Beyond the rotation of presidency between the north and south arrangement, which seems to be taking up a huge chunk of media space as 2023 general elections loom large, there are other critical factors which are nuanced but germaine to the matter of who becomes the president of Nigeria in 2023. The word on the streets is that the fast-approaching 2023 presidential contest would as usual be a two-horse race between the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It is also being predicted that the battle would be waged between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu of APC.
The permutations that the ex-Vice President would fly the flag of the main opposition, PDP, and ex Lagos State governor is likely the flagbearer for the ruling party, APC may be based on the first mover’s advantage being enjoyed by the duo who happen to have been the most visible and active politicians that are angling for the presidency from both parties at this point in time.
But the question of who would become the candidate for the presidency in 2023 still depends on if the ruling party, APC zones the presidency to the south as agreed when the coalition of opposition political parties against the then ruling party PDP was in the making in 2013/14. In the event that the presidential power shift agreement is upheld, then Bola Tinubu who was instrumental to APC clinching the presidency in 2015 would be waiting in the wings to collect the flag.
And in the case of the PDP, the possibility of the presidential candidate being Atiku Abubakar would become clearer, if the party accepts the Bala Mohammed-led committee recommendations that the main opposition party jettison her presidential power rotation policy and declare the ticket open to all interested parties.
Should the foregoing proposition become manifest, the PDP may decide to rally once again behind Atiku Abubakar, her presidential candidate in 2019.
But the aforementioned simple calculus about who becomes the president of Nigeria in 2023 is just scratching the surface. That’s simply because the politics of the presidency of Nigeria is more complex than what meets the eye.
Consequently, given the complexities of the ethnoreligious issues in the country, particularly with respect to the unprecedented levels of insecurity of lives and properties, and how polarised the society currently is on the issue of ethnicity and religion, both the ruling and main opposition parties are yet to hold their conventions which is unusual because it is barely 20 months to the 2023 general elections.
The delay is partly because both parties are shadowing each other so as to be guided in their decision about whether the presidential pendulum would remain in the north or swing to the south.
The slack in holding their conventions is also exacerbated by the fact that both parties are currently facing leadership schisms.
Given the cracks on the wall of the political parties caused by the internal wrangling, a factor that could prove fatal to both parties if they go into the 2023 general elections as fractured entities, holding a party convention to set the agenda for the general elections in 2023 appears to be in abeyance until they are able to put their respective houses in order.
As the conventional wisdom dictates ‘a house divided can not stand’.
Therefore, the sooner both the ruling and main opposition parties settle the rifts within their ranks, the better their chances of victory in the 2023 general elections.
While the APC is led by a caretaker committee headed by Mai Mala Buni, the seating governor of Yobe State, which is deemed as illegal in some quarters, because the APC party constitution forbids anyone in an executive position doubling as the party’s chairman, opinion from another quarter in the same party is that the Buni-led caretaker committee of the party is legitimate and in order.
Similarly, the PDP leadership is being tossed up and down like a ship caught in a stormy sea by a series of lawsuits (four in number) sacking the chairman, Uche Secondus two times, and another reinstating him to the position twice. As the embattled Secondus insists that his tenure as chairman does not expire until December, his traducers vow that he has been sacked at both the ward and national levels and a convention would be held in October to replace him. Should Secondus’s contentions be ignored and elections are held in October to elect new National Working Committee, NWC members, and thereafter the Supreme Court gives judgement in his favour, the decisions of the executives to be elected in October would be ultra vires.
Presently, the jury is still out on the matter of legality besetting the leadership of both the ruling APC and main opposition party, PDP.
While the legal battles remain unsettled, one thing for sure is that there would be cataclysmic implications for both parties, if the courts contradict the advice of the legal counsels to the respective parties upon which their present actions are predicated.
In view of the energy that both the ruling and main opposition parties are dissipating in internal conflicts, instead of designing and releasing manifestoes which they should be
selling to Nigerians right now, untangling the noose which they may have unwittingly tied around their own necks is currently palpably giving the leadership of both parties indigestion.
