Projecting into the mindset of a potential president of Nigeria that would be the new occupant of Aso Rock Villa in 2023 is what l have set out to do by writing this essay.
And l would like to state upfront that I am not by any means engaging in clairvoyance.
That is why all l want to do is leverage trend analysis as a tool, and look back into the past and also project into the future to figure out who out of the motley crowd of presidential candidates would end up calling the shots in Aso Rock Villa in 2023 and is savvy in economic and financial matters.
Although ,there are at least fifteen (15) presidential candidates that have met independent National Electoral Commission, INEC eligibility conditions and deadline , l have narrowed the number down to mainly two, and to a much lesser degree , a third in the unlikely event that the much hyped youth revolution occurs and only one political party benefits from it.
As the saying goes,by their fruits we shall know them.
So ,for the purpose of this discourse, fruits can be substituted for antecedents.
And relying on their antecedents,l can wager a bet that the three presidential candidates,of which one of them would willy nilly be propelled into Aso Rock Villa seat of presidential power next year, are in the persons of Asiwaju,Bola Tinubu,the flag bearer of the ruling party at the center, APC and Turaki Atiku Abubakar,the standard bearer for the main opposition party, PDP, and mr Peter Obi, LP candidate, in the unlikely event that a miracle happens.
At the risk of appearing to be presumptuous, nothing much has changed in Nigerian political space except the current wave of youth activism in the political space triggered by the reformed electoral Act 2022 which has conferred fidelity on our electoral system currently igniting unprecedented political consciousness in our youths.
It is amazing and heartening at the same time that 60% of potential voters in Nigeria which the youth demography represents,and who had hitherto been neglected or dormant ,are now the highly charged and motivated members of society anxious to exercise their civic duty of voting with the sole aim of seizing power from those they have branded as old generation politicians that must be shoved aside in 2023,and replaced with their purportedly newly found idol-Peter Obi and his running mate ,Datti Baba-Ahmed,when president Mohammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo exit Aso Rock Villa next year.
As l have asserted in previous interventions,such a radical prospect of ousting the old politicians with alacrity by our youths,bothers on,at best,idealism, and perhaps youthful exuberance,if one were to be less charitable.
And for the reasons above,my sincere admonishment to our youths,as l had done in my previous media interventions is for them to decode the coded message in the conventional wisdom and idiomatic expression: ‘if wishes were horses ,beggars would ride’ and ‘old horses never die, they just find new horses to win’
To be clear,my point is simply that the 360 degrees change that the youths are seeking would not materialize as fast they would expect. But it would happen if they remain tenacious.
So, although the youth generation would make significant impact in 2023 elections ,as l had enunciated in my media intervention widely published on 21 June, 2022 titled:Converting Youth Bulge To Positive Force For Politics in Nigeria,my prognosis then is that either Turaki Atiku Abubakar or Asiwaju Bola Tinubu would prevail in the upcoming presidential contest. And that position has undergone further adjustment.
In any case, one of the three of them would be the one to receive the hand over notes from president Buhari on 29th May 2023.
And l can fortell what the policies and programs of the duo,perhaps a trio,would look like when one of them takes over the reins of governance.
Basically,most of what is known about them and which l will rely on in my analysis are derived from their period of stewardship or time in public office .
With respect to Tinubu,he has served for two terms as governor of lagos state from 1999 to 2007 and left footprints with respect to spreading his political tentacles nationally after he co-founded the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and he has made significant efforts at providing infrastructure that has steered lagos state towards becoming a mega city, which remains unsurpassed.
Regarding Abubakar that was Vice President to former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who also served from 1999 to 2007, he has giant imprints in both the terrains of politics and economy nationwide.
Leveraging the network of People Democratic Movement,PDM,inherited from his mentor,late Shehu Musa Yar’adua, he is easily one of the most widely known political actors in Nigeria. Apart from serving as Vice President, 1999-2007, he has contested for the presidency of Nigeria a whooping five (5) times with significant impart nationwide.
For that reason, the PDP candidate is believed to already have in his kitty about 13 million voters which he earned during his last contest for the office of president in 1999 against incumbent president,Mohammadu Buhari who received a couple of millions more votes than him.
I will not dwell much on Peter Obi because everything about his service in public office,including documents that are supposed to be classified,plus the ones concocted by the denizens swirling around in his orbit or netizens that have colonized the cyberspace on behalf of Obi are already over exposed in the public domain.
So,without further ado,it is pertinent that we get down to the brass tacks by shining the light on the private sector background of the likely candidates that would become president of Nigeria next year.
