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Who is the next president? By Lasisi Olagunju

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“Someone who should know told me that our next president has not declared yet; that all those who have so far declared won’t be president.” I call him my mystery friend from the north. I have never met him. He comes around into my social media handles like a thief in the night, he drops his very few words as private messages and disappears. On Saturday, he came again with the first sentence of this piece. My response to him was that I suspected so. He didn’t ask me why I did. But I followed up to ask him if he thought what we had was a democracy. He answered no; otherwise, some people somewhere won’t be Nigeria’s real electors who choose for us before our election days. They are presently playing the game the old effective way. They are breaking ‘declared’ heads with coconut shells. They have set the parties on fire. INEC gave political parties from Wednesday, April 6 to Friday, June 3 to conduct their primaries and settle all disputes therefrom. That deadline is 46 days away from today, but the political parties we have are not ready; they are sick, down with epileptic fits, fighting civil and internecine wars. The Lagos content of the APC has particularly been noxious in its fratricidal feud.
When a journey portends evil, the Yoruba call it Igbo Odaju; its direct English translation is forest of the heartless. Elders always warn girls without fathers and boys without mothers not to take that route. If such boys and girls are already on that road to peril, they are told to go back home. What is rumbling the jungles of Lagos APC is a war of witches, they know what they ate which has now inflated their bellies. Let no ordinary person go by their ringside to watch and speculate. I am an orphan, I have no father, I have no mother; may I never be found getting involved in that family affair. I hope the sick taking sides in this coven fight know the implications. It promises not to end in praise. I also hope such people know what I know: that a fish with a closed mouth fears no hook and never gets caught. Family members fighting over who takes the bedchamber of the charmer are particularly taking a dangerous gamble. Skulls will be cracked, limbs will be lost. You already heard the father declaring not having a son. And like Elesin Oba’s Olunde in Soyinka’s ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’, the son too may soon post a disclaimer: “I have no father, eater of leftovers.”
The frenzy we feel is like bandits struggling over the spoils of their felony. The world of crime bears very uncanny resemblance to what you are seeing playing out in the politics of your country. A criminal enterprise. That is what many call our parties and their governments. Criminal enterprises have structures and there are hierarchies in there. Crime mirrors politics as literature reflects life. Professor Akinwumi Isola did a review of crime in Oladejo Okediji’s detective novel, Agbalagba Akan. I refer to his ‘The Modern Yoruba Novel: An Analysis of the writers art.’ He writes on page 140: “The criminals are known and feared. But they still operate in the society using a network of services. Theirs is a syndicate with active branches in the neighbouring towns. Olori Aye is the chief of them all. He resides at Ibadan. Oyeniyi Seriki is the deputy at Egbeda; Lamidi Olojooro controls Lalupon; Adegun directs operations at Origbo. Olori Aye (alias Doogo) has the last say in everything. He does not consult anyone on any point, he gives out orders that must be obeyed. Each time he says something he adds ‘Mo pa a lase ni o (it’s an order).'” That is the geo-politics of crime according to literature. At every level of our politics, you see each of the characters mentioned above. There is always an Olori Aye (supreme head of the world) calling the shots, directing the affairs using able lieutenants like Olojooro (the fraudulent) as ruthless foot soldiers. Think deep and look around; they are here.
But is this how we will continue? Swift-legged hare once found himself among flesh-eating beasts of the jungle. How did he come back home in one piece? He said he hung out with the big cats with ogbon inu (inner wisdom) and escaped with opolopo imo (a lot of understanding). Those are what we need to survive this season of war without help. Don’t you find it curious that as terrorists kill, maim and abduct, and relations of victims wail and beg our government to please be government, what concerns the regime is completely different? It is not even the next election. That one is settled. What remains to be done must be done. The government decreed last week that very early next year there would be census, the sum of the Nigerian people. There are millions hiding in diseased forests either as terrorists or as victims of terrorism. Will they be counted too? What better way to rupture the vessels of the system than having census and elections lumped together right in the middle of a war? So, I beg you, stop praying to these gods for protection, they assault their own temples with poisoned offerings.
