Unscrupulous politicians are on the March again to pull- -the wool over the eyes of the electorate, as the 2023 general elections rapidly approach.
It may be recalled that in the run up to the 2015 elections in which the All Progressive Congress,APC upstaged then ruling party at the center,People Democratic Party, PDP,the expectations of Nigerians were raised,based on the fake promises made, even though the pledge givers knew that they could not be redeemed.
Hapless Nigerians were informed by politicians that Nigeria would be an Eldorado of sorts if their candidates and political party were given the mandate. And they had their way. But nearly eight (8) years after taking possession of the control of the levers of power in Aso Rock Villa and most of the governors mansions across the thirty six (36) states of the federation, if there is anything like hell on earth,that would be Nigeria.
The main culprits for the perfidious act of delivering far short of promises are members of the current ruling party,All Progressive Congress,APC, which is a convergence of multiple opposition parties-ACN, CPC, ANPP, and a faction of APGA and PDP that melted into one,in order to forge a common and formidable front to upstage then ruling party,PDP.
To achieve its mission,it may be recalled that the strategy of regaling Nigerians with lofty promises that are solutions to the malaise wracking the society at that point in time and which were attributed to then incumbent government,were promoted and marketed vigorously knowing that they would resonate with the masses.
And they did so by making up quotes and ascribing them to leaders of thought in our society such as the noble laureate professor Wole Soyinka and erudite scholar and pseudo politician,Professor Pat Utomi,to mention just two leading lights in Nigeria.
With a deluge of such false claims already filling up the media space lately ,the duo of Utomi and Soyinka have been issuing rebuttals as politicians ramp up activities towards 2023 general elections which commences with the election of the president and National Assembly members in February next year.
Before the confutation of what was attributed to the duo of Utomi and Soyinka, the emir of Kano and sultan of Sokoto, two highly respected monarchs have also had their names dragged into the political arena by desperate politicians that are by hook and crook trying to take undue advantage of the positive spinoffs from the good names of some credible Royalties via name dropping which amounts to using the name of our royal fathers to deceive the electorate.
There is also an international dimension to the ‘fake it till you make political trick’ that had become part of the political game since 2015, and gained currency in 2019,before its current threat of becoming entrenched in Nigeria’s political system,if measures are not taken to stymy it.
Christian Amanpour,A CNN anchor woman and Elon Musk,the founder of Tesla automobile brand have also had cause to disown bogus endorsements of candidate Peter Obi,ascribed to both of them.
While Elon Musk’s video got patched up to a voice extolling Obi and promising to do business with Nigeria if he wins,a fake interview appointment for Peter Obi With Amampour had also been circulated.
Although,APC was most guilty of ‘the fake it till you make it trick’ in 2015 and 2019, in the current dispensation,Peter Obi’s campaign, a.k.a OBIDIENT movement has so far been the main culprit.
That is probably because they seem to have commenced campaign online and are also engaging in fund raising internationally, ahead of the pack.
The numerous million man matches for Peter Obi that have been afoot across Nigeria ,ahead of all the other parties seems to me like campaign for the LP candidate.
Therefore ,the purpose of intervening via this article is for the electorate to understand the imminent mind games that is about to be unleashed on them by cunning demagogues with a view to bending the minds of voters to do their bidding in order to win the elections knowing fully well that the promises they were making would not be fulfilled as they have planned,ab initio to deny the promises after winning.
Hopefully,by revealing the tricks and sensitizing the electorate so that the unwary voters would identify such misinformation as scam and political trick, and at the same time nudge our law makers to incorporate ways to mitigate and sanction offenders in the proposed electoral offenses court or tribunal,is the goal of this essay.
And to be fair ,the Obi-Dients,which is a term that the very boisterous supporters of LP presidential candidate have branded themselves, are not the originators of ‘fake it till you make it’ political subterfuge.
Nevertheless,they are the leading offenders in the current dispensation.
