By Tonnie Iredia
The inability of Nigeria to develop is traceable to several factors. One of them which people often overlook is the army of political interlopers that often distract government from its articulated focus. Their role is to keep the nation permanently on an electioneering mood.
Once a president or governor is elected, they start organizing how such an elected person would re-contest to secure a second tenure. They generate so many stories around the subject that the general public becomes sensitized not on the performance of the office-holder; but on his chances of re-election.
The incumbent himself begins to imagine that if he remains quiet and steadfast on his job, it might erroneously imply his lack of interest in more than one term. Meanwhile, the rationale for the premature campaign is always so pedestrian that an analyst might think that too many people are becoming mental.
One politician said the other day that he would support a second term for the governor of his state just because most past governors served two terms.
These days, the only thing that appears to be in the news is the determination by different people that President Buhari is set for re-election in 2019. But because Buhari is aware that it is morally and legally improper to use the period of governance for electioneering, people can only interpret his body language on the subject without any formal statement.
Hence, he poetically acknowledged that the massive crowd that welcomed him on a visit to Kano last week was a source of political inspiration. Evidence that Buhari will not be dragged into inappropriate electioneering can also be deduced from the posture of his two spokes persons who use every available opportunity to only clear any misgivings about the president’s performance so far.
So, if the president and his personal aides on media and information are quiet on the subject, what is the locus of those who are purporting to speak for him or on his behalf?
Interestingly, many of those canvassing for support for a person who is yet to declare interest in the race are leaders in their own right. The list is endless. The Happiness governor of Imo is not talking to ordinary people; he is more concerned with converting all governors into the Buhari support group.
The popular one time Lagos state military administrator Buba, Marwa has had his say; so has former Abia governor Orji Uzor kalu done several times. Indeed, at a point the latter revealed the date the president would return from his medical vacation-a prediction which was at par with those of Nigerian soothsayers.
Even amiable Governor Ortom of Benue has done a comparative study with a finding that there is no one like Buhari. He could be right; we only hope his study was not disturbed by the herds of cattle that now inhabit his proposed Benue Cargo airport.
Much noise is also coming from self styled indispensable political professionals but are they more experienced than Buhari in the game of presidential elections which he has contested more than anyone else in this country? Of course, the man knows what to do and when and how to do it as well as that no Nigerian politician is reliable.
As Buhari himself once testified, while he was at the election tribunals between 2003 and 2009, to reclaim his votes as the flag bearer of his former party-the All Nigeria’s People’s Party ANPP, the party officials betrayed him by withdrawing from the case and joining the ruling party to form government of national unity GNU.
Whether Buhari should ignore the interlopers or not depends on many issues. First, most of them can only stain him because they are mere attention seekers targeting materialism and clients of anti-corruption agencies.
Second, bearing in mind that premature electioneering campaigns are not allowed by law, the president who is the number one defender of the law cannot be passive about its breach. Our president should thus not condone any premature campaign, let alone those that are allegedly being done in his favour.
Third, to ignore any such infraction is to unwittingly declare open, electoral irregularities. By the time the proponents become entrenched in the lawless posture, it would have become too late to stop them from stage 2 which consists of hate speeches and violence
Political sycophancy is commonplace in Nigeria. We saw it even under the military, when the Association for Better Nigeria ABN kick-started the failure of the famous June 12; it was also discernible when all the registered 5 political parties during the Abacha administration nominated the late Head of State as the presidential flag bearer of each of them.
Not too long ago, we saw it when the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria TAN collected millions of signatures to beg former President Goodluck Jonathan to reluctantly agree to seek re-election two years before the contest. We heard then that Jonathan pleaded passionately to his admirers not to distract governance, but as it turned out, TAN overwhelmed government on the subject. The strategy turned out to be ineffectual.
Two APC leaders have made instructive comments. They are Senator Shehu Sani representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District who argues that the president should ignore the distractions by focusing on delivering the promises made to Nigerians and disallowing the diversion of public resources to political campaigns at the expense of governance.
The other, Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transportation has moved one step forward. Amaechi wants the APC to grow beyond the blame game scope of what the former administration did or didn’t do and leave its impact in the hearts of Nigerians.
So, is President Buhari contesting in 2019? He has wisely chosen not to formally say so; otherwise he would be in breach of Section 90 of our electoral law which prohibits premature electioneering. What then should he do? More work, because people who are now saved from accidents and abductions on the Abuja-Kaduna road because of the rail transportation on that route can easily become supporters of this government.
What this suggests is that the more such dividends of democracy evolve; the more the crowd of supporters. Thus, this is the time to improve the living conditions of Nigerians and not time for premature electioneering and fake public expression of loyalty.