The Nigerian political space came alive few days ago after Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu visited President Muhammadu Buhari to formally inform him of his decision to contest the 2023 Presidential election. Tinubu told reporters after his meeting with Buhari that he has had enough of being a Kingmaker and that he wanted to fulfill his lifelong ambition of being the President of Nigeria.
To many political watchers, what Tinubu told Buhari has been in the works as far back as 1999 when he led members of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) to political romance with Buhari and his Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), that culminated in the formation of the All Progressive Congress (APC). Tinubu, a master strategist is most likely to clinch the APC’s presidential ticket except the ‘powers’ behind the power politics in Nigeria say otherwise. Tinubu has the crowd, the structure, and the big purse to pull it off.
In the camp of the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar has also been touted as the candidate to beat for the Presidential ticket. Since 1999 when he was elected as Governor of Adamawa State only to be picked by the then President-elect, General Olusegun Obasanjo to be his running mate, Atiku Abubakar has also nursed the ambition of becoming the number citizen of the country and he almost succeeded in pulling the rug off from under the feet of his then boss (Obasanjo) when majority of PDP governors in 2003 openly called on him to contest the Presidential ticket. Although reason eventually prevailed and Atiku, after much pleading from Obasanjo, grudgingly halted the plot that could have kicked Obasanjo out of the Presidency. Of cause, the old fox never forgot the humiliation he suffered at the hands of Atiku and he did all within his power to ensure that his deputy never succeeded him. Obasanjo settled for Umaru Yar’Adua who eventually became the president but could not do much due to his health challenges.
Now, political watchers are already predicting a Tinubu vs Atiku presidential clash for the 2023 Presidential election on the ballot of the two leading political parties in the country; APC and PDP. Though, there are several political heavyweights that have shown interest in leading the country, the duo are by far the favourites to clinch the tickets of their respective parties.
The Star boy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Kingsley Moghalu, Dele Momodu, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state, Kwankwaso and many others have also shown interest, but Tinubu and Atiku remain the two leading front runners so far.
Why is this so? Tinubu, a former Governor of Lagos State, before dabbling into politics, worked for some years as a staff of Mobil and played a prominent role in the struggle to de-annul the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola but was cancelled by the then military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida. He was handed the Governorship ticket of the then Alliance for Democracy (AD), for his principled role during the campaign and his fortune financially has been on the rise exponentially since then. For a very long time after leaving office, Tinubu has created an empire out of Lagos to the extent that he single-handedly decides who governs the state till date. He is stupendously rich to the extent of commanding a bullion van to his house on the eve of a major election in the country.
Atiku, on the other hand, worked with the Nigeria Customs where he rose through the ranks to the position of Deputy Director before venturing into politics. After his two-term tenure as Vice president during the Obasanjo presidency, Atiku has become one of the richest politicians in Nigeria.
This is where right-thinking Nigerians should be worried. Why is it that our system only throws up stupendously rich former officeholders who have made their money through the system as presidential candidates? Are they the most qualified, the most competent and the right people to lead us? The answer, as we all know, is no, but we keep on recycling many of these old and tired politicians because our recruitment process throws up those with the biggest and deepest pockets.
Already, it is a known fact that Tinubu is presently battling some health challenges that may prevent him from fully discharging the functions of his office if he eventually gets elected. There are doubts as regards his real age, educational qualifications, and whether he is actually from Lagos State. When a nation has a character like Tinubu as its presidential candidate of the ruling political party, it speaks volumes of the kind of followership such a nation will have too. Going by the last birthday he celebrated, his age should be 69 but his look and demeanour depicts someone far older.
Atiku, also at 75, has not been able to wash himself clean of the corruption allegations Obasanjo levelled against him after the duo left office in 2007 perhaps this is his strongest weapon in ensuring that the Turaki Adamawa never smells the inside of Aso Rock again.
This is where we have to start having a conversation on our leadership recruitment process. Why can’t we give equal chances to brilliant and young Nigerians aspiring to lead the county? The truth of the matter is that our political system has been prized out of the reach of many Nigerians. To get the Presidential form of either of the two leading political parties, someone that is desirous of serving his fatherland must cough out a minimum of N50m. Campaigning all over the country, getting delegates to support one’s aspirations and the overall campaign expenses run into several billions of naira.
While it must be acknowledged that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) put a peg on the maximum amount of money a politician seeking political office should spend for various offices, the National Assembly has not helped matters as it raised campaign expenses from N1billion to N5billion for presidential candidates.
It must be pointed out however, that many of the leading candidates far exceed the amount fixed by the National Assembly. In fact, some of them do not really know what they spend in getting to offices as politicians borrow money, sell properties both at home and abroad all in the bid to get enough resources to outspend their opponents in their quest for power. Political success in this part of the world is not about how rich your ideologies are or how you intend to confront the challenges facing your people but it has always essentially been how deep your pocket is and when opportune, how to get back multiples of what you spent getting there.
We need to get our young and brilliant Nigerians into the political space. It is not too much to peg the age of our presidential candidates to 60 years and below so that they will have the needed energy to work and deliver results that will impact the citizens across board. Young people with bright ideas of how to solve the problems bedeviling the biggest black nation on earth are either struggling to make end meets or have been forced to leave the shores of the country. A system that throws up professional politicians as leaders and are in leadership positions for what to eat and know nothing about true leadership and sacrifice should not be one to flout.
If Tinubu and Atiku eventually pick the presidential tickets of their respective parties, the 2023 presidential poll will no doubt be the most expensive poll in the history of Nigeria as both candidates have the much-needed cash to outbid each other. It is also not impossible that these are funds they took out of the system in the past and they will be ready to spend to the last kobo all in a bid to get to the highest office with a frenzied anticipation to recoup more than what was used during the campaign. We need to change this process that throws up these crop of professional politicians as our leaders.
See you next week.