Political Affairs

Nigeria: Bumpy Road To 2023, By Reuben Abati

“My brother, when are you declaring for President?”

“Which President? I am already a President in my own right. I am the President of my house.”

“That is not the kind of President I am talking about. I mean a President with the big P, not the small one that gives you a delusion of importance.”

“My friend, don’t insult me. I took an oath of office at the registry and at the church. I paid a bride price. I got a certificate, making me a constituted authority. I have three Dudukes to show for it. What else am I looking for? Come oh, are you doubting my full authority as a President of my own house? Are my in-laws looking for my trouble? In fact, I am not just a President. I am a Chairman. The Odogwu of my Lodge… The Otunba of my own space.”   

“Bros, I beg, you joke too much. I am talking about the President of Nigeria, something serious; you are talking about a three-bedroom apartment where you behave as if you are a real man just because you married a wife. This is what I tell you all the time. You need to be ambitious. Think big. Dream big. Otherwise that home you claim you have, a more capable man will come in there and disrupt everything. Even your children will turn against you. I am telling you to think big, you are saying you are the constituted authority of your house. Somebody is advising you to start seeing yourself as someone who can eat pounded yam with crocodile meat, everyday, if you want, you are telling me you would rather eat ponmo and brorkotor. Is everything okay with you?”

“Nothing is wrong with me.”

“So who says you too can’t be President of Nigeria?”

“Me? President of Nigeria?”

“Yes. President of Nigeria. That is the latest Baba Ijebu game in town! Better lottery. The thing don become pool fixtures. Perm one, perm two, you fit win.”

“Please, please, please. If you don’t have anything serious to talk about, please leave me alone.”

“I am telling you. This thing called Nigerian Presidency for 2023 has become a try-your-luck game. Everybody is now declaring interest in the Presidency. That is what the thing has become. When somebody told me that it is even the latest Bitcoin, I just decided that may be you and I should go and try our luck.  We should think out of the box.”

“President of Nigeria?”

“The people who have declared, do they have two heads? Let me tell you, the way this thing is going, anybody can be President. After all, an actor Ronald Reagan became President of the United States. Actor oh! In Ukraine, a comedian, ordinary comedian, Zelensky is President. He is fighting a war now, and every important country and leader in the Western world is going there to express solidarity with him. He has even addressed the United Nations. You don’t know your destiny. The way this our Nigeria is going, I won’t be surprised if a clown emerges as President of Nigeria in 2023.”

“God forbid.”

“Are you a clown?  After all, you claim to be well-educated. I am saying you too can be President”

“How about you? Why don’t you too try your luck?”

“I don’t know people. You are better connected. See, the way this thing works these days, you must know people, have strong connections, and just go about saying you too want to be President, make noise and before you know it, some people will form themselves into a group, look for one fancy label and they will say you are the best man since the invention of tooth paste, and the best man for the job. I am ready to lead your campaign team”

“But I don’t know anything about politics. I have no idea.”

“You don’t need to know anything about politics. Just have the right connections. The people will buy the nomination and expression of interest forms on your behalf. We will create a Campaign Forum in your name. We will call ourselves the Patriots Forum, and we will say you are the man! That is how they do it. I want you to move fast because as we speak now, you don’t know who is going to declare this very week. Declaring interest in the Presidency of Nigeria is right now, the biggest business in town.”

“I will have to talk to my wife first.”

“Your wife! Your wife! You think your wife will object to the possibility of becoming the First Lady of Nigeria? You will be surprised that she herself may have been nursing the idea. Let me tell you something: your wife will tell you that there is nothing the people who are First Ladies have, that she too does not have. She will tell you she is even better. In fact, if you are not careful, she will say she too can be President of Nigeria.”

“Without my authority?”

“Which authority? My friend, go and sit down. We are in the 21st Century! Is it because I am trying to encourage you? If you are not interested, I can decide to push your wife to run for the position of President of Nigeria. She is actually highly qualified. And we can groom her”

“You will groom my wife? Are you mad? Abi you wan die? That is the day she will leave my house!”

“She is a Nigerian citizen. And if you say you don’t want good luck in your household, you don’t want to be president, you don’t want your wife, we will look for another person. In fact, the way my mind is working, our group will go and recruit Obi Cubana, or E-Money or White Money. They too can be President.”

“Excuse me.”

“Yes. That is where we are right now as we move towards 2023 in this country”

“White Money? Has Nigeria become a Big Brother Naija Show?”

“I don’t see the difference. They have turned the whole thing into a gamble.   What do you have against White Money? At least the money is white, not black. Every other aspirant is bringing black money.”

“That is defamatory.  I won’t be party to that.”

“My friend, white money is better than black money. Anybody that brings N100 million to buy ordinary form or N50 million, or even N40 million in this economy should be investigated for black money. All of a sudden, all kinds of groups and persons are buying forms on behalf of Presidential aspirants. People should stop telling us a dog is a monkey. We have eyes. We can see.”

“Count me out”

“It means you don’t understand politics.  Don’t you know that some of these aspirants don’t really want to be President? They just want to show that they are relevant. Some of them just want to protect themselves. Some have lost political relevance and they want to jump-start themselves politically. Then you have the category of hungry people who are using Presidential declaration, or Governorship declaration as a fund-raising opportunity. The whole thing is a game.”

