As The Primary Season Ends, Battle For Nigeria’s Soul Has Just Begun

As The Primary Season Ends, Battle For Nigeria’s Soul Has Just Begun

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

After much intrigues and dithering, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on Tuesday, finally held its special convention where its presidential candidate in the 2023 elections emerged.

Against all odds, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, clinched the ticket with 1,271 votes: a political landslide. His closest rivals, Chibuike Amaechi, former governor of Rivers State and immediate past Minister of Transportation, scored 316 votes to come second while the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, polled 235 votes.

Here, congratulations is apposite. It takes an uncommon political sagacity for anyone to make the kind of dramatic comeback as Tinubu did on Tuesday.

Considering the seemingly insurmountable battles, Tinubu’s triumph is nothing short of a hostile takeover of APC. His resurgence at the Eagle Square after his political meltdown in Abeokuta, Ogun State, on Thursday places him in the orbit of an ancient proverb that claims, “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays.”

Tinubu’s staying power in politics has become legendary and this victory earns him a bragging right. And for a man who knows that he has all the aces in the APC right now, he is not pulling his punches.

While making his acceptance speech on Wednesday, Tinubu sarcastically apologised to Buhari for keeping him at the Eagle Square, even as he bluntly told the president it was his turn to endure such inopportuneness as he had done for him in the past.

The joke was not lost on Buhari. His has become a lame duck presidency and even as he has almost one year to go, by winning the APC presidential ticket in spite of the monkeyshines of the presidency, Tinubu has become the undisputed lord in the APC manor, the authentic new sheriff in town.

Did his victory come as a surprise? Not really! To most discerning political observers in an election season where the only thing that matters is the quantum of money you are prepared to splash on delegates, the only thing that would have stopped Tinubu from victory is the consensus option.

The presidency knew that, hence all the manipulations. But like most things Buhari is engaged in, that gambit fell flat. Tinubu simply outsmarted him by forcing a vote at the convention. With the collapse of the consensus manoeuvre, Tinubu deployed the enormous resources at his disposal, and the rest is now history.

Two lessons are to be drawn from Tinubu’s tenacity in this primary season. Buhari is a bully and like all bullies, he is also a coward. Bereft of any strategic thinking other than strong-arm tactics, you win in any contest with the president if you are able to stare him down. That was exactly what Tinubu did.

Secondly, just like Buhari, the so-called cabal in the presidency is nothing more than a toothless bulldog, an extortionist syndicate that has perfected the vile act of swindling the lily-livered elite in the country.

Perhaps, more than anyone else, including the APC, members of the cabal made more money from the political elite that have more money than brains by promising anyone they were able to wheedle the APC presidential ticket.

Tinubu refused to travel that route, and now he has the APC presidential ticket tightly tucked away.

So, it does not matter what anyone thinks about him, the feat he pulled off yesterday is monumental and he deserves all the accolades he is getting.

But even as he revels in his victory and with the 2022 primary season gradually coming to an end, laser-sharp attention needs to be focused on the real deal: the 2023 presidential election and the battle for the soul of Nigeria, which has just begun.

The political elite and their surrogates – delegates – are no doubt ululating over the hard currency they made from the dollarized primaries. But theirs should not be the last laugh. Even as they are backslapping themselves, thinking that they have presented Nigerians with a fait-accompli in the persons of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Tinubu, Nigerians should look beyond the political sophistry and ask themselves the simple question: Is Nigeria better off today than it was yesterday?

With youth unemployment in Nigeria – a country where more than 60 per cent of the working-age population is younger than 34 – at over 40 per cent and all the indices of human development going south, the answer cannot be yes. Nigeria as at 2019 was in the low human development category, scandalously sitting pretty at the 161st position out of 189 countries and territories. The situation is even worse today.

Tinubu and Atiku, two men who epitomise politics as usual, cannot at the same time represent the decent future Nigerians are looking forward to. It will be a misnomer. They have become, over the years, part of Nigeria’s problem.

Make no mistake about it, Nigeria is in a big mess and needs a radical shift from the old paradigm.

What 2023 requires is aptly captured in a Bible verse, which says: “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins” (Mark 2:22).

The long-suffering masses of Nigeria must have their revenge in 2023 by saying no to political malfeasance. While it is true that they don’t have the powers to halt the political parties in their tracks when they condescendingly conspire against them through primary elections, they have all the powers to reject such candidates during the general elections.

The good thing about the 2023 elections is the credible alternative in the person of Mr Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, who is the presidential candidate of the Labour Party.

For the first time since this Fourth Republic took off in 1999, a candidate has emerged who is not talking about ethnicity and religion, but harping on issues that matter – economy, healthcare, education, national safety and security, climate, trust in government – and he couldn’t have emerged on the national political scene at a better time.

How can the Nigerian government push towards a better tomorrow and who is better suited to drive that process? That is the riddle the 2023 elections must solve.

There is no doubt that Obi towers over and above others in the presidential field right now. And if there is any lesson to be learnt from Tinubu’s primary election victory, it is the fact that a determined people can stare down a malignant system and triumph.

According to the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the primary season ends today, Thursday, June 9. The delegates and their puppeteers have had their say by foisting those who will perpetuate the rot and ensure that the debilitating status quo remains as candidates in both the APC and PDP.

It is high time Nigerians – ordinary people – had their way by voting in the February 2023 elections in such a manner that the status quo is upturned. As the primary season ends today, the battle to reclaim the soul of the country from buccaneers has just begun.

—Ikechukwu Amaechi is the Editor-In-Chief of TheNiche Newspaper