In any case,with the economy and security likely to occupy the left and center of the political debate when Independent National Election Commission,INEC, officially opens the space for campaigning on 28th September,Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar who are thankfully not economic illiterates would be going head-to-head.
Remarkably ,the terrific and encouraging thing about the candidates is that both of the APC and PDP candidates, Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar respectively, plus the LP candidate Peter Obi can read the balance sheet because they are all business savvy, having been private sector practitioners.
While Tinubu is an accountant, with interest in tax collection,Atiku is an astute entrepreneur with investments in oil/gas as well as education, while Obi is a commodity trader with vast interest in retail business.
For lack of space and time , we will not going into granular details about their businesses.
Now,Tinubu’s supporters would aver that it is his blue print for the development of Lagos state that has remained the play book that has been subsequently been relied upon by three governors-Babatunde Fashola, Akinkunmi Ambode and Jide Sanwo-Olu-for the advancement of the state.
By the same token,the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar shares in the credit for the giant developmental strides taken in our country under the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo for eight (8) years . It was during that period that Nigeria’s debilitating debt burden of about $30 billion(which has reportedly sadly tanked up to an estimated $90 billion under the present regime) was substantially written off ($12billion) by the Paris Club of creditors. It was also a time that Nigeria witnessed economic reforms including privatization of public utilities such as the telecommunications sector that ushered in the current mobile telephone revolution.
And there are credible reasons to believe that if president Obasanjo had succeeded in serving a third term (as pundits aver that he was desirous of doing) the petroleum sector would also have been privatized.
That means that Nigerians would not have been going through the agony of paying for the commodity literally through their nose, and basically going through hell and back to even find the commodity to purchase, an ordeal they are currently grappling with.
So inevitably ,the candidates that would likely emerge as president are pro-private sector and therefore likely to be able to pull Nigerian economy out from the abyss where it is currently mired due particularly to the monumental and unprecedented levels of insecurity in the country and poor economic policy decisions ,especially petroleum subsidy which is expected to gulp about four (4) trillion naira in budget 2022 , broken down as approximately N600 billion naira monthly expenditure,and still counting.
Before dwelling further on the likely economic policies of the potential Aso Rock Villa occupant after president Buhari exits next year, it is appropriate that we underline the qualities that Nigerians expect in their next president.
During the launch of my new book: Becoming President Of Nigeria.A Citizen’s Guide, the keynote speaker, professor Mike Ikhariale, a Harvard University trained constitutional lawyer, outlined some qualities that an ideal president of Nigeria is supposed to posses in addition to the requirements in the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
The expert in constitutionalism laid it bare by leveraging the work of an authority in constitutionalism, James Barber.
Here is how he put it:
“According to James Barber in his studies generally referred to as “Barber’s Research”, he laid out about 10 essential qualities which a President must possess in order to be successful. They include:
a. A strong vision for the country’s future supported by a plan of action.
b. He must have the ability to put his own reign in historical perspective.
c. A president must be a communicator who knows the importance of the so-called ‘Bullying Pulpit’.
d. He must be prepared to make unpopular decisions, someone who is able to move beyond the orthodoxy and purposefully innovative.
e. Must have crisis management skills, not passing the puck but accepting realities.
f. Must be a person of remarkable character and integrity.
g. Even though he has the constitutional power to hire and fire, he must make his key appointments wisely in such a way that he can use his employment prerogative to bolster his own political reach. This in modern times would mean gender balance and in the particular case of Nigeria, the requirements of Federal Character principle. He must avoid cronyism and nepotism.
h. Must have the ability to relate with the Legislators,
i. Needless to say, that charisma and a welcoming aura are great assets for a President.”
Having arrayed the qualities of an ideal president, the question now is: does the antecedents of the two candidates of the ruling party APC – Bola Tinubu and main opposition party, PDP -Atiku Abubakar and the distant third candidate, Peter Obi of LP , who are the front runners in the race to Aso Rock Villa, indicate that they posses most or all of the qualities enunciated in ‘Barber’s Research’ earlier cited by professor Ikhariale?
If readers would indulge me, l would like to respond to the forgoing poser against the backdrop of the public office records of the candidates that l earlier highlighted.
As l pointed out ab initio, it is Tinubu of APC that successfully steered lagos state into becoming a functional mega city and of which a coterie of his protégé has continued to hold sway.