“But I hear that everyone that is declaring must get the President’s blessing. The President does not know me. ”

“You don’t need his endorsement. Every citizen has the right to contest once you meet the requirements under Section 40 of the Constitution and Section 131. Your right to occupy any political position in this country is properly defined in the Constitution. Everybody that goes to the President to say he or she wants to be President, the man says Yes. That is why they are all saying they have the President’s blessing. What do they expect him to say? Of course, he will tell them they are good to go. See, if we organize properly, and we take you to President Buhari tomorrow and tell him sir, this your son wants to be President too, he will say Yes, go ahead.”

“You think he will endorse someone like me, without knowing me?”

“Why not? He will. What do you want him to do?”

“But he once said he has his favorite and he would not name the person in order to protect him or her from being assassinated.”

“It is typical power politics, my friend.  Can’t you see it? Without saying anything categorical, President Buhari has turned himself into the puppeteer, playing divide and rule politics. This is what I always say about this county. The people of Southern Nigeria don’t know how to play politics. We talk too much. We allow other stakeholders to manipulate us. We are too greedy and those who know better manipulate us. Can anybody hold the President down to anything as regards 2023 Presidency? The obvious answer is No. But anyone that comes forward, they say he has blessed them.”

“Under normal circumstances, really, his blessing or non-blessing or opinion should be irrelevant. It is the people of Nigeria that should decide. One man, one vote. And it is his duty to ensure that Nigeria holds credible elections in 2023.”

“Good point, very good. But can’t you see what is going on in the two major political parties? The PDP has abandoned its rule about zoning, specifically Section 7(3c) of its Constitution, which had in fact been adopted by the rival All Progressives Congress. PDP now says that section no longer applies and anybody can be President on its platform.”

“That has not yet been finalized though. The party’s National Working Committee (NWC) is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, this week, to take a decision on the party’s zoning format. We have to wait for that.”

“You know I always tell you that you tend to be naïve sometimes. You think PDP NWC would now zone the choice of its Presidential aspirants, after selling forms to every aspirant from wherever, after collecting too much money, and after screening everyone who expressed interest? My brother, leave matter!”

“What I know is that all the aspirants from the South are saying that in the interest of fairness, equity and justice, the Presidency must be zoned to the South and specifically to the South East.”

“Have you also heard the same Southern Nigerian aspirants saying they will abide by whatever the party decides? But I have not heard any Northern aspirant saying so. What they are saying is that the North has every right to continue in office.”

“But it is different in the APC” 

“How is the APC different? Where were you when the APC Party Chairman reportedly said a few days ago, that no final decision has been taken on the zoning of the Presidency by the party?” 

“He was probably quoted out of context, because if you look at the APC, all the Presidential aspirants are from the South with the exception of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State who is from the North Central. It is safe to assume then that the Presidential flagbearer from the APC will be either a Southerner or someone from the North Central.”

“So why do you I think I am urging you to run”

“Sarcasm. You were being sarcastic. I know you well enough to know that were trying to ridicule the entire process.. You know as well as I do that the Northerners do not want a Southerner in the Presidential Villa in 2023. They have played a good game of divide and rule. In the South East and South South, there is currently no consensus. Nobody is going to step down for anyone. In the South West, the divide and rule politics is even worse. You have the most prominent APC politician  from the region, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu being challenged by the same people he groomed and turned into big men. Politics in the South West this time around, has become a do-or-die affair. I am sure of that. The same people who are supposed to help Asiwaju mobilize delegates have already made sure that he would not have full support from his political base. This road to 2023 is both interesting and bumpy.” 

“It looks like anybody’s game, then. And that is why I think we can get involved too, particularly now that your people in the South West are fighting over ratings in the polls. We can organize our own polls and announce that you are the citizens’ choice”

“No, thanks.”


“Because I really don’t understand what is going on. It is about seven months to the elections. Under normal circumstances, by now, there should be some kind of certainty or clarity about the future of the country and the general elections next year. Right now, the country is in the grips of fear and uncertainty about the future. Nobody has any idea what will happen tomorrow. The aspirants too have no clue.”

“After the primaries, don’t worry. The candidates that would emerge would start talking. They will take care of people, including naysayers like you who think they know it all about Nigeria.” 

“I certainly do not know it all. But I don’t like gambling”.

“Let whoever wants to gamble do so. Nigeria itself is a big gamble. Life is also a gamble.”

“Nobody is talking about issues. I only get to hear about individual ambitions, zoning, ethnicity, and religion. In the recent Presidential election in France, President Emmanuel Macron and the opposition candidate, Marine Le Pen discussed issues of interest to the people. Who will speak for us, hapless Nigerians? I want to hear what anybody wants to do about the bad state of the Nigerian economy, inflation, unemployment, terrorism, the cost of living crisis, the loss of hope, all I hear is vote for me, vote for me, I am the best…it is my turn, individual ego, noise, selfishness!”

“Speak for yourself, my friend. That is why you have a voter’s card. “

“That does not guarantee that my vote or your vote or anyone else’s vote would count.”

“It is up to you what you do with your PVC.”

“I just hope we’d still have a country when this is all over. The future has never been this uncertain in this country.”   

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