The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has kicked off the 2023 general elections season by releasing its timetable for the conduct of elections commencing from February, which is just last month.
According to the INEC timetable, the first balloting exercise that will be carried out for the purpose of electing our next president will be held on February 18, 2023, which is less than one year away from now.
As to be expected in a season of politics, all the gladiators are coming out with their long knives, reminiscent of the Night of Long Knives—a vicious event that took place in German political space to consolidate political power between April and June 1934.
This is how Wikipedia describes the event that drastically altered the course of history in Germany and indeed the world:
“The Night of the Long Knives” was a turning point for the German government. It established Hitler as the supreme administrator of justice for the German people, as he put it in his July 13 speech to the Reichstag. “
With respect to the allusion to the metaphor of the werewolf, which Nigerian politicians have been transformed into as they have literally started prosecuting their political wars, Encyclopedia Britannica holds the light to it this way: “a werewolf, in European folklore, is a man who turns into a wolf at night and devours animals, people, or corpses but returns to human form by day.”
Dear Readers, guided by the foregoing enlightenment about the Night of Long Knives in Germany and the description of the mythology of werewolves in Europe, you will agree with me that both these experiences are being carbon copied or cloned in our clime in this peak period of politics.
The assertion above is underscored and validated by the intrinsic characteristics of the events now pervading the political atmosphere in Nigeria, where stakeholders in politics are deploying their lethal arsenal in order to dominate the environment. One need not be a rocket scientist to decipher the tendencies of the political actors bestriding the political space of our beloved country, which are simply in tandem with the typical tendencies of werewolves as defined by the encyclopedia Britannica.
Against the foregoing backdrop, in the next one year, political bloodletting (literally speaking) is expected to, from this point in time to the next one year, become the rule rather than the exception in our country.
By extension and in that regard, Nigerians should be on standby to be regaled via hearing on television and reading in the newspapers the most vile and crude attacks by politicians against each other with no holds barred.
And we have already had a foretaste of the salacious and vicious political games ahead via the crisis within the ruling party at the center, APC, whereby the governors have literally ripped their party and each other apart, just as the verbal tirades traded between governors on the platform of the main opposition political party, the PDP, are equally giving politics and politicians a bad name.
My essay last week, titled “Is APC Made Up Of Yahoo-Yahoo Governors and Drug Dealing Gangs?” and widely published on both traditional and online mass media platforms, dwelt elaborately on the abhorrent behavior of the governors from both the ruling and main opposition parties, stressing that they need to call themselves to order.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari has tried to quell the internecine war within the APC via what can best be described as a “riot act” conveyed through a caustic statement released by his media aid, Garba Shehu, after which the gladiators seem to have sheathed their swords, I am willing to wager a bet that the seeming calm in the party can be equated to the peace of the graveyard that gets disturbed every time a new corpse needs to be buried or exhumed-as the case may be.
Crisis, especially of the hue of political scandal, obviously seems to be literally hugging the polity, particularly from the political space, as highlighted in a social media post that has been trending lately.
The referenced post highlighted a litany of existential challenges that are currently besetting Nigerians, such as university lecturers being on strike due to unsettled salaries and related issues with the authorities, police officers allegedly planning to go on strike owing to poor condition of service, a nationwide public electricity blackout due to unpaid N1.6 trillion debt owed to DISCOS and the collapse of the national grid, airlines about to shut down operations arising from lack of aviation fuel, a recent nationwide petrol scarcity resulting in untold hardship to the masses (which has thankfully abated now) and the foreign exchange scarcity and devaluation of the Naira currently exchange rate with the UK pounds at N788/£1
The most striking aspect of the post detailing the horrendous level of anomie and misery in our society is how the author catalogued and classified the political brickbats that have recently dominated the political space, which sometimes border on the absurd and even have comical attributes.
Although all the identified demons afflicting the critical mass of Nigerians are on point, what takes the cake is how the anonymous author characterized the verbal war between politicians who have gone so low to the gutter level of adopting the language of touts to settle political scores.
The political wars between governors that have so far dominated media headlines and generated public opprobrium are outlined below.
Buni versus Bello (APC); Wike versus Obaseki (PDP); Rauf versus Tinubu (APC); Adeleke versus Oyinlola (PDP); Umahi versus Wike (APC/PDP); Hope versus Okorocha (APC).
By now, I believe most Nigerians are well aware of the details of the incidents whereby the current governors have like kindergarten kids excoriated each other with vicious barbs. To spare descent readers the agony of being assailed with venomous utterances, the despicable display of indecorous behavior does not merit being repeated here.
Apparently, from the array of cases itemized in what I would like to term The Rage of The Governors catalogued above, pugilism is one aspect of “governance” that both the ruling party, APC, and the main opposition party, PDP, have been displaying, in equal proportions to the displeasure of the electorate.
