2023 Presidential front-liners on the firing line –

It all started with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, BAT who is the presidential candidate of the ruling party at the center, All Progressive Congress, APC who mis-spoke at an event in Kaduna last week.

He was captured on video saying: “Rufai, we will not let you run away.
Your vision, creativity, and resiliency in turning a rotten situation into a bad one is necessary at this critical time.”

To put things in context,Tinubu who was speaking to an audience of eminent northerners who were gathered in a business summit where they were rubbing minds on how kaduna state’s socioeconomic fortune can be improved, most probably committed the gaffe of using the inappropriate word ‘bad’ instead of ‘good’ which is the logical word that should have followed his sequence of thought in the earlier quoted sentence in the speech that he was making in commendation of Nasir El Rufai,kaduna state governor’s accomplishments.

Of course, it may be argued that no man is infallible or beyond goofs and gaffes, sometimes.

In that regard, it is understandable if the speaker recognizes the mistake immediately and corrects himself in the course of speaking. However, that was not the case with Tinubu in the referenced instance.

Hence it has become a flaw and a sore talking point, as they have assumed that the Tinubu slip up was not a mere guffaw in Kaduna.

That belief is underscored by the fact that he did not recognize his mistake which has been assumed to be as a result of lack presence of mind, hence he did not self correct.

Given that the APC presidential candidate’s health condition has been a subject of public scrutiny eliciting massive thumbs down from a critical mass of Nigerians who believe that he is suffering from major impairments health wise, critics are drilling down the slip up in his speech in Kaduna and on other occasions as evidence of his poor state of mental health.

Tinubu’s misfortune, if l may characterize it as such, is made worse by the fact that he had previously exhibited similar traits of what critics have concluded is memory lapse when he proposed that 50 million Nigerians should be recruited into the security services to combat insecurity in Nigeria, whereas the nation’s workforce is barely more than 80 million people.

He is also reported to have once stated that Permanent Voters Card, PVC which enables citizens exercise their civic responsibility has expiry date, which obviously is not the case, given that it is called Permanent Voters Card.

Furthermore, it does not help that incumbent president Mohammadu Buhari had in the run up to his becoming president of Nigeria in 2015 is believed to have betrayed such debility by reportedly mis-pronouncing his then running mate, Yemi Osinbajo’s name as Osinbade.

He was pilloried,but apparently it did not count against him in the polls,per see.

Also, soon after he won, then president-elect, or president-in-waiting exhibited another lack of presence of mind when in a parley organized in Washington DC, United States of America, USA for the meeting and greeting of Nigerians in the diaspora, he failed to comprehend a question put to him by a Nigerian about whether he would treat all Nigerians including the easterner’s who did not significantly vote for him, equally.
His response in which he mixed up 97 with 95 after he referred to lgbos as 5% also raised eye brows about his mental capacity as the Tinubu gaffe is currently eliciting.

When the Buhari flaws are juxtaposed or placed against the back drop of the current string of Tinubu speech mishaps, the striking similarities are indisputable.

And given the unpalatable outcome of Buhari’s stewardship which would be eight (8) years by may next year, and during which our country has become so blighted by hunger and starvation, that it is now tagged the poverty capital of the world; so riddled with violence arising from religious and ethnic intolerance as well as banditry and savagery that sorrow, tears and blood are now the regular trade mark of our country; and such that majority of Nigerians are currently so despondent, at a breaking point and on their wits end owing to leadership myopia that reigns supreme in Aso Rock Villa, Nigerians are wary of the health are paying close attention to the health status of their next president.

It is therefore highly improbable that after such dismal leadership experience from a man suspected to suffer from similar debilities that bother on inability to display razor sharp mind which should be a necessary, if not required attribute that an astute leader should posses, the masses would not be justifiably apprehensive of the risk of electing another president who may not have full control of his mental faculty.

So much about the APC and it’s presidential standard bearer.

The situation in the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is not dissimilar.

The party’s presidential flag holder, Turaki Atiku Abubakar has also stirred up a firestorm similar to the one currently charring BAT-the ruling party, APC’s presidential hopeful.

And co-incidentally, like the Tinubu faux pax, the miss-speak by Atiku Abubakar also occurred in kaduna during an interactive session with Arewa joint committee last Saturday.

“I have traversed the whole of this country I know the whole of this country. I have built bridges across this country. I think what the average northerner needs is somebody who is from the north, and who also understands the other parts of Nigeria and who has been able to build bridges across the rest of the country.”

“This is what the northerner needs. He (northerner) doesn’t need a Yoruba candidate, or an Igbo candidate. This is what the northerner needs. I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of northern origin.”

The above comment attributed to the presidential candidate of the PDP when he was addressing his fellow Arewa people last Saturday,15/10/2022 has been seized upon by the opposition politicians that have branded it a divisive comment.

And perhaps justifiably so, as the utterance has connotations of playing the ethnic card by the man who is aspiring to lead a multi ethnic country like Nigeria.

