By Tiko Okoye
The prospect of contrived crises looms large as the ruling party – the All Progressives Congress (APC) – and the major opposition party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – head towards their respective nominating conventions to crystallise their presidential candidates. Meanwhile, we must learn to express our gratitude to the almighty God that Nigeria still manages to stand on her feet despite the considerable shellacking she has suffered, and continues to suffer, on politico-socio-economic fronts.
Truth be told, nations have convulsed and governments toppled from power for less than one-tenth of the bad results of wrong-headed acts of misgovernment that the Nigerian polity has witnessed. Is it that Nigerians are intransigent optimists and the ‘happiest people on earth,’ as someone once claimed many years ago, or that we are simply hopeless complainants and grumblers whose comfort zone is domiciled in being able to bark without biting?
This explains why the existentialism theory piqued my interest just recently. It is fundamentally opposed to the rationalist tradition and to positivism, while emphasising that we are each responsible for creating purpose or meaning in our own lives. If this is indeed true – and I have no cause to think otherwise -,the remains of the iconic ‘father’ of the theory, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, and other legendary exponents, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, among others, must all be violently turning in their graves as they cast a transcendental glance at siddon-look Nigerians!
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But there can be no gainsaying that Nigeria is finally at the ‘mother of crossroads.’ Outside the events leading up to the civil war, the stability and unity of our fatherland have never been so imperilled. But rather than seek win-win compromises, a particular group of politicians appears hell-bent on sacrificing the peace, unity and progress of this nation on the puny altar of misplaced vested interests. Most notable is the crystallisation of essentialism – as opposed to existentialism – within the polity itself.
Essentialism is a philosophy that calls for introspection and finding one’s ‘essence’ that already exists. It explains why some believe that it is their ‘birthright’ to rule and the lot of others to remain as hewers of wood and fetchers of water. This attitude is now being re-enacted in the form of intrigues and power-play as the APC and the PDP get set to choose their candidates.
“All things being equal” (ceteris paribus) is a phrase that is very popular in economics, but it would seem to have wormed its way into our national lexicon. All things being equal, it won’t have mattered from what part of the country a president comes from. All that would have mattered is for him/her to wow the Nigerian public by concretizing legacies that would add real value to the lives of the hard-pressed citizenry.
But we can’t run away from the reality that this country has been afflicted with a long-running chronic malady of failure of both leadership and followership. It bears repeating that no geopolitical zone in Nigeria has the permanent right to metaphorically sit in the cake-sharing ‘security council’ while others – the real bakers of the cake – ephemerally pine away in the toothless ‘general assembly.’
To ease rising tensions, a kind of gentleman’s agreement was reached among political parties that saw power rotating between the North and the South. Furthermore, conventional wisdom guided political parties in ensuring that their presidential tickets balance out the two major religions of Islam and Christianity given the secular nature of the country. The first and only time since the commencement of the presidential system of government in 1979 that a presidential ticket of a major political party satisfied the first ‘rule’ but violated the second ‘rule’ was that of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) combination of MKO Abiola (a Muslim from the South) and Babagana Kingibe (a Muslim from the North) in 1993.
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But too much water has since flowed under the bridge. No major political party would dare to enter an electoral contest on the basis of such an ‘insensitive’ ticket in recent times. Which explains why the heads of the two major parties that coalesced to form the APC – General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), couldn’t run on a joint ticket in the 2015 election. A Buhari/Tinubu ticket satisfied the balancing of North and South but violated religious balancing as both are Muslims. That’s how Professor Yemi Osinbajo opportunistically came into the picture.
After eight years of Buhari – a Northern Muslim – conventional wisdom dictates that it is now the ‘turn’ of a president of Southern extraction – preferably a Christian. Hence it beggars belief to see the preposterous and dishonourable ways the Northern political elite have been practically thumbing their noses at Southerners. While one can understand the desperation of a serial presidential contender like former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who sees the 2023 presidency as his last hurrah and ultimate opportunity for a Hail Mary odds-defying long throw into Aso Villa, the same cannot be said of the much younger aspirants. Patriotism ought to be made of sterner stuff.
It seems to me that powerful and highly-connected Northern cabals are financially empowering an increasing number of Southerners to declare their presidential ambition by the day as a way of rubbishing Southern solidarity and making it harder for them to reach a consensus among themselves. It is a tried and tested divide-and-rule strategy aimed at triggering an unending family feud, while external parties, masquerading as do-gooders, step in to cart away the highly coveted prize constituting the object of their infighting.
And make no mistake about it, the Northern cabals in question have a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and even a Plan D, should push turn to shove. Plan A is to get the APC and the PDP to nominate presidential candidates of Northern extraction. Plan B kicks into motion should Plan B suffer a miscarriage.
Plan B involves getting one party – the PDP – to nominate a Northerner as its candidate if the other party – the APC – for any reason at all, nominates a Southerner. Then the North will play two cards in the election proper in 2023: the regional and the religious cards, while still banking on block votes from the South-East and South-South, regardless of whatever the cost would be to the broader attributes of equity and justice. Did I hear you scream Tufiakwa! If so, dream on! That’s why there’s all the juggling and mind games over which of the parties would conduct its nominating convention before the other – to ascertain where the candidate of the first to do so comes from!
If Plan B fails, Plan C would be triggered. This would involve spending the shortest possible time in political limbo before power rotates to the North. And this is how former-President Goodluck Jonathan has become a beautiful bride to Northern cabals because he can only spend four more years in office. Truth be told, I don’t think Jonathan is really enamoured with the same APC that disgraced him out of office. I see it as a strategy to force the hand of a jittery PDP into ceding the ticket to him as its consensus candidate.
Plan D can be considered as the last resort when all the calculations and permutations embedded in Plans A to C fail and the North reluctantly recognises that the actual situation and needs of this country are best served by conceding to the South its ‘turn’ to produce a president in 2023, after the exit of Buhari from office. According to this plan, Northern politicians would stage-manage the emergence of a quisling from the South in order to effectively govern by proxy.
In the final analysis, Southerners can only raise the ante by maintaining – with as near a united voice as is possible – that the name(s) of any Southerner(s) who support(s) a Northern presidential candidate or nicodemusly hanker(s) to return to Egypt as a running-mate in the 2023 presidential election would be written in the Book of Infamy and have his/their generations – including those yet to be born – forever tarred with ignominy and opprobrium. Drastic situations require drastic measures.