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MAGNUS ONYIBE

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

If the hangovers were the type that one feels after a revelry, or binge with friends after which one is reluctant to go back to work the next day ,it would not have mattered much .

That is because, excessive alcoholic intake can be taken care of by engaging in quick detoxification. And being not keen to return to work can be cured by a reality check of the fear of being fired from the job or suffering income loss , if one’s boss is fair enough to make absence from work a loss of pay for only the period of absence.

But the hangover being suffered by Nigerian politicians after the party primaries for the 2023 general elections that were held mostly during the end of the month of May and first week of June is much more than that.

That is especially so for the presidential candidates of the two main political parties- ruling APC and main opposition, PDP that are now grappling with the dilemmas which their emergence have triggered via the actions of both parties in choosing their presidential candidates against the run of play.

By now, it must be clear to most Nigerians that the two personalities – Bola Ahmed Tinubu, BAT in the case of APC and Atiku Abubakar, AA in the case of PDP are two powerful politicians whose political sagacity and ingenuity defied all logic to emerge as the candidates of their respective parties.

In light of the above , they are irksome to some members even in the parties in which they are presidential flag bearers, simply because  their candidacy is fraught with technicalities that are disruptive to the traditional political settings , and therefore represent a major paradigm shift in the annals of Nigeria’s political office contestation at the presidential levels.

Traditionally, if a presidential candidate is from the north,usually Hausa/Fulani and a Muslim , the running mate is often someone from the south , lgbo,ljaw or Yoruba. That has been the case since 1979 with Alhaji Shehu Shagari , a Muslim and Hausa/Fulani from Sokoto state who paired with Dr Alex Ekwueme, a Christian and an lgbo from Anambra state as presidential and vice presidential candidates respectively.

Ditto for Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba Christian from Owu in Ogun state and Atiku Abubakar , from Jada, Yola in Adamwa state , that were bestriding the Presidency and Vice Presidency , from 1999 to 2007. How can we  forget Umaru Yar’adua , a Muslim Hausa /Fulani from katsina state and Goodluck Jonathan Christian from Otuoke in  Bayelsa state presidency and Vice Presidency , 2007-2010 , as well as Jonathan and Namadi Sambo , a Muslim Fulani from Kaduna state presidency and Vice Presidency , 2011-2015.

Even under military rule , pre and post 1979 return to democracy with Shagari and Ekwueme at the helm of affairs as President and Vice President, the military dictators were sensitive enough to observe and respect the delicate ethnic and religious lines by balancing the ethnic and religious fault lines required to keep our country on even keel.

Having set the stage by putting things in context , it is proper that l dissect the hangovers that are being suffered by both BAT and AA , who are clearly the presidential front runners in 2023 and dwell a little bit on the threats posed by the fringe parties and the chances or otherwise of their candidates in having a shot at calling the shots in Aso Rock Villa next year.

Beginning with the APC , where the apparent political miscalculations during the June 6-7th APC presidential convention, presumably careened out of control, following the underestimation of APC national leader, Bola Tinubu ,to pull a chestnut out of fire by becoming the presidential candidate of APC , against all odds , and which is one of the causes of the debilitating hangover now being suffered by the party . It is as a consequence of that unforeseen development of which the APC was clearly unprepared, that it is now contending with the hangover of swimming against the tide of finding a running mate that would compliment its candidate rather than threatening the chances of the party and worse still , endangering the unity of our country.

That is basically because,a Muslim -Muslim ticket which appears to be the best option open to BAT, by all measures seems to be an anathema in light of the current high dissonance level between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria .

That point is driven home by the media statements being issued by various Christian groups and even a Muslim interest platform that have expressed aversion to such an arrangement at the presidential level,which is significant.

In a media report currently making the rounds , over the weekend, a group known as Nigeria Democracy Defense Watch ,(NDDW) led by the Ahmed Ibrahim Adamu and Otunba Adeniji Adegoke wrote a letter to president Buhari suggesting that ”a Muslim-Muslim ticket May portray Nigeria as an Islamic and sectarian nation”

It may be argued that the late Moshood Kashimawo Okikiola, MKO Abiola, a Yoruba Muslim like BAT, contested for the presidency under the SDP in 1993 by pairing with Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, another Muslim from Borno state and won. But the level of ethnic and religious animosity now prevailing in our country manifesting in extreme hostility was absent in 1993.

