Nigerian Presidency: Why Those Who Desperately Seek It Don’t Get lt, By Magnus Onyibe

Magnus Onyibe

I would like to build upon the foundation laid by my friend , Segun Adeniyi, Thisday newspaper editorial board chairman and columnist , in his very incisive piece titled: Season Of Presidential Circus” published Thursday 20th January, 2022 on the back-page of Thisday newspaper.

The thought provoking piece is a parody of the current jockeying for the presidency of Nigeria by a plethora of politicians and wanna be politicians coming out suddenly from the cold and closets.

Adeniyi’s piece draws from his April 12, 2018 intervention titled : “Buhari, 2019 and the Persuaders” in which he dwelt on the concept of ‘proxy campaign for someone who had not told Nigerians he wanted their mandate’ when in 2018, some political actors characteristically were unsolicitedly campaigning for the re-election of president Mohammadu Buhari even when he had not declared intention to seek re-election.

Perhaps those who are currently exercising the option of proxy campaign for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 are doing so, conscious and guided by the emotions that inspired this article titled : Presidency : “Those Who Desperately Seek lt, Don’t Get It” .

That is why some have opted to remain as masquerades, hiding in the dark while their hirelings are beating the drums in the arena. These exclude those who have openly joined the fray such as , former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who contested against the incumbent president Buhari in 2019 and 2015. The former senate president and ex-secretary to the government of the federation, Ayim Pius Anyim and the chief whip of the 9th senate, Orji Uzor Kalu.

There are also Yahayah Bello, governor of kogi state , Bola Tinubu , APC national leader and ex governor of lagos state, as well as Sam Ohabunwan , a notable player in the corporate world and finally , my good friend, Ovation magazine publisher/social media influencer, Dele Momodu.

All the other contenders still in the shadow have been pretending to be reluctant to vie for the presidency, but are only being goaded by Nigerians. But how far such pretext can take those still hiding in the closet would be determined by how sophisticated or naive is the Nigerian electorate. The underlying reason for the expression of the above reservation is that after nearly 22 years of continuous practice of multi party democracy, l am of the conviction that Nigerians are too politically conscious for any politician or pretender to pull the wool over their eyes.

To be president of Nigeria, boldness and daringness are irreducible prerequisites, once the dice is cast . Shadow boxing won’t cut it this time.

Incumbent President, Buhari tried and failed three (3) times unashamedly and sure-footedly until he made it the fourth (4th time). That is a raw display of gut.

And taking the bull by the horn is not the only code that would unlock the complex combination lock which the presidency of Nigeria has truly become.

That is because attaining the presidency of Nigeria has become in more ways than one, a sort of divine and metaphysical exercise as well as a product of grit and grime.

In my reckoning , and l guess the view of most Nigerians, becoming president of Nigeria is much more than the visits akin to pilgrimages by presidential contenders to the Hill Top Mansion in Minna, Niger state to pay obeisance to former military president, general lbrahim Badamasi Babangida , lBB and to President Mohammadu Buhari, PMB in Aso Rock Villa seat of power in Abuja, to seek the consent of the present commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria.

Evidently ,those who have openly declared their intention to run for the office of the president in 2023 have been seeking endorsement of two past and present leaders of Nigeria from the northern part of part of our country.
At the last count , most of the potential presidential candidates from both the ruling APC and main opposition party, PDP, including Bola Tinubu and Anyim Pius Anyim, Orji Uzor Kalu(some by proxy), have visited Aso Rock Villa , Abuja and the Hill Top Mansion, Minna in quest of anointing from both IBB and PMB.

The homage, (if you like pilgrimages) by the contenders for the presidency in 2023 to both IBB and PMB, is likely owed to the fact that both of them have been vocal and prescient about who would become president of Nigeria in 2023.

That much was discernible in their recent media interviews, conducted by Arise and Channels tv respectively.

Curiously, none of the presidential hopefuls has deemed it necessary to visit former president Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ or immediate past President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GEJ, to seek their endorsement.

In the case of OBJ, avoiding going to pay homage to him by presidential candidates is probably owed to the fact that since he has been a torn on the flesh of successive administrations after his tenure, he has become toxic politically. And the contenders for presidency in 2023 recognize the need to be politically correct. Apparently, OBJ might have transited from being a political asset to liability after his February 2015 public show of tearing up his membership card of the PDP- the party under whose platform he served as president for eight (8) years. Characteristic of his resoluteness, OBJ told a delegation of PDP big wigs led by the chairman , Iyorchia Ayu on a courtesy call to him in his Presidential Library a couple of days ago (January 22) that he would never return to the PDP or partisan politics. After all OBJ has served in the highest political office in the land and has no other public office to seek to personally satiate his political desire.
With respect to GEJ, the presidential hopefuls in 2023 are not sure if himself would not be joining them in the contest for the presidency.

