It will take all species of political animals to make the 2019 presidential election circus tick
By Elijah Olusegun
The field is already tilled for the army of aspirants that will slug it out later in their party primaries to clinch the tickets for the 2019 contest for Nigeria’s topmost job.
Those down for the race this time make an interesting lot: a motley crowd of the old, the young, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The ring is also getting expansive thanks to the Not-too-young-to-run Bill and the on-going Independent Candidate Bill. Many still hope these bills will broaden and level the playing field when the president gives his assent.
Section 131 of the 2018 Electoral Act as amended now provides for independent candidates running for presidency.
With all these opportunities to have a swing, church men, rock stars, pep-talk artistes, hard-boiled radicals—all starry-eyed—are now jumping head-first into the fray already packed with perennial contestants and diehards doing shadow-boxing.
In the old guard are veterans like ex-VP Atiku Abubakar, Prof. Remi Sonaiya, Rev. Chris Okotie, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso (still shopping), and others that may later spring up.
The horde of lambies comprises fresh-faced pols whose credentials are largely in their natty suits, Italian shoes, spiffy English, and Power-Point know-how about governance.
But they have little or no known political experience.
No political constituency, except their Twitter followers and Facebook groups. No structure yet. But they believe they have a message that resonates with the people, particularly the young voters.
There are three of these Gen Y aspirants for now. Each hopes to zoom into Aso Rock largely under his own steam.
Then come the technocrats, filing into the ring.
No doubt, all these categories of presidential wannabes have their chances resting generally on a number of things: luck, war chest, experience, structure, history in the public space, and age.
But each has their own ideas about what it takes to win the 2019 presidential election—what it takes to beat the 75-year-old President Muhammadu Buhari—the holy grail they like to spurt out regularly.
“We will be able to build a broad coalition of Nigerians committed to taking their country back and setting it firmly on a path to prosperity and unprecedented progress,” said Omoyele Sowore in a recent interview with Premium Times.
Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, is one of the new kids on the block of partisan politics in the lead-up to the 2019 presidency. He believes he is not a redhead many think he is.
“I think it is incontrovertible that in and out of Nigeria, I have been an effective contributor to the struggle for the advancement of good governance in Nigeria,” he said.
What’s he got?
Most Nigerians know him, through his SaharaReporters, as Nigeria’s foremost muckraker. They also know him for having a neck like a band of steel, a left-of-left ideologue. He, too, agrees to that. “My antecedents are that of an activist….”
He’s been working to build alliances and networks across Nigeria in the last 30 years. For the last decade or thereabouts, Sowore has been a pain in the ass to the Establishment. He particularly pestered the last PDP government with citizen journalism until it went belly-up in 2015.
He has no political party yet. But when the time comes, said the former student activist, he’ll band up with a coalition of progressive (count the APC and PDP out) and social-media-happy parties.
Only that it’s dicey. The coalition might—or might not—hand him the ticket. Whatever the outcome, Sowore is optimistic that his is a vision whose time has come.
Same way he hopes to glean funds–two million grands–for his campaign. His political movement is for true change, he said, and so it won’t need lots of moneyto spend on buying votes or distributing rice to the electorate.
“We will be sourcing funds directly from the Nigerian people,” he told the newspaper. “One hundred thousand Nigerians contributing $200 per person can help fund a clean election devoid of dirty money.”
He is already raking in loads of greenbacks on GoFundMe.
Crowdfunding and movement building appear the cutting-edge technology the newbies are counting on to nail the 2019 election.
Another hopeful Victor Okhai told the National Daily his candidacy, apart from being Holy Ghost-inspired, is also movement-driven. And its victory is going to leave many gob-smitten.
“I am going to shock Nigerians,” he said in an interview with the National Daily.
For starters, Okhai is a Nollywood moviemaker. He has a nice drawl of a camera-loving public affairs analyst. He has a clear head about why he is making a play for Aso Rock when, as he said, he can’t even get half a vote at his ward in Edo.
“It’s a divine mission bigger than I am,” he told the newspaper. And he might burst if he further disobeyed the heavenly voice that had been telling him since he was 21 that he’d run the ship of Nigeria someday.
So 2019 is the appointed time.
He sure knows that.
Okhai, now 51, also knows, and he can tell off the top of his head, what is needed to fix Nigeria: unity and prudence in taking up the slack in the nation’s abundance of mineral and human resources.
Pronto! Nigeria will then be great again.
Unlike Sowore, Okhai says he already has a party—the Young Demoratic Party. And more. “I have a vast network of grassroots movement across the six geopolitical zones, too,” he added, to prove he’s no JJC in driving common goals.
The YDP aspirant is the only one God is fielding in the 2019 election. Before, one also-ran had attempted thrice to fly on the wings of the divine to enter Aso Rock. Revd Chris Okotie flopped those three times, making many wonder if the PDP and others are stronger than God.
