Home Opinion 2023: Follow the candidate and not the party, By Uju Okeahialam

2023: Follow the candidate and not the party, By Uju Okeahialam

Peter Obi

It is no news from my write-ups that I endorsed Mr. Peter Obi to be Nigeria’s next president. I did so based on the capacity I imagine he possesses (Vl. 2) and in pursuit of the balance of governance theory (Vl. 1), previously espoused. Thinking about a possible acrimonious primaries election, I had in Vl. 2 of this series opined that former Presidents Obasanjo, Jonathan and Vice-President Atiku should step forward and endorse Mr. Obi for the corporate existence of Nigeria and to save Nigeria from possibly bleeding to death. OBJ kept quiet forgetting that statesmanship includes the strength to give direction when the coast is clouded.
Due to the unmentionable electoral-trading that made Mr. Obi to bow out in conscience, Atiku, instead of endorsing Obi, emerged the PDP flag bearer. In the haze of the time, GEJ didn’t rise up to the occasion—maybe because of the insinuation that a group was lobbying for him to be the consensus APC flagbearer. Along the way the hegemonic APC anointed choice, Mr. Ahmed Lawan, was swept away by the Jagaban-Machine. Looking at these scenarios, the relevance of this volume 3, is to inspire the Nigerian electorate on the need to vote for the individual in whom the collective vision of a greater majority of people will be secured; since there are no ideological-hedge among the political class and in the political parties.

Without taking hostages, every discerning mind sees, from the way the political class mingle among themselves, that there is no ideological-hedge separating them, one from another. Whereas many of us can say that they cannot be in the same political association with some individuals, our political class cannot say the same thing—“Never say never,” they will tell you. For instance, the same Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who is today vilifying the Buhari government and his APC, contested with Buhari for the soul of APC. He has never told Nigerians where the present APC government derailed from the “APC Platform” which he contested under. Therefore, it may be more on the side of naiveite to ask what his present platform represents.

Again the current APC chairman was a PDP governor and senator before finding home in APC to spite and make governance uncomfortable for GEJ. So it was not a love of the APC platform but a hatred of GEJ that saw him seek asylum in APC. Now as its principal, one wonders when his ideological conversion took place. Even Mr. Obi is not spared of this perambulation. His incursion into politics has moved from PDP to APGA to PDP and now to LP. Musa Kwankwaso has also made his journeys in and out of PDP, APC, PDP before building his NNPP niche.

Although it is not vividly the same for Alhaji Tinubu, but his has been mergers and mergers for power and playing the game when he thinks it is suiting.

It is clear from this that the drive of our political class is not ideological but the quest to use political power to conquer. Consequently, and in search for the lost soul of the nation, it will be wise for the electorate to use their votes to win a beneficial conquest for their own greater good than to hand over conquest to individuals based on the primordial instincts of race, religion, region, or hegemony. Since majority of these people have been in the public political square, wisdom only reminds the electorate to verify the contestants’ antecedents and pitch tent with someone who will use political power for the greater good of the greater number of people.

I imagine that this will be hard to sell because of the parochialism that defines our political space. Among us are those whose vote will be influenced by tribal, regional, or religious considerations. Some others too will be driven by their need of immediate stomach infrastructure. For any of these Mr. Obi is not your man and this thought will not be worth your time. Mr. Obi himself had made it clear that he is not running on any of these; but as a Nigerian who can turn the fortunes of the country around. Moreover, his antecedents were not driven by cultic following, religious bigotry, ethnic jingoism and economic empire-building. All he wants is to use the resources of today to empower the people of today with the capacity to handle the issues of tomorrow. These are seen primarily in education and healthcare, which he championed as governor of Anambra state; and the vision to convert the vast land of the North as “oil-fields” for national food-security.

The stage as it is in the two big parties has not reflected the sensitivity that holds the raw nerves of our national survival. For instance one can claim a regional or religious calculation in the forces that collapsed for Alhaji Atiku to emerge as the PDP flagbearer. With what Gov. Wike went through for his support for Tambuwal’s presidential ambition as well as the bond onlookers thought they shared, many imagined that he would have teamed up with Mr. Wike if it comes to that. That could have easily fetched him the VP ticket and paved the way for him to take over at the end of their tenure. What could have been his calculation to step down to endorse Atiku? Some say it was a regional cum religious calculation. I don’t know; but God knows.