Back in 2015, fantastic promises such as reducing naira/dollar exchange rate drastically to $1-N1, and a reversal of then prevailing high petrol pump price which was a major concern of majority of Nigerians as well as eliminating terrorism which was still at infancy,were at the core of the campaigns.
Owing to to the timeliness and aptness of the promises,they resonated with Nigerians.
Equally enchanting to Nigerians,was the promise to put an end to the epidemic of corruption in our country ,which was being waved as a red flag and the bane of our beloved Nigeria at that point in time.
And it was canvassed vigorously that graft would be drastically reduced,if not eliminated by candidate Mohammadu Buhari,if he was elected president and APC took over the reins of leadership at the centre.
It is needless pointing out that hapless Nigerian masses seeking rescue from the misery that had taken hold of them at that time,had no choice than to consider then main opposition party,APC as the rescue team in the manner that a messiah was divinely assigned to rescue lsrealites from their bondage in Egypt, as we have learnt from the narrative contained in the holy Bible.
And APC presidential candidate,Buhari was easily seen as the proverbial knight in a shining armor on a mission to save Nigeria.
With then candidate,now president Buhari’s unassailable reputation at that time ,as a no nonsense retired Army General who had zero tolerance for corruption,it was forgone conclusion that graft would be drastically reduced if not eliminated in our country under Buhari’s watch.
But contrary to the high expectations, after nearly 8 years of APC being Incharge of affairs in our beleaguered country, corruption of monumental proportions has assumed the dimension of an epidemic threatening to bankrupt our beloved country in the manner that Haiti,Venezuelan,Sri Lanka have been run aground and their economies are currently comatose
Nothing illustrates how sunken Nigerian economy has become more than the fact that the Central Bank of Nigeria,CBN is struggling to retain enough funds in the treasury to sustain three months of import,even as government can hardly pay salaries of civil servants,except it borrows from banks.
Worst still,there is so much scarcity of foreign exchange now that it is being rationed, ostensibly with a view to screening out abusers from genuine users as demand has far outstripped supply,implying that our foreign exchange earning capacity as a country is in jeopardy.
With manufacturing being hobbled owing to inability of factory owners to source foreign exchange to import raw materials and other items required for producing essential commodities,shortages of basic necessities may be imminent.
To me, the current misery being endured by the masses echoes the ignoble period of rationing of essential commodities such as rice ,bread,milk sugar etc which was the hallmark of 1983-85.
God forbids that our country returns to that morbid past.
Relying on his training as a military general that had previously reined in religious fanatics during the reign of president Shehu Shagari from 1979-1983,candidate Buhari was also marketed to Nigerians as possessing the antidote to the threat of insecurity driven by terrorists that had sprung up in the north leveraging the populism of religion that has degenerated into fanaticism before metastasizing into insurgency.
The level of insecurity in our country now is so dire that it suggests that our security architecture has been overwhelmed and therefore collapsed with rule of the mob, rather than rule of law reigning supreme, especially in the hinterlands.
The situation of insecurity is so severe and horrendous that most Nigerian roads can no longer be plied without the consequence of death of road users in the hands of the multiple gangs of outlaws that are slowly making out country look like gangster paradise.
Even the newly resuscitated railways could not serve as alternative means of transportation to the roads as patrons are also being kidnapped for ransom by the nefarious ambassadors who have now made criminality a very lucrative industry.
How about the pump price of petrol which was in 2015 selling at N87 when the incumbent government took over the affairs of our country,but the critically important commodity currently sells at N165 per liter which is a double fold increase.
Also the petrol subsidy that gulped about N650 billion naira in 2015,is today draining the treasury in excess of N4 trillion based on the estimate made by the defunct PAPPRA- petroleum import and sales agency and provisions made in 2022 national budget.
Also not immune to the litany of disappointing outcomes of promises made to Nigerians who were desperate for change is the naira to dollar exchange rate which is currently spiraling out of control.
In 2015 it was hovering between N160-200/$1.