In fact , the oddity of a Muslim-Muslim presidency may be the critical,but unannounced reason that the June 12, 1993 election believed to the fairest of political party elections in Nigeria was annulled by then head of state general Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida,IBB.

As it may be recalled,lBB had indicated in the numerous media interviews that he has granted in nearly 30 years after the sad event of June 12 1993 election annulment, that it was done to assuage the anger of members of the military- perhaps his kitchen cabinet who were opposed to the development.Hopefully, IBB would reveal exactly the identity of the officers that were opposed to his allowing MKO Abiola’s victory to be upheld and their reason for being so resolute about it in his memoir, if he eventually writes it or authorizes one.

Before then, it needs being brought to the fore that in uncanny ways, the June 1993 annulment of the presidential elections won by MKO Abiola by IBB echoes or bears similarity to the January 6 ,2020 attempted annulment of Joe Biden’s victory as president of the United States of America, USA, by then president Donald Trump and which is currently being investigated by the congress of that country.The parallel lies in the fact that then incumbent president Trump tried unsuccessfully to get congress to upturn the election victory of Biden via pressure on Vice President Mike Pence and members of the parliament to deny Biden’s victory by using the occasion of the statutory endorsement and validation by parliament to invalidate the result. But for the existence of robust institutions of democracy in the USA ,Trump would have had his way in the manner that Babangida successfully annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections of which MKO

Abiola, who was the adjudged winner, but was denied the crown.

As a country that believes in engaging in post mortem of events in order to avert future occurrence, the congress of the USA is investigating the June 6, 2020 invasion of The Capitol, by pro-Trump insurgents who besieged the Congress hall and unleashed mayhem on congress men and women while in the process of endorsing Biden’s victory. Right now, the inquisition is being carried out in the full glare of Americans via live television broadcast . Unsurprisingly, that was not the case with June 12, 1993 annulment in Nigeria and one of the reasons, Africa is referred to as a dark continent, and why,indeed Nigeria is still in the doldrums and even deemed as an basket case  in the comity of civilized countries.

That being the case , how June 12 , 1993 happened has remained a mystery, and subject of conjecture as l have just done by speculating that non-acceptance of Muslim-Muslim presidency by some influential military high command members may be an unsung reason.

For the sake of emphasis, had we as a nation known what informed the decision by lBB and his kitchen cabinet to annul June 12th presidential election via a public enquiry whose report is made public , perhaps it would have been legislated against and maybe Bola Ahmed Tinubu would not be caught in a similar web today.

And our country’s leaders lack of interest in looking at the past experience with June 12th 1993 debacle to enable it chart a better future in our presidential elections may be attributable to the fact that the sad event occurred under a military dictatorship that is opaque, as opposed to a democracy where transparency is a sine qua non.

Worse still, even where a panel of inquiry were to be  set up to examine the cause of such an aberration, the reports are likely to be swept under the carpet. Take Oputa Panel Report for instance. It is an investigative panel set up by president Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 to investigate human rights abuse from 1984 to 1999 when Nigeria was ruled by the quartet of generals, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Sani Abacha,  Ibrahim Babangida, and then general Muhammadu Buhari , military head of state ,1983-85 and 1985-1993 ,1993 -1998 and 1998-1999 respectively.

The panel of enquiry headed by late justice Chukwudifu Oputa,with bishop Hasan Kukah as secretary wrote a report that never saw the light of day,hence our country failed to under go a reset in the manner that Rwanda has witnessed a rebirth after its ethnic cleansing tragedy in 1994.

Apart from the challenge of both the president and his vice being of the same faith which appears untenable given the prevailing circumstances of religious disharmony in our country, that has been elevated to a frightening level in the past decade or so;and which is like an albatross hanging over the presidential candidate of the APC , Bola Ahmed Tinubu: the minimum educational qualifications that a Nigerian president should possess is another major cause of indigestion in Tinubu’s camp.

