The dominant national discourse and conversation until May 29, 2023 would be the presidential election. It is going to be about the three leading candidates, who they are and what they are not. A time comes in the life of a nation or a man that he has to tell himself the home truth; such time is now for Nigeria. We have to stop blaming others and everything else and take a deep look at ourselves. If we do not like the image of ourselves in our reflection, breaking the mirror is not an option as that will not change us, but to change ourselves and who we are.
We are still struggling today, not with our consciences though but our appetite on the choice of who becomes the next president, come 2023 in a month and days from now. The leading candidates of the three frontline political parties are fairly well known and they are eminently qualified in their own rights. It is not the moral worth of the contestants that would define their leadership qualities. I am not sure that there is any saint in the pack assuming the demon in the State House can be exorcised.
Put on the same scale and X-rayed on the same lens, the choice should not be difficult if we are fair-minded people, which we are not from our past and antecedents. The race is sitting on tripod that has always defined our politics against the three major ethnic nationalities. Nigeria has been a hostage since independence driven by some surrogate power cult and cabal that arrogate ownership of the nation to itself. We are at a critical juncture that the citizens of this country have to take back possession and drive the nation to calm waters if we do not want a tsunami to rock our boat of nationhood to disaster.
The contest is fiercely fought subconsciously on religion and tribal affiliations and less on competence, performance and records. Contestants and supporters are ready to fight dirty because there is no morality in politics. The social and mainstream media are awash with deliberate misinformation, falsehood and outright lies just to undo opponents. The weapon and powers of who becomes the next president of the federal republic lie with the electorate, assuming that our votes will truly count and the electoral umpires live up to their bidding to deliver free, fair and credible election as they have continued to assure Nigerians. We are hopeful no doubt because it is doable even in the midst of bare-faced political banditry of desperate politicians who employ every means possible, including ballot rigging, buying, stuffing and snatching to win elections.
The wheat has been sifted from the chaff and the serious contenders have been separated from the pack of pretenders who are participating just to add to their curriculum vitae (CV) as presidential aspirants, or candidates. The ruling class has the same pedigree and DNA whether the old, and not so old amongst them. The presidential race has thrown up a difficult choice indeed, like the proverbial course of a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. Head or tail, there is a choice to be made because we are not going to get a candidate from Mars.
The political parties have selected their flagbearers to the duel principally on political calculations of winning formula to give them advantage over opponents. Again we will wait and see with bated breath the wisdom in such choices. Even though there is no independent candidacy in our electoral law, individuals’ track record of public service and performance will come to play in the forthcoming elections especially, at the presidential poll. There have been bazaars of endorsements by prominent Nigerians, tribal groups and socio-cultural organizations some of them honest and others on the wings of crass opportunism. Again, endorsement is not always conclusive or translates to votes on election.
The gladiators have engaged hirelings and foul mouthed, uncouth political jobbers with verbal diarrhoea like attack dogs to unleash diatribe and venom of unsubstantiated trash to rubbish and de-market opponents. Some of these political contractors are well bred with good learning but little principle, integrity and esteem who only ply the trade of surrogate goons. Nigeria is a vast political field that has traversed rough routes strewn with banana peels that have limited its growth and development. Our politics is not ideologically based and after 62 years, the country has remained a vast open field laid waste by political locusts and buccaneers. The foundation of yesterday is responsible for the failing structures of today where leaders promote ethnicity and religion and incite hatred and resentment against an entire ethnic nationality for the wrong reasons. Our unity is very superficial and skin deep only to sustain the bureaucracy of exploitation of the natural resources.
We have not overcome the primordial attachment to ethno-religious loyalty over and above pan Nigeria superstructure. For every public office you go today, you are most likely going to be confronted with the Nigerian malaise of nepotism and mediocrity. We just saw the example of the Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who rose to the rank of a Brigadier General in the Nigerian Army, a numskull. This is how we have promoted mediocrity in public service and institutions of the state. There is no deliberate promotion of national culture or consciousness because there is none anyway.
2023 is about the soul of the nation. Yes, we need honest, credible leader with integrity who will see the entire country as his constituency. We do not have a saint amongst the contestants. It is not possible to get a virgin in the cult of prostitutes in a country condemned to political whoredom. Nigeria is not working and we have to do everything to get the right person to fix it. It is a choice between appetite, emotion or competence to re-calibrate the failing structure. We cannot go and hire multinational corporations to run our complex bureaucracy. The candidates are individuals fairly well known and it is therefore for us to decide whether we want to hand the country over to someone who will merchandize our national assets to his friends as sweetheart deals in compensation for political patronage.
The greatest of the concern is actually with the electorate who are hoodwinked to believe that it is about our ethnic nationality and religion, to vote for “our own” not on merit, competence, integrity or performance. We are not building consensus to integrating our people into one big Nigerian family through honest political leadership. If we make it cash-and-carry as usual by selling our PVCs or votes to the highest bidders, then we should be prepared for the consequences. We have been running Nigeria in deficit; we are not able to harness our rich natural endowments and human resource because of the same political choice and behaviour. We should not expect a different result if we refused to embrace a change of attitude in the next elections.
Why is it possible for Nigerians in Diaspora to excel and do exploits at global stage and we cannot replicate the same feat in our own country? We cannot even feed ourselves and pay bills without compromising and yet people are still falling head over heel for the same locusts to come and afflict us a second time, continue! The office of the Nigerian Presidency is so huge with limitless power that anyone occupying the office must have capacity to take criticisms, including bitter criticism objectively and yet be focused without distraction. We are not to appeal to traditional deities and affinities.
The opportunity beckons as in the immortal words of the inimitable Williams Shakespeare in the ever green drama, Julius Caesar, “There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures”.
This is what is on offer to Nigeria come 2023 and I do not know any better way to draw our attention of what lies ahead and the times we are in our national odyssey.