The Nigerian presidency has a synonym, it is death. It is a repository of what a poet calls “the seven things of price.” It has gold; it has silver, pearl and coral; it has catseye, ruby and diamond. That is why people kill persons and characters and good manners to get into the vault. Daily I watch ambitious southern Nigerians seeking to be president of Nigeria. You cannot say you know how many they are. Even they themselves know not their number. As the list lengthens daily, so is the acrimony that attends their politics. The many from the south fight dirty; the four or five from the north form a Man United team stalking the riotous south, seeking holes to sink their goals into. Where brothers fight to the death, strangers inherit their father’s property. It is not only unthinking siblings who suffer this fate. Friends, associates deliver one another to the enemy whenever they think only of themselves. And, here, I consult the Greek, Aesop, classical master of ageless tales.
Aesop wrote his very many tales long before the sun and the moon were born. There is the one he entitled: “The Ass, the Fox and the Lion.” It is the tale of Ass and Fox, comrades who moved together daily, shoulder to shoulder, and lived on the generous carelessness of their society. Aesop says Ass regularly fed from cropped fresh bits of greens while Fox derived his nutrients from devouring chickens from a neighboring farmyard. Fox also filched cheese from the dairy next door. Aesop continues and says: one day, the pair unexpectedly walked into a Lion. The Ass was very much frightened, but the Fox calmed his fears. “I will talk to him,” Fox told Ass.
So the Fox walked boldly up to the Lion. “Your highness,” he said in an undertone, so the Ass could not hear him, “I’ve got a fine scheme in my head. If you promise not to hurt me, I will lead that foolish creature yonder into a pit where he can’t get out, and you can feast at your pleasure.” The Lion agreed and the Fox returned to the Ass. “I made him promise not to hurt us,” said the Fox. “But come, I know a good place to hide till he is gone.” So the Fox led the Ass into a deep pit. But when the Lion saw that the Ass was his for the taking, he first of all struck down Fox who thought he was smart and safe. The end of the comrades is the end of their tale.
There is also a grander story from father of English poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer in his magnum opus, The Canterbury Tales. It is the story of three riotous fellows “who lived for gaming, eating, drinking, and merrymaking.” They set out one day to kill Death because Death killed their friends. Chaucer writes: “…One of the drinkers then swore an oath on God’s sacred bones that he would seek Death out. ‘Listen, friends, we three have always been as one. Let each of us now hold up his hand and swear an oath of brotherhood. Together we will slay this traitor Death!’ And thus with a blasphemous curse, they swore to live and die for one another and together to seek out and challenge Death before the next nightfall. In a drunken rage, they set forth…swearing grisly oaths as they went.”
How did they end their story? Instead of meeting Death, it was fortune that met them. Chaucer continues: “They found a pile of golden florins, well nigh onto eight bushels of them, they thought. The sight of all the bright and beautiful florins quickly caused them to abandon their search for Death, and their thoughts turned to how they might best protect their newly found treasure. The worst of them spoke the first word, ‘Brothers,’ he said, ‘Fortune has given us this great treasure, but if we carry it home by light of day, people will call us thieves, and our own treasure will send us to the gallows. We must take it home by night, and then with utmost prudence and caution. Let us draw lots to see which one of us should run to town and secretly bring back bread and wine. The other two will stay here and guard the treasure. Then in the night we will carry the treasure to wherever we think is best.'” The lot fell to the youngest, and he immediately departed for the town. The two behind plotted to kill the one who left so that they could have enough of the treasures. The one who left thought through his plot too to kill the two so all the treasures would be his. Both sides succeeded in their plots. The youngest came back with food and drinks and the two ran their daggers through his back. “They killed him, just as they had planned, and when the deed was done, one of them said, ‘Now let us sit and drink and make merry. Afterward we will bury his body.’ And while still talking, he drank from the poisoned bottle, and his friend drank as well, and thus the two of them died.” End of story. Now, the question is: Who inherited their treasure?
Who is Nigeria’s next president? That is the only question worth asking now. The next president is not among those killing one another before the day of battle. That is what my northern friend said. Except history sloughs off its skin, my friend will be right. No one who demanded the presidency of Nigeria has ever got it. Let’s look at history starting from 1999: Olusegun Obasanjo was drafted into the race; he drafted Umaru YarAdua into the race; death installed Goodluck Jonathan; Muhammadu Buhari got it only after he announced he was quitting politics. The system brought him back, cleansed him of the curse of perpetual inelectability and put him on the throne. Everyone knows unreadable Buhari is scheming to do what Obasanjo did in 2007. We wait to see how far he can go with his plans – outside the power court (and cult). When an elder loses what Teresa Washington describes as “control, composure, and reticence,” he loses his place at the pinnacle where spirits hold court. The choice has never been Nigerians’. The owners of Nigeria always take charge at the appropriate time and level. They always give us their choice to elect. We pay the price, they take the bride. Meanwhile, let the feuding old birds in Lagos APC continue their flight of death. It is their last rite, their last flight.

