Mystery of APC’s numerous presidential aspirants

By Tonnie Iredia

At this year’s anniversary of Press Freedom Day in Abuja where I served as guest speaker, I had asked Nigerian media professionals to endeavour to appreciate the efficacy of the theory of self-esteem. My argument was that no matter one’s situation in life, an eternal positive admonition is that one must strive continuously to position one’s self favourably so as to attract public respect.

The media cannot afford to despair and lament every year on the precarious position it occupies in world affairs in which its members are attacked if not killed for carrying out an approved societal mandate of public enlightenment. Many other institutions which attack the media do so partly because they see many young people in the media who appear to them as irritants while performing their duties. At the end of the lecture, there was the breaking news that more members of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) had joined dozens of others to pick up the party’s presidential nomination form at the cost of just N100million.

It looked like a mystery for the party which many have been blaming for the woes of the nation to present itself as the party to beat at next year’s presidential election by unveiling innumerable aspirants. A compelling posture for understanding the inexplicable strategy is to place it within the context of the theory of self-esteem which hypothesizes that those who aim high score high. Already, some Nigerians are now unconsciously preoccupied with looking out more at the possibility of the APC’s re-election instead of thinking of the deteriorating standard of living during its tenure. Indeed, some are beginning to buy the imagination that today’s woes would probably have been worse if another party was in charge.

Whoever designed the strategy must have also suggested to APC leaders to remain ebullient giving their members hope and asking more of them to declare to contest the 2023 presidential elections. So, while ordinary Nigerians appear hypnotized, APC members are enjoined to scorn lamentation as a basis for staying up there!!

Many more nominations may come because rumour-mongering is only a first step towards a declaration in the party. Goodluck Jonathan who had been nurtured by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party PDP to serve as Deputy Governor and Governor of Bayelsa State before becoming Vice President and later President of Nigeria may still pick-up the APC form notwithstanding that the party had declared him clueless some 8 years ago. After all, Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele who had been rumoured along with Jonathan now has his own form. It is not even difficult to do because there are scores of Nigerians who are positioned to act as agents on the subject. And if care is not taken, some aspirants may surprisingly get more than one form each, depending on the number of support groups any aspirant enjoys. As disclosed on national television some three days ago, Godswill Akpabio the uncommon leader (wherever he serves) had to appeal to his admirers nationwide not to get an additional form for him. Therefore, there does not appear to be anything wrong with many more aspirants turning up because Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, popularly regarded as APC’s national leader and former governor Amosun of Ogun state have already declared that the more the merrier. In other words, the motivation of some Yoruba leaders to bring their aspirants together in a meeting was not to reduce the figure, but to put across some ethical codes on language and general disposition of the aspirants during campaigns.

Such brotherhood has already been shown by two Yoruba aspirants, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state who claim to have manifestoes which present them as ideological political twins. What one is proposing to do is same as the other’s aspiration. In other climes, such two aspirants would compare notes and agree on which of them should be put forward. Here in Nigeria, that is not the way to go. Instead, it is seen as better for both to contest and pray for anyone of them to be victorious. The additional gain of this approach is that it generates more revenue for the party just as it puts in the public domain, the strength of APC as a party with innumerable presidential aspirants.

What no one can take away from the APC is that each and every aspirant of the party is full of ideas. Unfortunately, not enough efforts have been made to get each ‘aspirant of ideas’ to put such ideas at the disposal of the party. The eloquence with which former governor Adams Oshiomhole explained how to deal with the unending strike by University teachers would no doubt have given a high score to the party if its officials and conciliator had the Oshiomhole therapy and power of persuasion. The teachers are still on strike and their students who have always been made to spend more years than makes sense to obtain a degree are now threatening that no matter the numerical strength of presidential aspirants, the 2023 elections may not hold if the strike is not resolved shortly. It seems logical to agree with our students, that it is more fulfilling to have good governance with education as a priority than to organize a smooth census of political aspirants.

Notwithstanding the outcome of the census, citizens and politicians of Southeast extraction have; on the basis of the need to create a sense of belongingness for all Nigerians, continued to call on political parties to consider an Igbo candidate as the next Nigerian president. However, it is noted that the APC has not stopped her census enumerators of aspirants from operating in the Southeast. At least one governor – Dave Umahi, 3 federal ministers – Ogbonnaya Onu, Chris Ngige and Emeka Nwajiuba along with 3 Senators – Oji Kalu, Rochas Okorocha and Ken Nnamani from the zone are already enumerated. But as far as a former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Senator Victor Umeh, is concerned, South-West politicians jostling to occupy the presidency in 2023 are not helping the cause of one Nigeria. Umeh’s position is that it is premature for the presidency to return to the Southwest from where it began in 1999 when it is yet to go round the 3 major tripods of the Nigerian nation. This criticism must however recognize that even the leadership of the socio-cultural organization of Yoruba people – Afenifere, has severally made the same point.

The APC will do well to effectively manage its huge figure of presidential aspirants without allowing the process to end in imposition which will no doubt create political tension. Already, there are fears in some quarters that a withdrawal form which is expected to operate as a sworn affidavit may have been designed to meet such end. It would probably be difficult to expect persons who are required to sign sworn affidavits well before the day of primaries to believe that there were no premeditated intentions. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can be of help here if it ensures that the conduct of primaries irrespective of the chosen mode is transparent. She can do this by ensuring that all the rules of the game are adhered to. It is expected for instance that she would insist as promised on retrieving authentic political party membership registers.

In the area of voter education, the caution to voters at all levels is for them to look out for the best candidates. The hope is that on account of all the difficulties the nation has passed through in recent years, voters would prioritize good record of previous performance in determining who to vote for. It would not make sense for example to vote for candidates who as governors could neither pay workers’ salaries nor help to improve the living standards of their people. It is not difficult to identify them. Apart from eyewitness accounts, there are credible reports by reputable organizations such as UNICEF which has just released a list of 22 states in Nigeria which are facing malnutrition and food insecurity. It is obviously a better guide than the numerical strength of aspirants.
May 08, 2022

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