As if the women folk did not want to be left out of the melee of outrageous behaviors by the men folk in positions of leadership as governors in the respective states of our beloved country stretching from north to south, to the extent that our country has become a theatre of the absurd, akin to the television comedy show titled “Fuji House Of Commotion”, the occasion of swearing into office as governor of Anambra state, Chukwuma Soludo, on March 17, 2022, was seized to exhibit the female version of the demon of insanity that seems to have possessed Nigerian political actors.
Hence, in the full glare of the local and global audience, as the klieg lights were on and cameras rolling, the wife of the embattled immediate past governor of Anambra state, Willie Obiano, (now in EFCC custody for alleged N42b fraud), Ebelechukwu Obiano, allegedly launched an attack on Bianca, the widow of the revered late Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
Since most Nigerians have seen the trending video footage online featuring the two women engaged in fisticuffs, and which thankfully did not degenerate to the level of stripping each other naked, (which could have satiated the wildest imagination of Nigerians), I would like readers to draw their own conclusions.
As a recap, in the month of March, politicians have called each other Yahoo-Yahoo governors, drug dealing gangsters, blood sucking cult members, amongst many other invectives deployed like missiles, and one of their wives has topped it up with a physical brawl captured on live television after publicly labeling her victim, who is a widow, “asewo.” (prostitute)
In my reckoning, apart from the songster, Tiwa Savage’s stunning sex tape that went viral and generated massive comments recently, nothing more vile has attracted the attention of Nigerians and generated more comments both in pubs, places of worship, schools, offices and comedy skits on the social media platforms than the Ebelechukwu Obiano versus Bianca Ojukwu rumble in Awka. It reminded me of the famous rumble in the jungle boxing tournament between Mohamed Ali and George Forman on October 30, 1974, in Arusha, Tanzania.
Of course, the exception is that the catfight between both women was not a positive event like the professional boxing bout between the pugilists, Ali and Forman. It is a monumental disgrace, not only to womanhood but also to the political class in Nigeria.
Contrast the goring of each other by our current crop of political leaders, as highlighted earlier, with the sense that is intrinsic in the comments and concerns about the future of our country made by our leaders of yore, who hail from all the three main geopolitical zones of our nation.
Sir Ahmadu Bello wrote in 1948, “Since 1914, the British government has been attempting to unite Nigeria, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, religious beliefs, and customs, and do not show any signs of willingness to unite…”
Nigeria is a British invention. “
Wasn’t it Chief Obafemi Awolowo who said in 1947, “Nigeria is not a nation.”It is merely a geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are English, Welsh, or “French.” The word “Nigerian” is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not. “
Was the following statement not attributed to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1964: “It is better for us and our many admirers abroad that we disintegrate in peace, not in pieces.”Should politicians fail to heed the warnings, then I will venture the prediction that the experience of the Democratic Republic of Congo will be a child’s play if ever it comes to our turn to play such a tragic role. “
I urge readers to pay more attention to the composition and patriotic fervor in the speeches and not the goal, which is a reflection of their resistance to the imposition of the British via the amalgamation of northern and southern protectorates into Nigeria by fiat.
In more recent history, when Godwin Dabo and Joseph Tarka, both of whom were politicians of Benue state origin, had an altercation, here is a snippet of what they said to each other: “If you Tarka me, I will Dabo you.”
It was such a memorable quote that it became part of our lexicon in Nigeria and a metaphor for ‘if you attack me, I will destroy you.’ What a display of wit, even in animosity.
It would be very remiss of me not to recall that Azikiwe once described Chuba Okadigbo’s diatribe against him as “the ranting of an ant”, which was a more decent way of counter-attacking than the show of shame currently on display by some of our current crop of politicians who would be remembered for tagging their party as a platform for yahoo-yahoo, drug-dealing gangs, and bureau de change governors.
It is disappointing that the new fangled politicians in Nigeria do not come with the erudition and lack the candor that made our past political leaders colorful and famous.
One can still recall with nostalgia how Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe, the grandmaster of grandiloquence, reputed for his creative use of the English language, invented the words: timber and caliber, iroko and obeche.
The latter two words are the names of wood species that have no relationship to the first two words other than the fact that they sounded similar and rhymed.
Don’t we miss the good old days when politicians and politics were elevated to an art?
That is in stark contrast with the present times, when basic instincts and raw bran, rather than brain and finesse, are the overarching drivers of our politicians, who have become so colorless, and disappointingly bereft of philosophical grounding or ideological underpinnings, that it hurts.
Since the APC convention is being held on the 26th of this month (March), the month of April may also throw up some political dramas as the aftermaths of the anticipated event may spill into the next month.