But,after all the abracadabra by Godwin Emefiele led Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN,including the banning of 41 items from being imported via funds sourced from the CBN , plus the prolonged shutting down of Nigerian borders with neighboring countries ,coupled with multiple financial interventions in various economic sectors running into trillions of naira, the value of the Naira has been drastically devalued in a period of less than eight (8) years, to the extent that Nigerian currency currently exchanges for a rate in the neighborhood of N700-705 to $1 in the parallel market compared to less than $1-N200 which the prevailing rate in 2015.
The situation has become so outrageously and ludicrously embarrassing and painful that the process of obtaining Basic Travel Allowance, BTA and Personal Travel Allowance from commercial banks and the CBN is so cumbersome now that countless Nigerians are getting stranded abroad for lack of ability to pay for services with their Nigerian credit or debit cards.
International airlines had threatened to shut down services to Nigeria because their funds had been trapped as they were unable to repatriate their sales proceeds until the central took some actions to remedy the highly embarrassing situation.
With a huge chunk of their funds still unreleased to the airlines,nervousness has taken hold of most Nigerians who are traveling abroad not knowing if they would be stranded over there,if the airlines eventually carry out their threat of shutting down services.
All the doom and gloom that are bedeviling Nigeria and Nigerians have been catalogued above, so that the consequences of voting based on emotions rather than on verifiable facts would be stark to the electorates, and prompt or compel them to become more vigilant.
In our checkered political history, I can not recall Nigerians being in such economic dire straights, except during the 1967-70 civil war.
And the mess highlighted above have befallen Nigerians simply because when in 2015 the APC hired former USA president Barack Obama’s campaign strategist, Dan Axerold to dress up then candidate Buhari in borrowed robes which presented his presidency as the panacea to our country’s socioeconomic malaise ,literally and practically, we swallowed the bait, hook-line and-sinker.
The masses were so hoodwinked by the fantasy that they failed to check out what is beneath the veneer by interrogating the ability and capacity of candidate Buhari to deliver democracy dividends such as alleviating poverty via provision of jobs,social and economic infrastructures such as schools,housing,water, electricity,roads,hospitals etc .
Although, it might not have been deliberate, as Buhari might have been overwhelmed by the existential realities that have hindered him from performing optimally, but it is our indiscretion and lack of due diligence in order to figure out the candidate that poses the skill set required to rescue our country and also patriotic enough to lift the critical mass of Nigerians out of the moras of poverty ,that has placed our country in the current sorry state that it finds itself in.
It is unacceptable to me,and l presume people of good conscience that by and large,the gullibility of Nigerians that was exploited in 2015, by politicians hell bent on state capture,is still being exploited via fantastic campaign promises made by unscrupulous politicians who are currently gearing up to literally rape the electorate one more time.
And l am urging Nigerian voters to make conscious efforts to peel off the veneer in the fantastic propositions in order to decipher the truth from the lies in the contents being bandied around so that they can see through the subterfuge.
The proposition above is critically important as our cherished country prepares for another circle of political party elections towards a change of guards in Aso Rock Villa seat of presidential power, and most of the thirty six (36) government mansions in Nigeria, including the National Assembly, NASS as well as the thirty six (36) state houses of assembly nation wide.
It is worrying to me that it appears as if the circumstances that were prevailing in 2015 are prevailing once again,and Nigerians are about to be taken for a ride one more time unless they learn to be more circumspect .
Put succinctly,I am encouraging Nigerians to ‘shine their eyes’ this time around and that translates to:Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware in legalese.
Clearly,l am by and large warning Nigerians to beware of the Ides of March by not getting emotional in their choice of new leaders as they did when they kicked out Goodluck Jonathan’s regime based on the irrational slogan: anybody else than Goodluck Jonathan .
Evidently,that warped mind set that was shaped by misinformation l,has as they say it in local parlance, moved Nigeria from ‘frying pan to fire.’
As readers may be aware,the ides of March is a warning to watch out for betrayal or misfortune.