Harvesting from such calculation the Northern elements in PDP displayed insensitivity to the region (South-East and South-South) that formed her backbone through thick and thin—a region that literally bankrolled her activities in the past seven years. And in selecting the VP other levels of insensitivity were displayed. Yes the synergy of the President and the vice is important but the effort to bring healing to a bruised region was not upmost. They could not be generous enough to find a VP in the South-East region. And in going to the South-South, their greatest megaphone, mobilizer, financier from the region was ignored—simply because he is quite loquacious and probably for being an unapologetic advocate of fiscal federalism. Therefore, it is not a calculation for healing nor strategy for the greater good of the people of Nigeria but the interest of the piloting-crew who are seeking political power for their own interest, first before the rest—and who see it as their best bait.

Turning to the ruling APC, it was all clear to discerning minds that they joggled with their primaries to find out where the PDP pendulum will rest. With the PDP choosing a candidate of northern extraction, the echelon of APC settled for the Senate President as a consensus candidate; but afraid of the fallout of foisting that decision, seeing how fierce the Jagaban-Machine was driving, they conceded; only to railroad him into the political-suicide of a Muslim-Muslim ticket—and it makes one wonder if he was still the sagacious and strategizing Jagaban to concede that the Yoruba Muslim is close to fake and Northern Christians are mere featherweights without electoral relevance.

By this I have the scholarly feeling that APC leadership was not rooting for her flagbearer. By making him choose a Kanuri, they only laid the ground for an epic battle where those called the Cabal, will pretend that they could not convince their brethren and their staunch Hausa allies against voting the PDP candidate who is their brother. They also set a calculated ground where it could be said that the Christian repugnance of the Muslim-Muslim ticket was the reason that their candidate could not secure the requisite 25% in majority of the Northern states.

The fact of this political scheming informed why the Kwankwasiya Principal could not accept to run with Mr. Obi. Pundits felt that the electoral process would be over if the two teamed; but that was not to be. The Principal could not accept the vice president’s position where he would have been sure to win. However, he is ready to concede to the PDP platform if it comes to it. Equally, something insincere can be said about Mr. Sowore. His travails notwithstanding—and surely unacceptable—he had worked for the electoral advantages of the Atiku and Tinubu camps in the past. As such, his principles cannot be said to be virgin. And without venturing into all the political platforms, it is uncontestable that the political class have always been in the game not to apply any political ideology in governance; but have vacillated with any solution they think will give them some advantage to conquer and rule.

For the greater good of the majority of Nigerians, therefore, it is best that the electorate will avoid any of the primordial considerations and vote for the one whose victory proposes the best platform for the greater number of the citizens. For me that candidate is Mr. Obi. It is him not because of Labour Party. It is him not because he is from the South-East or Christian. It is him because his platform, alongside few others, factored national religious sensitivity in the forming their tickets. It is him because his victory guarantees the balance of governance that has been the rock of our national co-existence (Vl. 1). It is him because he has shown capacity to understand the issues bedeviling the nation and has accurately proffered how he intends to correct the ills (Vl. 2). It is him because he has demonstrated that leadership is about lifting the people and not growing ones economic empire or political-cult. It is him because he does not speak in vacuum but in figures and scenarios; while calling for anyone who cares to verify his claims. It is him because he has proven that he cannot be shamed into doing things for show, bought over to go against the cooperate good of the greater number of people, or cajoled into caving, in order to benefit from the revolving-doors of political power.

For this success to come, so much has to be done by the electorate in defiance of how it has always been. This writeup asks the following from the electorate as they exercise their franchise in the 2023 electoral cycle: Don’t give in to primordial instincts in voting because the only hedge there is, is one between the political class and the people. Don’t sell your today and tomorrow by collecting material incentives that will silence your conscience to seek accountability. Get your PVC and be ready to vote for the best candidate who secures the hope for a better Nigeria—regardless of the Political Party whole platform the person is using. After voting be ready to guard and monitor the process to the end. Finally, pray hard because INEC can still be a rigging machine than an unbiased electoral umpire. They can still use unexplainable algorithms in order arrive at a predetermined result. They can still standby for the endorsement of a mathematical abracadabra where number four becomes number one. So pray, vote, watch, and pray till the end. The next volume (Vl. 4) of this series will draw from a political theory that applied successfully in the 2016 USA presidential politics. Stay tuned!

Okeahialam, PhD is a catholic priest based in Maryland, USA

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