Nigerians and the politics of endorsements
Months and weeks to the presidential election, the polity has been bombarded with news of political endorsements from political parties, civic groups, socio-cultural groups, and even individuals who believe they have a modicum of influence in the country.
Many are of the opinion that it was the politics of endorsement that brought the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, to power in 2015, since he got the support of both international and national figures. On New Year’s Eve of 2015, a popular Catholic priest, Fr. Ejike Mbaka, in a sermon to his large followers, not only endorsed Muhammadu Buhari, but also predicted his victory in the March 28, 2015, poll.
Contrary to the cleric’s prediction, witches and herbalists also predicted victory for former president Goodluck Jonathan. Also Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, came up with 60 reasons he would not vote for Jonathan, while former President Olusegun Obasanjo and a host of others also gave their support to Buhari.
The same scenario has played itself out again in the current dispensation. Nothing has changed. Many individuals and groups have come up with their endorsements and counter-endorsements.When Obasanjo in October 2018 forgave the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and gave him his blessing to run for president, the news generated all forms of accolades and condemnation in the country. Obasanjo said he believed Atiku has ‘re-discovered and re-positioned himself’ and is now good enough to enjoy his support in the next election.
Obasanjo said, “Let me start by congratulating President-to-be, Atiku Abubakar, for his success at the recent PDP Primary and I took note of his gracious remarks in his acceptance speech that it all started here.“Yes, when it started, it was meant for Atiku to succeed Obasanjo. In the presence of these distinguished leaders of goodwill today, let me say it openly that we have reviewed what went wrong on the side of Atiku. And in all honesty, my former vice president has re-discovered and re-positioned himself. As I have repeatedly said, it is not so much what you did against me that was the issue but what you did against the party, the government and the country.”
On Sunday, February 3, senior citizens from Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum and Northern Elders Forum also endorsed the PDP presidential candidate. Immediately his campaign group issued a statement that he appreciated the endorsement and viewed it as a great burden which he carries as he seeks the people’s votes.
Expectedly, APC condemned the endorsement, describing the octogenarians and nonagenarians leading these groups as paperweight politicians who cannot guarantee votes in their various constituencies. But in an ironic twist, APC supporters also celebrated with excitement a report by Leadership newspaper, which predicted that Buhari would win the presidential election. In a related development, Northern Stakeholders Forum (NSF), a socio-political group, said it had withdrawn its support for Buhari and endorsed Atiku instead.
While speaking at a zonal town hall meeting in Kano State, NSF’s Director of Action and Mobilisation, Aminu Adam, said the group opted for Atiku because Buhari disappointed Nigerians. According to him, the group supported Buhari in 2015 when there was so much yearning and agitations for a credible leader who would move northern Nigeria forward. Adam said the group later realised that the president has failed to fulfill his campaign promises, especially in the area of fighting corruption, economy and security.
“In 2015, we fully supported Buhari because we believed he was the only person to move northern Nigeria forward. This is because we see that the North is lagging behind in terms of development in Nigeria. Ironically, when Buhari came to power, we realised that he even prefers the South to the North that gave him unprecedented votes. Buhari has failed to fulfill his campaign promises.”
Also in the past week, a coalition of 135 civil societies and community-based organisations under the umbrella of Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC) endorsed the re-election of Buhari. The non-governmental organisations which comprise of Community for Defence of Human Right, Labour Right Network, Centre for Human Liberty, African People’s Network against Injustice and Liberty Coalition, Electoral Justice and Peace Network, People’s Solidarity for Democracy among others were part of groups that signed the endorsement form.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Adeleye Taiwo from NHRC, said that after considering the personality of the two leading contenders, it would be worst to have a man that has no credibility at home and abroad to sit as the number one citizen of the country.According to him, “We believe that with the credibility of Buhari and Osinbajo, their errors of recent past can be corrected in the most honest manner. But when you have a dishonest and untrustworthy person as your president, you will be putting the entire lives of the people on a dangerous and perilous scale.”
In another twist, Soyinka said in a statement on Friday that the Citizen Forum, which he serves as convener, had endorsed a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, as its presidential candidate. Moghalu is the presidential candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP). Soyinka said, during an interactive session organised by the Citizen Forum, rejected the candidates of the ruling APC and opposition PDP, describing them as worthy of absolute rejection.
The playwright in the statement titled ‘New directions in a time of decision’ said the nation had been brought to her knees, stating that the glaring media testimony needed no augmentation.Soyinka also said the forum worked with those concerned and made no attempt to impose its own preferences, but utilised materials from the deliberations of at least four such selection groups.
According to Soyinka, the result of that effort by Citizen Forum, coincides with his personal preference.But the question many may ask is, of what relevance are endorsements from a number of political players, special interest groups, faith and business leaders, pundits and celebrities in Nigeria’s peculiar political environment?
A columnist, Niran Adedokun in his article titled 2019: the fruitlessness of political endorsements asserted that the recent endorsements are not about the general good but prospects that the future holds for those who are privileged to hold positions of influence. “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.
“To match the showmanship of the groups endorsing Atiku, a group of retired military generals walked into the Presidential Villa in Abuja to endorse the second term bid of the Buhari. Led by Brig-Gen. Buba Marwa (retd) the group showed solidarity assuring Buhari that 99 per cent of retired military officers in Nigeria were behind him.”
“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.”
Adedokun described the endorsement as a continuation of the pretentious leadership that Nigeria has suffered in past 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.”
Also, presidential candidate of African Action Congress (AAC), Mr. Omoyele Sowore said he does not believe in the politics of endorsement, saying that the only endorsement that matters is of the people.“We are the voice of the Nigerian people, and the only organic platform that will represent the interest of the Nigerian masses,” he had said.
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