Opinion: 2019: The fruitlessness of political endorsements – By NIRAN ADEDOKUN
If you were looking for reasons why Nigeria has, despite its acclaimed potential, remained a dwarf in the comity of nations, you will find one in an event that took place at the Abuja Sheraton Hotel on Sunday. That evening, Abuja played host to members of some largely ethnic nationality-based groups in a discussion on next week’s presidential election.
At the end of the meeting which was attended by members of the Northern Elders’ Forum, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Afenifere as well as the Middle Belt Forum, what looked like a consensus to endorse the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, was announced.
Ordinarily, this should pose no problem at all. After all, endorsements, taken through due process and executed for the right reasons are an integral part of democracy. But this is Nigeria, where people disregard protocol and motives are hardly ever altruistic.
Last Sunday’s event is worse because those who took the lead are mostly people who have seen the best and worst of Nigeria. Now well-advanced in age and at what former President Olusegun Obasanjo once referred to as the departure lounge of life, they should be preoccupied with nothing other than bequeathing a sane country devoid of ethnic sentiments, on the future generations. Their much-publicised resolution at the meeting runs contrary to these expectations.
It is not likely that any of those men in attendance is younger than 60 years of age, a majority of them are between 70 and 90, yet they would sit down to decide where Nigeria should go!
But that is not the most confounding part of the saga. Endorsement of any idea or person, whether political or not but more so when political, on behalf of any set of people, is by its nature, a result of consensus reached after due consultations amongst those people.
Such agreements would of a necessity, be precipitated by the aggregation of the enlightened self-interest of such groups following due interrogation of candidates and how much of the interest of the groups is reflected in the manifesto of each of them.
So, the question to ask leaders of Ohanaeze, Afenifere, NEF, PANDEF and MBF is: “At what point did they consult with members of their nationalities and agree on the consensus to endorse a candidate?”
Representatives of the Afenifere, for example, identified Atiku’s commitment to the restructuring of Nigeria as the incentive for his endorsement; does that then mean that every single Yoruba person in the country sees restructuring as the silver bullet to all of Nigeria’s problems?
It is even more ludicrous in the case of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo. For all that is apparent to Nigerians, nothing is more important to the South-Eastern part of the country that this organisation represents than the prospects for an Igbo President. So, if the interest of the entire Igboland was truly paramount to the group, its support would naturally have gone to the presidential candidate of Igbo descent known as Kingsley Moghalu.
But that would happen because these endorsements are mainly transactional and self-serving. When the leaders are not members of the political party in question as in the case of the leader of Ohanaeze who is a PDP member, they would be people who have long term axes to grind with the incumbent. Endorsement here is not necessarily about the general good but prospects that the future holds for those who are privileged to hold positions of influence.
To match the showmanship of the groups endorsing Atiku, a group of retired military generals walked into the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Monday to endorse the second term bid of the President Muhammadu Buhari. Led by Brig-Gen. Buba Marwa (retd.) the group showed solidarity assuring Buhari that 99% of retired military officers in Nigeria were behind him.
Marwa did not tell how many of such retired officers of the armed forces represent that 99% or how they arrived at the decision to support Buhari. He did not speak of any agenda that his group would be selling to the President or anything that his group or the generality of Nigerians would be benefiting from renewing President Buhari’s mandate. Suffice it to say that Marwa is not just a member of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, he is also the chairman of a presidential committee on the fight against drug abuse; so, how more self-serving can an endorsement get, especially as the endorsers are mostly people with no significant political following!
Apart from the fact that these endorsers represent the same unhealthy sectional interests, thereby inadvertently deepening the level of divisiveness in the country, their intervention now only goes on to show their individual and pecuniary motivations.
By the very virtue of the attainment of most of them, they should stand in no other position but as the conscience of the nation, not found in partisanship but working with all sections of leadership to build a formidable country.
These groups of elders were in the country when the Boko Haram insurgency started a decade ago but they had no answer to it until it took a monstrous dimension. These elders have been in this country for since November when universities in the country shut down due to the industrial action declared by the Academic Staff Union of Universities. Rather than take the mediatory role in the recent suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria by President Buhari, these leaders either took prejudiced roles or watched on in silence as the nation stumbles from one confusion to another.
The most ridiculous part of this endorsement business is that even their promoters know the futility! Aside from the fact that most of them do not have anyone listening to them, because they have no constituencies ab initio, a situation that has been made worse by the splinter groups that now exist in virtually all of them, the political class outsmarts them all with their readiness to trade with the people in exchange for their votes. The man who delivers more votes to the politicians is not the one sitting in one meeting room in the company with other geriatrics but the one whose briefcase is loaded with cash enough to at least assuage the hunger and anger of the people for one meal. The endorsement game that we have seen in the past couple of days is a continuation of the pretentious leadership that Nigeria has suffered all these years. It is a lie that takes no candidate anywhere, does not factor in the sentiments, biases and idiosyncrasies of the nation’s young population but continues to entrench the same sectional emotions that hold the country down. Punch