsement. Where political power is sold and bought, it is impossible for true leaders of the people to emerge. There you have it: our tragedy as a nation.