By Tunde Odesola
Sad and unstoppable, liquid tongues of flame lap the bottom of Nigeria’s political pot as the nation counts down to the February 25, 2023 presidential election when mammon, tribalism and religion, rather than reason and patriotism, shall install Nigeria’s next president.
In six months’ time, the hymn of hypocrisy strident among the nation’s political orchestral will drown the national anthem, and Nigeria will, once again, embark on another four-year static journey into sorrow, tears and blood.
For a country peopled with world beaters, Nigeria’s political panel beaters masquerading as leaders since 1999 have only been able to produce a system where the Bat, the Spider and the Octopus emerge as frontrunners in the upcoming presidential conquest called contest by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
In the wild, the battle is for the swift; kill or get killed – ení yára l’ògún n gbè: the bat eats the spider, the spider kills the bat in entrapment, while the octopus, spongy water creature from the eastern terrain, may end up in the bat belly or get trapped by the spider if its obedient army doesn’t leave the depth of online sea to do battle on land, and gobble the bat together with the spider. Votes on land have electoral value, votes online don’t.
Leaders walk, dealers talk. A few years ago, the President, Texas Armouring Corporation, Trent Kimball, walked briskly to a stationary black Mercedes-Benz SUV, sat in the driver’s seat, slammed the door shut, and faced fire from an AK-47. Why did Kimball risk his life? He wanted to prove the integrity of the armoured vehicles built by his company. So, he walked the talk.
Kimball sat coolly in the Mercedes-Benz unafraid, his hands on the wheel. The Sales and Export Compliance Manager, Texas Armouring Corporation, Lawrence Kosub, stepped forward and faced the armoured Mercedes with the weapon of death. Kosub rained 12 bullets on the windscreen of the car.
After the rat-a-tat of the AK-47, Kimball stepped out of the vehicle and assured their clients, among whom is the Pope, of TAC’s product safety, saying ‘Life is valuable, protect it’.
Quite unlike Kimball, the dealers in Nigeria’s corridors of power – from Aso Rock to state Government Houses, Senate, House of Reps and Houses of Assembly – are ashamed of the nation and the people they govern, treating foreigners with respect, trashing their own citizens. For Nigeria’s wheeler dealers, Nigerian life is not valuable, it doesn’t need protecting.
In the same manner they have appropriated funds for schools their children can’t attend, run hospitals without drugs and beds, awarded phoney road contracts, and kept their filthy hands warm in public till since 1999, Nigeria’s political elite have again embarked on the hunt to wrest and utilise power for personal gain as opposed to nationalistic ideals.
Unlike Kimball, who took the bullets in his armoured Mercedes, the vice presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the 2023 election, Kashim Shettima, in a fashion typical of Nigerian leaders, disowned the fashion faux pas he committed when he wore a coat of arms on a pair of sneakers to the conference of the Nigerian Bar Association held in Lagos last week.
There’s nothing wrong in wearing a suit on sneakers to an informal occasion like a pageant or game but to wear a parachute on sneakers to a formal event and look like Clint Da Drunk on Friday night symbolises confusion.
Because 2023 is a serious matter, I never intended to dwell on the sportswear worn to the NBA conference. But I comment on the issue because instead of Shettima owning up to his mistake, which is human, he decided to play god, like it is characteristic of Nigerian politicians, and he pushed his folly to the doorstep of one of the presidential candidates, ostensibly Peter Obi of Labour Party, whose team he accused of holding ‘meetings for three consecutive nights to commit mischief’ at the NBA conference.
Shettima said, “When I was told it was a hostile crowd; I’m a banker, trained by one of the best bankers in the world, I’m a Jim Ovia boy. I deliberately wore sneakers to snub at (sic) them.”
Alhaji Shettima, when your purported attempt to ‘snub at’ them backfired, as a banker with many years under your belt, you should’ve known that that was a failed campaign, and keep your mouth tightly shut.
For you, an ex-banker, to wear a suit and sneakers to a formal event despite having knowledge that some people were out to cause you mischief, leaves in the mind the picture of a moth flirting with fire. It hints at a streak of irresponsive obstinacy many have levelled against your administration as governor.
The three prominent candidates in the 2023 presidential election, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, and Obi, have been part and parcel of Nigeria’s ruling elite for over two decades.
The trio know that Nigeria’s retrogressive problem stems mainly from a federation skewed to favour the North to the detriment of the South. They have seen how the northern majority in the Senate and House of Representatives have worked ceaselessly to keep other regions tied down to the static North. They know Nigeria can never work with the present lopsided arrangement.
Tinubu, especially, in the last 22 years of Nigeria’s democracy, has championed the call for restructuring, on the cusp of power devolution. Same thing for Obi. And Atiku. But all three were silent on the modalities to be employed to achieve this end when they spoke at the NBA conference.
All three know that absolute powers constituted in the hands of the President are a pathway to fascism, but they have kept quiet because any of them who wins the presidency is bound to drink from the chalice of absolute power.
Deliberately, the three have continued to distract attention from the burning issues that affect the nation’s progress such as devolution of power from the centre, resource control, open grazing, and federal character principle, which only favours the North.
Pending the go-ahead by INEC for the commencement of campaigns, the three candidates have mainly engaged in treating symptoms rather than proffering cures to Nigeria’s maladies. Public speeches by the candidates have not elicited hope but reinforced ethnicity, religiosity, monetisation and misinformation as critical factors that would shape the general elections.
The workability and solidity of America’s constitution were the reasons why the shenanigans of President Donald Trump came unstuck, and Nigeria will continue to grope in the backwaters of underdevelopment if she fails to eat her frog by calling time on the 1999 Constitution designed to protect northern hegemony.
With restructuring and a workable constitution, Obi would have been made to answer for some of the financial dealings he engaged in as governor of Anambra State by the succeeding state government.
With an enforceable constitution, Tinubu wouldn’t dare cart money in bullion vans on the eve of a general election, otherwise prison gates would have clanged behind him.
Oh Halliburton scandal! Arguably the biggest scam of the Olusegun Obasanjo years. But Nigerians know who did it. A solid public institution won’t allow that to happen.
Clad in blond wigs and black gowns, emblems of colonial heritage, they call themselves ‘learned fellows’, and defend the good, the bad and the ugly. Not all of them are learned, anyway. Some of them are wretched. They displayed their wretchedness to the world at the NBA conference when they openly stole and plundered. They are Nigerian lawyers who lost their senses to conference bags and mementoes.
In a pained tone, the outgoing President of the NBA, Olumide Akpata, owned up to the despicable behaviour of his members, but vowed that culprits would be fished out and served their comeuppance. That’s what a leader does.
The APC wouldn’t have done what Kimball or Akpata did. Famed for its lying capacity, the APC would have sat on the lap of luxury and blamed the opposition if its members misbehaved like NBA members. Change + Next Level = Fraud.
Facebook: @tunde odesola