By Iwemdi Nwaham
This is a very serious matter for consideration, so we will try to keep the issues to be teased out simple, to enhance assimilation. It is generally accepted that there are four leading political parties in next year’s general election in Nigeria. And these are, in alphabetical order, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Labour Party (LP), the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP). There are about eleven other parties registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC that have fielded acceptable candidates for the presidential election. The criteria for identifying the four listed above as “leading” are the acceptance given to them by the media and polls organized by various organisations.
In most democracies in the world, whether presidential or parliamentary, where multi parties are allowed to seek the coveted seat, two major parties usually dominate the electoral contests in many countries. In the United States of America, there are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. But there are about three other parties in especially at the state levels. In the United Kingdom, there is the Conservative Party (the Tories) and there is the Labour Party. There are about five other regional parties. In France, there is the Socialist Party coalitions and the Republicans and their coalitions. In South Africa, there is the African National Congress, ANC, and the main opposition party, the white dominated Democratic Alliance, DA. There is also the Kwazulu Natal berthed party known as Inkatha Freedom Party. But Julius Malema came up about 6 years ago and sprang a surprise with his Economic Freedom Fighters. In Ghana, there two major parties namely the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party. As at October 2020, Ghana had 29 registered political parties.
In Kenya, and this is very interesting because of the similarity it bears to Nigeria’s emerging politics, there are very many political parties. Where it contrasts from Nigeria is that many of the parties willingly formed coalitions. There is the Jubilee Party led by the immediate past president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta. There is the Orange Democratic Party led by Raila Odinga. Then the is the United Democratic Alliance UDA led by the current president William Ruto, who was vice president to Uhuru Kenyatta and yet was not supported by his boss to take over from him. There is the main coalition party to William Ruto’s party called Kenyan National African Union KANU. This one is led by Gideon Moi. In the hotly contested presidential election, in August this year, William Ruto’s coalition defeated the coalition put together by the establishment headed by
the then president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta.
And many Nigerians have drawn inspiration from here to point to the impending victory of the candidate of the Labour party, Mr. Peter Obi. While that remains a possibility, many commentators do not seem to know one salient point from Kenya. Maybe they know but choose to make light of it. The coalition put together by William Ruto as they prosecuted the election won majority seats in the Kenyan parliament and therefore gave them the principal officers of the parliament and the control of the parliament. I don’t know if we can say that there is a coalition in the case of Labour Party in Nigeria. But that is not the focus of this article.
This article aims at teasing out all the variables that should matter to Delltans, Aniomas and Ikas in particular as we prepare to vote for the next president of Nigeria, and empower these group of Deltans to make informed choice, based on the preponderance of direct benefits to community and very many individuals, and not mere sentimental or emotional considerations that are surreptitiously administered to benefiting very few individuals, while shutting out community and group interests.
Now, who are the people in the joint tickets of the four leading political parties? They are the elected officers that will sit in Aso Rock, without fear of removal by fiat, unless through impeachment. For APC the joint ticket occupants are Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the presidential candidate from Lagos/ Osun states and Alhaji Kashim Shettima as his vice presidential candidate from Bornu state. For the Labour Party, it is Peter Obi as the presidential candidate from Anambra State and Dr. Datti Ahmed as his vice from Kaduna State. For the NNPP, we have Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso as presidential candidate from Kano State and Bishop Isaac Idahosa as his vice presidential candidate from Edo State. And last but not the least we have the PDP, where former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa State is the presidential candidate and Senator Dr. Ifeanyichukwu Okowa as his vice from Delta State. What should be the considerations that should rank uppermost in the reckoning of Deltans, Aniomas and Ikas as we ponder over which joint ticket to vote?
