By Tonnie Iredia

The next general elections in Nigeria are less than a year away, yet it is still difficult to put a finger on its prospects. Many politicians and their supporters are making noise about 2023, but no one knows if they are on the right path.

There are people whose dispositions and utterances give the impression that they are still in 2019 which the nation departed from close to four years ago. One of the common commentaries is that political parties should pick their presidential candidates from the zones that can win elections.

Even if the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the originator of zoning is for the wrong reason no longer certain of the efficacy of the arrangement, I hope those supporting good candidates like Governor Aminu Tambuwal are influenced by his liberal mind and capacity to embrace innovation and not where is from. Those supporting anyone only because of his/her zone are travelling backwards beyond 2015.

If Nigeria must get out of its stunted growth and face brighter days, unnecessary attacks on aspirants should stop. The criticism that Atiku Abubakar is forever a contestant is irrelevant if he is qualified and competent. Those who say Asiwaju Bola Tinubu does not appear strong enough for the office of president should review his response that he is not seeking the office of a bricklayer that calls for physical strength.

Those who are visibly angry that someone has the courage to aspire to contest the 2023 election along with his ‘godfather’ should note that the contest is not reserved for godfathers. When Yemi Osinbajo acted as President in 2017, many who affirmed that he did excellently well are surprisingly against him now as if the man is only good as acting President.

In any case, the godfather sentiments cannot be sustained in many parts of Nigeria where tradition behoves a man to be happy if his grandson surpasses his own achievements. Although Tinubu, the acclaimed godfather has publicly testified that he has no son old enough to aspire to be president, the godson is still under fire.

In some commentaries, people suggested that Osinbajo was already a loser for wearing black on the day he declared his interest in the 2023 contest. To such commentators of the stone age, black is meant for burial. One wonders what burial ceremonies are held in courts every day across the globe where black is the official colour. What the several criticisms against aspirants suggest is that the authors have missed their way to 2023. In the new scheme of things, Nigerians who seek to hold political offices should be subjected to intense scrutiny but without being parochial.

The only viable criticism against the Vice President was the one made by Prof Farooq Kperogi who felt Osinbajo was part of an RCCG plot for theocratic state capture. The prolific writer scored high by providing verifiable evidence in support of his allegation. Those who have points against any aspirant should do the same.

 Unfortunately, tangible criticisms which can strengthen democracy are palpably scanty while the media is replete with cosmetic issues of zero value. For example, to attack Rotimi Amaechi for making his declaration public at a crowded stadium under the guise of thanksgiving is no point because there is no standard place for declaration.

The same is true of those attacking Nyesom Wike, Rivers state governor as too aggressive as if timidity is a more relevant virtue for political ambition. Going by the current state of the nation, an aggressive leader may be needed.

While it is true that some aspirants can easily pass for jokers, it is uncharitable to add Peter Obi, former Anambra State governor to such a list simply because he does not ‘have a bullion van.’ What such contemptible attacks show is that not many are set to positively move to 2023 because it is hard to ignore the visible capability of Obi to manage a troubled economy.

Having indicated his current preoccupation, attacks on Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele are superfluous 

Mindful that a person coerced into an office is not likely to perform well because he could not have prepared for it, this column had earlier sought to identify the political aspirants who bought nomination forms themselves to contest the 2015 general elections.

Findings showed that former Governor Godswill Akpabio’s nomination form was allegedly bought for him by some youths to represent the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District.

It was the Benue Youth in Diaspora Association (BYDA) that pledged to provide money to purchase the senatorial nomination form for former Governor Gabriel Suswam.  Some other Youth leaders from Ado Local Government Area of Benue State allegedly besieged Senator David Mark’s home to put pressure on him to contest the Benue South Senatorial seat.

Similarly, it was Enugu Professional Forum that kept pushing former Governor Sullivan Chime to contest his senatorial seat against Senator Ike Ekweremadu who was himself pressured by Enugu Concerned Professionals Worldwide.

The implication of this narrative is that the locomotive heading towards 2023 is the same one that has been conveying people to cajole politicians to contest elections since 1979 when a reluctant Shehu Shagari was persuaded to become President. Little wonder that the tricks have not changed. Misguided able-bodied Nigerians are still acting as fronts for old politicians, publicly begging them to show interest in elective positions.

More than two years to the end of his first tenure, the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria were on the streets distracting President Jonathan with pleas to seek reelection. At other times such as now, unemployed youths argue that they had to put together the little they had to buy nomination forms for billionaire politicians. Whither the new Nigeria of our dreams?

Two weeks ago, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State formally announced his Presidential ambition naming two Nigerians that would help him coast to victory like M.K.O. Abiola did in 1993. First, he picked Senator Jonathan Zwingina former Director-General of the Abiola Campaign Organization as his national coordinator.  He then named Hafsat Abiola, daughter of the June 12 hero as the Director-General of his campaign.

A week later, Abiola’s eldest son, Kola, joined politics. With the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) which bears the same name as MKO’s winning party, busy acting as the rejuvenated party to beat, the true representative of the legend is no longer clear more so as Kola declared under another platform – the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). What is clear is that no one has the MKO Abiola’s political spirit of a true patriot and humanitarian warrior who helped all and sundry.

The man donated to every good cause unlike now when people donate only close to elections, competing with the trader money scheme.

Nigeria is thus far from the ideals of the past just as her movement ahead is retarded by lethargy in governance and political materialism. Declarations have remained patently promissory – a trend that can do Nigeria no good in 2023. What is needed now is not who can announce what he intends to do, instead, all aspirants should be interrogated to explain how they intend to fulfil their electioneering promises.

Indeed, when aspirants become candidates ample time must be spent on the details of how each promise would be fulfilled.  No one should be allowed to evade election debate so that each person’s capacity can be sufficiently visible for voters to make informed choices. The strategy would nullify arguments such as that the true decadence of the nation was not clear when the promises were made.

Every elected candidate must recognize that he/she was voted in to solve problems and not to itemize challenges. In truth, Professor Kingsley Moghalu was a delight to watch on national television two days ago explaining that if elected he would ensure that facilities like good transportation are available before withdrawing on an instalment basis, our unsustainable fuel subsidy. That is the narrative for 2023 and those who cannot cope must fall out of the race now.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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