Although things seem to have simmered after President Buhari’s stern warning to his party leaders to desist from heating up the polity by bridling their mouths, which was running as if they were suffering from verbal diarrhea, and the recent favorable court judgments that authorized the deletion of the contentious clause 84(12) from the electoral act of 2022, in addition to the vacation of the case instituted by an aggrieved APC member against holding the convention on the scheduled date, the fingers of most Nigerians are crossed as they await with baited breath another series of sleaze with the imminent unfurling of the political full moon, season of werewolves and night of long knives that has come upon us.
As for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which is the main opposition party, the month of May would be the peak period for electioneering activities that could also degenerate into internal crises that could, as it were, put the party asunder simply because that is the month scheduled for all the primaries (from house of Assembly, house of representatives, senate, governorship, as well as the presidency) to be held.
Remarkably, the party has already successfully held its national convention where the officials charged with managing the party’s affairs in the next four (4) years emerged.
And the choice of candidates to fill the positions was largely based on consensus, except on the decision of deputy national chairman for the south-west, where two candidates that rejected pleas by leaders for them to yield ground to each other had to slug it out through voting based on the indirect primary system, which is conducted via votes cast by delegates.
By all indications, the ruling party, the APC, appears set to also adopt the consensus option applied by the PDP during its successful and rancor-free convention.
That implies that the consensus system is more appealing to politicians than the direct and indirect primary processes.
This may be due to the perception that election by consensus is more about horse-trading than the vigorous contest of popularity between candidates that direct and indirect primaries entail.It could also be due to the fact that the consensus option is less expensive. That is because, in the case of indirect primaries, the candidates who are party executives and political appointees have to woo the delegates who are specific in number and therefore manageable. With direct primaries, which involve all the registered party members voting in the state and ward congresses (for instance, 4.8 million people are registered APC members in Lagos state), it is more unwieldy and a rather more expensive process.
That is the main reason it was rejected as the sole method of producing candidates by political parties in the electoral bill that President Buhari vetoed.
Also, the preference for election via a consensus pathway by both the PDP and APC underscores the belief that godfathers still occupy pre-eminent positions in Nigerian politics.
And since they are the funders who also broker the deals, they are not going into extinction soon, as some pundits are wont to believe. More so, because they constitute an integral part of politics everywhere in the world.
By and large, in choosing the consensus option, the battle is lost and won before the D-Day, which is the convention day, since the positions, posts, or seats would have been allotted amongst the contending power blocks. In that case, what happens during the convention is the coronation of the “annointed” candidates.
It is worthwhile to point out that the consensus option is not just less expensive, but also definitely less rancorous. It usually makes the convention a less acrimonious event as the fight is done before D-Day.
That explains why the APC has been in turmoil in the run up to its convention due to be held on March 26, 2022.
Depending on whether the APC gets its house in order before D-Day, it may not be as pivotal for them as has been speculated.
But already, sundry power blocks within the party are controverting the position of the leader of the party, President Buhari, who has reportedly tapped certain candidates for the respective party executive posts.
Obviously, other party stakeholders do not fancy the idea of electing party executives being as easy as appointing cabinet ministers by Mr. President.
So, although the resistance is still in the realms of shadow boxing, some stakeholders in the ruling party that are contesting for the presidency in 2023 and contending against their leader in order to have their loyalists planted in strategic positions within the party hierarchy, may come out of the shadows to become openly rebellious.
Let us not make any mistake about it: divergence of opinion and interests are always potential triggers for conflict during conventions.
That is underscored by the fact that it is when the leader of the party sees dissenters as antagonists as opposed to partners in progress, or vice versa, that a fight that could be fractious ensues, with long knives being readily deployed to assail opponents, even as werewolves are also unleashed to suck the blood of the traducers that need to be eliminated.
It may be recalled that President Buhari recently stated in a television interview that he was keeping to his chest the identity of the person that he would like to succeed him, so that the person would not be eliminated.
My guess is that Mr. President was talking about protecting his preferred candidate from being politically eliminated or cancelled out as opposed to physical elimination.
While the identity of President Buhari’s preferred presidential candidate in 2023 is still shrouded in secrecy, we are aware that his choice for the chairmanship position for the ruling party is Adamu Abdullahi, ex-Nasarawa State Governor. That much is in the public domain even as about seven (7) of the chairmanship aspirants have reportedly already dolled out a whopping sum of twenty (20) million Naira each for the purchase of the nomination forms.
But whether it is a fait accompli that Adamu Abdullahi will become the chairman of the APC is not easy to determine right now.
That is basically because the process of choosing APC national working committee members would not be a walk in the park.
More so, because President Buhari is currently in his lame duck period when the words of outgoing leaders are no longer worth their weight.
