Three men in a tub, and all out to sea, By Uddin Ifeanyi

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Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s sense of entitlement to the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in next year’s election may have left a buzz in many people’s ears. And you do not need to reflect deeply to agree with most of those who have taken offence that the loosening of the nation’s moral moorings appear deserving of a response less akin to the elevated volumes of an entitled tot in a crowded playground. But seeing as the choice of president is a call that the voters get to make, let them also judge how much of his ambition (or his preferred method of expressing it) is in bad taste.

Of greater import is his candidacy of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party. Almost eight years of rule by the APC, and there is little doubt about how wretchedly it has husbanded domestic resources. The health sector’s crisis is evident as much in the sorry state of our hospitals (and the heart-wrenching tales coming out of them daily) as it is in the flow of talent (especially young ones) from our hospitals out of the country. The ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) does not even cover the full extent of the rot in the nation’s education sector. Given the extent of infrastructure collapse in the sector, though, it is a safe bet that we would require creative financial solutions just to stanch the sector’s further deterioration.

As a fiscal proposition, the Buhari administration’s love for borrowing, and its failure to boost the country’s revenue-generation capacity over its two terms in office have threatened the Nigerian state as fluently as has the democratisation by a growing number of non-state actors across the country of the means of violence. Against this backdrop, the poor economic numbers (dwindling productivity levels, rising unemployment, and stratospheric price rises) increasingly look like mere details. In assessing the APC’s presidential platform, one detail should, thus, matter more: the distance between Asiwaju Tinubu’s programme and that of the incumbent administration.

If the spectre of his party’s misrule haunts the presidential bid of the former governor (and famed strongman) of Lagos, a different jinn has Mr. Abubakar Atiku’s political knickers in a twist. On one hand, his party has been anything but an opposition party over the last 8 years. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been as complicit in the Buhari administration’s misrule as it would have been if it were a part of a governing coalition in a parliamentary system. True, the furtive stumbling of the Jonathan administration, which the PDP tried to pass off as governance meant that the party was going to spend a large part of its period in opposition simply restoring itself.

Yet, one could not but think that the party’s failure out of office to redefine itself as different from and better than the incumbent government was made even worse by its inability (unwillingness, maybe?) to leverage the self-evident failure of the Buhari administration. On the other hand, where the PDP failed as an opposition party, Mr. Atiku did not try to succeed as a possible candidate just by his preferred expedient of decamping abroad in the inter-election years. Indeed, so anodyne have been his interventions in the political space, you would be forgiven for thinking he is the incumbent that Asiwaju Tinubu is running against.

All of this unwillingness to rock the boat by the candidates of the two main parties might both explain and justify the Peter Obi insurgency. Nigerians are increasingly fed up with the underperforming status quo. Enough, is enough, as it were. But in the current circumstances, with the balance of political forces what it is, that is as far as this current insurrection might go – a shot across the entrenched political elite’s bow. Alas, this is a tradition of displeasure that goes all the way back to Mallam Aminu Kano’s NEPU/PRP. And which, towards the end of the Second Republic, found its apotheosis in ‘Tunji Braithwaite and Ayo Ojajune’s NAP.

Ultimately, on voting day, there will be far too many supporters of the existing order to support its impending overthrow. In other words, while Peter Obi might be riding the crest of a wave of political outrage, he is far from the right reaction to the cause of the outrage. Aside from which, there is as yet too much serendipity to his cause. As for Nigeria, it is fair to wonder if it will ever punch its weight as a country of very talented individuals. One thing is certain, it won’t do so until it learns to deal with the alchemy that turns all these individuals bad when they gather in large numbers. Fair to also bet that the current electoral cycle won’t lead to any meaningful movement in any useful direction.

Uddin Ifeanyi, journalist manqué and retired civil servant, can be reached @IfeanyiUddin.


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