Strictly Personal

Direct or indirect primaries: The uniting factor is moneybag politics by Afe Babalola

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THE Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) provides for the system of nomination of candidates by political par ties through primary elections ahead of presidential, state governorship, and legislative houses elections. Section 84(1) of the Electoral Act provides that a political party seeking to nominate candidates for election under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions which shall be monitored by the Commission. Subsection 2 provides that the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.

Direct primaries, as described in subsection 4 of the Act, connotes that the members of the political party will be given equal opportunity to vote for a party member of their choice as the nominated candidate of the party. It involves the participation of all registered members of a party in the selection of the party’s candidates. Indirect primaries, on the other hand, is a system whereby members of the political party democratically elect delegates at the party’s congress and, in turn, the delegates elect the party’s candidates on behalf of the members of the political party. Sections 5-8 of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended) generally stipulates the procedure for the conduct of indirect primaries in Nigeria.

The third category, and perhaps the least commonly adopt ed, is the system of consensus candidacy whereby all aspirants in the political party will voluntarily and expressly withdraw from the primaries and endorse a single candidate; and where there is no such express withdrawal, the political party will mandatorily proceed to conduct direct or indirect primaries. Section 9 of the Act provides as follows: 9 (a) A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate; (b) Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions. (c) A Special Convention or nomination Congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated centres at the National, State, Senatorial, Federal and State Constituencies, as the case may be.

Over the years, the choice of whether a party should adopt direct or indirect primaries has been the subject of debate by political pundits, commentators, and aspirants. The system of indirect primaries which most political parties adopt has been criticized for being easier to manipulate by party lead ers, and on their part, the delegates are expected to align with the party leadership. Another inherent defect in the conduct of indirect primaries includes some instances of the dubious manner of appointment of delegates. For instance, where a sitting Governor or President’s political appointees are made the party’s delegates, it is not in doubt that their nominations will ultimately favour their appointor’s political interest. Be sides, it is not uncommon to find dissimilar delegates’ selection at party congresses, conventions and primaries. On the other hand, the criticism of direct primaries is that it is a lot more expensive to operate and requires much more planning and organization. It is also more easily manipulated. For in stance, a strong contender in a political party can sponsor the members of his own political party to purchase membership cards of the opposition party en masse in order for such members to deliberately vote for a weaker candidate in the said opposition party to win the primaries, thereby giving him an edge in the general elections.

Notwithstanding the obvious differences in the conduct of direct and indirect primaries, there however exists no real difference because of the association of Nigerian politics with godfatherism and moneybag politics. Though it is easier to bribe fewer delegates to support a faction of the party as op posed to the reduced propensity to tilt the votes of all members of the political party to one candidate if direct primaries were held, it still does not change the fact that the underlying factor is the ability of a candidate to sway the few delegates, or the larger party members, with money.

In an interview published in the Punch newspaper on 19th June 2022, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party rep resenting the Ilaje/Ese Federal Constituency stated the im pact of money on politics. He reportedly said: “Except some are lying, it is real. Our politics is monetised. The process is monetised. Some will just come and tell you that they never pay money. They paid money. We paid money to delegates. There is no way you can survive that hurricane without effectively and efficiently releasing resources for those people (delegates). Whether you have served them for seven years and you have been their perpetual or perennial friend, it is not going to count. You just have to do the needful at that point. Again, if you don’t do it, they will not vote for you. This is because it is not just one aspirant or candidate that is doing that; it is a system. You will give what the system is asking for. There is a stimulus that the system is pumping and which the electorate will have to react to. It is not the fault of those who are currently in power or those that are seeking to come to power, it is not their fault… If you are the best (among the aspirants), you will pay; if you are the worst, you will still pay. It is just a systemic thing. Those who eventually won, it is still the same. In my area, we had three very strong contenders. We paid equally and people made their choice on who they wanted. The three people (aspirants) paid equal amounts of money. They (delegates) collected money from the three of us and made their choice on who they wanted.”

The bold admission by the honourable member of the House of Representatives excerpted above is the reality of the Nigerian political climate today. The influence of moneybags in Nigerian politics continues to hold sway in dampening the hopes of the nation in achieving true democracy. After all, the whole idea of democracy is the free will of the people in electing their political leaders, and where such “free will” is manipulated through the influence of political juggernauts, the country is further pulled away from the attainment of the best democratic policies. It accounts for the corruption and violence which have characterized many elections in Nigeria. On the day of the election, the politician who owes his nomi nation to his huge investments will naturally seek a win by any possible means. Where his reliance is placed on a political godfather, he can count on his godfather’s ability to deploy enormous wealth in a bid to corrupt electoral officials and the electorates and where these fail, violence will be deployed to bring about the desired result.

