THE YOUNG NIGERIAN PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANTS: THE ART OF LOSING A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION




By Akin Ojumu

Two giants occupy the battlefield of Nigerian politics. Like the Colossus of Rhodes, their massive size fills every inch of the theatre of political operations in Nigeria leaving no room for those who would want to throw up a challenge. With mammoth heads, barrel chests, long beefy arms that reach the four wings of the country, these political Goliaths stand athwart the doorway of political opportunity, ready and willing, to squash any and all political enemy.

The two leading political parties in Nigeria – APC and PDP – are the Nephilim of Nigerian politics, under whose huge feet the other political parties walk. As the two longest surviving political groups in the country, their roots run deep, and their reach stretches far to the remotest parts of the country. By virtue of their longevity, they each draw strong support from all the 36 states and have fully represented within their ranks all the 250 tribes and ethnic groups that make up Nigeria.

In all the 20 years of Nigeria’s fourth republic, APC and PDP have taken turns to preside over the country’s political fortunes; PDP for 16 years and APC for the last 4. Towering head and shoulder above all the other political parties, these two organizations cast long shadows across the political landscape and their influence is felt across all demographics. As the political establishment par excellence in the country, they alone constitute the premier league of blood sport of Nigeria politics.

Sucking up all the available oxygen in the political stratosphere, the two Hercules of Nigerian politics have asphyxiated the other parties in the country, rendering them functionally impotent and unable to mount any meaningful challenge to their political dominance. With vast resources at their disposal, they have crushed nearly all oppositions in a relentless aerial bombardments of shock and awe. To keep the other political parties in political wilderness, the reigning political establishment erected a wall around political power in Nigeria – a wall so impenetrable that the 5th century Walls around Constantinople pale in comparison.

Despite the near total political domination and control of the levers of power at various levels of government in the country, the successive PDP and APC governments have done little to improve the standard of living of ordinary Nigerians. While the weary and tired masses are left to fend for themselves as a government to themselves – generating their own power, being their own water corporation, building their own roads, and providing security for themselves and their families – those elected to provide governance go about looting the nation’s coffers, and the politicians paid to chart the course for a better tomorrow enrich themselves at the expense of those who elect them to power. The political autocrats have since grown fat on the largesse of office and have gotten drunk on the intoxicating allure of power.

Consequently, the 20 years of incompetent leadership and corrupt government have taken its toll on the soul Nigerians. All Nigeria has to show for the monopoly of power by the two political juggernauts are 20 years of broken promises, crushed hopes and shattered dreams. Lacking attention, the nation’s institutions have been left to rot, and subject to deliberate neglect, our infrastructures have crumbled and fallen apart. To many Nigerians, the future looks even bleaker than it did 20 years ago.

After years of waiting in the wings, praying and hoping for change, a generation of Nigerians has decided to take matters into their own hand. They have risen up to wrest power from the fat and bloated autocrats that have taken the nation for granted for so long. Like David confronting Goliath, these young men and women have stepped forward in large numbers and have thrown their hats into the race for the next president of Nigeria. With fire in their belly and holy fury in their eyes, these young breeds speak loftily of a better future for Nigeria. They “raise a banner of bold colors - no pale pastels. They proclaim a dream of a Nigeria that would be “a shining city on a hill.””

Notwithstanding, for all their soaring rhetoric and motivational speeches, these political rookies seem to forget that Giants don’t fall easily; they simply are hard to bring down. Except you are David, the shepherd boy who became the king of Israel, no one confronts a Goliath with mere stones and a sling and hope to come out alive with their appendages still intact. A much stronger and more powerful foe cannot be vanquished with a feckless strategy, a foolhardy tactic and less than optimal weaponry. No one goes to a gun fight wielding a kitchen knife. Unless you bring your A-game to the fight, you don’t stand a chance against a prepared superior adversary.

Rather than teaming up and consolidating their efforts, the neophyte presidential aspirants are each running their own individual presidential campaigns. In what amounts to a Quixotic adventure, the presidential candidates for AAC, ANN, and YPP are going it alone all by themselves.

Whether it’s their youthful exuberance, political naivete or simply an overestimation of the extent of their influence, the vital political lesson of strength in numbers appears especially lost on these cadre of new breed politicians who have entered the Nigerian presidential contest with the hope of dislodging the two behemoth that have run roughshod over this land for so long.

The idea that each of these 3 candidates believe they can, on their own, successfully take on the vast political enterprise of APC and PDP and win, is nothing short of wishful thinking at best and political malfeasance at worst. They seem to believe, the elections will be won by how many likes they get on their twitter handle posts, how uplifting are their motivational speeches, or how loud they can shout “Aluta continua!”

As Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” To the extent that these young candidates have political strategy, it is faulty and one that, without a shadow of doubt, is bound to fail. It is mere noise that will redound in an embarrassing defeat come election day.

What we see playing out, in the approach of the 3 new generation candidates in this race, is the art of losing a presidential election. Their refusal to subsume their individual ambitions for the sake of the country and unite forces, and combine resources, to fight a common enemy should give those who believe in them and their message pause. For them not to see the bigger picture – not to appreciate that freeing the nation from captivity and delivering ourselves from those who have held us captive for 20 years is a much greater cause than an individual aspiration of being a presidential aspirant – is a serious error in political judgement.

This is why Nigerians, who by virtue of generational affinity and political outlook are these candidates’ natural constituents, and ought to be knocking on doors on behalf of their campaigns, view their candidacies with heavy dose of skepticism. Many of these potential supporters, who ought to be solidly in the camps of these political newbies, don’t see them as serious and viable candidates that can win a presidential election in Nigeria. Some have even suggested that this run for president is nothing more than a “meetooism”, and as they say in Texas. "All hat and no cow."

That is a rather serious indictment.

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win,” (Sun Tzu, Art of War).

You should know you have a long ways to go as a presidential aspirant, when you can’t even win the support of those who think like you, feel like you, and see things the same way you do. The individuals that go on to succeed in politics are those gifted with the ability to read the tea leaves. To make headway in Nigerian politics, you can’t do without that gift.

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