Welcoming Datti Ahmed to Nigeria’s presidential race

By Tonnie Iredia

The Labour Party (LP) is fast positioning itself among the major political parties in the country. Its growing popularity further soared two days ago when it unveiled one outstanding Nigerian, Datti Baba-Ahmed as its vice presidential candidate. Datti, the founder and pro-chancellor of Baze university Abuja is a highly principled personality and well respected technocrat. Those who are close to him would readily testify that his unveiling was a pleasant surprise. After tenaciously rejecting Nigeria’s commercialized politics several times, not many expected that he would be one of the candidates in next year’s presidential election. There are at least two notable examples of his principled stand-point. The first was his refusal to participate in the recent presidential primaries of his previous party – the PDP.
His reason was that because all southern candidates gave way for their northern colleagues to be the only aspirants in 2019, it was morally wrong for northern aspirants like himself to come out again for the 2023 contest. The second example was his withdrawal from the latest Kaduna governorship primaries of his party on the ground that he could not stand the practice of bribing delegates. If so, why has Datti suddenly accepted the invitation by the Labour party? Does he not realize that it is hard to differentiate dirty party primaries from the plethora of electoral malpractices which happen during general voting? If the truth must be told, innovations by successive electoral bodies in Nigeria notwithstanding, a typical election in the country is essentially an ordeal in which several democratic norms and values are breached. This seems to explain the reluctance of well-meaning people to be part of elections in our clime.
Consequently, our elections which had been largely incredible have left the nation in a state of anomie. What the citizens get is usually excuses and buck-passing between the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress APC and the Peoples Democratic Party PDP. The current ruling party, the APC says, for example, that it will take longer than can be imagined to redress the 16-year old damage done to Nigeria by the previous ruling party. Painfully, most of the APC chieftains who cherish this rationalization were themselves previously in the PDP. Some have left and returned more than once. Thus, every criticism that PDP now has for the current ruling party is exactly what the former opposition party levelled against the then ruling party in 2014. It’s like politicians are articulate when in opposition but clueless once in power.  The implication is that the difference between the APC and the PDP is the same as the difference between six and half a dozen.
Whereas chieftains and acclaimed numerous supporters of the two large parties are likely to continue to vote for them, the average citizen who is tired of both the APC and PDP ought to be given an opportunity to have other alternatives from which to make a choice. This is why the emergence at the national scene of the Labour Party and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) which appear to have brought forth some viable candidates is salutary.  The Labour Party in particular ought to be commended for unveiling a sound joint-ticket of two outstanding Nigerians of the same ideological inclination. For some time now, Peter Obi the party’s presidential candidate has been trending because of his well-known prudence and accountability. His vice, Datti Baba-Ahmed was a delight to watch on national television a few hours after his unveiling, hitting the right points.
For the benefit of those who did not watch the interview of Labour’s vice presidential candidate, I will endeavour to restate a few pertinent points he made. He started by drawing attention to the transparent compatibility between himself and his presidential candidate affirming that both of them were destined to rescue and fix Nigeria. So, our people can rightly ignore any excuses of incompatibility from either of them in future. Datti at a point likened the Labour Party to a fast moving train that cannot be halted as was recently done to the Abuja-Kaduna train whose passengers are yet to complete their two-hour trip after more than 100 days. He also announced that the day his party gets into power, would signal the end to the old order of inflation of government contracts adding that the hitherto stolen or misappropriated resources would be expended on people-oriented policies and programmes. It is therefore with excitement that i welcome on behalf of my readers, Senator Datti, Baba-Ahmed, LP’s vice presidential candidate to the 2023 contest.
It is not impossible that some smart politicians would make lofty promises that they don’t intend to fulfill.  The beauty of Datti’s outing however is that it did not take the usual form of coloured circumlocutory political diction. Rather it was a set of clear, concise and patently persuasive statements made with a commercial mindset. But most importantly, Datti established that his rather quiet disposition cannot be used to portray him as a new comer to the political scene. The Kaduna State-born economist was a legislator far back in 2003 when he won election to represent Zaria Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives. From 2011-2102, he served as a senator for Kaduna North under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was also a presidential aspirant under PDP in the colourful Port Harcourt convention of 2019 and before his recent defection on moral grounds, he was among the aspirants who jostled for the governorship ticket in Kaduna State.
Following the rise of the LP, other political parties would definitely buckle up, making it easy for Nigeria to witness keener contests unlike before, when some big guys were always able to overwhelm candidates of infantile parties to ‘win’ elections in many polling centres where voting did not even hold. In other words, with the presence of popular rivals, our elections would be more credible because more candidates who would be eager to defeat the new men of ideas would tighten their belts and follow the path of issue-based political campaigns. Of course, there are a number of people in the old parties who would do better if they are challenged. As a result, we need to succinctly underscore the point that since 1999 when this democratic era began, Nigeria, has had only one large and rather invincible political party with two identical branches, hence they have over the period succeeded in rotating among themselves, the baton of exploitation.
While it is rational to advocate for keen and clean contests, it is hoped that such mature politics would dominate the forthcoming period of electioneering. In which case, the current trend of heating up the polity with defamatory messages especially in the social media should stop. Stories about anomalies in certain academic certificates, dates of births and other claims cannot help our voters to understand the process. Whereas party supporters cannot be stopped from propagating the popularity of specific political candidates through road shows and processions, the nation’s unending underdevelopment suggests that Nigerians need to hear not only the plans and promises of political parties, but also lucid explanations of how the promises and plans are to be fulfilled. This is crucial if the nation’s stunted growth is to end.
This is not to say that persons who have fake documents or any other legal disability should be spared because such persons are also likely to be fraudulent with power. But such anomalies should be tested in court and those found wanting excluded from the process. For example, in Delta state, on account of certain allegations, PDP’s governorship candidate was disqualified. Those who are dissatisfied with the decision should follow the judicial process to the end without canvassing the subject at violent campaign venues. Similarly, it will be counterproductive to convert several allegations of wrongful substitution of candidates in the APC or elsewhere into campaign issues, because they can drown the substantive issues of getting politicians to enunciate their election promises and how they would be fulfilled so that voters can make informed decisions.

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