So given the web of legal complications shackling the leadership of both the ruling and main opposition parties, the implementation of the recommendations of the committees independently set up by both parties to chart the way forward for our beloved country may be in jeopardy as they are no longer on the front burner. Rather, the proposals are gathering dust in the archives at a time that both parties should be trying to woo the electorate by sharing with them the positive changes that the masses should expect in the coming dispensation if given the opportunity to call the shots in Aso Rock Villa from 2023. The package of new approach to governance including presidential power rotation between the south and north as well as the restructuring of the political system that are the major policy planks upon which the ruling and main opposition parties can predicate their manifestos that can motivate the Nigerian masses into having faith in politics, and policies that are supposed to have been captured in the reports of both the APC and PDP committees awaiting ratification by the respective parties, have been overshadowed by the cases in the courts as the leaders are being preoccupied with quelling insurrections within their parties.
On the part of the PDP, whereas there are indications that it would like to continue with its Policy of rotating the presidency between the north and south, which has proven to be a winning formula and the ingredient for its pan Nigeria outlook, it is not clear whether it would nominate a southerner as its presidential candidate. That is owed to an apparent dearth of presidential ‘material’ in the south East whose turn it is, (on equity basis) to produce Nigeria’s next president in 2023.
In the absence of somebody with a national stature, formidable financial resources (a war chest of least N100 billion naira) and national name recognition, the question is: would pragmatism compel the PDP to keep the game open for the best candidate from any part of the country based on Meritocracy and in tandem with the recommendation of the Bala Mohamed led committee that was set up to chart the way forward for the former ruling party after her repeated loss of the presidency to the incumbent ruling political
Party, APC and president, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and 2019?
Assuming the PDP decides to sustain the zoning calculus, which PDP politician even from
the entire southern states have the national exposure, stature and exposure?
There appears to be no candidate currently in the arena or horizon. As there seems to be no lgbo man/woman with name recognition nationally in the political arena and who possess a magnetic force that can pull together the Igbo, who are by nature republicans, the lgbo quest for the presidency in 2023 may be in jeopardy. Of course, there are lgbo politicians with average name recognition, but lack the nationwide structure and financial muscle. Those that readily come to mind are Emmanuel Iwuayanwu and Peter Obi.
The former is the owner of a defunct national newspaper – Champion and proprietor of an erstwhile popular football club-Iwuayanwu Babes which made him a household name. But he is now too old to be president and in retirement from active politics.
Some would like to make a case for Peter Obi-former Anambra State governor and vice presidential candidate in 2019. But does he have a robust nationwide structure or platform like the PDM projecting him? I think not.
While it is true that youths admire him for his understanding of street economics that he exhibits online and some Nigerians admire his frugality, it takes much more than those two qualities to be the president of Nigeria in 2023. It took the military class and political platform of late Musa Yar’Adua’s (elder brother to Umaru Yar’adua and former chief of staff supreme headquarters under Obasanjo’s military regime) PDM to make Olusegun Obasanjo president in 1999. And as a sitting president, it also took Obasanjo’s personal effort to reward the Yar’Adua family for rendering their support to him pre 1999 by equally supporting Umaru Yar’Adua (of blessed memory) to become president in 2007.
Ex-president Goodluck Jonathan idiomatically had his palm kernel cracked by benevolent spirits when Yar’adua passed away in 2010 and the ‘doctrine of necessity’ propelled him from Vice President to President for two years after which he leveraged the power of incumbency to get himself re-elected as president in 2011.
As for the current incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, he succeeded on a fourth attempt only after Bola Tinubu, ex Lagos state governor who was effectively the leader and controller of politics in Yoruba land in 2015 swung the Yoruba votes in his favor after a successful combination of multiple opposition political parties to unseat then ruling party, PDP. Now, as a side comment, not many people recognize the role that the late Balarabe Musa, one-time governor of Kaduna State played in getting opposition parties to forge a common front against the ruling party.
