Footprints without imprints

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VIEW FROM THE GALLERY BY MAHMUD JEGA

All the men and women who paid tens or hundreds of millions of naira for expression of interest and nomination forms in various political parties in order to run for President, have they paused for a minute and thought about what they are bargaining for?

I thought by now the Nigerian Presidency will be so unattractive that people will have to be begged to come and take it. Why should anyone be eager to inherit Boko Haram, terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, secessionists, communal warriors, oil thieves, sea pirates, depreciated naira, depleted foreign reserves, high debt service ratio, plummeting oil production, astronomical costs of diesel and aviation fuel, high unemployment, suspension of rail and aviation services, trillions in petrol subsidy, unimplementable Petroleum Industry Act, 13million out of school children, bloated civil service, ASUU strike, impending police strike, exploding illegal refineries, oil spills, River Niger flooding, advancing Sahara desert, shrinking Lake Chad, porous borders, flood of small arms, corruption, fake drugs, fake news, ritual killers, currency counterfeiting, frequent national grid collapse, hikes in DSTV, telecom and electricity tariffs, Ajaokuta Steel white elephant, partially completed Second Niger bridge, Apapa traffic snarl, off again on again COVID and fallout of Ukraine war?

Whether all these were caused by “the rot PDP left after 16 years in power” or “the destruction of Nigeria in 8 years of APC rule” is beside the point. Personally, I will not accept this basket Free of Charge, not to mention for N100 million.

Yet, as at Friday, according to one report, 25 people had paid N100m each and purchased APC’s expression of interest and nomination forms. APC’s National Organising Secretary Sulaiman Argungu said as at Thursday last week, 15 aspirants had paid N100m each for presidential nomination forms, 48 aspirants paid N50m each for governorship forms, 241 people paid N20million each for senatorial forms, 821 aspirants paid N10m each for House of Representatives forms while 1,505 aspirants paid N2m each for State House of Assembly forms. There was however a rush on Friday and the numbers increased by leaps and bounds.

APC extended its sale of forms to Tuesday, by which date the number of aspirants for all the positions is expected to rise even further. That only 48 persons had picked its governorship forms was a surprise, given that Nigerian politicians are attracted to Government Houses like bees are to nectar. 20 state governors will be completing their second terms next year or soon afterwards. This is an incentive for a lot more aspirants to wade into the race. In Nigeria, challenging a sitting governor in an election is politically and socially hazardous. Things are a bit easier when the throne is about to become vacant.

At the time PDP closed its receipt of applications, 17 aspirants picked its presidential nomination forms. Two were disqualified by the screening committee led by former Senate President   David Mark. The appeals committee upheld the disqualifications. The disqualified aspirants were the least familiar names on the list, so all the heavyweight aspirants are still in the race. Even though PDP’s NEC is set to meet on Wednesday to decide on zoning its presidential ticket, I think the matter is already overtaken by events because it is difficult to tell a person who successfully passed screening that he can no longer contest on account of zoning.

Another curiosity of this moment is that there are twenty-one serving and former governors, in at least three parties, among the aspirants jostling to succeed to the presidency next year.Serving APC governors in the race include Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa, David Umahi of Ebonyi and Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. Former governors in the APC race include Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of Lagos, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun, Chris Ngige of Anambra, Ogbonaya Onu of old Abia State, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Ahmad Sani, Yariman Bakura of Zamfara and Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia, who said he was quitting the race. It was reported at the weekend that former Lagos State Governor Akinwuni Ambode waded into the race. Crowning it all in APC is the sitting Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. One other paper claimed that Africa Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina had bought the APC form.

In PDP, serving governors in the presidential race include Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto and Bala Mohammed of Bauchi. Former governors in the PDP race are Bukola Saraki of Kwara, a former Senate President; Peter Obi of Anambra and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti. Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President who was once elected Governor of Adamawa State but abandoned the post for a higher one, rounds up the PDP tally. Former Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso of Kano is in the race under NNPP.

There is an indication in Nigerian politics that the premier qualification for being president is to be a state governor, current or former. Maybe that is because, of the four people who have been Presidents of Nigeria in this Republic, two [Umaru Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan] were former civilian governors while one [Muhammadu Buhari] was a former military governor. The icing on the political cake for some of these former governors is that they were also ministers, many of them still serving. Fayemi, Wike, Onu, Amaechi, Bala, Ngige and Akpabio have all been ministers as well as governors. It is a rich political CV, but is that all there is to it?

Holding prominent posts alone does not make one suitable for higher office. He must at least prove that he did justice to the posts he held, and also prove that he has a thoughtful program for future action. When George Bush Senior once touted the offices he held, including Congressman, Ambassador to China, CIA Director, Republican National Committee Chairman and Vice President as qualifying him for US President, his opponents said he had been everywhere but had not left his footprints anywhere.

Those who are touting rich political CVs in this race, could you kindly pause for a minute and present to us your program for the future? If it is CV, no one in Nigeria can beat Olusegun Obasanjo, an Army General, war commander, Minister of Works, Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, military Head of State, member of Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, aspirant for UN Secretary General and political prisoner. The only other Nigerian CV that approaches that is Muhammadu Buhari’s, Army General, war commander, military governor, Petroleum Minister, GOC of 3 Armoured Division, military Head of State, political detainee, Chairman of PTF and five-time presidential candidate under three different political parties. I have seen documents outlining the programs of three presidential aspirants, namely Osinbajo, Saraki and Fayemi. From one PDP aspirant, we have seen a flood of videos, chants, boasts and dances.

At the weekend, the most engaging issue in national politics was the controversy swirling another “governor,” this time Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] Governor Godwin Emefiele. [During our secondary school days, a popular quiz question was, Who is the Governor without a state?] N100million was paid last week to collect a presidential nomination form for Emefiele. It quickly generated a storm, with Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, PDP’s national publicity secretary and many NGOs saying Emefiele must resign from CBN.  Even though many serving ministers who have picked presidential and governorship nomination forms have so far refused to resign as mandated by the amended Electoral Act, the reported picking of forms for the CBN governor somehow elicited more controversy. He is not a civil servant; under the CBN Act, he is a public servant much like ministers and governors who is expected to devote himself solely to his CBN duties. 

Emefiele issued a statement at the weekend that raised more questions than answers. He rejected the forms bought on his behalf by farmers [supposedly beneficiaries of Anchor Borrowers Program]. He said he will decide within days whether to enter the race and buy the forms with his own money, having been a top banker for 35 years. He was consulting with God first, Emefiele said. All the other aspirants that ran around the country consulting with Obas and statesmen, they missed the Biggest One.

As everyone quickly noted, Emefiele’s statement was not a firm rejection of the presidential race. It was nowhere near what US President Lyndon Johnson said in 1968, when he dropped out of the presidential race because anti-Vietnam War protesters made it virtually impossible for him to campaign. In a televised address he said, “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu’s denial came closer to that. The NGO HURIWA mischievously suggested at the weekend that in the light of the CBN Governor’s purchase of form, it will not be surprised if someone buys an APC form for the INEC boss. The chairman’s press secretary Rotimi Oyekanmi said in a statement, “It is a preposterous proposition. It will not happen.” That was firmer than saying he was communing with God. Oyekanmi, edit that script and replace the word will with shall.