On the other hand , it is Abubakar of PDP that set the agenda for leap frogging the economic growth of Nigeria when during their first tenure in Aso Rock Villa ,then president Olusegun Obasanjo, entrusted him with the management of the economy during which the privatization of the telecommunications sector,(held up as a global model for privatization) led to the introduction of GSM telephony amongst other positive phenomenons that occurred in the Obasanjo/Abubakar era.
It is also worthy of note that both Tinubu and Abubakar have the knack for identifying talents, by spotting and reaching out to them, even if they are in the private sector. Hence the duo often achieved commendable levels of success whenever they are assigned leadership roles in public office .
As for Peter Obi, he attracted a brewery to the Anambra state and took a stake in it as well as saved N75 billion naira which he left behind for his hand picked successor, Willie Obiano in banks, one of which is fidelity bank,where he is a major share holder, and Obiano was once an executive director before Obi made him governor of Anambra state in 2014.
While being cognizant of the blithe on the characters of both Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar resurrected in recent scathing reports by Financial Times of London and Bloomberg news that alleged that they have been indicted for corruption in the USA; it is noteworthy that the frontline presidential candidates were never convicted of the crimes that they were alleged to have committed.
Nonetheless, there have been a lot of buzz locally about their character flaws which frankly, can not be discountenanced.
But at the same time, we must recognize that no man is perfect.
Personally, if l am faced with the option of choosing between an economic illiterate who would do nothing to grow the economy because he is not trained to do so,and rather dissipates a lot of energy in chasing perceived corrupt people to no avail ; or save up the income of government in bank accounts instead of investing it in employment and tax generating ventures that would boost the GDP and living standard of Nigerians: l would choose the alternative which is an enterprising personality that would seek out all possible legitimate ways to improve the economy and also make our country a better place, prosperity wise and socio-culturally for the harmonious co-existence of the multiple ethnic and religion groups.
The mindset expressed above is underscored by the parable of the three talents in the holy Bible? Those familiar with the parable would recall that the story is about three servants who were entrusted with talents (funds) by their master prior to embarking on a long trip. And the two who invested their talents wisely, were commended by their master upon his return.
But the one who dug up the ground to hide his own talent,so that he would return same to his master was chided and the talent was taken off him and given to those who invested the funds left in their care.
In the light of the above,if a personality with the ability and capacity to robustly grow the beleaguered economy of our beloved country and has engaged in the risky venture of trying to stimulate growth via transactions,and have in the process been accused of graft in the past,both here in Nigeria and abroad without conviction,so be it; because regardless of their past,so long as such candidates are not ex-convicts who the Nigerian constitution excludes from running for public office,l would chose the latter than the former.
As we all may be aware,by and large,risk is an integral part of business or transactions and graft is always in the mix. Accordingly, the most efficacious panacea to graft is to set up robust institutions to prevent it.
Certainly, not of the hue of EFCC and ICPC, thank you very much!
Incorporating measures to eliminate corruption is akin to organizations , (particularly banking institutions) building firewalls around their data bases to fend off cyber criminals that are constantly seeking ways to breach the security of corporations in order to gain access and steal vital data of targeted organizations.
So it behoves of the legislature and judiciary to enact and the executive arm of government enforce laws that would prevent corruption.That is what is obtainable in advanced democracies.
And l make bold to state that the position that l have espoused above would not be far from the mindset of private sector practitioners most of whom are already echoing such sentiment because it is in tandem with their belief that the economy should be unshackled especially by ending petrol subsidy.
We need not be rocket scientists to figure out that the reason for seeking a president that has business attitude or outlook is that the better part of seven years of this administration invested in anti corruption misadventure has pulled, not only the economy of our country into a black hole, but the fabric of unity of our country has also been shredded to the extent that it would take a very long time to mend.
And that is not a good thing ,no matter how spin doctors working for government try to white wash the dire atmosphere in our country which is basically comparable to the experience of a patient in an Intensive Care Unit,ICU of a hospital where life is so precarious as it is only a tiny thread separating life and death while in the ICU.
So,despite the false claim that our country is better off than what it was seven years ago,majority of Nigerians recognize such revisionism as sheer farce and deceit of the electorate , as such they are resolved to effect change, if the current activism by our youths engaged in Permanent Voters Card,PVC registration and collection, is anything to go by.
Although,somehow unorthodox,my non nihilistic or liberal assessment of both Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar as well as Peter Obi ,is guided by the truism and conventional wisdom , ‘there is no paean without pain’.
That broadly implies that sacrifices must be made in order to achieve success.