Both of these factors -Muslim -Muslim ticket palava and minimum educational qualifications imbroglio are the reasons the winner of the APC presidential primaries has been unable to consummate his victory nearly one month after he won it such that instead of appointing a running mate, he opted for a place-holder .

Evidently, his inability to appoint a substantive running mate rather than  exercising the option of nominating a place-holder in the person of lbrahim Masari from katsina state, does not augur well for his presidential ambition because it is tricky. But owing to the prevailing circumstances, he needed to beat INEC deadline by buying time while trying to figure out the intricacies of ethnic and religious realities that define our politics, and the Place-Holder concept lends itself as temporary solution .

A Place-Holder which is an option that Tinubu exercised has thus entered into the lexicon of Nigerian political actors and it is now a popular line of action in the political space as other presidential candidates, (not the PDP) have copied the innovative concept pioneered by the inimitable Bola Tinubu who is best known for his sagacity having been the one who institutionalized deputy governors being political neophytes having leant a bitter lesson from his hard fight to fend off his first deputy, the politically savvy Kofoworaola Bucknor, that allegedly was bent on impeaching him. It was Tinubu who also changed for good the concept of Local Government Areas, LGAs to Local Council Development Authorities, LCDAs after winning a landmark legal battle against then president Olusegun Obasanjo. So, it is to his credit that the concept of creating additional local councils by states has now become standard. By contributing another feature like the Place-Holder concept that is currently a fad into the political milieu, Tinubu has by and large become another touch bearer.

It is against that backdrop that, BAT , who has issues with the academic certificates that he submitted or did not submit to the Independent National Electoral Commission , INEC has become another source and cause of tension and talking point engaging the attention of Nigerians from the mosques , churches, barbers shops, market squares to online social media platforms dominated by the youths, as they animately and passionately debate what the future portends.

The question now is , would Tinubu , who given the fact that he has successfully fought numerous political battles- university of Chicago certificate scandal as lagos state governor ,1999-2007 and alleged narcotics racketeering indictments in the USA during his sojourn in the Diaspora as recently reported by Bloomberg , survive the current bogeys- Muslim-Muslim ticket which is likely his last resort, at a great risk , and minimum educational qualifications quagmire of which he may be compelled to present his primary and secondary school certificates to avoid being disqualified ?

Given his antecedents of navigating political stormy waters , his fans believe that BAT like the proverbial cat that has nine lives would prevail as they are optimistic that the current ill wind would eventually blow away.

On the part of the main opposition, PDP and it’s presidential candidate, Turaki Atiku Abubakar , since his emergence as the flag bearer on 28th May , there has arisen more or less been an anarchic situation of a stunning proportion.

It started with the party going against its presidency rotation policy practiced since it was birthed in 1998/99 and embedded in its constitution. In the belief that an opposition party may not be compelled so much to hinge its future on a party dogma than leveraging a winning formula and candidate with the brightest chance to win , the rotation pendulum was not allowed to swing to the south as was expected. Instead, a more pragmatic approach of building on the momentum (about 13 million votes) already gathered by her presidential candidate in the last presidential contest in 2019,Atiku Abubakar was adopted. To some extent , unlike the unforeseen circumstances that threw up Asiwaju Tinubu as the presidential candidate of the APC, the emergence of Abubakar as PDP’s standard bearer can not be said to be unanticipated.

That is underscored by the fact that the party debated and agreed to throw its presidential candidacy open instead of rotating it exclusively to the south, as it should have, all things being equal.

