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MAGNUS ONYIBE

is an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts...

Although rotation of presidency is an imperfect solution provided by our forbears, by now, we are supposed to have improved upon it by restructuring our political system via devolution of power from the centre to the states and creation of state police to tackle insecurity.

Remarkably, the PDP and APC which have been playing alternating roles as ruling and main opposition parties in the leadership of our great country since 1999 till date, appear ready to engage in a another tug of war to outwit each other for the hearts and souls of Nigerians, hence two northerners may be fielded to become president of Nigeria in 2023.

The observation above is derived from the fact that both parties have been equivocating and prevaricating about the zoning of the presidency or throwing it open, and a process that has made  becoming president of Nigeria in 2023, a very risky gamble as never witnessed before.

It is striking that, not until President Muhammadu Buhari last Wednesday 11 May  held a valedictory session for ten (10) of the 28 members of his cabinet and party who had initially signified interest in becoming president of Nigeria, did a few of them chicken out of the race before the Monday 16 May deadline expired.

Hopefully, before the May 23, exercise of screening the candidates, preceding the May 30-31 and June 1 scheduled for the conduct of the primaries for the ruling party, APC, and the May 28-29 date for the PDP primaries, many more would have chickened out.

The pulling out from the race by some of the presidential candidates when the threat of retaining their current jobs became the opportunity cost, simply indicates that most of those who had thrown their hats into the ring for the presidential contest, for lack of a better term, are as Americans would say, ‘wannabe’.

It also implies that most of those that pretended to be intending to become the first citizen of our country actually had no plans to really become president of Nigeria.

But they only jumped into the fray due to the band wagon effect engendered by the fact that it is not zoned and the expectations of miracles to happen such that they may be the president Buhari anointed candidate. It is also significant to note that they may also be aiming to settle for some consolatory prizes like ministerial appointments or chairmanship positions on lucrative boards of corporations belonging to government.

That is coupled with the fact of being in the exclusive club of those who doled out N100m and N40m for the acquisition of both APC and PDP,  could also enable the so-called presidential aspirants have national name recognition to position them for future presidential contests and even the opportunity of strategic positioning as future gubernatorial candidates.

By and large ,most of the presidential aspirants were only engaged in what can best be described as a ‘joy ride’.

The chaotic situation particularly applies to the politicians from the ruling party at the center, APC whose members angling to replace President Muhammadu Buhari as the commander in chief of the armed forces of Nigeria and the prime occupant of Aso Rock Villa, (the seat of presidential power) in 2023, have presently been pruned to less than 25 in number.

The assertion above is validated by the fact that labour minister, Chris Ngige, for instance, apparently had no plans to really contest for the exalted office. But he only joined the bonanza for the fun of it. Hence he withdrew his candidacy after president Buhari issued an ultimatum for public officials keen on contesting for public office to resign, latest on Monday, May 16.

Before him, senator Orji Uzor Kalu who is the Senate minority whip and governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi state had also dropped out of the presidential race. Paulin Tallen, Minister of women affairs has also rescinded her decision to quit the cabinet in order to contest for a senatorial seat in plateau state , just as petroleum minister Timipre Silva is also said to have shelved his initial plan to seek election into the office of the president of Nigeria.

In the list of those that have stepped down their ambition both as governorship and presidential contenders are also attorney general, and minister of justice,Abubakar Malami, who was gunning for the governorship of Kebbi state, as well as Godwin Ifeanyi Emefiele, (Governor of the CBN) who was rumored to have been angling to become president of Nigeria.

But Emefiele was sending mixed messages by pussy footing until the recent revelation that he did not fill out or return the expression of interest and nomination forms purportedly procured for him by farmers who are enamored by his interventions in the agricultural sector, especially rice farmers who aver that their lives have been impacted positively by Emefiele.

Meanwhile, were the CBN governor, Emefiele to have pursued his rumored ambition to its logical conclusion, he would have been mirroring or mimicking Mario Dragi, the current prime minister of Italy who had previously served as president of the European Central Bank.