There is a man called Professor Yemi Osinbajo. He is the current Vice President of Nigeria. He is the nation’s No. 2 man, second only to President Muhammadu Buhari, our current president. While any of us, from anywhere in Delta state, from anywhere in Anioma land, from Agbor or Ozoro or Utagbaogbe, Ogidigben, Koko, Patani, remote Ijaw lands refer to Osinbajo perfunctorily as our vice president, there are people who own him and claim him, who look at him as their person. And these are people from his Ogun State from his senatorial zone, from his local government area, from his ward and from his village. When Osinbajo went around the country distributing Trader Moni and other interventionist programmes of this APC led government, there is a place he must relate with, with emotions and greater attention. And that is his place. It is not nepotism. It is a fact of life. Another mundane but factual example to really bring home the point being made in this article is this, under the federal government, there must be, in the cause of duty about a hundred thousand vehicles in its service, countrywide. That means that at that low level of employment, the vice president can stretch himself to be of greater benefit to specific persons in the recruitment of drivers, if they are qualified for the job.
Many people are focused on the presidential election as if the man elected as president brings a healing balm to remote parts of the country. That may well be but since 1999, Obasanjo was president for 8 years. I am yet to place my hands on what he did for my Umunede, in Ika North East LGA, from where I hail; not even in Okpanam where his friend Major Chukwuemeka Nzeogwu came from. Similarly for Musa Yar ‘Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and now Muhammadu Buhari. My Umunede is without federal presence, except for what the state government provides for us. We do not even feel any impact that there is a president for the country, unless we tune in to the news. And that is why I am now a very strong advocate of “working for the electoral victory of the party that has been winning elections in your state and local government”, for state elections. There could be upsets but let us get there first.
Now, if whoever is president is so distant and is of no direct significance to remote communities like mine, what should then sway my decision on which presidential candidate to vote for, come February 2023? It can be argued that if a good man, a knowledgeable president, a tribally neutral man, a good manager of the nation’s human and material resources, a relatively younger person gets there, that prices of goods (petrol, dollar, food stuffs, etc) would come down, employment will be generated, violent crimes would come down, and thereby, my remote community would feel the benefits of federal government. Yes indeed. But all the candidates promise Eldorado. Buhari did. And now see where we are – a country in hell literally, at the brink of collapse and disintegration. So why would I hearken to election rhetoric when there is a simple consideration that Deltans can relate with, that Aniomas can relate with, that Ikas can relate with.
Governor Ifeanyichukwu Okowa, the vice presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Democratic Party the PDP, has been governor of Delta State for seven and half years now. He has worked with many senators, from his state. He has also worked with many House of Reps members, House of Assembly members, and chairmen of local government councils of the state. The House of Assembly members alone he has worked with form an invaluable umbilical connection that he will have to every nook and cranny of the state, if he emerges as vice president of the country. What Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is to Ogun State is what Vice President Okowa will be to Delta State. So, it ought to be taken for granted that the support from Delta State for the joint ticket of Atiku/Okowa will be near 100%. But that is not the case, judging by social media commentaries and even pollsters.
For some reasons, some Deltans, Aniomas and Ikas do not want to reckon with the palpable benefits of an Okowa vice presidency. They are not only working assiduously for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Alhaji Kashim Shettima victory of APC, Peter Obi /Dr. Datti Ahmed victory of Labour Party, NNPP victory through Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso and Bishop Idahosa, they are doing everything to cast aspersions on our man and his party, the PDP. They are playing up the Fulani Fulani sentiment as if the contrary will bring development to their remote villages, from Aso Rock. They are fighting so hard to make sure that a man who was Vice President of the country for 8 years under President Obasanjo and therefore the man with the most cognate experience, of all the pack jostling to occupy the seat, does not get there.
I was a bitter and virulent critic of Sen. Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and his Owa kingdom since 1991, when Delta State was created. I reckon that the cause of the bitterness was the runaway success Owa came out with in the creation of the new state. For close to forty years, I refused to be pacified and see reason. But mishaps happen in life to draw attention to other realities. All of a sudden, it began to dawn on me that the man I laboured so hard to lampoon, denying myself prosperous associations to fight, was moving from grace to higher grace and from strength to more strength. Some revelation came to me only 2019 that, “ _the spirit of the Lord seems to be upon this man_ o”. The popular Igbo adage, _”Anu wa na gba egbe o na ta nri”_ began to ring in my head. I guess the spirit of the Lord came upon me too, to so realise. I began to plot my way to seek rapprochement. And in the month of May this 2022, I made a move. And I have never been happier with any political decision that I have taken, in forty years, than the one I took in May 2022.
