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Ezekwesili’s battle against platform vendors, political corruption

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Ezekwesili

“Let’s build this coalition. There is no more time to waste; let’s get to work.” Those were the expressions of intention contained in Mrs. Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili’s statement announcing her exit from the 2019 presidential race.

Even if it came as the first sign of anti-climax in the tumultuous and tensed Nigeria’s fifth general election after the exit of the military in 1999, it has a lot of implications for the nation’s march to enduring democratic culture.

It should be noted that the former candidate of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) joined the contest with a lot of promise that at last the womenfolk can no longer be taken for granted in the political evolution of Nigeria.

Carrying the progressive message of lifting 80 million Nigerians out of abject poverty, Madam Ezekwesili’s transition from her Red Card Movement to active involvement in partisan electoral competition conveyed the general impression that Nigeria women are set out for national collaboration to interrogate the suffocating dominance of the men folk.

But on Thursday January 24, 2019 that lofty promise evaporated and in its place, Oby announced her new venture: mid-wifing a coalition that would be powerful enough to uproot the twin evil platforms of #APCPDP, her moniker for the fractious All Progressives Congress and its main challenger, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

However, the former ACPN standard-bearer could not be said to have entirely disappointed her fans.

Rather, she continues to uphold the reality that the world is in the age of the woman, especially for Nigeria, where the men seem to have fallen into the trap of apostate leadership.

Ezekwesili’s new role of facilitating a fresh re-engineering of the third force into ‘The Force’ implies that she has moved from candidate to presidential power broker, the original role she was invited to play in the broken PACT (Presidential Aspirants Coming Together).

It is the performance of her latest role, albeit self-appointed, that the essential features of the former education minister and World Bank Vice President’s politics could find expression and thereby be properly distilled for national examination.

Confronting established interests
ONE remarkable disclosure in her withdrawal statement was that while she was discussing with various stakeholders and other like-minded presidential candidates with a view to building a strong counterforce against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and elderly giant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), she was being opposed by leaders of her party, who seemed to harbour other ideas.

Yet, by abdicating her position as presidential contender to occupy the office of presidential power-broker, it could be said that Ezekwesili was actually confronting established native political forces that have been at the base of Nigeria’s unwholesome party system.

Recall that at the onset of the fourth republic, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was handing out subvention to political parties, the motivation for the mushrooming of parties was to grab the accruing funds.

However, the obnoxious practice was reviewed, parties were being formed to serve as alternative platforms for overambitious aspirants and political investors that were prepared to use their candidatures as trading stocks and to bargain for sundry services.

Under that infernal system, candidates and sometimes parties are seen lining up behind established candidates, usually one of the two frontline parties, but usually the incumbent president or governor, as the case may be.

The lack of internal democracy in the political parties, which has continued to dwarf the growth of Nigeria’s political party system, could be traced to the corrupt insider dealing as outlined above.

Such bizarre development could be what Ezekwesili was confronting when she decided to retrace her steps and remain true to her guiding political philosophy of cleansing the Nigeria decadent political system as underscored by her Red Card Movement and campaigns for empowering the citizens for responsible democratic action through the Office of the Citizen.

It is therefore against that background that the erstwhile ACPN presidential candidate’s decision to quit further participation in the presidential contest could be said to have achieved three notable milestones.

Firstly, in the public statement through which she announced her withdrawal from the 2019 presidential contest titled, ‘Let’s build this coalition,’ Ezekwesili showed that she earned the sobriquet Madam Due Process by outwitting Alhaji Galadima and other platform merchants in ACPN, whose original intention was to bargain with APC.

“However, despite resistance from the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria on these and other issues, I have decided that it is now necessary to show by action and example my determination on this issue (formation of a strong coalition) by stepping down my candidacy so as to focus squarely on building the coalition to a logical conclusion,” she had stated.

Secondly, coming after the televised presidential debate in which the two top contenders decided not to participate, Ezekwesili could be said to have engaged in internal re-examination of her position based on rating score from the debate, demonstrating that she was not desperate for the office, but interested in helping to salvage Nigeria from its desperate socio-economic circumstance.

Finally, jettisoning her presidential ambition to facilitate consensus building in the planned coalition of emergent leaders, Ezekwesili’s move could be said to help the nation’s polity by working towards a credible alternative to the two dominant parties.

The electorate would have been subjected to a suffocating state of helplessness in the face of a tainted bi-partisan conundrum thrown up by APC and PDP.

If the third force succeeds, it would without doubt become a force to reckon with, thereby aerating the political space with multi-party variety.

While disclosing that she had been engaged in private, “but extended talks with other presidential candidates to birth a coalition that would allow Nigerians exercise their choice without feeling helplessly encumbered by the corrupt twins of #APCPDP,” Ezekwesili outlined in the statement announcing her withdrawal her resolve and mission this: “I deem it necessary for me to focus on helping to build a veritable coalition to ensure a viable alternative to the #APCPDP in the forthcoming elections.