In any case, dropping out of critical political races is not peculiar to Nigeria. It may be recalled that in the UK, Chuka Umunna, a Nigerian born parliamentarian had opted out of the race of being the leader of the labor party when the lot had more or less fallen on his lap, following Labour Party’s defeat in a critical UK election and the resignation of Ed Miliband as leader. Umunna was identified as one of the potential candidates to take over as new leader of the party.

But he demurred in the 11th hour, citing family issues.

Beyond extraordinary political circumstances for withdrawing interest in political contests, there is another angle to the apparent all-comers affairs that the 2023 presidential contest has become .

And it is that the latter-day ‘wannabe’ presidential aspirants are spoilers, pure and simple. That point of view is predicated on the belief that those that fall into that category are the crop of aspirants that are just craving the title: ex-presidential candidate.

Indeed , their real desire is the prefix to be attached to their names like the traditional title of a chief or an academic with a doctoral degree or a medical doctor. In other words, they are only interested in the title of ‘ex-presidential candidate’ for the sake of it.

So , if it takes N100m to obtain, or more appropriately procure the title, (in the case of those aspiring under the APC platform) so be it. Likewise for the presidential aspirants (leveraging the PDP forum) who are doling out N40m for nomination and expression of interest forms.

After all, as we are well aware, some Nigerians spend similar huge sums of money acquiring chieftaincy titles.

So what the heck!

It should also not be lost on us that for the academically inclined, the school fees for a Doctor of Philosophy, Ph.D. degree from an Ivy League university such as Harvard is about one hundred thousand ($100,000) dollars.

Convert the dollar value to figure out the equivalent in our local currency-the naira,exchanging at about $1-N600=N60m and you can see why N40m or N100m cost of expression of interest and nomination forms are not such a big deal.

It is worthy to note that, whereas the politicians that desire the ex-presidential candidate title would get it by merely paying N100m or N40m as the case may be, the academically inclined, would not only pay the huge sum of money as fees to acquire the knowledge, he/ she would also be required to invest time and energy in pursuit of the intellectual laurel.

Needless to stress that the exercise can, by its very nature, be highly rigorous and exacting as opposed to acquiring the title of an ex-presidential candidate which can be as easy as breeze.

The scenarios described above simply validate the aphorism ‘different folks for different folks’.

And the category of presidential aspirants cataloged above are quite unlike and therefore not on the same genre with former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, who is a five (5) time veteran of presidential contests, and currently vying for the presidency on the platform of PDP for the 6th time.

It does also not apply to former Lagos state governor, Bola Tinubu, Asiwaju of Lagos and one-time senator who has stated that it has been his lifetime ambition to become president of Nigeria. Ditto for Senator Bukola Saraki, a former governor of Kwara state and ex-president of the Nigerian senate who had also contested for the office of the president of Nigeria in 2019. Also not included is Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra state and running mate to Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 presidential contest and a social media sensation ,who is another candidate that has the potentials to become president of Nigeria .

The aforementioned aspirants and a couple of governors like Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, and perhaps Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom state, who have the financial wherewithal to pursue their ambition, are by every measure or stretch of imagination prepared for the race.

That is underscored by the fact that most of them ,except a couple, have established nationwide structures to support their mission.

But as the situation in the United States of America, USA where the billionaire ex-major of New York, Mike Bloomberg, tried and dropped out of the race for the presidency in 2020 under the platform of the Democratic Party has proven, money alone can not guarantee success for candidates without real Politicking.

Not in the USA and not in Nigeria.

Nevertheless, money matters in politics as poignantly exposed by the fact that the incumbent president Buhari, relying on his cult figure alone (legendary 12 million voters in the north) had tried and failed three times to become president without adequate funding.

It was not until oil-rich Rivers state resources and Lagos state industrial and economic powerhouse were put behind his ambition in 2015, that his presidential ship that had set sail since 2003, could navigate through Nigeria’s stormy political waters to berth in Aso Rock Villa.

Against the backdrop of the foregoing narrative, the rest of the aspirants in my humble opinion are simply being opportunistic and positioning for other benefits.

*To be continued

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