IF Nigerians were alarmed by the absurd cost of nomination and expression of interest forms in the country’s two major political parties, the ongoing farce with regard to the sheer number of presidential aspirants has left them completely befuddled. It is inconceivable that in a nation rated as the global capital of poverty and where the N30,000 minimum wage is not being paid by many state governors, close to 40 aspirants have already declared for president and picked up nomination forms in the major parties alone. In the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) alone, those who have picked up the N100 million nomination forms include Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, APC National Leader, Ex-governor Bola Tinubu; Senate President Ahmad Lawan, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole; Governor Dave Umahi, Governor Mohammed Badaru, Governor Kayode Fayemi, Governor Yahaya Bello, Governor Ben Ayade, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole and Senator Ibikunke Amosun.
Still within APC, six members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet are jostling for the top job. They are the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio; Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva. The list of APC presidential aspirants also includes Pastor Tunde Bakare and Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, among others.
At least 15 presidential aspirants that have been screened by the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and have picked up the N40 million nomination forms. They include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Pius Anyim, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Governor Ayodele Fayose. Others are Governor Nyesom Wike, Governor Udom Emmanuel, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Governor Bala Mohammed, former Governor Peter Obi; ex-President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mr. Sam Ohuabunwa; Publisher, Ovation magazine, Chief Dele Momodu; Charles Ugwu, Chikwendu Kalu, Teriela Oliver and Mr. Mohammed Hayatudeen.
Quite naturally, the aspirants, including governors that are owing workers arrears of pensions and salaries and in whose jurisdiction there are hardly any good roads, have abandoned all pretenses to governance altogether, criss-crossing the 36 states and wooing delegates for their parties’ forthcoming presidential primaries. Providing no cogent justification for their ambition, they have filled the airwaves with banality, convinced as they are that Nigerians are easy to deceive. They have staged rallies and shows repeating the same old lies that they told Nigerians during past election seasons. One key question that has arisen from the ongoing exhibition which a Nigerian pop singer, Peter Okoye of P-Square music group has described as “beer parlour declaration” is why there is an unprecedented number of presidential aspirants.
To be sure, we do not query the democratic right of the aspirants to declare for president. That right is constitutionally guaranteed and cannot be contemned. Nevertheless, there are moral, ethical and philosophical issues surrounding the presidency of a country and we are worried about the outright jettisoning of these values by the army of characters that have declared for president, turning such an otherwise serious institution into comedy. To say the very least, with the largely jejune campaign speeches, immoral conduct and bleak record of many of the so-called aspirants, the aura around the office of president has been demystified. This is, of course, not hard to explain. The current occupant of the office has apparently reduced that office to his uninspiring level. The thinking among many a politician is “if Buhari could be president, why can’t I?” It is most unfortunate.
Nowadays, the governor or former governor who does not want to be president is the exception, even when the people who voted him into office are groaning under the yoke of his poor leadership. The situation is the same among ministers and other categories of political office-holders. Everyone wants to be president, even if it is just to secure a vantage position for political patronage in 2023. It is clear that these aspirants do not think very highly of the people they currently govern and aspire to govern in a higher capacity when they have made a complete mess of their present assignment. Just how can the electorate reward failure with a higher mandate?
The presidency and the conversation around it ought to be exalted. It is the highest office in the land and ought not to be an all-comers affair, particularly given Nigeria’s role in Africa and beyond. Sadly, there has been no elevated conversation at all. What a tragedy!
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