Consequently, the politician who wins an election based only upon the backing of his political godfather will feel no ob ligation to the electorate who in any event might have been disenfranchised in the whole scheme of events. He will there fore devote the entirety of his tenure of office to the promotion and satisfaction of himself, his cronies, and his godfather. There is an unhealthy synergy between godfatherism, money bag politics, and poverty. It is the entire citizenry who suffers the effect of political office holder’s obligation to recoup his investments and/or satisfy the whims of his godfather who, more often than not, are the actual persons in power.

AARE AFE BABALOLA, SAN, OFR, CON, LL.D (Lond.)

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Strictly Personal

Genuine politicians must die by Kenneth Amaeshi

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I often one wonder why people go into politics in Nigeria, because the challenges of the country are massive. Poor health systems. Low quality education. High youth unemployment and low skills. Hunger, poverty, and famine. Weak infrastructure and institutions. In addition, the politics appears dirty and bitter.

The usual but superficial reason people often offer is that they are keen to serve. If the lure of politics is to serve others, why would one subject oneself through the tortuous process of democratic elections in order to serve? Sleepless nights. Odd meetings. Very strange companies. Painful compromises.

A cynical view might suggest that whether a career in politics is pursued to serve or lord it over others, it is simply a quest for power. Of course, it is human and natural to seek dominion over others. But even at that, what then is the purpose of power and is politics the only means to exercise such powers?

Another view is that politics is simply business – in the sense that politicians financially invest in it and expect worthwhile returns on their investments. In such contexts, they may use money to influence votes. When politicians make such investments, they obviously expect some gains, and the higher the risks, the more the expected returns. However, politicians come in various shades.

Some politicians do not pretend about money politics. It is as clear as it can be. It is what it is – a very transactional engagement. It is all about their self-interests. This understanding makes it easy to attract like minds and to agree on expectations and outcomes. They often portray and pride themselves as the real masters of politics. Many people tend to agree with them, and they are unashamedly transparent about their strategies and aspirations. That’s how it is done. Anything short of this is naivety.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is and idea which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

Other politicians prefer not to be very overt about their crude intentions and strategies. They rather mask them in some nebulous and grandiose cloaks – often packaged as a form of progressivism and intellectualism. However, beneath this garb of elegance and decency is a constantly warped and treacherous display of self-interest and greed packaged and sold as enlightenment. The main difference between the two categories is their strategies. While the former is overt, the latter is covert. Nonetheless, their goals are the same.

A third group is made up of politicians who are very idealistic and puritan in their approach. They have something to offer and truly want to serve, but they either do not understand the rules of the market for votes or they think they can change things by ignoring the rules and in most cases swimming against them. However, they hardly win elections because they rarely make any financial investments in the business of politics. As much as some voters may like what they represent, they rarely have sufficient incentives to patronize the politicians in this category. In the end, the politicians become cases of good products but unrealized potentials.

Unfortunately, the business of politics and pretentious service leadership are the bane of democracy and good governance in many countries. Sadly, too, they are often normalized and taken for granted. This normalization and taken-for-grantedness could be as a result of helplessness – because people – i.e., the electorate – do not know how to unravel and dismantle them.

However, no matter how they disguise, they can be unmasked effectively. In Nigeria, for example, where the elections season is simultaneously booming and looming, genuine politicians can be assessed by their preparedness to sacrifice and die for the good of Nigeria. Given where the country is today, especially with her challenges, it only needs politicians who are in it, not for their own sake, but for the growth and development of the country – i.e., politicians who are both competent and ethical. Anything short of this is simply an entrenchment of the status quo, which has not done the country any good.

Nigeria needs genuine political leaders who can literally take the proverbial bull by the horns. This will entail a lot of discomfort, political risks, sacrifices and even death. As scary as it may sound, genuine politicians are rarely deterred by it.

It is obvious that Nigeria is at war with the forces of underdevelopment and darkness. Anyone running against these forces, therefore, must be ready to die, because he who easily rushes to war should know that war is death – o ji oso agbakwuru ogu, omakwa na ogu bu onwu?

But how do we identify genuine politicians, given the confusion and obfuscation of personalities and personae in the system? One way to decipher genuine politicians is to look at their antecedents and ask some very pertinent questions. What have they achieved outside politics? What comforts and luxuries are they leaving or setting aside to serve? What sacrifices are they willing to make and or are making? Are they willing to die for Nigeria to thrive? As much as these questions may sound unrealistic, politicians who fit this mode are truly the sort of politicians Nigeria needs now.

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, offered an excellent idea of what genuine political leadership looks like in practice when he said:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is and idea which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die” (emphasis, mine).

It is obvious that Nigeria is at war with the forces of underdevelopment and darkness. Anyone running against these forces, therefore, must be ready to die, because he who easily rushes to war should know that war is death – o ji oso agbakwuru ogu, omakwa na ogu bu onwu?

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