As things stand, political parties often have two monumental hurdles to scale before they achieve cohesion.
The first is a national convention to choose party executives, and the second is a national congress or primaries to nominate presidential candidates.
The PDP has already held its convention, so it has crossed one bridge and has one more to go. Three of the northerners eyeing the PDP presidential ticket—Aminu Tambuwal, Bala Mohamed, and Bukola Saraki—are angling for the adoption of the consensus option in the presidential primaries. Hopefully, the frontliner, Abubakar Atiku, will buy into the proposal.
It’s mystifying to me that although the powerful southern governors’ forum has decreed that the next president must come from the south, unlike their northern counterparts, no significant effort is being made by any southern governor for the presidency. Is there a conspiracy behind their silence?
For the APC, it still has two hurdles to scale since it is yet to hold both its convention and presidential congress.
So the odds are stacked more against the ruling party at the centre, the APC.
In 2019, Lfeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, successfully led the team that organized the presidential primaries for the PDP that were held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital.
Against all permutations by pundits about the event being a potential trigger for the breakup of the PDP as very formidable presidential hopefuls locked horns, Governor Okowa and his team are on record as having dexterously managed the highly volatile situation such that after the contest, there was no victor and no vanquished attitude exhibited by the contenders.
In fact, the rare display of party machismo was taken to a higher level when the immediate past senate president, Bukola Saraki, who was a serious contender in the presidential primaries, graciously accepted to become the Director General of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential campaign organization in 2019.
Whether the same scenario would play out during the primaries for the presidency in 2023 remains a matter of conjecture as more of the “usual suspects” that contested against each other in 2019 are once again mounting the rostrum and signifying their intention to throw their hats into the ring.
With a hefty sum of N40 million as the cost of procuring the forms for the PDP presidential primaries, a high bar seems to have been set by the main opposition party to weed out the motley crowd of those without deep pockets, such as my good friend, Dele Momodu, Sam Ohabunwa, and, to a lesser degree, Anyim Pius Anyim, who have signified their intention to contest for the office of the president in 2023.
Except for serving governors, ministers, and a handful of senators who have access to the public treasury, most potential candidates would struggle to raise such a huge amount just to purchase forms.
But that is the unique way in which political parties in Nigeria raise funds.
In a country where godfathers are typically the main sources of political funds, as opposed to the situation in the Western world where funding is mainly sourced from contributions from party members and corporate sponsors, the less financially endowed candidates on the PDP platform are being (sort of) cancelled out. That is because, more or less, the purchase of nomination forms is being weaponized via the astronomical cost aimed at presumably prohibiting non-wealthy potential candidates from contesting for the presidency. That is not to say that I do not recognize that costly nomination forms are a means of raising money for the party that would need them to prosecute its campaigns.
Hence, it is a question of the chicken or the egg, which comes first.
While being cognizant of the reality above, the prohibitive cost of nomination forms amounts to creating an uneven playing field, which in my view is unfair as some potential candidates would be excluded from entering the presidential orbit on account of not being financially buoyant, and not for lack of supporters or a manifesto that resonates with the masses.
Since there is not much that the aggrieved can do to remedy the situation, let us hope that the pending PDP presidential primaries will be as smooth as their convention and also comparable to their 2019 presidential primaries election experience.
That said, for now, all eyes are on the ruling party, APC, whose much awaited convention comes up in a matter of days.
According to a popular aphorism, “a little morning rain foretells a pleasant day.”
Plainly speaking, that means that events in the morning can indicate what might happen later in the day.
That is the reason fingers are crossed and hearts are beating very fast in apprehension regarding whether or not their very tenuous 26th March, 2022 convention will hold successfully.
As we approach the 2023 terminal life span of the incumbent government, the leadership and members alike recognize that the convention could make or mar the chances of the party’s retaining its preeminent position of holding power at the center beyond the eight (8) year span that ends in the current election cycle beginning early next year.
Therefore, the fear of power slipping out of its grasp may be a good motivation for the leadership of the APC to be more circumspect in the way and manner in which the convention is organized, so that it will be rancor-free on March 26th, 2022.
So, as the race to March 26th gathers momentum, and as the clock ticks and days are reduced to hours and minutes, the APC faithful are waiting nervously, seated on the edge of their chairs, while the political actors perfect their strategies down to tactical details on how and when to pull out the long knives to stab one another in the back and deploy the werewolves to suck the blood of each other in order to outfox and outflank themselves in the competition.
To me, all the horse-trading and brinksmanship associated with politics, politicking, and “politricks” are welcome as long as they do not imperil or derail our hard-earned democracy.
Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, and alumnus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in the Delta State government, sent this piece from Lagos.
The conversation continues on magnum.ng.