Nigeria: In Search of the Next President

Published on 22nd January 2019

There was nothing new about the Presidential Debate that happened on Saturday because what was expected came through. Five candidates were chosen to tell why it is in the interest of the Nigerian people to make them President. We expected only three of them to show up and three showed up. We expected two to play mind games and the two didn’t betray us. Those three were polished Homo sapiens and as a result lacked the primary requirement of a Nigerian President.

They were eloquent, full of ideas, looked modern and seemed to be driven by passion for our wellbeing. Professor Kingsley Moghalu, Dr Oby Ezekwesili and Mr Fela Durotoye poured their hearts out in those passionate speeches that looked like the dreams of every angry patriot around here. They spoke words we’ve heard before and words we haven’t encountered but Politics is a game of lies and the ability for mass hypnosis.

Lies are the bridges on which our great politicians built our destruction and their ability to charm listeners tantamounts the length of their careers. It was lies that got the absent leader where he got today though he is always willing to swear in the name of every God that integrity is his family name. We have seen this before. We have seen this passion before but a debate is more than a manifesto. A Presidential debate is not a place where the candidates reel out words and get no pruning in return. We had faith that this exercise would expose the wit and the capacity of our candidates for sound thought.

They may have borrowed manifestoes. Preparations may have been done for them but in a place where thoughts and words are exchanged among people with different or similar circumstances, manifestoes and default solutions are less powerful. They would have to think and reason solutions on the spot. They would have to show the people they intend to lead that they have the brain power to challenge problems that arise in the polity. That is the point of debates.

A Presidential Debate exists to guide the people to choose the better debater in whom to invest their dreams. It exists to help analyse the candidates better. Debates involve the exchange of intellectual materials but these exchanges of intellectual materials can only impress a country of intellectuals. When the President of the United States, Barrack Obama, floored Governor Mitt Romney in the Presidential debate that preceded his re-election it was certain that another term was sure for the incumbent. He won because he did what mattered to the majority of countrymen waiting on that platform to decide. It mattered because the debate took place in a country where the intellectuals were in the majority. It happened because despite the President’s shortcomings, the candidate chosen by the Republicans couldn’t tell how he would better the lives of Americans.

For the majority of persons who used the debate as guide, the decision to give Obama another term was a logical decision. Here, a Presidential Debate doesn’t hold similar value and the politicians we choose to represent us understand how this works. They know that a lot of us are ignorant so they don’t pay attention to arguments having intellectual value. They know that a lot of us operate on sentiments and the outcome of any debate wouldn’t change our position, so they give the debate a political treatment. If they attend the debates, it is not because they believe their ideas deserve arguing or that Nigerians even deserve to know the limit of their intellect.

They attend debates when they are sure it will boost their campaign. There exists the reason the current President didn’t show up. Forget the tight schedule argument. Forget the story of stress from campaigns. Forget the town hall meetings which were deliberately held to shield themselves against the already fixed debate. You are in their cage and they have nothing to gain by feeding you uncommon food. You are lost and do not have any compass around you. This is one of the only places Nigerian politicians do any calculation.

How would the Presidential debate have helped Buhari’s re-election if he had attended? Not in any way if our guide is logic and his handlers know this. How would his presence have derailed his campaign? In a little way but any little number could prove decisive in this year’s election. The man doesn’t want to take chances and even though the majority of us do not pattern our votes according to a Presidential Debate, any old man with attributes of dementia wouldn’t want to gamble on it. Here, absence is golden. He and his handlers know that the majority of us in this country are moved by lesser things.

Atiku, the candidate of the main opposition party, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, was channelling this spirit when he abstained because the President abstained. As a former student in the field, he and his boss, Olusegun Obasanjo, messed many things up and the absence of Buhari would have provided the other rugged and more enlightened candidates a fine substitute to play with. It wouldn’t have affected the majority vote but that small vote that could tilt the pendulum in this election could go against him. Like the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, the PDP knows that in a country where the faint witted outnumber the fine witted, absence is golden.

We are moved by tribalism, religion and similar values and they know this. In no civilized country will a man like the current President be made sheriff but we are not a civilized country. The Muslims whose interpretation of Islam agrees with his expression of it in this secular state will surely vote him for these expressions and not for the logic in his interpretation of nationalism. The Fulanis whose idea of nationalism agree with his will make sure somebody different doesn’t occupy his seat.

The people who benefit financially through positive and negative loopholes he created wouldn’t mind  the outcome of the debate. That is how it is here and it didn’t start with the current man. In fact, our elections have mostly been won by the candidates who abstained from debate. Goodluck Jonathan abstained from the elections and won. Muhammadu Buhari abstained and won. These are the fine testaments of the place of debates in our choice of President. We are dumb and they know it. We are divided and they know it. Debates are not important to us and they showed it. I am deeply sorry for us. These rogues know that we in the majority are daft.

By Rey Alaetuo,

A conscious Poet and healthcare professional living in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Courtesy: Mortal Poet

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