And come to think of it, what was the point in fighting someone politically, for close to four decades, without anything to show to your community as gains of your 4 decades participation in politics? And I dare say, that is what many of our Ikas are doing now- fighting the man for nothing else than sentimental and emotional considerations. And to talk us out of the needless fight is one of the reasons of this article. For an Ika man (a minority, in minority, in minority tribe, in Nigeria) to navigate his way to emerge as the vice presidential candidate of a major political party in the country, and is only a heartbeat away from emerging as the vice president of the country, is no mean feat. Whatever the past offences, the previous bitterness or differences, Okowa’s achievements calls for us all to join hands and support the party that has so projected our own to where he is now.
An additional motivation is that the man, as the current governor of our state, has midwifed a succession that will throw up his preferred candidate as his successor. So at worst, his scorecard out of two will be one over two (50%) and at best it will be two over two (100%). So why can’t we see it? If Gov. Okowa makes it to the seat of the Federal government, he will take along with him hundreds of staff from Delta State. The vacuum created will be filled by other staff. Why can’t we see why our support as Deltans, as Aniomas, as Ikas should be taken for granted? But for some people, “serving father and daughter” is their chagrin. To others, “a Fulani taking over from another Fulani”, gives them sleepless nights. Yet to others, “Okowa will develop his Owa community further and leave other communities behind”. Yet to others, “if he becomes vice president, chances of him becoming president becomes very real and _the man go come pass everybody._ Which one of the above phantom, primitive, diversionary considerations, taken alone or all together, will match the tangible benefits to be gained from Okowa becoming the vice president of the country?
Personally, I am for the Atiku/ Okowa ticket not because of Atiku but because of Okowa, as a Deltan, as an Anioma person and even more as an Ika son. And having come on board to accept their joint ticket wholeheartedly, something else began to crystallise in my thoughts that reveals to me that an Atiku presidency could have the hand of Providence to it. It seems there is a divine positioning, a divine mandate to it. I see in Atiku, the role of a Frederick de Klerk of South Africa. He was the man who made a new, truly democratic and prosperous South Africa possible, where majority rule is now the norm. He was a forerunner like John the Baptist, who came to prepare ground for the true Messiah. The messiah that will heal the pains of this country Nigeria, will come from the Igbo speaking stock of the country.
It will take someone from the oppressor stock to make reforms that would usher in that new order in this country. It will take someone like them to dare to free the federal government from the parasitic drain of public resources, which is perpetrated through keeping moribund MDAs and budgeting for them year after year, even when they are unproductive, like our four refineries. It will take someone like them to dare to say he will privatise all federal universities and bring about such educational reforms that would not keep lecturers on strike for 8 months at a stretch. (Other presidential candidates have told us what they will do in this regard, but not the HOW). All over the civilized, advanced world, the federal government does not run universities. It will take someone like them to dare to say that he will institute security reforms that would not keep the security architecture of the country solely in the hands of one ethnic group. No other candidate has dared to say this. And he has said unequivocally that he will institute measures to bring about state police. Even though the eccentric behavior of governors like Nyesom Wike is getting people confused as to what to accept now. Yes, it will take a Fulani to confidently dismantle the lopsided land mines in the ethnic vice grip of the country that Buhari has unapologetically foisted on this country.
‘All politics is local’, goes the cliché. This can be interpreted in many ways, but the distillate of all interpretations, on a macro level, is that “what interests the man in Zamfara may not be what interests the man in Umutu”. If you are in Warri or Orerokpe, or Obiaruku, you should think of what will impact your environment first, before you think of the Zamfara electorate. To do otherwise means that there is something personal, individualistic or selfish, or even evil, in the equation for the person making the consideration. It would not be in the overall interest of community and of us all as a collective.
Again, if all politics is local, the question remains, what should be the consideration that should rank uppermost in the reckoning of Deltans, Aniomas and Ikas as to which joint ticket will impact us more, of the four leading candidates? And the answer is not farfetched.
_IWEMDI NWAHAM writes from Asaba_
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