By Oma Djebah
The shocking, most bizarre mass defections among politicians with less than eight months to the 2019 elections, signals a complete capitulation to the idea of anything-goes. Shortly, it would be evident that many are heading to the crumbling ramparts, walking a precarious tight-rope without a safety net! In this age, instant opportunism seems to trump logic, peeve strategic planning and throw caution to the winds. And that’s doomed to fail!
These defectors-Rabiu Kwankwaso, Aminu Tambuwal, Godswill Akpabio, Samuel Ortom, Bukola Saraki- might discover as the Ghanaian-born novelist, Ayi Kwei Armah penned in The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born: “old harsh distresses are now merely pictures and tastes which hurt no more, like itching scars which can only give pleasure now.” Awfully, they are men of easy fortune, lacking in painstaking master-planning. Benjamin Franklin, eminent polymath, a founding father of the United Nations captured this lucidly: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Let’s hark back to the Presidential race in 1991 to depict, delineate, elucidate this narrative. As a bustling, highly itinerant political reporter, I was just winding down for the day as I crammed my journalistic stuff into my dangling reporter’s bag at 11:30pm in my office when it struck me, in retrospection, that I had approximately 30 minutes to a confirmed interview appointment with Shehu Yar’Adua, one of the mythical, fabled presidential aspirants then.
Much buzz, rumble, reverberation
There was much buzz, rumble, reverberation about Yar’Adua’s aspiration! Caught in a hoop with just 30 minutes to my appointment, infrequently scheduled by former Punch editor, Chris Mammah, an amazing senior colleague, CEO of Imprint Communications,( On its Board was Lai Mohammed. Imprint’s team included E.C. Osondu, an excellent writer, now visiting Professor in the USA, Emeka Ihedioha, ebullient Advert fellow who became Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, amongst others.) Realizing the hoops I had navigated through to confirm Yar’Ardua’s availability, since signaling his intention to run for Nigeria’s number one seat, I hopped into my beetles car, headed straight to my designated destination. Within minutes, I wheedled through the hard-pressed Obalande Police check-point, arriving at his Milverton, Ikoyi home to a tumultuous sea of human heads! There was an enthusiastic Bola Tinubu, just fresh from Mobil, running for Lagos East Senatorial seat! I interviewed him two days later. And there was the inimitable, peerless Chuba Okadigbo as well as the irrepressible, effervescent Kanti Bello. In pairs, Atiku Abubakar, Yomi Edu, Dapo Sarumi, Titi Ajanaku, S.L. Afolabi, S.M.Buhari and a host of others, sauntered into the expansive living room.
Yar’Adua arrived in record time for a thrilling, marathon interview. In return, he asked very personal questions, displaying an air of familiarity as if he had known me previously. The above account, illustrates the political clout, organizational skills, gripping network, panache, riveting matrix of Presidential hopefuls then! When Yar’Adua told me he would defeat Lateef Jakande, Second Republic action Governor of Lagos in Lagos and win the SDP Presidential ticket, my shock, disbelief was palpable! Okadigbo later broke down the elements to me. Yar’Adua’s Peoples Front, PF, which fused into SDP had been in existence nation-wide for over 10 years before the SDP! Predictably, Yar’Adua, with mass followers well energized, effectively electrified and most fortified, was unambiguously ahead of the pack in the 1992 SDP Presidential fray, triggering a rage, a political firestorm within the party!
Similarly, Umaru Shinkafi, topped NRC Presidential chart. While engaging him following an introduction by Femi Fani-Kayode, who was on his team, Shinkafi demonstrated a wholesome mix of robust vision, capacity, charm and grasp. He showed an unmatched, unassailable political clout with his Choice ’92! Truly, if there were Presidential contenders whose brands generated nation-wide gravitas, acceptability, it was Yar’Adua’s and Shinkafi’s. Their overwhelming strength, outstanding national networks, cultivated over time in the course of their dignified years of public service, their profound knowledge of Nigeria, their capacity to lead, inspire trust and build confidence and consensus among supporters with clear, precise and attainable master-plan were awesome and inspiring!
Today, it’s tragically an unwholesome mix-bag! There is more confusion, less coherence. In the APC, it’s awful that nobody has come up to say he could earnestly do a much better job than President Buhari! In the PDP, the line -up is fairly long but can we honestly say anyone of them has the Yar’Adua’s or Shinkafi’s capability to potentially square off with Buhari? The List: former Vice President Atiku, Sule Lamido, former Foreign Affairs Minister and former Jigawa governor, Senate President Bukola Saraki (son of Oloye), Governors Aminu Tambuwal, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Tamuni Turaki. Sadly, they aren’t engaging in national conversations. Creditably, Atiku says he would restructure Nigeria if elected, a trending subject that sits pretty well with the Niger Delta, South- West, South- East and the Middle -Belt. But many have failed to get their messages off the ground less than eight months to the Presidential polls and a few weeks to Party primaries. Various reasons are being proffered for this, with striking scars of imminent political black-hole. They include poor planning, lack of charm, inept vision and poor knowledge of the country they aspire to govern! These transpicuous shortcomings don’t resonate with Nigerians, triggering the constant, unending question: Has Nigeria’s Presidency been reduced to an amateurish joke ?
Lacks the requisite potency, impetus…
Thus the prospects of the opposition effectively wrestling power from Buhari is being blurred increasingly by concerns that it lacks the requisite potency, impetus do so. Worse still, the coalition put together by former President Olusegun Obasanjo has become somewhat fragmented. The real peril of this: there’s much amateurish politics, less substance, an act which isn’t good for effective, virile democracy. Sadly, it’s this reality that appears to define the crisis confronting our fledgling democracy. Besides, there is bickering over which opposition hopeful can successfully stand up to Buhari in a real contest that might be principally shaped by two intersecting political demographics-North and South.
Though PDP has shown promise unless it comes up with Presidential materials in the mould of Yar’Adua, Shinkafi , the telling, striking reality is that the political demographics will still play to Buhari’s advantage in 2019, in spite of his administration’s ferocious flaws. Plato’s famous, candid admonishment in The Republic promptly presents itself: “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Award-winning Australian journalist, John Pilger puts it prophetically in his compelling work, The New Rulers of The World :”this is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food.”
Oma Djebah, a global journalist and public policy strategist has served as a member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s panel on Media and Governance in Africa and is currently at the School of Digital Media and Communications Management, University of Toronto.