For readers that are unfamiliar with the term Ides Of March, let us be guided by dictionary .com which states that the term: ides of March,(which is March 15) is the day on which Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 b.c.e. For this reason, it has become associated with bad omens, betrayal, and misfortune.
This means that as activities towards the actualization of the general elections in 2023 get into top gear and INEC is poised to blow the whistle for the campaigns to officially commence on September 28 for the February 25 presidential and National Assembly,NASS elections,fantastic promises are being made by unscrupulous politicians to confuse the electorate into yielding up their votes for the most artful schemers.
At this point, it is appropriate that we highlight some of the unique selling points of the candidates that are front runners in the presidential candidates and political platforms.
Remarkably,APC and it’s presidential candidate,Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu are brandishing his accomplishments as Lagos State governor (1999-2007) as opposed to the record of the party in nearly eight (8) years of holding the reins of government. In addition to the party’s former chairman,Adams Oshiomole’s recent diatribe that candidate Tinubu should not be judged by the performance of APC, distancing Tinubu from president Buhari’s record which was reinforced by APC vice presidential candidate, Kashim
Shettima’s presentation during Nigerian Bar Association, NBA recent conference, would be a hard sell.
But Tinubu who is known to be a maverick would be asking very skeptical Nigerians to trust him with their future as lagosians did when he governed them for eight (8) years.
Would he pull the type of stunts that he successfully executed during the APC party’s primaries by clinching the ticket to the bewildered opponents ?
Likewise,PDP presidential flag bearer,Turaki Atiku Abubakar who is leveraging what he accomplished as Vice President (1999-2007) in the area of telecoms revolution(GSM etc) and the liberalization of Nigerian economy, as well as his personal accomplishments as a successful entrepreneur.
He will also likely be asking Nigerians if they are better off where they are today than where they were in 2015, in terms of socioeconomic development.
The answer of which is obviously,no.
But would that reality spur Nigerians who are at their wits end to trust him to transform their lives as he did with the telecoms sector in Nigeria?
That is the task the the PDP presidential candidate must accomplish, now or never .
Given his successful change of PDP policy of rotation of presidency of between the north and south,his ability to mobilize and galvanize voters drawing from his last contest against the incumbent for the office of the president in 2019, is being tested.
And Peter Obi,the Labor Party presidential standard bearer is similarly driving his campaign based on his accomplishments in Anambra state where he served as governor (2006-2014) as well as his personal achievements as an accomplished entrepreneur.
By constantly inciting the youths to replace the old political class with him based on his fantastic message of changing Nigeria from a consuming country to a producing one, he might have hit the bull’s eye.
But is it sustainable when the chips are down ?
Willy nilly,all the three under listed leading contenders for the presidency highlighted above will from September 28 try to hoodwink the electorate with outright lies and bogus claims about their accomplishments and thereafter make irresistible promises to provide solutions to a litany of unfulfilled promises made in 2015, 2019 and even in the past.
It may be recalled that immediately after the current ruling party’s candidate , Mohammadu Buhari won the elections in 2015,APC disowned all the lofty promises that it made pre election. It’s excuse is that the phantasmagorical promises were not made by the party, but by supporters who did so without the party’s consent . How convenient.
Why did the party not disclaim the promises pre -election and only did so post election ?
It is a classical example trick of Fake It Till You It which lam seeking to make Nigerians understand in this article.
Right now,Peter Obi, labor party presidential torch bearer has had a head start through his ingenious strategy of campaigning online ahead of other contenders due to the fact that INEC is yet to figure out how to effectively enforce the rules in the electoral act 2022 which has set September 28 as commencement date for campaigns,but election regulatory body did not envisage that campaigns could be taken online as Obi-Dients have been doing without being sanctioned, particularly because the internet which they have maximally utilized to market Peter Obi is a largely ungoverned space.
That has enabled the LP candidate key into the anger of our youths against the incumbent government which they had earlier expressed via the #Endsars protests of October 2020 that threatened our country to its very foundation.
So,basically,Obi-dients,which is the monicker that the labor party candidate’s followers have tagged themselves,in my view, is basically a movement and simply #Endsars 2.0.
