In the last days of electioneering, we experience fever pitch activities of desperate politicians. With less than 10 days to the presidential elections, this is a very critical period; the time football enthusiasts refer to as injury time in a must-win or must-not-lose match. It requires all manner of tactics to overcome the opponent. Endorsement is an age-long technique in electoral contests and comes with a certain freshness. Its admixture of a semblance of popularity and inclusiveness gives its brew a compelling aroma and a bitter taste in the bud long afterwards.
Only a handful of politicians fail to reckon with this gambit. Former minister of Solid Minerals and Education, former World Bank vice president for Africa and 2019 presidential candidate of the Action Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Dr. Oby Ezekwesili is finding it difficult to understand what this is about. Right under her rose, while still deep in her campaign outreaches and preparations to wrest power from the siamese twins of transactional politics, members of her party in a rather ominous brand of politics had negotiated something and decided to endorse President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term.
Lamenting the betrayal and contempt of her party members, Ezekwesili, did not succeed in concealing her disappointment as her emotions failed her. She wiped her eyes as her voice quivered. She wondered how she could drop her presidential ambition for a ministerial position when she had rejected several offers for same position by past and present administrations. How could she be so convinced to be the party’s standard bearer while members of her party had their mind elsewhere.
Not being a typical Nigerian politician, her foray into the electoral contest had actually astounded many Nigerians and elicited mixed reactions about her capacity to deal with intrigues of political correctness and due process. Most professional politicians do not have scruples about what happens to whatever names they had made in the course of their various endeavours. These category of politicians have given Nigerian politics its peculiar flavour. To be a successful politician is to live a fallacy and move about gaily in a turncoat. To survive blackmail, you are expected to keep a long distance from this politics. But that is the trick. Those who are afraid of a healthy political competition deliberately provoke those with strength of character into certain acts of misjudgment to expose their vulnerability.
Ezekwesili, the transparency amazon saw the blackmail and quickly returned to herself, perhaps back to her role as a vociferous activist and global economic governance analyst. But she has learnt some lessons that would enrich her experience about her dear country and why things are less predictable even with the clear indicators.
Hopefully Ezekwesili will see more clearly in the next complex of days why a very patriotic coalition of mentally and morally strong Nigerians is required to restrategise in the nation’s true interest. While that option needs consideration, this is the season of endorsement and so much humour go with it.
The joke seems to be who can get better and more valuable endorsement groups. And the canvassers are working to beat deadline. The vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Peter Obi, was criticized by a priest for not making appreciable contribution to the Adoration ministry. The Catholic Priest, Rev. Father Mbaka later visited President Buhari. The purpose was not very clear but religious leaders are usually not left out of these endorsement visits. Imams, Alfas, prophets and various organizations flaunt some names and get passage through the corridors of influence into important circles of target personalities.
Many ethnic leaders overrate their influence and consider their endorsements as critical to the victory of any political contender. Consequently we witness political drama of sorts by pro and anti endorsement camps. Some members of Miyetti Allah, a formidable group of Fulani herdsmen that had never hidden their support for President Buhari’s second term, recently endorsed the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. PANDEF, AFENIFERE, OHANEZE, and NEF in a new kind of simultaneity, announced their endorsement of Alhaji Atiku.
Amidst these ethnic endorsements, the brickbats are flying. Former governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, Director General of VON, Osita Ikechukwu and others have flayed the Igbo leadership and assured their patrons that the endorsement is inconsequential. Niger Delta youths disagree with PANDEF just as there have been divergent views in other ethnic groups. No matter. The Atiku camp is upbeat. His campaign director general, Senator Bukola Saraki says the endorsement means national acceptance of Atiku and total victory for the PDP.
Association of prostitutes and an association of white witches have reportedly endorsed Alhaji Atiku after their meetings (in a coven). Pray, what if not as a moral dampner, will prostitutes’ and witches brazen endorsement do for a candidate. Certain endorsements actually add nothing if not damage the reputation and chances of the intended beneficiary.
Dozens of ex-military officers including APC chieftain, Bubar Marwa endorsed Prresident Buhari perhaps as counter to the support Atiku is said to be enjoying from retired Generals Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Theophilus Danjuma etc. It does not matter that the co-ordinator of the endorsement is a political acolyte. National Union of Local Government Employees, a union of civil servants in the third-tier of government also endorsed the president. Wither the neutrality of the civil servant in politics.
Endorsement has become so much a part of our politics that we are determined to get foreigners to also be a part of it. Prominent members of the major political parties travel overseas to America, the European Union, United Kingdom and international agencies to get their endorsement even when the interest of western nations is transparent electoral systems with norms and values. Now we have come nearer home to our neighbours in Niger with two governors in the campaign of a candidate. What happens to diplomacy if their preferred candidate is not returned. Their presence at the podium was beyond the endorsement threshold notwithstanding the attempts at justification. With endorsements you can’t imagine the magnitude of desperation we have to endure, and for our cerebral Oby, the betrayal is beyond fathom.