Only a slew of Nigerians may recall that he is the one that started the concept of fusion of opposition parties. Although he did not succeed in 2007 and 2011, his idea gathered momentum and made it easy for the initiative to be attractive to politicians, especially those of Buhari’s CPC that had made three previous attempts at clinching the presidency and failed. Even Tinubu’s ACN that fielded Nuhu Ribadu, the former anti-corruption tzar as presidential candidate and Fola Adeola, ex GTbank co-founder and managing director, as vice presidential candidate, also lost woefully.
That is perhaps owing to the power of incumbency that makes it extraordinarily difficult to unseat a candidate in office unless a catastrophic event happens.
Returning to the matter of presidential ‘material’ of lgbo extraction for the 2023 presidential race, unfortunately, Peter Obi, the only active lgbo politician with some footprints beyond lgbo land does not possess the type of political clout commanded by Alex Ekwueme of blessed memory who served as Vice President in the presidency of Shehu Shagari, (1979-83) and also led the G-34 that took on then military head of state, Sani Abacha and succeeded in ending military dictatorship. Owing to the republican nature of the Igbo, Ekwueme suffered a whiff of the negative effect of Igbo republicanism after he was once again propelled into national prominence with the G-34 in 1998. It is on record that as soon as Ekwueme was proposed by the late Lawal Keita during a G-34 meeting as the presidential candidate following the demise of the military dictator, Sani Abacha, instead of rallying around him, other lgbo leaders went back home to declare their own presidential ambitions. That internal rebellion ended up fracturing Ekwueme’s support base which led to his subsequent loss in the party primaries to president Olusegun Obasanjo who was the preferred candidate of the ruling military class at that time. So, for an lgbo to become a presidential candidate for 2023 and for him/her to have the chance of winning, that person must have structures in the three major tribes of Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani in addition to the home base.
The late Isa Funtua said it best in one of his profound television interviews in early 2020 when he narrated how Ekwueme worked towards becoming the vice presidential candidate to Shehu Shagari during the Second Republic in 1979.
Here is what he had to say about lgbo politicians:
“They should belong. They should join the party. They want to do things on their own and because they are Igbo, we should dash them the presidency? That was the reason I asked if it is turn by turn Nigeria limited.
“You are talking about politics, which is an issue of votes. My very good friend of blessed memory, MKO Abiola defeated Bashir Tofa in Kano. Was MKO Abiola from Kano? But he defeated Bashir in his town, Kano. Why? Because the man played politics, he embraced everybody.
“Ekwueme of blessed memory was my boss. We campaigned for him throughout this country. Nobody will carry you like a newly born baby.
“With due respect to the Igbo, they fail to understand that when the south-west chose to remain on their own as opposition, they did not go near (national) power”
In essence, the late Mallam Funtua was basically telling the Igbo that they have to sow political seeds beyond lgbo land which is what enabled MKO Abiola to beat Bashir Tofa in Kano. Recall that Abiola was a pillar of sports and a football club owner too.
While emphasizing Abiola’s winning formula,
Mallam Funtua offered the Igbo what looked like a basic tutorial on how to become the president of Nigeria, 2023. Hear him:
“If you send him (Abiola) an invitation from any part of the country, he will be there. If not, his representative will be there to make his contribution”
Invariably, becoming a national figure does not happen overnight unless you are a soldier that seized political power via a coup d’etat which is the case of Olusegun Obasanjo and Mohammadu Buhari who later became president of our country at different times. My free advice to future presidential candidates is: in order to gain popularity and recognition ahead of your presidential contests, own football clubs like Abiola and Iwuayanwu and also be newspaper proprietors like the duo.