Perhaps what he meant to say is that Nigeria does not need a sectional or ethnic president, but one with a pan Nigeria world view.
And it is disappointing that what he meant to say, is not what he came off with, or what came across to the critical mass of Nigerians as what he was saying.

Against the backdrop of the fact that our beloved country has become so polarized along ethnic and religious fault lines in the past seven (7) years of the incumbent government, of which the number one (1) occupant of Aso Rock Villa who had been manifesting the characteristics of an ethnic jingoist prior to becoming president and the manifestation of such biases have patently been on parade in the governance of Nigeria, there is indeed a reason to be concerned, hence the ensuing hoopla.

Expectedly, the PDP’s presidential candidate’s camp has been scrambling to put the mis-speak captured in the video that has gone viral into context.

They are arguing that the audience was a gathering of his kit and kin and the location was kaduna, the unofficial headquarters of northern political intelligentsia (kaduna mafia) who he needed to pander to in order to extract their commitment to his quest for the presidency a sixth time.

Since the speech was captured on video, attempts to spin it by Paul lbe, his spokesman and Ehigie Uzamere, a member of the campaign council has been futile.

In my view, although the candidate may not have meant it in the manner it was conveyed in his speech, it is actually not too different from the infamous ‘emi lo kan’ (it is my turn) utterance made in Ogun state by no less a person than the APC presidential torch bearer, Bola Ahmed Tinubu when he was try to rally Yoruba support for a step down of other candidates pre-party primary elections.

Ideally, as humans, it is not uncommon or unusual for propositions that evoke ethnic sentiments to be leveraged when a politician is canvassing the buy-in of his group into his ambition.

But owing to its capacity to be used as a weapon against anyone found to be pandering to his narrow ethnic or group stock, especially since a northerner has been calling the shots in Aso Rock Villa in the past nearly eight(8) years, and to the consternation of a vast majority of southerners that another northerner is angling to succeed president Buhari, that line of thought should have been applied only during closed doors meetings.

Basically, it is tantamount to any of the candidates going to the mosques or churches to urge Muslims or Christians to vote only for members of their religious groups.
Although such moves are currently being made by all the three candidates, but they are nuanced.

The need to be more discreet and circumspect in the utterances of the presidential candidates of both the APC and PDP is accentuated by the fact that the impropriety or inappropriateness of the seeming bid to cancel out other tribes from the presidential race, can not be overemphasized, particularly the lgbos whose turn, (all things being equal) it could have been to produce the next president.

But owing to unforeseen circumstances that have altered the political equation, such as the belief that it is only a ruling party at the center that can afford to adhere to prior permutations like rotation of presidency between the north and south which ordinarily could have been a mere ritual in the manner that it happens in the private sector whereby the first Vice President of a union or group, for instance, a body of teachers or accountants, steps into the presidency, when the tenure of the incumbent expires.

But Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu made the incendiary comments with ethnic bias openly and such moments of indiscretion have thus became their Achilles heels.

With respect to Tinubu whose gaffe ‘emi lo kan’ comment occurred before the party primaries, he was not negatively imparted because he triumphed by emerging the party’s flag bearer.
However, it remains to be seen whether the current Atiku Abubakar goof-“He (northerner) doesn’t need a Yoruba candidate, or an Igbo candidate” would inflict any significant damage on his chance at succeeding president Buhari next year, given the fact that he would be alienating his Yoruba and lgbo supporters if the notion is not effectively debunked and erased.

Although, the main beneficiary of the fall out of the resort to pandering to ethnicity by the presidential front liners, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu is Peter Obi, the Labor Party, LP candidate who has aggressively shot himself into reckoning as a front liner, his ethnic stock is not significant enough in number for him to fall back on them to help catapult him into Aso Rock Villa in 2023.

Hence he pivoted from All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA which is a platform rooted in lgbo land that he leveraged to become two term governor of Anambra state, before literally porting to the PDP, a platform with which he started prosecuting his presidential ambition as vice presidential candidate to the PDP’s presidential candidate in 2019,Atiku Abubakar who is also flying the party’s flag for the presidency in 2023.

With a dim prospect of realizing his ambition with PDP political vehicle laden with heavy weights with deep pockets and more robust political pedigree, or star studded, Obi jumped into the LP boat with which he is currently making waves by leveraging the anger of our youths who have been expressing angst against incumbent government via #ndsars street protests in October 2020,driven by youths who had been brutalized by an arm of the police force that used to go by the name, SARS.

Given the reality of the dictum, idle mind (hand) is the devil’s workshop, the ranks of Obi movement was further boosted by students that have been rendered idle by the eight (8) months long tertiary institutions lecturers strike that left higher institutions shut down, plus the burgeoning number of adult malcontents in the society locally and in the diaspora who are opposed to the blatant act of nepotism, extreme inequality and massive corruption that have engulfed our country.