At this juncture, I would like to request that readers excuse my delving into the spiritual realm by highlighting the omnipotence of God to properly put into contest, the impending contest to elect the president that would succeed Buhari in 2023.

And l would like to align with legions of Nigerians that believe that it is only the almighty God, who has control over the universe , that would determine who becomes president of Nigeria next year.

The assertion above is underscored by the fact that as things currently stand in our country, the days of the hands of Jacob and the voice of Esau is gone with the winds.

While requesting the understanding of readers that are of other faiths who may not readily understand the metaphorical expression which is drawn from the book of Genesis 27:22 in the holy Bible , l would like to presume that Christian readers are familiar with story of Jacob and Esau which is a classical case of deceit of a simple senior brother by a cunning junior one to steal the birth right reserved for the older one by their father, Isaac.

In other words , the type of subterfuge that enabled a pretender like Jacob in the holy Bible to steal Esau’s birth right belongs to the age of dinosaurs in the Jurassic park. It is fossil and has no place in the current political space.
Certainly, such perfidy is not likely to be accommodated in these present days when erstwhile political denizens have after 22 years of continuous practice of multi party democracy in Nigeria have transformed themselves into political animals in the wild political forest of dog-eat-dog and survival of the fittest which Nigeria’s political environment has evolved into.

It must be stated that amongst the aforementioned presidential power seekers who have thrown their political hats into the ring, apart from Bola Tinubu, none has the clout to sustain the struggle on their own.

If and when former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar formally declares his quest to contest for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 which would be his fourth attempt (like president Buhari) he too has the capacity and ability to go for it un-anointed by the current powers that be. That is for the simple reason that Atiku Abubakar has contended against both IBB and PMB in previous presidential contests. He prevailed over the former but not the latter.

Having been in the presidential fray for a long time, he possesses the political equity that he can build upon in pursuit of his long term ambition.

And the most probable reason that the ex lagos state governor, Tinubu openly got into the jostle this January is hinged on the notion, (if you like) belief that he holds the aces by virtue of the fact that he has not only been one of the most consequential politicians since the return of multi party democracy in our clime since 1999.
Until he took the presidential bull by the horn this January and started being dragged in the mud , he was also basking in the euphoria of being the one who made president Buhari’s dream of becoming the president of Nigeria become reality by deploying his south west political asset as the wind beneath then candidate Buhari’s sail in 2015.

Indeed, the ascension of candidate Buhari into
Aso Rock Villa seat of power in 2015 is a phenomenon aptly tagged the broom revolution. So named because a broom is the mascot of the five opposition political parties that collapsed into one to sweep then ruling party , PDP out of Aso Rock Villa.

It is an unprecedented feat in the annals of Nigeria’s political evolution, when the seemingly invincible PDP that had been pulling the strings of power at the center and bestriding the political space since 1999, (a whooping 16 years) was edged out of the presidency in 2015 by a coalition of political forces whose consolidation into a potent force is credited to Bola Tinubu, the man believed at that time to have successfully taken over the mantle of political leadership of Yoruba nation from the sage, Obafemi Awolowo, the premier of western Nigeria (premier 1954-60).

Given the above antecedent, Tinubu posses the political curriculum vitae to land himself in Aso Rock Villa in 2023.

But politics is usually not based on straight forward calculations.

It may be recalled that much as the political icon , Awolowo tried, he failed to become the president of Nigeria. Hence he was fittingly described as ‘the best president Nigeria never had’ by Emeka Odumegu Ojukwu late eastern region military governor in 1966, and lgbo leader that declared the nation of Biafra in a secessionist move in 1967 that triggered the unfortunate Nigerian civil war that ended in 1970 after consuming an estimated 3 million souls and wrecking the entire infrastructure in eastern Nigeria , the epicenter of the war.

Since Tinubu is widely believed to have stepped into the shoes of the late elder statesman , Pa Awolowo, the foremost Yoruba political leader, underscored by the fact that the acclaimed APC national leader is currently the highest profile Yoruba political leader in Nigeria, pundits are averring that he is likely to have also inherited the misfortune of the politically revered Pa Awolowo not being able to lead beyond the Yoruba nation.

But the jury is still out on that score as events in the scheduled February 26 APC national convention would reveal whether there would be tailwinds or headwinds to quicken or slack Tinubu’s current political flight into Aso Rock Villa which has officially departed from the tarmac this January. Whether the flight would be aborted at the APC convention next month or it would land in Aso Rock Villa in May 2023, and Tinubu ends up being the numero uno on May 29, is like a much awaited delivery of a baby from a very troubled pregnancy.