Like the quagmire afflicting the APC which looks like catch 22, by not respecting the party’s presidential rotation agreement , the PDP has left a bad taste in the mouth, not only of PDP members from the south east and south zones which are the party’s strong hold, but also of the middle belters who have been vociferous along with Ohaneze-lgbo sociopolitical group , PANDEF -Niger Delta platform of the same hue with Ohanaze and Middle Belt Forum, MBF,  a north central states political forum who are thumping their noses at the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

Further muddying the water is the fact that , Nyesom Wike,the current governor of Rivers state ,who is from the south-south zone , also contested for the presidential ticket ,and ended up as the first runner up to the winner of the contest.But he has subsequently been passed over as running mate to Atiku Abubakar. Denying Nyesom Wike a consolatory price as Vice Presidential candidate in light of the fact that he has been the major pillar of support for the PDP since it lost the presidency in 2015 , has gaslighted the party which at this point in time should have been taking advantage of the cul de sac that the difficulty in choosing a Vice Presidential candidate poses to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s presidential ambition. But instead, PDP presidential candidate, Abubakar is struggling to glue together the party which currently seems to be on tenterhooks because of the unbalanced equation of distribution of party posts whereby both the PDP presidential candidate and party chairman are from the same north, leaving the south in the lurch.

It is rather unfortunate that a combination of the present actions and inactions of PDP leadership as well as the burden of the former president Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ who was Atiku Abubakar’s boss , relentlessly tagging his former second-in-command as corrupt without proof,and Bloomberg’s equally excoriating report on allegations of financial malfeasance in the USA against Turaki Abubakar,of which there is also no evidence of conviction of the crime against the PDP presidential candidate, constitute significant obstacles and impediments to PDP’s return as the ruling party at the center in 2023.

Again, there is solace in the fact that Atiku Abubakar who is a veteran of several presidential contests at both the party primaries levels and as the candidate of his party in presidential elections in 2019 , is an established and proven goal getter with an indomitable spirit and capacity to win. It is unsurprising that in a recent press statement, he has vowed to mend the broken fences within the party , just as the BOT chairman of the party, senator Walid Jibrin has recommended a high powered diplomacy shuttle involving both the presidential candidate and his running mate to Nyesom Wike who has been been let down by the party that he invested a lot in building in the past seven (7)  years. Reportedly, both the APC and Labor party are seeking his hands in political marriage.

Hopefully, the need to forge a common front before 2023 by applying a healing balm on the wounds of those whose ox were gored during the vicious battle fought in the course of the party primaries would not be treated with levity by Atiku Abubakar in the manner that Goodluck Jonathan allowed the PDP to collapse in 2015, by engaging in foolish pride of not seeking rapprochement with aggrieved critical stakeholders before they started jumping ship.

All things being equal, would Turaki Atiku Abubakar be luckier than he was in 2019  and prevail in the impending 2023 presidential contest ?

Given the prevailing political dynamics in our country whereby citizens are disdainful of the horrendous level of insecurity of lives and properties, as well as the unprecedented level of hunger and starvation stalking the land , which can best be characterized as extreme state of anomie , the presidency of Nigeria is for the PDP and Atiku Abubakar to lose, if they do or do not get their acts right early enough.

And the hand writing is already on the wall if the massive defections from

APC to PDP in Sokoto and Katsina states as well as across the country is anything to go by. Despite the positive optics, reconciliation efforts to calm. Frayed nerves need to be afoot right now.

Aside from the dissonances in the two major parties-the APC and PDP towards their quest for clinching the 2023 due to ethnic and religion configuration challenges -accentuated by the complexities foisted by heightened ethnic and religious rivalries , there is another threat.

And the threat is that those that the APC and PDP should be watching from their rear mirror are the Labor Party, LP, energized by ex presidential candidate of PDP who decamped,mr Peter Obi, now a wave making presidential candidate of the LP and Nigerian National Political Party, NNPP , founder and presidential candidate , Dr Musa KWAKWANSO, a former governor of Kano state.

On their own , both parties and candidates pose no real threat. But combined ,they can constitute a real danger to both APC and PDP mission to Aso Rock Villa in 2023.

To be clear, while l do not see a path way to KWAKWANSO being a running mate to Obi as being speculated , it is not impossible that both parties may agree to poll resources together in a support of either of both political party’s candidates especially for the presidential election.

An even greater threat is a combination of all the opposition parties apart from the PDP against the ruling party, APC.

That would be reminiscent of what happened in 2013/14 when four opposition political parties collapsed their systems into one platform-the APC which they were able to leverage in ousting the PDP after 16 years of holding sway as the ruling party at the centre.