Despite all the deft moves of Obi by giving the almost moribund LP party a shot in the arm and providing leadership to #Endsars gladiators that lacked a political platform and arrow head to flex their muscles; apart from the negative effect of the activities of overzealous youths who have been manipulating facts and sexing-up videos to suit their candidate’s ambition, as reflected by their doctoring of the video of PDP presidential campaign launch in Uyo, Akwa lbom state on October 10 where the party members were falsely claimed by fake news purveyors to be chanting in Efik dialect, Obi Kekerenke, which is loosely translated into English language means Obi is our choice; the association of LP and it’s presidential candidate with #EndSARS is currently haunting Obi’s quest for presidency of Nigeria in 2023.

In fact, right now, not condemning or taking specific actions to stop the mischief being perpetrated by the NETIZENS, who are basically Obidients, is a test of Obi’s moral conscience.

Another veritable evidence of a fall out of Obi’s dalliance with our internet savvy youths who have the capacity to monitor developments in the polity is the appearance on the list of LP campaign council members, the name of retired army general John Enenche who had described the Lekki toll gate shooting of some of our youths to death during #Endsars protests two years ago as fake with the allegation that the video was ‘photoshopped’ by the youths.

When the outrage of our youths against Enenche is taken into consideration, then you can see how the ‘party on the roll’ as our youths would like to characterize the LP, also known as Obi-Datti movement, is not different from APC and PDP in terms of also boxing itself into a tight corner.

Little wonder credibility is the deficit which the Obi-Datti movement continues to suffer in the eyes of matured Nigerians who are skeptical about the capacity and ability of Labor Party and it’s presidential flag bearer, Peter Obi to deliver on their claim of being the divinely ordained rescue team for the nation.

Having been ferreted out by the youths as an enemy within or a two faced personality of the dimension of Jekyll and Hyde, the military general Enenche, who has been called out by the youths has been trying to salvage his benighted and wrecked reputation with the following response:
“Personally and professionally, I worked with the overriding interest of Nigerians at heart based on the oath of allegiance I swore on commission into the military service, which is sacrosanct.

“I sincerely shared in the pains of that breaking news through the social media as it were. On that note, I want to assure all that more efforts will be put in, so that all assertions can be cleared convincingly from appropriate sources.”

How Obi and his team respond to the demand of the youths to remove Enenche from the campaign council list to assuage them or whether he opt to retain Enenche, would impart on how the LP and its presidential torch bearer, Obi would be perceived by both the youths who constitute the bulk of the party’s main support base and the aggrieved adults at home and abroad, that are the party’s devotees who are passionate about change from the old political class to a new crop.

Hopefully, the LP would draw lessons from the PDP that has elected to at the cost of a monumental and colossal collateral damage, retain Iyiorcha Ayu as its party chairman despite all the odium and opprobrium being elicited by the deluge of allegations of financial impropriety being leveled against him, plus the challenge of his inability to keep to the promise that he is said to have committed to by agreeing that he would resign his position as chairman of the party, if the presidential flag bearer emerged from the north after the primary elections.

Putting all together, the campaign for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 is getting off to a chaotic start.

And the victims of the chaos are the Nigerian electorate that are yet to be presented with the manifesto of the various political parties, except the PDP and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar that have launched their campaign and unfolded their plans and policies on the 10th of this month in Uyo, Akwa lbom state.

It beats me hollow that the good old policy of the handlers of Very Important Personalities, VIPs having a mock session with their principals before addressing an audience has not been applied in the management of both Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar.

That is why instead of discussing the policy and programs of the candidates, Nigerians are mired in the unproductive chores of wallowing in the personal idiosyncrasies of our potential future president.

The net effect of denying Nigerians the benefit of scrutinizing the plans of the presidential candidates on how they intend to rescue Nigeria despite the fact that, ninety(90) days instead of sixty (60) day has been provided in the new electoral act 2022,is that without the opportunity of having ample time to interrogate the policies and programs of the parties and their candidates, Nigerians may once again end up electing a president based on sentiments of ‘any other politicians than the old political class’ which was the case in 2015 when the slogan was ‘anybody else but Goodluck Jonathan’.

And we ended up not knowing very well then main opposition party, APC and it’s presidential candidate, Mohammadu Buhari’s policies and programs, which with the benefit of hindsight, they actually didn’t have, given the fact that it took the incumbent president Buhari six (6) months to form his first cabinet.

Why must Nigerians take political parties, except PDP that has laid out its plan, on the face value ?

I would argue wholeheartedly that the current down playing of the need to scrutinize the candidates based on their policy documents detailing their rescue plan is a recipe for further disaster as the common aphorism ‘failing to plan is planing to fail’, teaches us.

For now,(except the PDP)all the other frontline parties-APC and LP that are yet to submit their manifestos to Nigerians should be treated and handled in the manner that Caveat Emptor -Buyer Beware is placed on unverified entities or personalities.

All men and women of goodwill would agree with me that we can not afford to have another disastrous leadership in Aso Rock Villa from 2023,which not having a policy plan to serve as Road Map into the future, portends.

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