Buoyed by that reality,l am convinced that Nigerians are willing to vote for the candidate who would move the nation forward into the orbit of progress and prosperity,than those that would lead them into a blind alley and quagmire where the ship of state is currently anchored and waiting to ,at the slightest stress test, tip over or remain moored in a cul de sac where it is currently located ,rudderless.
In that regard, and for sure ,Tinubu, Abubakar and Obi will receive caustic criticisms when emotions start running high as the campaigns begin from 28 September which is basically a couple of months from today.
But one thing we must recognize is that things are never as bad as they first seem or as good as they first seem.
So,after the anticipated hurly burly, one of them would end up in Aso Rock Villa on 29 May 2023 and that person will be adept in reading and understanding profit and loss account, a skill that is critically needed for the robust management of our country especially at a point like this when it is on the verge of bankruptcy.
And l would like to urge skeptics who hold a contrary view to the assertion above,to recall the gale of criticisms that was visited on then candidate, Mohammadu Buhari when he was a presidential candidate in 2015. Yet,he won the presidency, simply because there was a pervasive sanctimonious attitude of ‘anyone but Goodluck Jonathan’ prevailing in Nigeria at that point in time.
It is trite to state that a similar sentiment is currently prevailing in Nigeria’s political space, as Nigerians are craving a rebirth or reset in 2023.
Apart from the candidates of APC and PDP that are besmeared, Peter Obi, candidate of Labor Party, LP, who is a two term governor of Anambra state also had corruption toga tied to his persona .That is if the huge cash running into hundreds of millions of naira (about N250m )allegedly found in a vehicle in the governors mansion Awka during his tenure is taken into account. And it is in addiction to the alleged malfeasance arising from his patronage of an offshore tax heaven that reportedly helped him hide some of his wealth that he failed to disclose, to avoid paying tax in Nigeria.
Similarly ,the presidential candidate of the newly minted party, New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso,who is a two term governor of Kano state, ex defense minister and senator of the federal republic of Nigeria has also at one time or the other been tarred with the black brush of malfeasance which was brought to the fore in the course of his duel with his predecessors and successors as governor of Kano state, lbrahim Shekarau and Abdulahi Ganduje.
But most of the candidates have gone to the law courts shorn themselves of such moral liabilities.
My point is that unlike in 2015,anti corruption will not be the center piece of any candidate’s campaign,since it has been demystified as a campaign rhetoric that would resonate with voters. In any case must of the candidates have shed the negative toga of corruption by discharging themselves of the allegations in courts of law.
In short ,right now ,there is fatigue on the fight against corruption because those who are supposed to be fighting it in the current dispensation have become more corrupt than those they are supposed to prevent from dipping their hands into our common treasury.
That is reflected by the allegations against lbrahim Magu ,the anti graft tzar who was recently sacked as the EFCC chairman and the immediate past Accountant General of The Federation, AGF, Ahmed Idris who got dismissed on account of bilking Nigeria of N80 billion naira diverted illegally from the treasury that he is supposed to be the custodian.
Also in the mix is Abdulrasheed Maina, the jailed chairman of Pension Reform Task Team , PRTT with responsibility for the reforming of the corruption ridden pension funds system and he ended up re-looting the multi billion naira funds that he was assigned to recover.
Be it Omoyele Sowore, the presidential candidate of Africa Action Congress, AAC, Dumebi Kachikwu , candidate for the presidency on the platform of Africa Democratic Congress, ADC or Young Progressive Party, YPP presidential candidate, Malik Ado-lbrahim , all of whom are running on the platforms of fringe political parties,not one presidential candidates is a saint by any stretch of imagination as they all also have scandals,not particularly of fraud or corruption dimensions,hugging them.
And from 28 September,all of them would probably be literally stripped naked simply because muck raking goes with the territory of politics.
As salvaging the economy and reining in insecurity are obviously the most pressing needs of Nigerians in these present times , projecting into the development mindset of the next occupant of Aso Rock Villa seat of power as president in 2023,l am pretty convinced that if there were to be a three point agenda as a fulcrum or policy plank of the incoming government;one of them would be pulling our country out of economic doldrums which has seen government borrowing money from local banks to pay public servants salaries and utilizing about 98% of it’s income for debt servicing,and which by some accounts is in excess of ninety (90) billion dollars borrowed from local and international lenders.
Also , restoring security of lives and properties by government thus freeing the masses from the rule of bandits such as religious insurgents, herdsmen militias and unknown gun men currently be-spoiling Nigeria from the north, all the way down to the eastern corners of Nigeria ,as precious lives are being decimated with reckless abandon on a daily basis,would be the second in the agenda.
