By Kola King
The political season is here and on overdrive. The past several weeks have been suffused with a surfeit of politics and the shenanigans of politicians as the political parties organized their conventions to elect their flag bearers. Tales coming out of the conventions of the two mainstream parties, that is, All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP have been anything but elevating. The events have been depressing and uninspiring, to say the least. It has been mostly tales of moneybags hijacking the political process and delegates and aspirants being bought and sold like a loaf of bread. Every man seemed to have his own price regardless of the nomenclature that he goes by. The outcomes were largely compromised and short-circuited through bribery and corruption. Clearly, it was a political charade.
While some politicians were busy buying delegates others had perfected the art of buying aspirants. Never in the history of Nigerian politics has filthy lucre come to play such a central role as it did during the conventions of the two major parties. That explains why the naira took a hit as politicians’ mopped up forex reducing the naira to rubble, exchanging for 605 Naira to the dollar in the parallel market. Now, the naira is in a free fall, and scarcity of forex persists after the party primaries. In short, politicians crashed the naira to smithereens in their quest for power.
And to attest to this ugly spectacle, a presidential aspirant of the PDP, Mohammed Hayatu-deen who later stepped down for the contest had described the primary election contest as “obscenely monetized.” He withdrew from the race on the day the main opposition party held its primary election. According to Mohammed, “I did not join party politics and to contest for the presidency because of personal gains and inordinate ambition, but in order to serve our country.” Mohammed thanked his supporters and well-wishers for believing in his dreams and pledged, however, to work for the party.
Despite perfunctory assurances by President Muhammadu Buhari that the APC must not sell its tickets to the highest bidders, his plea went unheeded. He had declared during the APC national convention during which members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Party were elected last March that “popular and acceptable aspirants who remain the people’s choice must be allowed to fly the party’s flag in the 2023 elections. We will resist the imposition of candidates,” he said. He enjoined the new NWC members to promote internal democracy and equal opportunities and ensure that party primaries were not influenced by “highest bidders” going into the 2023 elections. Scant attention was paid to the president’s admonition as most of the delegates went for the highest bidder. Decidedly, delegates have shown themselves to be lovers of money rather than lovers of Nigeria.
Notwithstanding that the president had declared that the presidency was not for sale, still politicians found a way to sidetrack him as if he was talking to the deaf and dumb. On the contrary, politicians poured tons of dollars and naira on delegates to secure the tickets of both the APC and PDP. Most laughable was the presence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) officials at the venue of the conventions. It appears they looked the other way as delegates were being bought and sold. They came when the horse had already bolted out of the pen. Politicians had perfected their games and had gone digital with bribery and corruption that attended the political process. Ordinarily, the EFCC should be questioning the standard-bearers of the two parties for money laundering but in Nigeria the big shot is above the law. EFCC will rather concentrate its energy on Yahoo boys than go after politicians who have held the nation by the jugular, draining it of its lifeblood.
As expected the presidential ticket of the two parties was won by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the APC and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar both perceived as moneybags and godfathers. Both Tinubu and Atiku are driven and obsessed with becoming president. They will go the whole hog to achieve their dreams throwing everything in their arsenal to become victorious in battle. Analysts have described it as the bullion van effect, pointing to Tinubu’s reputation as the man who introduced the bullion van into the political lexicon, having pressed bullion vans laden with cash into service to secure the reelection of President Buhari in 2019.
Regrettably, the monetization of the political process has become the norm. By investing so much to influence the decision of delegates in picking the flag bearers of the two main political parties, it stands to reason that such excessive spending is neither altruistic nor in the public interest. It simply points to the naked pursuit of power for its own sake and for self-aggrandizement. In this sense, those with brilliant ideas are sidelined in a game in which money is the ultimate, not the robustness of ideas and a grand vision that can transform society.
Indeed both Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar are two sides of a coin. Choosing between the duo is like choosing between a rock and a hard place. Both have had allegations of corruption trailing their paths even though no charges have been brought against them in their political and public service career. Besides it will be preposterous to set much store on the two candidates since they are part and parcel of the baggage that has held the nation down this past several years. Indeed nothing much should be expected from this flawed process that produced the flag bearers of the two main parties.
As they say, morning shows the day. With the party primaries taking such an inglorious turn, it should be clear that the 2023 general elections will be a balanced and equal match between the two front-runners in which case salt for salt, stockfish for stockfish, rice for rice, grains for grains, and naira for naira, dollars for dollars, apologies to late Senator Arthur Nzeribe, the chief exponent of alimentary politics, will be traded for votes . In this game, the two front runners are adepts and will throw every trick in their bags to outsmart each other.
Now, the talk is about nominating the vice presidential candidates and the decibel of noise has grown louder as adherents of the Christian religion have warned the candidate of APC Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to resist the attempt by politicians to foist a Muslim-Muslim ticket on the party. The discussions have generated more heat than light. Much as it’s important to demonstrate sensitivity to our fault lines, Tinubu will do well to maintain balance in terms of faith, the electoral value of the candidate, and most importantly the capacity, competence, and character of the candidates to be chosen. Perhaps beyond winning the party primary, the choice of a running mate appears to be Tinubu’s biggest challenge and headache. To a large extent, how he swings it will determine the level of his success at the polls. Now, the nation is stuck with moneybags and godfathers who dictate the tune of politics. Though an underdog, Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party has lit a fire of hope among the youth and generality of compatriots, still it would require the equivalent of a political tsunami to uproot the two main parties. As a writer has noted, money has broken democracy in Nigeria.
Kola King is a Nigerian journalist and novelist. He worked for more than two decades as a reporter, correspondent and editor in major national newspapers in Nigeria. He’s the founder of Metro newsletter published on Substack. His debut novel A Place in the Sun and was published and released in 2016 by Verity Publishers, Pretoria, South Africa. His writing has appeared in Kalahari Review, The Missing Slate Literary Journal, The New Black Magazine and Litro magazine. He earned a Bachelors degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.