By Farooq A. Kperogi
I am officially emotionally divested from the possible outcome of the 2023 presidential election. Irrespective of who wins it, Nigeria will at best remain the same and at worse degenerate to new lows.
This isn’t petulant, self-indulgent pessimism. My emotional divestment and cynicism emanate from my heightened awareness of the consequences of the unexampled political roguery going on right now.
For one, the stench of the moral rot wafting out of the primary contests in the country is so overpowering I can smell it even here in America! It’s impossible for anything good to come out of this. I’ll come back to this point shortly.
For another, the Independent National Electoral Commission, whose courage I’d praised, has buckled under the pressure of APC to extend the deadline to submit the names of candidates for the general election.
That is unforgivably irresponsible and shows clearly that INEC does not have the moral stamina to conduct a transparent and credible election. The outcome of the election can now be predicted before its actual conduct.
In a May 11 article I published on my social media timelines and on my blog titled “Ahmed Lawan and Threat to INEC’s Independence,” I pointed out that INEC was facing the first real crucible of its independence and credibility in 2022 after the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) reportedly requested it to extend its June 3 deadline for political parties to turn in the names of their nominees for the 2023 election.
“Anyone who is paying attention would know that this move was in all likelihood sponsored by the leadership of the APC, which has dragged Ahmad Lawan to run for the APC presidential ticket in anticipation of the emergence of a northerner as PDP’s candidate,” I wrote.
“Well, should INEC buckle under and extend the deadline that ‘IPAC’ has requested,” I said, “that would be the first, firm evidence that INEC is in bed with APC and can’t be trusted to conduct a free and fair election in 2023.”
The only major political party that INEC’s 6-day extension of the primary election timetable is designed to benefit is APC. There’s no question about that. PDP has already screened its presidential contestants and is ready to conduct its primary election this weekend.
APC, on the other hand, hasn’t screened its contestants even when it publicly said it would conduct its primary election on Sunday. It keeps shifting the goalposts while the game is on. Buhari curiously left the country and wasn’t scheduled to be back when something as momentous as the presidential primary election of his party was supposed to be conducted.
This at once shows awful irresponsibility, impunity, and an indication that APC knew it could manipulate INEC at the last minute to bend to its wishes.
APC has always wanted PDP to first elect its candidate so that it can determine how it will choose its own. If PDP nominates a northerner, it will nominate one, too. If it nominates a southerner, it will nominate one, too. It just got its wishes on a platter because INEC has shown itself to be a spineless and feckless toady of the party in power.
INEC is evidently in bed with APC and can’t be trusted to conduct a fair, credible, and transparent election.
If rules made months ago can be changed so whimsically to pamper the irresponsibility of a political party, what’s the point of making them? We might as well be conducting primary elections until Election Day in 2023.
Mahmood Yakubu obviously hasn’t learned anything from his disastrous conduct of the 2019 election. He is determined to replicate it in 2023, and that’s such a shame.
In addition to a barefacedly partisan INEC whose conduct has already signaled where its loyalties lie before Election Day, the conduct of primary elections so far have made it clear that politics is now a brazen transaction. Party delegates openly haggle over and sell their votes to the highest bidders, and the highest bidders get to fly their parties’ flags in the general election.
This is the lowest point in Nigeria’s democracy. We had never seen anything like this. The mercenariness of the electoral process used to a little subtler and a little more “dignified.” Now, there’s no pretense. It’s in your face.
Even Yemi Osinbajo who, along with Muhammadu, pretended to lead an “anti-corruption” regime (and is a pastor, to boot), doles out N250,000 bribes—which he now pays in dollars— to delegates in the open each time he visits states to campaign. And those are mere “ground-wetting” bribes before the main bribes.
Bola Tinubu, who had never pretended to be anything other than an unprincipled, wheeler-dealing political conman, is also bribing delegates silly—in dollars and in the open. He endorsed a disgraceful coronation of his handpicked stooge in the Lagos governorship primary “election” and shut out two other contestants who paid nomination fees.
But he wants a fair contest for his presidential ambition in Abuja and chafes at the kind of “consensus” he imposed in Lagos. I hope he gets the karmic retribution he deserves in Abuja whenever APC holds its primary election.
Other APC presidential frontrunners like Rotimi Amaechi and Ahmad Lawan are also either bribing delegates or hoping for a “consensus” arrangement that will help them circumvent the rigors of an actual electoral contest.
If the hints APC chairman Adamu Abdullahi dropped on May 26 that the field of contest will be open to all contestants, you can expect the ticket to go to the highest bidder.
It’s no better in PDP, whose already rickety structure is collapsing before facing off with APC. There, too, the highest bribe giver to delegates will be the party’s nominee. Nyesom Wike and Atiku Abubakar are in a contest for who can bribe party delegates more liberally than the other.
So, in 2023 we’ll have a cast of elected people who unashamedly bought delegates with millions (in some cases billions) to get to their positions. What could possibly go wrong with that? Why should people who expended enormous resources to bribe their way to power be expected to be anything other than thieves with a legal cover to siphon the national treasury?
More than that, though, the structure that enables and sustains Nigeria’s many dysfunctions won’t change with a change of government. In fact, it might get worse with the crop of shameless bribe givers that will be ushered into power next year.
Our system is incapable of reforming itself structurally. It’s condemned to perpetually sustain and reproduce its dysfunctions. Any politician who tells you he or she will “restructure” Nigeria when he or she becomes president is lying to you.
To truly restructure Nigeria would require creative destruction. That means people who’re comfortably ensconced in the current structure have to agree to destroy it from top to bottom (or, as Buhari says, “botum”) and that won’t happen.
After colonialism, only military regimes have been able to tinker with the structure of Nigeria. Except for 1963 when the Midwest Region was created from the Western Region during Nigeria’s first parliamentary democracy, every other structural change in Nigeria—from state creation to local government creation—happened under military regimes.
Only people who are outside the orbit of the power structure advocate restructuring. The moment they get into the power structure and experience its elite indulgence, impunity, lack of accountability, reward for indolence, and sloth, they become its most vociferous defenders.
It never fails. APC ran for election in 2014 and 2015 on the promise of restructuring Nigeria. They are today the most passionate defenders of the very structure they said was in need of reform. The PDP, which defended the structure the APC said needed to be reformed, now says it will restructure the country when it gets back to power.
It’s all a giant deception. None of the people running for president from the major political parties has any plans to depart from the past. I have given up. It can’t work. Why should I care who becomes president in 2023?