Politics is a changeling and I mean this in two ways. It can change in complexion every minute and even its failures can be colourfully packaged as success, while success is packaged as failure. But, in both instances, discerning citizens will not miss the real facts if they remain focused on the issue, rather than ride the emotions.
Forget about what the APC is doing with their attempt to sell the Ekiti governorship election result as signaling what will happen in the 2023 presidential election because that very effort is diversionary. The real important news regarding the presidential election is that the candidates have been offered the opportunity to make their first real decision as presidential candidates by choosing their running mates.
They all had notice from INEC of the deadline for submitting the names of running mates, which was Friday, the 17th of June, 2022. Meanwhile, it should not be forgotten that the PDP had their convention within the time stipulated. It was the APC that was struggling to the extent that INEC had to extend the time to favour them. The signal was that the APC was finding it difficult organizing themselves. So, whatever the benefit or blame that comes out of that, it is for the parties to take responsibility and appropriately so.
But, when we come to the choice of running mate, as much as party stakeholders have a say, the responsibility for the choice rests squarely with the candidate. It is the first decision that will give people an idea of whether the candidate can think and act presidential.
As things are, of the three key contestants, only Atiku Abubakar passed that test. Atiku confidently chose Governor Ifeanyi Okowa within the timeframe stipulated and went on to boldly defended his choice with a great speech that neither pandered to the ethnic tunes dominating the general environment of the choice nor did he prove incapable of dealing with what one might consider the controversy generated by the choice. Both he and the running mate have been making the right noises since the decision was made.
Now, what did Tinubu do? He did nothing. He couldn’t make a simple decision about a running mate with his people claiming he needs more time to consult. He just sent in the name of a nondescript partyman from Katsina, someone they say is Governor Aminu Masari’s relation as the placeholder. Makes you wonder what it really means to be a prime political strategist and thinker in Nigeria, as Tinubu has been variously touted. I mean, if you have resolved to choose a Muslim-Muslim ticket for whatever political reason you can conjure up in these delicates times in Nigeria, what is difficult in choosing a running mate from amongst those you have repeatedly claimed are longstanding supporters or fellow partymen and women? The only thing one gets from this is that Tinubu is really not prepared for the task of being president. If a basic decision like choosing a running mate is giving him the heebie-jeebies, what would it look like with him sitting in Aso Rock confronting Nigeria’s real problems?
Peter Obi too failed the test, but I have some sympathy for him. The real cause of his problem is the Labour Party and the attempt to get him to concede the choice of his running mate to other party officials based on the notion that they gave him their party ticket on a platter.
That’s basically the reason the decision was not made. But then where I have a problem with Obi’s decision-making is in the fact that he has not found it worth his while to speak publicly about why he couldn’t make the choice, even if it means him saying his party is in discussion with other parties and the running mate position may be part of the bargain. Nigerians saw the comedy of a Doyin Okupe coming on national television to tell Nigerians that he is the placeholder nominated as Peter Obi’s running mate.
He was talking in every way like someone who nominated himself. The truth is it does not look good. Peter Obi is being declared a movement and even though we are yet to see the full effect of his newfound social media popularity in the election because it’s still nine months away, we are told that the mass of people indicating he is their candidate are from every part of the country.
So, you’d would think that Peter Obi, a Catholic from the South-East with such well-advertised surging popularity nationwide would not have a problem choosing a Northern Muslim of considerable weight as a running mate. The choice of a fellow Southern Christian, even if as only a placeholder, sends the wrong signals about the candidate and the Labour Party. It would be difficult for any average Northerner to objectively look at the Labour Party now as a party that identifies with them.
I know that many will come against me with claims that Peter Obi and the Labour Party do not give a monkey’s about ethnicity and religion, that they are just a Nigerian party and any Nigerian can be their presidential candidate or their running mate in any election. Again, discerning and objective people will see through that lie, which is a tad hypocritical.
No one has forgotten that a huge factor in Peter Obi’s decision to leave the PDP was because the party did not zone the presidency to the South-East. He is galvanizing disgruntled Ndigbo who believe his new Labour Party platform is the vehicle to actualize that dream. Of course, that requires that Obi himself has to be sensitive to any decision about running mate. Choosing Okupe at best makes him look unprepared and at worst casts him as a sectionalist. At no level can we objectively look at the decision and say it’s a good one.
Now, people who want to argue that Obi has a right to nominate a placeholder as allowed by the law while he thoroughly assesses his options need not bother. I have not come here to say he has no such right. I have come to say that how each candidate handled their decision to nominate a running mate is reflective of their capabilities if they become President.
Of course, just as many people are avoiding talking bout Tinubu’s health and the danger it poses, so they are ignoring the fact that he and Obi have made a hash of a simple presidential-level decision. It counts.