If democracy were a simple process that followed any given logic and followed a specific standard or pattern, the Nigeria 2023 presidential election would be a fight between Mr. Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the current vice president of Nigeria. Obi and Osinbajo are flawed choices, but they’re probably the only ones who can keep Nigeria’s crooked, ramshackle, oil-leaking, wiper-missing, axle-broken automobile with its deflated front and rear tires on the road for a little longer.
Unfortunately, democracy is messy regardless of the atmosphere.
Democracy is similar to a soccer league. Usually, the games aren’t played fairly. The outcome of each game is determined by a number of factors. It might be the referee or the umpire. It could be the state of the pitch on game day, or the weather. It might be whether the game is a home or away game for each team. Occasionally, a large team with a larger budget will purchase available talent. When a large team dominates for an extended period of time, the competition’s fans learn to root against them. They begin to hope that other teams had a better chance of winning. Eventually, a number of elements come together, and the situation improves. As a result of the big team’s demise, smaller teams have a chance to rise to the top of the league.
As Nigerian political parties prepare for their conventions, the existing permutations and combinations are shifting and can be observed all around. These realities, however, are self-evident no matter where they travel.
If Goodluck Jonathan is elected as the APC’s presidential candidate, the party is doomed. If he becomes the PDP’s presidential candidate, the party is doomed.
If APC’s presidential candidate is Bola Tinubu, with a Muslim northern vice presidential candidate, the party is doomed. APC is doomed if Tinubu is elected president with a Christian northern vice presidential candidate.
APC is doomed if Vice President Osinbajo runs for president with a radical Muslim vice president like Isa Pantami or Nasir el Rufai. APC is doomed if Osinbajo runs against a moderate northern Muslim candidate like Governor Zulum.
Rotimi Amaechi is in the same boat.
If Abubakar Atiku is elected as the PDP’s presidential candidate, with Nyesom Wike as his vice presidential candidate, the party is doomed. PDP is doomed if Atiku becomes the party’s presidential candidate, with Gov. Wike as a vice presidential candidate.
If Peter Obi is elected as the PDP’s presidential candidate with a radical Muslim as his running mate, the party is doomed. PDP is doomed if Obi is elected as the party’s candidate alongside a moderate northern Muslim contender. Peter Obi cannot run Nigeria in the same way he ran Anambra State. Obi’s micromanagement cannot repair the splintered beams of a fatally fractured nation, just as Buhari’s so-called body language failed to mend a structurally damaged nation.
A few minor issues that should have been resolved during this political season are still caught in the mud, demonstrating how twisted up things are in Nigeria. If the brain-damaged Nigerian political elites reject the unavoidable necessity to fundamentally reorganize Nigeria before any election, they do not grasp the compelling need for the presidency of Nigeria to naturally transfer to the south.
It’s a great tragedy that contenders like Atiku Abubakar, Aminu Tambuwal, and others are really considering running for president after eight years of Buhari’s most northern-bent rule in history. But it is happening, indicating that this is a life-or-death situation for many political actors. It should have been self-evident to them that they would quietly concede the presidency to the South.
The question over whether the presidency granted to the South should likewise rotate inside the South should have been settled by this time in the game. People who favor the so-called Igbo presidency have not done a good job of emphasizing the enormous sacrifices that political actors in the South-West would have to make to make it happen. They have also failed to publicize the significant benefit it could bring to competitors’ reputations and to the reconciliation of the political schism in the South.
Getting Bola Tinubu and Yemi Osinbajo to abandon their presidential dreams in favor of a candidate from the South East is akin to ordering the Los Angeles Lakers to trade LeBron James and Russell Westbrook to a different NBA team. That would be referred to as a huge trade in the basketball world. The team that acquires the two players will have to give up first, second, and third-round picks in future NBA drafts. In the NBA and NFL, as well as in European soccer leagues, such trade-offs occur. And they happen for a variety of reasons, the most crucial of which is the league’s stability. Everyone loses in the absence of a stable league: the team, the owners, the players, and the fans.
The urge to soothe ourselves in the thought that Nigeria is like a beetle – never truly crushed – is ever-present. After all, Nigeria has lived up to the London Economist magazine’s statement that it is the only country in the world where the best is impossible and the worst never happens for over four decades.
Yes, nothing bad has happened. Until the ideal storms come together one day. When that moment comes, as we have seen countless times in history, there will be no time to turn to history to argue that things are not as they should be.
Almost no country ever gets the warning that no matter what they do, their country is doomed. We are fortunate to have received advance notification. What are we going to do about it now is the question. What drastic measures will we use to bring this desperate situation to an end? Or are we going to blindly follow the coffin into the grave like a fly?
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he teaches Post-Colonial African History. In addition, he is the host of the Dr. Damages Show. Among his works are “This American Life Sef” and “Children of a Retired God.”