“It is my ardent belief that this broad coalition for a viable alternative has now become more than ever before, an urgent mission for and on behalf of Nigerian citizens. I have therefore chosen to lead the way in demonstrating the much needed patriotic sacrifice for our national revival and redirection.”

Elevating the national political refinement narrative
EZEKWESILI exposed her knowledge of history and demonstrated that even if a rookie electoral combatant, she was a political thinker of some sort.

This fact comes to light in her statement when she said: “From last year, when I joined the presidential race I made it clear to Nigerians that the country has always had a 20-year cycle of change – 1958, 1979, and 1999.

“As such, 2019 begins another 20-year cycle, and together with all Nigerians of good will, I stand ready to play my part to ensure that we do not miss this golden opportunity to sing a new song. There is no more time to waste. Let’s get to work!”

Within the 60-year cycle contained in the former ACPN presidential candidate’s outline, Nigeria’s political evolution was dominated by military interregnums.

For instance, in the first 20-year cycle, the military was in charge for eleven years, while the colonial overlords hovered for five years, spanning 1958 through 1963. The civil rule lasted for merely four contentious years.

Then in the second cycle, 1979 through 1999, the military was also in dominant control for 16 years as it experimented with dishonest transition programmes and palace coups, after tolerating civil rule for just another four years.

Intriguingly, in the third 20-year cycle that is about to expire, the country would have suffered quasi-military rule for 12 years, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight years and President Muhammadu Buhari’s four years.

What Ezekwesili seems to have embarked on is a possible voyage of enlightenment to open the eyes of politicians to the realities of national atrophy occasioned by military overhang in the democratic process, especially now that Mohammadu Buhari, a specialist in the truncation of democracy is at the helm.

‘Let’s build this coalition’, therefore presents a commencing metaphor for the needed sanity among politicians to see the dangers that lurch in the horizon and unite to elevate the leadership narrative beyond the elementary.

Her call becomes a clarion one to all men and women of goodwill to join hands in the onerous task of sanitizing the nation’s polity and enthrone a new regime of enlightened leaders of today, which have been sold as leaders of tomorrow while the despoliation of Nigeria’s political capital lasted.

Former, governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and current Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi 111, has been one of the prominent voices calling for the election of educated leaders in the country.

Most people believe that if not for his retirement to the traditional governance, Sanusi would have made a better alternative to the current occupant of Aso Rock Villa.

It is also held in certain quarters in the north that former President Obasanjo failed to elevate leadership standard in the north, when out of political expediency, he by-passed Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Prof. Jibril Aminu and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi and settled for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in 1999 only to prevent Atiku from succeeding him in 2007.

This time around, what Ezekwesili’s manifesto espouses could be seen in the possibility of throwing up a new leadership made by Nigerians and not through the orchaestration of old power mongers.

The broad coalition would not only challenge the status quo by harvesting the demographic impetus of young voters, but also help to ensure that old wine is not put in wineskins to perpetrate old leadership style.

INEC’s effete rejoinder
IN a way, the attempt by INEC to descend into the arena by interjecting that it is no longer feasible for any candidate to withdraw underscores the claim that the electoral umpire has lost its impartiality.

A simple interpretation of the decision of the former ACPN’s presidential candidate to back out of further contest is that she wants to align her supporters with those of other members of the envisaged coalition to vote for a particular candidate without necessarily asking INEC to aggregate votes cast for their individual platforms in the computation of the vote tally of the chosen consensus candidate after the ballot.

Instead of taking advantage of the new development to thin out the size of the ballot papers, INEC jumped up in undue excitement as if its personal estate has been invaded.

To some extent, INEC continues to carry on with the post-military mindset that democracy is subject to the whims and caprices of those in authority.

The electoral umpire should not lose sight of the fact that it is a servant of the people.

As such, the will of the people, the electorate, so far as it does not run counter to the law of the land, should be binding on the commission.

Already, most observers have continued to express the belief that INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, is part of the plot to use Bauchi indigenes, including the newly appointed Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, (CJN), Tanko Mohammed and Colonel Hameed Ali (retd) to undermine the electoral competitiveness of a particular presidential candidate.

Rather than jump at the Ezekwesili’s decision to withdraw, it should worry INEC that conflicting interest exists among some of its staff based on their relationship with stakeholders in the electoral process.

There is no law preventing candidates from collaborating to enhance their political interest or achieving victory at the polls.

INEC’s interjection therefore could be seen as a suspect attempt to dissuade the effective consummation of the envisaged coalition, which could be the determining force in next month’s presidential election.


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