The anxiety, and if you like fear is derived from the experience of another notable figure who desperately sought to become the president of Nigeria, but failed to make it. I am talking about Odumegu Ojukwu who had tagged Pa Awolowo, the president Nigeria never had. Ojukwu’s forceful, but futile struggle to carve out the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria of which he could be president is typical of a potential great president whose lofty dreams never materialized even after the gutsy effort to make it happen.

Another gadfly in Nigeria’s political pantheon that failed to make it as Nigeria’s president and even lost his life in the struggle is the entrepreneur and philanthropist of gigantic proportion is MKO Abiola of blessed memory who as a presidential candidate in 1993.

His battle to become president of Nigeria after winning the June 12, 1993 presidential contest on a Muslim-Muslim ticket with Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as running mate is considered an impossibility in Nigeria, was epochal.
But he dramatically lost his life while in government detention in the course of his struggle to claim his mandate when Nigeria was under the vice grip of the military dictator, general Sanni Abacha. Subsequently, MKO Abiola’s amazing first wife, kudirat Abiola was felled by the bullets of government goons,(led by the infamous sergeant Rogers) that were hell bent on silencing her after she carried on with the struggle while MKO was incarcerated by the authorities.

Fortuitously, under the watch of president Buhari, government has converted June 12 the day Abiola won the presidency in 1993 to democracy day for observation as national public holiday as a way of immortalizing the indefatigable Abiola whose professional background as an accountant (a president that could read a balance sheet) would have given him the ability to salvage our beloved Nigeria, before its fortunes got sunk into the abyss where it has been, one year shy of 30 years (1993) after MKO Abiola presumably won the presidency, but was denied the crown by then military head of state, lbrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB.

Now, compare the showcased aggressive seekers of the presidency in our clime that never saw their dreams become reality to the reluctant ones like Shehu Shagari,(president 1979-83) a humble school teacher who was literarily head hunted to become president over the erudite and oratorical Maitama Sule who coveted the presidency but was passed over and instead made Nigerian ambassador to the United Nations, UN.

There is also the case of Umaru Yar’adua , (2007-10), who is another school teacher that was practically pulled into the political arena to become a governor riding on the legacy of his father Musa Yar’adua – minister for Lagos Affairs in the first republic and subsequently, on the wings of his elder brother, Shehu Musa Yar’adua, whose exploits in the political firmament as chief of staff Supreme Headquaters during Obasanjo’s military reign made left remarkable footprints in the sands of time. Umaru Musa Yar’adua was later to become president of Nigeria in 2007. But he suddenly passed away in 2010 as a serving president.

It is on record that the one thing that late Yar’adua wanted to do after his sojourn as governor was to go back to his profession of teaching. That was until then outgoing president, Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ (1999-2007) tapped him as his successor. And Goodluck Jonathan, who was hand picked by the community from an institution where he was a researcher/teacher to become the running mate to Diepreye Alamiesegha -an ex air force officer who was contesting for the governorship position of Bayelsa state in 1999 , won the contest and Jonathan, his running mate became the deputy governor (1999-2005). True to his first name -Goodluck, Jonathan would later be fortunate enough to advance to the next level of becoming governor without flexing any muscle when his principal, Alamiesegha was impeached in 2005 . Shortly after, and 2007 to be precise , Goodluck Jonathan subsequently became the running mate to Yar’adua in 2007. Following the sudden demise of his principal, president Yar’adua in 2010, lady luck smiled once again on Goodluck who became president of Nigeria via the infamous doctrine of necessity invoked by the National Assembly, NASS under the watch of David Mark’s senate presidency.

There are a few other instances whereby those who aggressively sowed seed for the office of president of Nigeria reaped whirlwind. But l guess the point has been made with the cases cited.

Although, l am not a soothe sayer or clairvoyant by any stretch of imagination, my permutation is that the one that would be president of Nigeria in 2023 has not started beating the drums openly and personally, how much more dance in the political arena like the motley crowd of presidential candidates currently gyrating.

And my enlightened guess is underpinned by president Buhari’s revelation in his last channels television interview which is to the effect that he knows the person that would replace him as president in 2023, but he was unprepared to reveal his identity yet because he does not want him eliminated. It is unsurprising that a plethora of closet contenders are currently laying claim to being that anointed candidate to whom president Buhari was alluding. Although , the political class and Nigerians in general are currently as blind as the mice in the three blind mouse kindergarten rhyme and mythology, by now, president Buhari must be resolute about the identity of the candidate that he has in mind.

Whether he will have his way without a fight by political foxes who are adept at the game of politics is another kettle of fish.

On a final note , l would like to crave the indulgence of readers to allow me conclude this intervention applying colloquial language.

Presumably, with the unassailable facts referenced above to validate my point , l have been able to convince readers that those who desperately want to become president of Nigeria, don’t gerit.
And if you don’t gerit, forgerit.

▪︎ONYIBE, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst ,author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from lagos.

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