In other words ,OBIDIENT movement is #Endsars encore with a smattering of adult buy-in.
And I earnestly believe that Obi’s leadership in popularity amongst the youths is transitory because he is the only one literarily on top of the roof telling Nigerians that he would move the country from consumption to a production economy,which sounds like music to the ears of the electorate , particularly the youths cadre who are largely unemployed and neglected. Because they an axe to grind with government, they seem to have been sucked into the notion of anyone else would be better in Aso Rock Villa than the old politicians.
Right now, Obi is not telling anyone how he would create employment for the youths and boost the empty treasury,reduce galloping inflation,crash the dollar/naira exchange rate and lower petrol pump price and drastically rein in insecurity driven by religious fanaticism and ethnic nationalism triggered by the zero sum politics of the incumbent regime.
Before the end of October which would be about one month of being on the campaign trail by all the candidates,the true leadership in the polls would have been established, and it is doubtful if Peter Obi would still be ahead of the pack as it currently appears,presumably because he has been the only one campaigning since June and therefore enjoys first movers advantage.
A further evidence of Obi’s campaign activities are his ongoing fund raising and campaign stomps in Europe and North America which is raising the eyebrow of INEC and other relevant authorities that are keen to determine the impropriety or otherwise of Obi-Dients activities
since it might be conferring under advantage on the LP presidential candidate as it may imperil the chances of other candidates in the race.
It does not help Peter Obi that his supporters who have been very fiery,have been over selling him via deliberate misinformation and hair- brushing their claims about their candidate’s prowess,here and there.
I have had cause in the past to caution the Obi campaign team against such antics in the past. APC’s Bola Tinubu has also raised objection to tissues of lies allegedly being spread about him by the same suspects,and so also had Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso,the NNPP presidential candidate pushed back on claims made by Obi-dients about the party’s relationship with Obi.
In light of the above, the inability of Obi-Dients to separate facts from fiction may be the Achilles heels of Peter Obi.
But he has been likened by Obi-Dients to Barack Obama, of USA , Emmanuel Macron of France and even the president-elect of Kenya, William Ruto whose elections were against the run of play.
Would their dream materialize?
On the part of Bola Tinubu,as the ruling party’s presidential candidate,he could have been enjoying the benefits of the good legacy that the out going party would have left for the good people of Nigeria to cherish.But unfortunately, the current government in power is leaving a legacy of sorrow, tears and blood ,to borrow a line from a hit song by the late Afro beat king and maestro,Fela Ransom Kuti.
It is one that no right thinking candidate would like to appropriate.
So , lo former APC chairman,Adams Oshiomole has urged Nigerians not to judge Bola Tinubu based on president Mohammadu Buhari’s records which is sordid,no matter how Buharists try to spin it .
But would it not be uncharitable and disingenuous for Tinubu to distance himself from Buhari?
It is telling that Kashim Shettima’s presentation on behalf of his principal,Bola Tinubu at the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association,NBA conference was focused on Tinubu’s accomplishments as lagos state governor and not on APC’s success or lack of it in the governance of Nigeria.
So their agenda would likely be different from the well known APC and Buhari’s agenda.
As such, Tinubu would definitely be walking a tight rope,especially if president Buhari is expected to join in the campaign for Tinubu as a candidate.
How can a presidential candidate of the ruling party distance himself from the outgoing president? That is the proverbial Gordian knot that has to be untied by candidate Tinubu.
To contextualize the dilemma, Al Gore tried to detach himself from the administration that he was aiming to replace in the United States of America, USA,when as Vice President to Bill Clinton, he was contesting to succeed his principal,but distanced himself from his boss owing to the scandal about Clinton’s alleged sexual escapade with Monica Lewinsky,a White House intern, which is an invent that sullied Clinton’s reputation in the twilight days of his watch.
Of course Al Gore failed to become president. Perhaps, not appropriating Clinton’s Sterling records was a contributing factor to his failure.
