If the faint signals of the present forebode anything about the 2015 presidential election, it is that we should be worried about INEC’s preparedness to deliver credible polls nationwide. The crisis over permanent voters card is my first exhibit for this contention.
In addition, the security situation in parts of the country continues to deteriorate and presents increased cause for worry as well. Under these not-so-cheerful scenarios, the prospects of an electoral crisis in Nigeria may further push our politicians to unprecedented levels of desperation, including undue exposure of the judiciary.
Already, Fayose’s stomach infrastructure model is fast assuming the status of received wisdom in leading political parties. Bayelsa’s expired rice comes to mind. But perhaps more troubling is the tendency for politicians to drag their electoral woes to the courts in a process that has been characterized as the politicization of the judiciary.
Fighting the political battles on the judicial turf has serious consequences for the health of any democracy and the integrity of the judiciary. This would be a matter for another day. But if the gathering clouds in Nigeria’s horizon were to birth any precipitation, the judiciary would yet again be on trial. Judges may be pushed to do with the pen what citizens ought to do with the ballot box: elect their leaders.
Meanwhile, as we worry about our prospective electoral fortune come 2015, surprises tend to find assured domicile in several political tents. Before we reach or cross the electrical bridge of 2015, rapid evolution in the current political chess game, especially from the rank of the opposition look pretty interesting.
That is where we locate the recent entry of the Speaker of the House of Representatives into the presidential race. The Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, has been in the news lately for various reasons: The actualization of his much-expected defection to the opposition and his self-serving prorogation of the House and, lately, his declaration of interest in the presidential race.
All of these have happened within a short space of time. As they say, a day in politics is worth thousand milestones. It bears asking why Tambuwal’s orchestrated presidential interest seems to raise a buzz in both the opposition and the ruling party.
Since the 1999 return to civil rule, the lower chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly has had its own turns in the dance of leadership musical chairs. The Obasanjo administration outlived three Speakers: Salisu Buhari (1999-2000) of the University of Toronto fake degree infamy. He was replaced by independent leaning Ghali Umar Na’Abba (2000-2003), who did not enjoy much favor with the Executive.
When Na’Abba did not return, Aminu Masari (2003-2007) was the new face of the House under Obasanjo’s second term. He kept the House under status quo without much drama. Then, upon Umaru Yar’Adua’s presidency, the powers that be, especially Obasanjo, wanted Patricia Etteh (2007) as their anointed candidate for House Speaker. That was an idea conceived with the seed of its own fatality. It did not take long before corruption and allegations of corruption prevailed to end Etteh’s tenure. Similar monsters trailed Etteh’s successor, Dimeji Bankole (2007-2011).
The emergence of Tambuwal was a result of a revolt of sorts within the ruling party. Progressive leaning members of PDP in the House aligned with their opposition friends to defy Obasanjo and his ilk. The latter had insisted on a South West Speaker under the PDP zoning arrangement.
But with the favor of South West members of then opposition AD, Tambuwal and his renegade friends in PDP got their wish. The rest is now history. Given the circumstance of his emergence, Tambuwal has been able to acquit himself by steering the House on the path of inter-party concord. When Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP realized that Tambuwal had strong support from his colleagues, they knew it was no longer wise to antagonize him.
In terms of his carriage and temperament, Tambuwal has managed to maintain some good image for himself, at least in comparison to his predecessors. He has steered the House amidst a lot of scandals, but has managed to keep the mud out his trademark white outfits so far. Through his tenure, he has received high profile endorsements. Once in a while, those that thirst for a real generational change in national leadership, especially from the North, have looked in his direction.
It is noteworthy that despite the noticeable cold shoulders that the presidential aspiration of Atiku Abubakar as a late defector has attracted within the APC inner circle, Tambuwal’s recent interest in the presidency appears immune from similar reception. But the presidency is a serious business. So should be any aspiration to it. If Tambuwal’s ambition is merely as a result of the alleged pressure from his colleagues in the House, who were reported to have bought the declaration of intent form for him, then he should drop the idea because he has not given it a serious thought. The impression is that he is ambushed.
We have in the recent and present dispensations been saddled with presidents who were drafted into office through a political script they did not author. They had no time to engage, envision or mull seriously the enormity and consequences of the calling to lead so complex a polity as Nigeria.
The price has been costly. Assuming that Tambuwal represents an exception, it is doubtful if between now and February next year, he could assume or attain a profile in national acceptability across the land. He must aspire to be Nigeria’s president not a president of his buddies in the House. The stakes are far higher.
In the minds of pundits, suspicions are rife that Tambuwal’s entry into the presidential race or his pretension thereto may be designed to jolt or jeopardize the prospects of more serious contender(s) in the opposition party. By extension, such a strategy would also have vicarious consequences on the ultimate fortunes or misfortunes of the ruling party and the entire political landscape in Nigeria come 2015.
It is also possible that Tambuwal is really taking himself seriously. While he may have self-elected to be a target of speculative political feasting by analysts, without question Tambuwal’s recent political maneuvers have put a serious spotlight on him.
For now, or in the future, how he manages the plot he has started would go a long way in unmasking his standing as a political leader. It remains to be seen where the drumbeat for his present dramatic political dance is coming from.
In a country where the more one looks the less one sees, Tambuwal may or may not be in the presidential race. And if he is not, time will tell
whose presidential race he is presently running. [Stop press: Tambuwal just withdrew his ‘presidential bid’] Go figure!
The writer is Chidi Oguamanam, Professor of Law, University of Ottawa. Twitter: @chidi_oguamanam