Just as the PDP leadership is in quandary as to how it could find an Igho man with presidential stature to fly its flag in 2023, the APC may suffer a similar dilemma of being unable to find a presidential material from amongst the Igbo in the event that it decides to promote equity and inclusiveness of all the nationalities which the Nasir El-Rufai committee recommended and which President Buhari seem to be amenable to, going by his positive response to the case for an lgbo presidency when a question in that regard was posed to him by Rueben Abati in an ice-breaking AriseTv interview with the president. Since the ruling party, APC leaders may not be disposed to the southwest producing the president twice given the fact that ex-president Olusegun
Obasanjo that is Yoruba had served from 1999-2007, it may not be expedient to, (as is being speculated) field as her presidential candidate the party’s national leader, Bola Tinubu – a former governor of Lagos state and the foremost political godfather in the southwest. That is basically because it would be inequitable for another president to emerge from the Yoruba land while the other member ethnic nationalities in the zone stand aside and look. So the APC may have to rely on the creative ingenuity of its think tank to resolve the logjam without the liability of the acrimony that could cause the party to implode.
On the part of the PDP, in the absence of an lgbo man/woman of the significant stature of, for instance, an Obasanjo or Buhari when they contested for the office in 1999 and 2003-2015 respectively, it may be pragmatic for her to build on the success that it had achieved with her three (3)times presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar who contested for the presidency in 2007 against Umaru Yar’adua of blessed memory and squared up with Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 and then president Buhari in 2019.
If ex Vice President Abubakar picks up the gauntlet for a fourth (4th) shot at the presidency in 2023, ( and it appears that he is inclined to do so) he could achieve the goal with an lgbo Vice Presidential candidate who would acquire national stature in the fours years that he would serve under an Atiku Abubakar presidency. That would be a sort of mentorship arrangement for the new Vice President who would be propped up to take over after Atiku Abubakar serves only one term instead of the two terms that he is constitutionally entitled.
The unique proposition is underscored by the fact that Abubakar who is currently 74 years old in November, would be 76 in 2023 and may be too old to seek re-election in 2027 when he would be 80.
Nelson Mandela, the late ex-president of South Africa served only one term and bowed out due to age and president Joe Biden of the USA would likely also do so by handing over to Vice President Kamala Harris after his first term as he would be 82 years older in 2024.
I am not unaware that the proposition is inconsistent with the expectations of the Igbo and therefore would be susceptible to resistance. But it is an innovative solution to an apparent political lacuna arising from the non-availability of an lgbo man with the political clout to be the president of Nigeria in 2023.
The unique proposal above needs no further elucidation for those that are ready to think out of the box in order to figure out that it would lead to a win-win outcome for the lgbo nation, Atiku Abubakar and the PDP. That is more so as it would be an action borne out of necessity. Take for instance, the ‘doctrine of necessity’ that was enacted by the National Assembly, NASS to save our democracy in 2010 when president Yar’adua suddenly passed away and the constitution did not make provision for automatic take over of the presidency by the Vice President resulting in a lacuna. Certain situations require specific innovative actions and politics is about deal-making so the lgbo and Atiku Abubakar would have to be guided by the prevailing circumstances in the country, and put on their creative thinking caps.
By the way , should Atiku Abubakar throw his political hat into the ring for the fourth time, he would be in good company. That is because the incumbent president, Buhari is known to have vied for the presidency four (4) times before he succeeded in 2015. Going farther ashore, one-time prime minister of England, Harold Wilson is also known to have contested for the office a record four (4) times before he succeeded in becoming UK’s prime minister. As evidenced by the cases referenced above, there is virtue in building on a foundation already laid which is underscored by the principle of incremental value based upon the power of repetition which helps transition a skill from the conscious to the subconscious. Having vied for the office three times, it can be imagined that becoming the President of Nigeria must have by now become easier for Atiku Abubakar, who is also a treasure trove of sorts about governance of Nigeria since he has served as vice president for 8 years alongside president Olusegun Obasanjo, from 1999-2007.
