Keen fans of any combat sport such as boxing, wrestling, and kickboxing – just to name a few, will not fail to see the similarities between the expectation, drama and thrills heralding a championship fight in these sports, and the build-up to the forthcoming 2019 polls in Nigeria. Hence just as the incumbent champion would be taunted by challengers for his throne with verbal assaults and shadow boxing maneuvers, along with all forms of permissible blackmail aimed at wearing the incumbent down even if psychologically, so is President Muhammadu Buhari facing the onslaught of what late Afro beat musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti would call ‘yabis’, from all corners where aspirants to the country’s Presidency are located. And as is also expected they come in a variety of shades, persuasions, resource endowments and patriotic zeal.
With the number from all political parties now 91, it is clear that much of what is currently running as presidential campaign activities constitute little more than mere noise and self-seeking adventurism by unserious pretenders. Most of them are heading nowhere beyond the early prancing around and making a show of parading the status of ‘also rans’. The problem is that given the largely uninformed condition of most Nigerian constituents and likely voters, not a few country men and women would be conned into parting with their valuable time, resources and political fortunes, as they pitch their loyalties on unreliable, dishonest leaders. Has it not been said that the problem with the country’s politics is the preponderant incidence of misfits, who secure access to public office through the regular hijack of leadership by deploying the most unorthodox of means? In that case, given the current trend of events as build up to the next general polls, will 2019 be different?
The answer to the preceding, loaded question lies in the context and sequence of contemporary developments on the country’s political turf, which but for a few significant twists, have hardly deviated from the typical build up to a general polls in this country. For instance, as the preparations for 2019 polls among the country’s 91 political parties builds into a frenzy, public expectations across the country are focused mainly on two – being the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its main rival the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Along with these are other smaller parties who even with their relatively smaller sizes, have the capacities to play the swing or spoiler game, and as such, ignoring their potency in the scheme of things often proves erroneous.
In a country where choice of candidates for electoral offices has usually been determined not by consideration of issues they represent but their personalities, the processes in the respective parties for producing the candidates for the plum job of the country’s president, is shaping developments among the parties. Hence while it could be said that for the APC the issue of candidature remains settled with the second term bid by the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, all eyes are on the PDP as Nigerians wait with bated breath for that party’s ultimate choice of Presidential candidate that may match the Buhari factor. This situation makes Buhari the main issue in Nigerian politics today, and the man to beat for now, as he awaits competition from the wide field of presidential aspirants.
Seen in context the reduction of the country’s politics to that of Buhari versus the rest of others, offers implications that may often be overlooked. For one it has reduced the threshold of issues for Nigerians to consider in choosing the next President, to a pedestrian rule of the thumb choice of Buhari or any other. That template places in parallax what Buhari stands for to make him the man to beat.
In the context of a democratic political dispensation, where government is notionally ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’, leaders are expected to be elected into office based on what good fortunes they are likely to attract in upgrading the lives of the citizenry. The Nigerian political terrain however turns the tables by running like the allegorical scene in African folklore where the goat and the cock went to court, and the cock won the case, only because his tail comprised of feathers while that of the goat was mere hairs. The judges did not just bother to address whatever was the issue in contention!
Buhari came into office with clear cut agenda of the goals of the administration. Such clearly defined agenda provided the opposition with the wherewithal to provide the relevant checks and balances for guiding the administration. With the imminence of the polls and the interplay of claims as well as counter claims by the administration and the opposition, it qualifies as a matter of public concern that stringent criticisms of the administration by the opposition have so far proved largely benign with respect to diminishing Buhari’s rating in parts of the country. This calls for a change in strategy by the opposition if it has to hit base with the voting public.
And from a succinct perspective the present overwhelming swing by President Buhari on the country’s politics derives from factors including the ‘Sword of Damocles’ he dangles over some compromised members of the opposition along with the liberties granted him by a rather laid back National Assembly which saw itself abdicating its obligations to address national issues and spent more time in pushing vested personal interests. Successive generations of any political dispensation are expected to build on the successes of their predecessors. So it was expected of the Eighth National Assembly, to have built on the landmarks of previous chambers. While it may constitute an unintended rebuke of the federal legislature, suffice it to be stated that the contributions by default of the National Assembly to the overwhelming dominance of Buhari in the political terrain, is more than benign.
Nigerians are desirous of change in governance style not just the person on the saddle. Buhari as president has made his contributions, positively or otherwise. Will the opposition offer a better deal with the candidate(s) they will put up is the question before Nigerians as the 2019 polls approach. After all, the ultimate goal is to make Nigeria a better place for all Nigerians.