The Race to the Rock: A Reality Show
Musings on the aspirations for the 2023 Nigerian Presidency
We are fully in election season and according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) calendar, all political parties must have conducted their party primaries before the end of the first week of June 2022. This means that parties must have organised a democratic process that would have thrown up their nominees for various electoral offices across the legislative and executive levels of the federal and state governments.
Once the primaries are concluded, all Nigerians would know the politicians that are contesting positions on each party’s platform. The elections are scheduled to hold by the first quarter of 2023: February 25th, 2023 for the Presidential and National Assembly elections, and March 11th, 2023 for the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
Indeed, this is probably the most “exciting” electoral period we have ever witnessed as a country, at least for me. The two major parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) the ruling party and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been in the news as some of their members declare for various offices, especially the Presidency. For obvious reasons, the APC, being the ruling party, has had a greater share of the limelight but this has not been the major reason for their media prominence.
As we are wont to do as a people, our major focus has been on who takes over from Mohammadu Buhari, who contested four times for Presidency before clinching the position. The jury is still out on his performance and depending on whose opinion you seek, he has either done extremely well or extremely poorly. I would have loved him to write a book about his Presidency but he once said he has no plans for that.
It has been interesting to see, as the days go by and events unfold, the various contenders for the highest office in the land. Some whose ambitions had been quite clear long before now, others whose ambitions we had heard about through the ever-reliable rumour mill, and some others we have been surprised to see throw in their gauntlet. From die-hard politicians to current political appointees, “any government in power” personalities to hopeful “new kids on the block”, party faithful to independent candidates, the contestants are as varied as the sand on the seashore. Yet, one thing binds them all together, their desire to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come 2023.
In the last few weeks, it seems every day has presented a new aspirant. Many have wondered how serious some of these aspirants are especially as they have somehow managed to cough up the nomination fees (the APC for example set the Presidential nomination form fee at One Hundred Million Naira allegedly to discourage unserious people).
With each new declaration, the process has almost become like a reality TV show with twists and turns as these contenders prepare for their party primaries before the almighty showdown at national elections. The APC has offered the most entertainment value with the calibre of people who have picked up its forms. Here are some of the ones I am “shocked” have indicated interest:
- Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation, who only recently passed the buck for the Kaduna train attack which saw many passengers injured, killed, or kidnapped. He made his declaration by running around a stadium. I think he should have run a full marathon to convince us of whatever he was seeking to achieve
- Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi State, who does not appear to have had much success managing the confluence state but believes he can take Nigerians to the promised land. He also has the late MKO Abiola’s daughter as campaign manager, I guess she has the secret to her father’s success at the June 12 elections
- Ben Ayade, Governor of Cross River State, who always seems preoccupied with giving his state budgets fancy names even though the jury is still out on the performance of all the beautifully named budgets. If he wins, Nigeria will get several superhighways, maybe one linking us to Canada as well?
- Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, who has been unable to successfully manage negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which has been on strike for months. He was once famously quoted as denying the existence of brain drain within the medical sector even though he is a medical doctor and should be conversant with the realities
- Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank who I can’t categorically confirm is running but by all appearances seems to have some interest. On one day, he says he has not decided to run for office and on the next day, he goes to court to seek an injunction against being prevented from running. Any wonder our forex regime has been all over the place?
- Goodluck Jonathan, erstwhile President who critically denounced rumours that he was aspiring for office but appears to be reconsidering his stance. If he declares, it will be for the APC (he was/is a PDP member). It may be true after all that he forgot something in the rock or is he depending on his goodluck?
There are many more aspirants of course but these people stand out the most in my opinion. If you are wondering why Bola Tinubu and Yemi Osinbajo’s aspirations don’t shock me, it is simply because the former’s ambition has been well-known and the latter’s ambition has been assumed based on his position as the Vice- President.
With the large interest expressed in the presidency, I honestly need to ask what the attraction is. Yes, I know it is obvious that the elixir of life is probably hidden somewhere in Aso Rock as we have seen how our President has transformed over the years but could that be the major reason? Maybe for one of the aspirants but not all. Then there is also the fact that the winner will get to live in a rent-free, fully catered residence with a retinue of aides and domestic staff whilst being chauffeur driven everywhere and enjoying frequent foreign trips but many of these aspirants are already used to this life, so what is the motivation?
I wonder if all of these aspirants (and not just within the APC) are aware of the enormity of Nigeria’s issues or are they just using us to catch cruise? Is the office truly as attractive as they want us to believe or don’t we still have issues with bandits and terrorists that have refused solutions? Aren’t we still battling with crude oil theft that has left a significant dent in our national purse? Isn’t the nation still in huge debt? Has any of them discovered the solution to our power issues?
I guess only time and the electorate will tell. Dear Nigerians, you know that energy we bring when Big Brother airs? How we rally behind contestants and declare our “stans”? How we encourage people to vote for our contestants even when they don’t watch the show? That is the energy we need in our political process and we must sustain it forever. This period can be a start to improving our political awareness and association, this is the way I see things today.