Akin to the dire straits in which the PDP finds itself with respect to sourcing a presidential candidate of lgbo stock in the fast-approaching presidential election in 2023, and of which its last resort may be to also fall back on the good old efficacious strategy of adding more blocks to an existing solid foundation, rather than starting from ground zero, the APC which is similarly grappling with the dearth of a presidential candidate of lgbo extraction with national name recognition may be left with no better option than to consider adopting the PDP formula for dealing with the complex 2023 presidency game that appears to be as complicated as chess Olympiad.
And one of such innovative approaches would be for the APC to settle for or adopt the immediate past president Goodluck Jonathan, who the rumor mill claim is already being wooed by the ruling party, with the consent of President Buhari that is presumed to be championing the candidacy of Jonathan as president in 2023.
In the event that Jonathan cross carpets from the PDP to the APC and he is fielded as the ruling party’s presidential candidate in 2023, what would become of the morality of the APC leadership which in the first four (4) years of its being in power has made a fetish of demonizing Jonathan and his presidency as clueless, reckless and corruption personified?
Would it not be hypocritical and amount to the ruling party swallowing its own vomit? Does such a scenario not re-echo the situation that arose during the last Edo state gubernatorial contest whereby then APC chairman and former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomole did an about-face by backing Osagie Ize-Iyamu, ‘pelebe’ whom he had practically destroyed via a vicious campaign when Ize-Iyamu was the candidate of then opposition party, PDP in the state’s governorship election in 2016?
It may be recalled that following a vicious supremacy battle between Oshiomole and his erstwhile protégée, Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, the latter switched parties from APC to PDP and the table turned when lze-Iyamu got adopted by his nemesis in the previous election-Oshiomole, and he thus became the APC candidate in the 2020 governorship election.
Keeping in mind the experience of what Edo state voters did to demystify the presumed godfather of Edo state politics, Adams Oshiomole who was alleged to have been playing god by approbating and reprobating, hence the electorate literarily pulled the carpet from under his feet by voting for Obaseki while shunning Ize-Iyamu, his preferred candidate.
By that gesture, Edo people exhibited uncommon political awareness and voting savviness which Nigerians could replicate at the national level, should the APC field Goodluck Jonathan as her presidential candidate in 2023.
The question is: should the politically fatal outcome of the elections in Edo state not be an ominous sign and lesson for the APC to learn the consequences of playing with the intelligence of the electorate which the fielding of Goodluck Jonathan as APC’s presidential candidate in 2023 would boil down to?
Of course, many more twists and turns on the road to Aso Rock Villa in 2023 are expected.
Because there abound in both the APC and PDP alike, other political juggernauts who are also preparing for the race to Aso Rock Villa seat of power but are yet to come out of the closet to formally declare their interests.
Of all of them, only Bola Tinubu, a very formidable contender earlier mentioned is currently the APC candidate from the south that has tacitly shown interest in becoming the president of Nigeria, 2023 via body language. All the other consequential contenders, particularly from the north are clearly tarrying for a while perhaps because they prefer not to beat the gun by jumping into the contest before the leader of the party, President Buhari green-lights it.
On the side of the PDP, there are the immediate past Senate President Bukola Saraki and current Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal. The aforementioned PDP stalwarts faced off in the primaries for the elections in 2019 which Atiku Abubakar won leveraging the PDM advantage. Subsequently, Saraki with candour remarkably became the campaign director-general for Atiku Abubakar’s campaign, his erstwhile rival, and which was quite an extraordinary demonstration of togetherness by the leadership of PDP. And a lot of the credit for the peaceful and decorous conduct of the PDP presidential primary elections for 2019, are attributable to Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State Governor-led committee that dexterously executed the task.
Since both the APC and PDP are yet to officially decide on whether they would be sustaining the unwritten rotation of presidency agreement between the south and north, a zoning system that has been in practice since 1999; some of the potential presidential candidates may also be holding their peace in expectation of the outcome of the much-awaited conventions which both the ruling and main opposition parties have been postponing with a view to first of all settling internal wrangling that could trigger implosion, if not dexterously managed. Tellingly, the APC had shifted the date of her convention from October to December when the PDC fixed her convention for December. But as things currently stand, the PDP has moved the date of her convention forward to October, APC’s originally chosen date.