But Fresh Party’s one and ever only candidate till ‘His kingdom’ come is not preening up for 2019.
Most political observers have come to believe his four-yearly contests and campaigns back then were all showpieces: tongue-twisting English and large helpings of apocalypse.
Now the divine lens is focusing on Nollywood’s Okhai alone.
Other contestants, the veterans, for instance, have all they need—money, party structure, experience, and fairy fathers. They won’t need much of God like the YDP candidate will.
Atiku, the oldest of them, is ready again, the fourth time in 10 years. He actually began the move last December—when he hopped back in to the PDP from the APC. He declared formally weeks ago.
His experience, bitter as it is, gives him an edge over ex-Gov. Sule Lamido that might contest the primary with him in the PDP. The APC also knows there’s a lot of gems embedded in that rubble of failure the former VP has known as a presidential also-ran. Simply put, he’s a force to reckon with.
“Atiku is the only politician the APC fears the most in Nigeria,” said Rivers Gov. Nyesom Wike at Atiku’s declaration.
He’s also the only PDP hopeful that has the kind of resources a candidate in the party needs to fly its presidential banner: cash, support groups, including a faction of the PDM, a chunk of the APC in his home state Adamawa, and others. He also has in his kitty an underground community of gender-benders who see in him a liberal that can fight their cause in a homophobic Nigeria.
The only thing Atiku may not have is the nod of his former boss Olusegun Obasanjo. Party leaders like ex-President Goodluck Jonathan think that is dangerous.
“Any politician in Nigeria that neglects baba does it at his own peril,” Jonathan told Atiku last year. But Obasanjo and Atiku are still bitter with each other over the power politics that played out during Obasanjo’s third-term attempt in 2007.
Both, notwithstanding, have something to lose now–and in 2019. If Atiku calls his bluff and wins, then Obasanjo will be further demystified. Turned the other way, Atiku also loses, though the loss will make little difference to him.
He stands head above others in everything politics–success, losses, resources, structure, and whatnot. He has developed thick skin to whatever sucker jabs ambition hurls at him.
That cannot be true of fresh-faced upstarts like Fela Durotoye, another pretty face in the 2019 presidential ring. Besides pumping up school kids and others of his generation–to think positive about an impending greater Nigeria–Durotoye has no political pedigree, structure, or experience even in parish-pump politics.
But he has one thing he is sure known for in public, and in motivational speaking circles: By 2025, Nigeria, God reveals to him, will get a leg-up into the world’s highest comity of nations. Think the G-20.
He never told Nigerians he would be the game-changer when he began trumpeting the revelation about half a decade ago. Perhaps he’s taking the plunge himself because he can’t wait any longer to make things happen in good time.
Embodying this chimera is going to take more than the pyrotechnics of chalk-talks and mastery of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Durotoye will need a party; he’ll need an introduction to the millions of votes in Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Rivers, and other places outside of Lagos where they know him more.
He’ll need a miracle, too, to become Nigeria’s president in the next 14 months.
So also another well refined greenhorn: Prof. Kingsley Moghalu.
The CBN’s ex-deputy governor is everything on the book: a lawyer, an Afrocrat with the UN, a political economist, and a distinguished non-resident fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, U.S.
He is an Igbo man born in Lagos–a political joker to wing his way through the labyrinth of tribalism that will play a huge roll in 2019. That’s because the PDP and the APC have zoned the presidency to the north. And anybody coming outside of that region will have to do anything to tear down that wall already erected in the psyche of many.
Apart from his reams of academic credentials, Moghalu has no hands-on experience swimming in the murky waters of Nigeria’s partisan politics. No party up till now. And he thinks that doesn’t matter. At least for now. Except he’s kidding–it does matter.
He could have admitted that.
“While I have been approached by a number of political parties, the movement that I am part of will decide which one we will join,” he said at the Musa Yar’ Adua Centre, Abuja, when he was declaring his intention in March.
Why Moghalu will command a lot of eyeballs in the run-up to 2019 is simple: Nigerians will like to see how one of the nation’s finest skulls is going to cope with the monkey business the professional politicians in his would-be party will bring to him.
To cap it all, in 2019, there is going to be a feminine side to the show. Prof. Remi Sonaiya, a candidate in 2015, from the KOWA Party, is taking another shot. As far as she is concerned, her winning the race, by any stretch of imagination, is not even the point. It is about feminizing Aso Rock and Nigeria’s political leadership brimming with testosterone.
“We cannot have a developed nation without women’s involvement,” she said during a programme on the last Women’s Day. “We have the skills and abilities to prepare for leadership.”
Sure, just flaunting what you’ve got, somehow, for many of these aspirants, will add some zing to the whole thing.
Winning is not everything.