So how Tinubu would fair with that strategy is demon that he must deal with.
With respect to Turaki Atiku Abubakar, PDP’s standard bearer, he was on the ballot running against the incumbent for the same office in 2019 which is less than 4 years ago.
Therefore, he is building up on the gains that he made in 2019.
Fortuitously,candidate Buhari that he ran against and who garnered about fifteen (15)million votes against Atiku Abubakar’s which was in excess of thirteen (13) million in 2019 will not be on the ballot in 2023.
That should give the former Vice President some heft.
Now,some videos have been trending online wherein allegations that under the watch of PDP presidential candidate as the Vice President to president Olusegun Obasanjo, privatization of government corporations was under his purview.
But instead of acknowledging his critical role in the process of introducing GSM telephony that we are currently enjoying that was introduced by the council that he chaired,what is being held against him is the process of privatizing the petroleum and electricity sectors which were not concluded before their time was up in 2007, hence Nigeria is still suffering from epileptic electricity power supply and the masses struggle to purchase petrol,has remained perennial.
Nasir El rufai,present kaduna state governor and APC chieftain was the Director General , DG of the agency that privatized the corporations which were not doing well. In my reckoning , if Atiku Abubakar influenced him unduly in the privatization exercise, l assume that he would have stated so very clearly in his book:Accidental Public Servant especially since they are now in opposing political camps.
Evidently,Atiku Abubakar may not have influenced the sale of the public assets that were underperforming and a drain on public treasury, and he owns non,just as no known associate of his, has been established to own any. Yet he is still being vilified.
It might interest critics to know that Ajaokuta steel complex which was not privatized is still there rotting away. If it were to be offered for sale today,it would be sold as scrap.
Yet multi billion dollars was invested to setting it up.
Despite that reality, the narrative that the former Vice President sold public assets to himself and cronies which is a fallacy,has some how, remained stuck on the PDP presidential flag bearer like a badge of dishonor.
How he scrubs himself of that blight is a mission he that must accomplish by laying bare for public assessment what he knows about the privatization exercise during his time as Vice President and convince the electorate on how he plans to replicate the superlative turn around of the telecommunications sector now under the firm control of the private sector.
In conclusion, as mr Adams Oshiomole, a former labor leader, one time governor of Edo state, and immediate past chairman of APC told me during the reception at Nduka Obaigbena mum’s funeral in Owa-Oyibu , a couple of weeks ago, Nigerians are faced with the choice of three ‘sinners’ vying for the post of president in 2023 general elections.
He is on point essentially because all the three of the front runner l have held public offices.
That implies that they have all been like fishes swimming in transparent bowls such as an aquarium.
And l have identified the baggages that they are now carrying which indicate that they have been adjudged by Nigerians not to be saints.
Any one pretending to be a Saint amongst them,would be unraveled by the highly discerning and critical masses in the cause of the campaigns which begins in ernest, later this month.
My hunch is that corruption would not be a hot button issue when 2022/23 campaign commences.
And l am predicting that fake news would be a potent weapon of mass deception if the masses to be deployed by unscrupulous politicians mainly because it had worked for them in 2015 and 2019 without repercussions.
Which is why l am alerting Nigerians about the insidious and visceral effects of twisted information on election outcomes as evidenced by their horrendous experience signposted by the series of disappointments arising from failed promises by desperate and deceptive politicians.
I would like to end this dialogue with the aphorism:
“Fool me once,shame on you,fool me twice shame on me” a principle by which l recommend that Nigerians should be guided.
The origin of the expression is from the book “The Court and Character of King James,” written by Anthony Weldon in 1651, where it appears as follows. “The Italians having a Proverb, ‘He that deceives me once, it’s his fault; but if twice,it’s my fault. ‘
The question now is : would the electorate allow despicable politicians that have fooled them before ,fool them once again in 2023 ?
I hope not,because l believe Nigerians have become more politically savvy, therefore they can not afford to be fooled continuously.
Magnus 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.
To continue with this conversation, please visit www.magnum.ng