That implies that the political parties may also be deliberately pushing the date that their conventions would hold back and forth or very close to the general election date so that it may be too late for aggrieved politicians to cross carpet to other parties to contest for elective offices if they do not agree with the new policy directions of their existing political platforms.
Whatever the case may be, one thing that is certain is that the jostle for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 would be more complex than any other election.
One of the reasons for the assertion above is that owing to the high caliber of contenders and how polarized our country has become, the journey to the presidency which has very high stakes would be fraught with twists and turns as the candidates would have to navigate their ways through tribal, cultural and religious cliffs, valleys, rapids and mountains which currently define our political landscape.
For instance, it is the first time that southern governors would speak with the same voice on the vexed issue of open grazing of cattle and the consequential deadly herders /farmers clashes that have created alarming human casualties which they unanimously agreed should be banned.
Additionally, irrespective of the political platforms that they belong to, southern states governors have also resolved that the presidency should return to the south upon the expiration of President Buhari’s tenure in 2023. How can we forget the Value Added Tax, VAT wrangling that has caused further polarization of Nigeria as the apparent inequity in its collection and sharing has pitched the south against the north, Christians against Muslims with respect to the hypocrisy of VAT collected on alcohol being shared to states in the north that regard consumption of alcohol as taboo. So in many ways than one, with Lagos state joining in the legal battle initiated by Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers state currently gaining momentum, resource control is no longer a mere Niger delta struggle, as it is assuming a new dimension with VAT wars in the courts as proxy and potential game-changer.
Apart from the gentleman agreement hashed out during the 1994/5 national conference for presidential power to swing between the north and south, with the south taking the first shot with Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency under the umbrella of PDP as then ruling party, elder statesman, ex-governor of Ogun State and media royalty, Segun Osoba has on multiple occasions in media interviews confirmed that there was also an agreement between the leaders of the parties that fused together to return the presidency to the south after residing for eight (8) years in the north. The agreement was reached in the cause of the multiple political parties merger talks that were held between 2013/14 and subsequently birthed the APC.
Ordinarily, the Southern governors could be said to be re-affirming an existing agreement. But their northern counterparts do not see it as such. Instead, they deem the decision of the southern governors as an imposition. Apparently, the northern governors are affronted by the fact that what should have been negotiated was turned into a grandstanding affair. Hopefully, after the initial filibustering which is a major part of politics, both the southern governors who needed to show their constituents that they are not Lily-livered, but possess some spunk and the northern governors who may be intent on getting something in return for the likely impending concession of the presidency to the south in 2023, which is typical of politicians who often get a kick from horse-trading, would settle their differences.
In the event that the PDP fields Atiku Abubakar, (the wind seem to be behind his back) and Bukola Saraki once more graciously accepts to be his campaign director-general, a role he played in 2019, Abubakar would be squaring up against Goodluck Jonathan, if the APC decides to feature the former president as its candidate, which is possible, based on the rumors that have been swirling around about president Buhari having a soft spot for him. And it would be an epic battle since that would be the second time that Atiku Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan would be locking horns politically. The first was during the PDP primaries in 2011 of which Jonathan as the incumbent president walked away with the victory trophy.
Would the momentum which Atiku Abubakar had built up in the course of his last presidential contest in 2019 stand him in a better stead to win the contest against Jonathan and subsequently the presidency the fourth time around?
Likewise, in the event that Goodluck Jonathan emerges APC’s presidential flag bearer in 2023, can he leverage the goodwill that he enjoyed as president from 2011 up to 2015 to win the contest against Abubakar a second time?
As the saying goes, you do not change a winning team. So would the APC be giving transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi, a two-time director-general of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, the responsibility to ‘deliver’ Jonathan as he did for Buhari in 2015 and 2019?
