Wednesday, 27th September 2023

2023: Of musical chairs, rounders or mere circus

By Eddie Mbadiwe 
16 May 2022   |   2:55 am
There is trepidation in the air. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has 15 cleared aspirants for the 2023 presidential election while the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress
PDP chairman

PDP Chairman Iyorchia Ayu. Photo: facebook/IAOkowa

There is trepidation in the air. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has 15 cleared aspirants for the 2023 presidential election while the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), had 28 aspirants as of last Wednesday that was yet to be screened.

The Young Progressives Party (YPP) already has a lady in the race and this is refreshing. One hopes there will still be more.
The world is yet to see the end of comic relief from Nigeria. The misconception that you don’t need a period of training or apprenticeship to run a country is totally erroneous.

Governance, which is a complex mixture of arts and science, is more than what is being flung to the Nigerian people now. The Kennedys and the Bushes of the U.S. had to put their children in American universities at an early age in preparing them for eventual leadership. As Joe Biden told the press corps at a dinner two weeks ago, being the President of America is not a reality show.
Two points have already become crystal clear. The so-called hand-shake across the Niger between the people of the South East and South West has been shown for what it really is – a fragile razor-thin alliance. Otherwise, how can many stalwarts from the South West be in the race against the South-East whose unassailable arguments should make South East the zone of choice?

But the people of the South-East should come to terms with the fact that brilliant arguments alone will not give them the Presidency. In real-world hard-nosed practical politics, nobody is going to give you power. It never happens anywhere. So, people of the South East have to look inwards and answer some serious questions.
There was a period when the majority of important ministers as well as federal permanent secretaries were from the South East. Okonkwo Kano and Sons were well established in the North and gave birth to the town Kwankwoso. The current Senator from Kano who goes by that name can enlighten us better. People brokered these alliances.
Umaru Altine, a Fulani man from Sokoto, was elected Mayor of Enugu. Mbonu Ojike was deputy Mayor of Lagos. Margaret Ekpo, an Efik, was an activist who organised the Aba Women’s Riot. She became a member of the Eastern House of Assembly. Francis Mbadiwe and Dixon Onwenu (Onyeka’s father) both from Imo State represented Enugu and Port Harcourt respectively in the House of Representatives. As my friend, the late Dr. Eugene Mgbojikwe repeatedly asked, “where did we leave the track? A little bit of soul searching and introspection will certainly be useful. My advice to my fellow southeasterners is to delve into the past, study it and use your God-given native wisdom to move ahead.
Every Yoruba person below the age of 70 has a debt to pay to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. His compulsory universal primary education transformed the landscape and shaped the lives of most of them. 

His philosophy based on Egbe Omo Oduduwa enabled him as leader of the Action Group to bestride the place like a colossus. He presided over the place like an emperor. The important point is that he delivered results.

In the days of Chief Awolowo, who would raise a finger if he desired anything unlike now when many young men are literally poking their fingers into Senator Bola Tinubu’s eyes? How the times are changing.
Had Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe agreed to include a secession clause in the pre-independence constitution, it is likely Western Nigeria would have left Nigeria and by now would be competing with the people of the Western World. The same is true of the South East. What would have been left is bigger than many countries in the world.

As we struggle with preparations for the 2023 election cycle and all the debate about zoning and non-zoning, anybody who has bothered to read the proposed Abacha constitution under the chairmanship of Justice Niki Tobi will not fail to acknowledge some important recommendations.

One of the most important recommendations was that the presidency is rotated between the six geopolitical zones until such a time that Nigerians agree that meritocracy should take over.

The idea of six geopolitical zones was the product of cerebral thinking by the late vice president Alex Ekwueme.

The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) later adopted it and the position of the President of the Senate was zoned to the South East. That provision produced Evan Enwerem, Adolphus Wabara and Chuba Okadigbo. Had the framers of the 1999 constitution, which we currently use, done some background work, rotational presidency as recommended by the Justice Tobi panel might have been incorporated and all the current fight about zoning and non-zoning would be unnecessary.  

The other recommendation, which I think we should still revisit, was for a transition period of 30 years to be incorporated so that Nigeria will mature from being a country to a being nation. A bill to make education free, compulsory and mandatory up to SS3, which I took to the 7th Assembly strongly emphasised this. Without compulsory education, it will continue to be a dialogue between the deaf and dumb. Unless we want to be in denial, the truly Nigerian Nation is not yet born.
The Independent national electoral Commission INEC in my view has not finished their assignment. There should have been a way to put a cap on how many political parties are allowed to charge for forms etc and also when currently serving officers must resign from their posts to be legible for elections.
Here again, we have another election cycle, which is a planting season for corruption from the very high nomination fees to the amounts given to party officials for convention delegates. Anybody who survives the war and gets elected as the first duty, on getting to parliament, of recouping his or her expenses and keeping a reserve for the uncertainty of a rainy day. Those who say corruption in Nigeria will never die are not very far off the mark.
The Trade Unions and the student bodies are also delinquent and have failed to do what is expected of them. Let me give just one example because some of us were also student leaders at the university and national levels in our days as undergraduates.

In those days, what we could afford was a Solex motorbike to get to afternoon practical work at Abadina. Now the President of the national student body rides a Range Rover and travels in convoy. Who is buying the petrol? Why is it that the Trade Unions and Students Unions have not seriously addressed the fact that ex-governors who are now Senators, earn double salaries, one as pension from their states after eight years’ work and also collect the mind-boggling salaries and allowances Nigerian parliamentarians go home with. What example of open thievery can be more classical than this?
No amount of prayers for ‘Nigeria in Distress’ will save this country. We need a lot of action from the entire citizenry.

Dr. Mbadiwe, a former member of the House of Representatives, writes from Abuja.