Currently , there are activities towards making such political phenomenon happen again, and it can not be discountenanced or dismissed because there is already proof of concept evidenced by the gang up and subsequent ability of APC to kick out PDP in 2015.

Nothing stops that positive history from being re-enacted in 2023 because it need not take another sixteen (16) years for it to materialize .

Whilst , it is not yet known whether any of the two major parties would woo the smaller parties with a view to merging with or subsuming them into their fold in the manner that the big banks took over smaller ones in the wake of banking consolidation in Nigeria in the last decade , it is unlikely that any single party, APC or PDP would without coalition with other political parties rule over Nigeria from 2023.

And that would be a positive development for democracy in Nigeria, since the president in 2023 would not have the sole authority to allot all the strategic positions to his kith and kins or members of same faith with him which is presently a sore point and a major reason that the unity of our country is on a precipice.

In the event that the party that ultimately wins the presidential contest rules in partnership with one or two smaller parties such as LP,NNPP, APGA , PRP , YPP etc, strategic government positions would be shared equitably amongst the partnering party platforms .

That is because these micro parties which are fast developing sturdy roots in their local catchment areas -ethnic or religious enclaves- would be formidable local forces, unless the behemoths like APC , PDP and to lesser extent LP and NNPP,  ahead of the 2023 presidential polls, absorb them.

All said and done , authorities should do well to define what minimum educational qualifications to be eligible to become president of Nigeria entails. During the launch of my book , “Becoming President of Nigeria. A Citizen’s Guide “ on 10th May , the keynote speaker professor Mike Ikhariale, a constitutional lawyer noted that contrary to popular views, the minimum educational qualification for a president of Nigeria is not first school leaving certificate. But no certificate at all . All that is required is ability to comprehend and speak English language and that would be determined by INEC, not any law court.

Making that clarification would spare Nigerians the anguish of constantly being bombarded with the question of what is the minimum educational qualifications of a presidential candidate?

It is a challenge that the incumbent president Buhari’s candidacy also threw up in 2015 and 2019. I would not be surprised if that matter that dogged Buhari’s presidency is still in court. That the APC candidate, Bola Tinubu is also currently being wracked by that malaise,  is simply because it is a nebulous rule that the National Assembly,NASS can make clearer as it did with the lacuna created by not transmitting power to the Vice President when president Umaru Yar’adua of blessed memory suddenly passed away on active duty in 2010. Although, the challenge was temporarily solved with the enactment of the Doctrine Of Necessity, it has subsequently been corrected permanently by an act of parliament which makes it automatic the absence of a president to imply that his deputy is in charge .

By the same token , the Muslim-Muslim presidency conundrum, is also a Tinubu nightmare. That is despite Kaduna state governor, Nasir El Rufai’s experiment of that configuration in his state where both he and his deputy are Muslims.

And as we all know , Kaduna state is the ground zero for ethnic and religious conflicts and the leading state in death tolls or human carnage arising from violent clashes. The tragic event in that state may likely be a direct or indirect fall out of the political configuration at the governorship level.

As an antidote to the Muslim-Muslim ticket miasma, perhaps it would help If all the strategic posts such as President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice , etc were to be laid on the bargaining table for sharing . Were that to be the case , maybe  there would not be so much hullabaloo about a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, if upfront , Christians also get lucrative posts that would checkmate aberrant behavior by the executive. That is assuming the current polarization of our country along religious lines does not ebb but persists.

Similarly, if rotation of presidency that was hashed out during the 1994/5 general Sani Abacha convened constitutional conference were to have been embedded in the 1999 constitution by the various National Assemblies from 1999 till date ,it would not trigger the bad blood now roiling the rank and file of PDP.

Curiously,  both the Nasir El-Rufai committee report on how the APC can move forward and the Bala Mohamed committee set up by the PDP to chart the future of the party made recommendations on how our beloved country can experience a rebirth .

How and why our leaders have chosen to ignore those monumentally useful recommendations, beats me hollow.

Then again , is that not why it is often said that politics is complex ?

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