Being the one who literally ignited the fire that engulfed then ruling party, PDP, and which eventually consumed Jonathan politically, would a scenario whereby Amaechi is Jonathan’s presidential campaign director be possible? In the event that it happens, it would be interesting to see how Amaechi markets Jonathan.
It would also be such a perfect imperfection, especially if Bukola Saraki also becomes Atiku Abubakar’s campaign director-general.
In that case, there would be a replay of the 2019 presidential campaign scenario where both Saraki and Amaechi were the chief drivers of the presidential campaigns of both the opposition and ruling parties respectively.
Should Saraki and Amaechi go toe to toe again as presidential campaign directors in 2023, would Saraki get the wrong end of the stick again or would he trump Amaechi this time around?
And the quirks do not end there.
That is because how to become the president of Nigeria in 2023 has been occupying the mind of former military president, Ibrahim Babangida. Thankfully, the man tagged Maradona for his ability to dribble politically and labeled evil genius for having the cleverness to stage a bloodless coup and the confidence to willingly give away military power where others could have dug in their heels in Aso Rock Villa by hook or crook, is not Interested in the presidency for himself.
In a recent interview granted AriseTv, Babangida, who was Nigeria’s military head of state from 1985 to 1993, and recently clocked 80 years, offered a template of who should be Nigeria’s president in 2023.
Below is IBB’s recipe of the Characteristics that should be internal and external in the person who would be president of Nigeria in 2023:
“I have started visualising a good Nigerian leader. That is, a person, who travels across the country and has a friend virtually everywhere he travels to and he knows at least one person that he can communicate with.
“That is a person, who is very versed in economics and is also a good politician, who should be able to talk to Nigerians and so on. I have seen one, or two or three of such persons already in his sixties.”
The retired military general’s audacious expectation is not without foundation. It is underscored by the fact that general Babangida (retd) is one of the young military officers involved in the counter-coup of July 1966 after the Major Kaduna Nzeogwu-led putsch of 1966 barely six years post-Independence from the British colonialists and self-governance. He did so as an army Lieutenant alongside the likes of Major TY Danjuma and Muhammadu Buhari, also an army Lieutenant at the time.
Subsequently, Babangida was involved in the coup that ousted General Yakubu Gowon, who was replaced with the late General Murtala Mohamed in 1976. After that, he was also instrumental in the coup that installed Mohammadu Buhari on 31/12/1983 and he eventually led the putsch that also toppled the same General Buhari in a bloodless coup d’etat in 1985.
So the story about Babangida’s involvement in coups resulting in the suspension of the practice of democracy and the consequential legendary leadership challenges that Nigeria has been grappling with is similar to the African folkloric narrative about the tortoise which is always involved in every story of sinister activities.
For the reasons above, some Nigerians are questioning lBB’s moral standing and justification for his pontification on the personification of the president of Nigeria in 2023. More so because he actually ‘ stepped aside’ (more or less abdicated office) in 1994 after failing to steer the drifting ship of state into calm waters. Rather he allegedly drove the ship of the state of Nigeria to the edge of a waterfall before literally abandoning the ship.
The counterargument to those espousing anti-Babangida rhetorics would be that, since the octogenarian military icon has been watching from the sidelines from as far back as 1993,(28 years ago) he must have learned a thing or two that might have given him a better world view and understanding of the trouble with Nigeria, apologies to Chinua Achebe, author of the famous book: The Trouble With Nigeria.
Hence he has decided to weigh in with his wise counsel on the way forward for our beloved country.
The bottom line is that whether most of us agree or disagree with Babangida’s definition and characterization of who would be the president of Nigeria in 2023, he has had his say and the rest of us can have our way by voting for our preferred candidate.
That is the beauty of democracy which stipulates that while the minority will have their say, the majority will carry the vote.
-Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, an alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in Delta State government, sent this piece from Lagos.
The conversation continues on magnum.ng.