The third in the agenda would be to drastically cut down corruption which has become so entrenched in our political space and business environment that it is looking like it is embedded in our DNA and therefore part of our culture. Of course that is a false narrative that must be erased from the psyche of Nigerians.
Now, PDP presidential candidate,Atiku Abubakar had picked his running mate shortly after the primaries.
Although his choice of delta state governor, lfeanyi Okowa has been tempestuous, largely because the preferred candidate of PDP leadership and follower-ship appears to be governor of Rivers state,Nyesom Wike, who although is the presidential aspirant that garnered the next highest vote after the winner; and a veritable pillar of support for the PDP in the past seven years;got passed over for appointment as Abubakar’s running mate. That anomaly has precipitated the rumble that has culminated into the ongoing resistance by southern governors and key stakeholders in the main opposition party which still persists till date .
And that glitch could slow down the otherwise fast moving train that had gathered the momentum for PDP to return to Aso Rock Villa after its unceremonious exit in 2015.
PDP’s case is not as bad as that of the ruling party, APC where it’s candidate has taken more or less one month (8th June to 10th July) to pick a running mate.
Tinubu took long in choosing his running mate, Kashim Shetima, former Borno State governor and a fellow Muslim owing to the dilemma of being a southern Muslim who must nominate a running mate from the north, where incidentally, Muslims are in the majority.
With a Muslim-Muslim ticket ,Tinubu and the ruling party have a monumental and Herculean task of convincing southern and northern Christians to vote for him as president in 2023. That standpoint is simply derived from the fact that Christians have long been feeling marginalized under president Buhari’s watch,which although had a Christian Vice President in the person of Yemi Osinbajo, yet suffered exclusion from governance. How much more worse would it get ,if no Christian would be at the table inside Aso Rock Villa seat of presidential power from 2023,they may be wondering . Tinubu seemed to have been left with no better option. The devil or deep blue sea.
And it is the type of choice dilemma that Bukola Saraki could have been faced with, if was to have won the presidential primaries in PDP.
Of all the major political parties,only the LP and it’s presidential candidate seem to have gotten the ethnic and religious balancing equation right.
That is simply because Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the party, a Christian from Anambra state has picked Datti Baba-Ahmed a Muslim from Kaduna state. It is such a perfect combination in the ethno-religious calculus reminiscent of the Shehu Shagari and Alex Ekwueme combination in 1979 that it is looking like a de-ja-vu.
Much as the pairing of President and vice Presidential candidates of labor party is an ideal combination,it is not really a critical factor, but it matters.
That is why a Muslim-Muslim ticket that Bola Tinubu has settled for is rubbing off roughly on members of the other faiths.
Applying the analogy of a game of gulf, the APC Presidential candidate, Tinubu’s dilemma can be likened to a player who has hit the ball and it has fallen into a stream in the golf course which is a major bogey ; while Abubakar’s situation is like that of a player whose ball was struck with the club but it has landed in a bunker or bogey; just as LP’s candidate, Obi looks like a player that has made a powerful hit of the ball and it has landed out of the range of the hole, such that it is highly unlikely to be successfully potted into the hole in the number of times required by the rules of the game.
In conclusion,my take is that the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar has a better chance of potting the ball out of the bunker into the hole, if he is able to calm the brewing Nyesom Wike storm swiftly and dexterously. PDP situation is still better than the circumstances in which APC candidate,Bola Tinubu find’s himself. He is highly handicapped as his ball has landed in a stream and he will likely not be able to retrieve it.
That simply means that his presidential quest may be in jeopardy of being dead on arrival after choosing his running mate, since a Muslim-Muslim ticket which worked in 1993 when Moshood Abiola,a Muslim philanthropist from the south west,like him, paired up with Babagana Kingibe,also a Muslim from Borno state to win the presidential contest in 1993 that is acclaimed to be the fairest and freest in the annals of Nigeria’s electioneering process is no more feasible .
Today, in light of the polarization of the country along ethnic and religious divides in the past decade or so, such a prospect now looks like an anathema in Nigeria where a stanza in the old national anthem “ … though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand … appear to be so quaint and such an anathema due to the elevated level of politics of religiosity and ethnicity that have engulfed the political space and obfuscated the brotherhood spirit of yore.
For the reasons above ,APC and it’s Presidential torch bearer, Bola Tinubu have a perfect storm in their hands and Atiku Abubakar and PDP baring any more goofs or gaffes may be on the verge of singing joyfully into Aso Rock Villa on 29 May 2023.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst ,author, development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.