Port Harcourt — I’m not joking; I’m dead serious. Actually, I’m not dead, but I’m serious. After series of far and wide consultations with friends and adversaries, I’ve reluctantly accepted to bow to the wishes of the people by presenting myself as a candidate for President of Nigeria in the 2023 election. The indication of my serious bid for this plum role is the posters you will see shortly. If what I’ve said so far sounds familiar, it is because it is! As Christmas bells, the bit spared by covid-19, ring out, politicians of all persuasions are doing a great deal of legwork to sell themselves and their ambitions to us. We who care more about the cost of gas and garri, are now the objects of their adulation and professed commitment, that is, until they win. Many people have been mentioned; Abuja dwellers have the misfortune to wake up every other day to see one candidate or the other on paper, promising heaven and earth, appropriately on paper too.
Three interesting cases will point us in the direction we’re headed in the search for Buhari’s successor. Aminu Tambuwal. This lawyer from Sokoto, now Governor of the state by the same name, has not hidden his ambition for the villa. A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu was defeated at the PDP national congress by Atiku Abubakar who won the ticket, and then lost against Buhari. Aminu’s time at the House of Representatives, no doubt gave him access to political big wigs from different parts of the country. It is said he wants to return and may this time, run with a current Niger Delta state governor. I have a feeling I know the proposed No 2 man. Aminu’s chances will have melted away if the PDP chose its chairman from the same Northwest geopolitical zone as the Governor, but this was not the case as the helmsman (Iyorchia Ayu) comes from North Central. Aminu still has a chance, theoretically. But with Buhari also from the Northwest, Aminu must have what we don’t know to become Nigeria’s president in this season.
You’ve heard of Anyim Pius Anyim, the Ebonyi-born lawyer who has occupied the top posts of Senate President and Secretary to the Federal Government. The man was in somewhat quiet semi-retirement after the PDP lost the presidential election in 2015, only to make news through his quarrels with his state governor and fellow PDP member, Dave Umahi, who jumped ship and joined the APC. The main reason proffered by Umahi was that the presidential interests of the Southeast, the Igbo, stood better chance of being actualised under the APC. We now know why the two men fell out. Mr. Anyim has been up and about town consulting on his bid for the villa. Unlike other candidates that have been coy, Anyim has lately been front and centre with his intention to contest and said so just three months ago. Early December, a body which called itself Arewa Concerned Civil Society Organisations, expressed support for Anyim, calling him a “bridge builder who would ensure all interests are protected.” Those who think this man is not serious should better think twice – he served as a federal legislator at the highest level and can network well. The man has energy; he was born just a year after Nigeria’s independence, and if he can competently canvass emotional arguments as to why the Southeast is the zone this time, he will tap into a groundswell of discontent and the goodwill of the youths. Anyim may not get far, but don’t bet with your money.
And we now come to this most interesting politician of our time – Bola Ahmed Tinubu, accountant, former Governor of Lagos State, king maker, APC chieftain and the Lion of Bourdillon. All we know about his ambition is what we hear from the lips of others. This year, he went for a knee surgery in London and stayed away for weeks, during which time his residence in the British capital became a Mecca for politicians including Buhari. He returned to Nigeria on October 8 and has been travelling around the country, especially in the North. He has said nothing about his ambition, but if what we hear is true, the man may be waiting for the right time to give the word. Make no mistake about it, Tinubu will be a dream candidate. He has money; he owns a newspaper and television station and is a folk hero among democracy campaigners because of his travails during the June 12 days. But he will swim against strong currents of opposition. The current Vice President is Yoruba and his protégé. And analysts say a Tinubu presidency will be hegemonic. Let me quickly remind you of what happened during the campaign for the Edo State gubernatorial elections in which Godwin Obaseki dumped the APC for the PDP to actualise his bid for a second tenure. Tinubu lent his voice to the frenzied campaign for the APC candidate and went as far as recording a television message which was broadcast on his TVC station. Campaigning in vintage American style, Tinubu sold the APC agenda to the people of Edo State. And that offended many people who felt Tinubu could not rule Lagos and much of the Southwest and add the South South to his territory. The APC lost that election. Will Tinubu run or not? That is the question.
What is disappointing in the political discourse in 2023 is how little the defining words have changed. It is all about ethnicity, as if that determines how well a leader performs. The principal slogan for the agitation for President is “it is our turn.” This turn-by-turn concept means the man (or woman) who gets there feels it is their “turn to eat.” When my uncle goes to the hospital, he wants good medical attention, and he is not bothered about where the President is from. When my child goes to school, they want a good learning environment and teachers; they don’t care where the President is from. When my wife gets to the market, she wants the naira in her purse to feed the family, and she doesn’t care where the President is from. As far as my uncle and child and wife are concerned, give them good healthcare, education and economy, and the President of Nigeria can drop from the moon or mars. They don’t care a hoot.
This is why I’m printing my campaign posters. My campaign slogan will be “It is time for Nigerians to reach for the moon!”