Niger Republic

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

THE 2023 elections are still six months away but the polity is already heated up. Expectedly, governance at all levels has stopped and the resources of the Nigerian state have been cornered by those in the corridors of power, as of right, to prosecute the electoral battle.

That is what is called “structure” in local political parlance. That also explains why the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, will remind anyone that cares to listen that with 22 state governors, the 2023 presidential election is already in the kitty.

What the chieftains of the party are saying is that having captured the resources of 22 states, they already have an enviable war chest for the battle.

The people are not factored into their calculations. They don’t matter. The end, to them, justifies the means. It is all about state capture and its odious legacy of systemic political corruption in which private interests significantly influence a state’s decision-making processes to their own advantage. As 2023 beckons, the ruling elite and their powerful businessmen collaborators are busy plotting how to manipulate the process in a desperate bid to influence the emerging rules of the game.

The politicians would like Nigerians to forget what matters most in the 2023 elections, which is the existential threat they collectively face if nothing fundamental is done to halt the nerve-racking drift to the Hobbesian state of nature where a very few, albeit powerful, people are taking for themselves all that they could, while life for the overwhelming majority remains solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

So, in a desperate attempt to muddle the waters, dodgy politicians are desperately trying to hang the 2023 elections on the combustible pole of religion and ethnicity. But they are only doing so to wheedle the politically unwary, knowing full well that many Nigerians, even those who claim to be educated, are not politically savvy enough to appreciate what the issues are.

The 2023 elections are a matter of life and death, a point Professor Usman Yusuf, former chief executive officer of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, brilliantly made in his article, “APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket: Neither for God nor country,” on Saturday, August 13.

“Let us be clear; all this political gymnastic around the religion of the ruling party APC’s vice-presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections and the dust it has raised, is just to accommodate the lifetime presidential ambition of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Don’t let anyone tell you differently,” Yusuf, a Professor of Haematology-Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, wrote.

“At a time when the nation is facing the worst insecurity of our lifetime and citizens are burdened by excruciating economic hardship, our politicians seem oblivious to the mortal danger that Nigeria’s many challenges, particularly insecurity, pose to our existence as a nation.

“The scramble for 2023 elections has already begun with political bouncers all over the media platforms trading childish insults instead of presenting credible ideas to the citizens on how to dig the country out of the ditch the APC has put the nation in.

“Nigerians are a deeply religious people at least publicly but, instead of using faith as a rallying point for good, our politicians use it to divide the people for their selfish gains.

“Democracy offers plenty of opportunities for anyone not happy with any political party the freedom to choose another. It will therefore be irresponsible for any person or group of persons to express their grievances in ways that will adversely affect the nation’s fragile democracy and tenuous security.

“For fairness, equity and justice as is enjoined in all our scriptures, our politics must reflect the nation’s rich ethnic and religious diversity.

“APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is neither for God nor country,” he concluded.

A chieftain of the APC, whose name I will keep out of the media for obvious reasons, who read the article as soon as TheNiche published it called to also acknowledge its profoundness.

Though a member of the ruling party, he strongly believes that President Muhammadu Buhari has been a disaster in Aso Rock. Yet, he is optimistic that Nigeria’s future is bright no matter who wins the 2023 elections, because according to him, none of the presidential candidates on parade right now will be worse than Buhari.

“It can never be worse than this, no matter what happens,” he enthused, but warned that Nigerians, particularly the media, are taking their eyes off the ball by focusing on issues such as APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket.

Rather than that, he said all eyes must be on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and its political will to deliver free, fair and credible polls that will reflect the wishes and preferences of the people.

He is of the opinion that rather than dissipate energy on extraneous issues such as Muslim-Muslim ticket, the media must hold the feet of INEC’s chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, to the fire of pellucidity.

I agree. What matters most in 2023 is that the supreme will of the people expressed through the ballot box is sacrosanct and inviolable. If INEC holds its end of the electoral stick firmly, it is then the responsibility of the politicians to sell themselves and their manifestoes to the electorate.

At 18 years of age, the average Nigerian electorate has come of age. If after the devastating insecurity, hunger, poverty and the hopelessness that has been the lot of almost all Nigerians in the last seven years of the Buhari presidency, the electorate still prefer the APC and its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Tinubu, to other candidates, so be it.

That will align perfectly well with conservative French thinker, Joseph de Maistre’s famous and prescient quote that: “In a democracy, the people end up with the government and leaders they deserve.”

That is the most fundamental nature of democracy. As Leon Wieseltier, the American critic and magazine editor, once noted: “A democratic society, an open society places an extraordinary responsibility on ordinary men and women because we are governed by what we think.”

Thoughtlessness in democratic actions amounts, literally, to delinquency. That is what it will take for any Nigerian to conclude that what APC has done with power in the last seven years does not matter in their choice of who succeeds Buhari in 2023.

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