By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Big money is betrothed to big power. With plenteous cash in the war-chest, the ambitious politician can hardly ever resist the drive to grab presidential power. Nigeria is poised on the grand highway of the momentous 2023 presidential election, and the issue of money politics is on the front burner. Transactional politics is threatening to overwhelm the polity.
Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, popularly hailed as JKF, has weighed in on the matter by stressing that the presidency of Nigeria should not be for moneybag politicians. Fayemi who was canvassing for votes from delegates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna State ahead of the party’s much-postponed primary election made bold to stress that it was the desire to build a prosperous nation that he’s running for the 2023 presidency as he has the capacity and the roadmap to transform the security situation in the country.
Governor Fayemi counted himself out of the rich list of moneybag politicians, informing the Kaduna delegates that he stands to be counted as a student of Nigerian history who knows that the nation’s top job had never been entrusted to any moneybag politician. In this vein, the nation’s coveted presidency of the here and now should not be about moneybags because those who had occupied the seats in the past weren’t moneybag politicians. According to Governor Fayemi, “Late Tafawa Balewa was a teacher; so also was the late Shehu Shagari, and you know that Obasanjo came out of prison with N100,000 in his bank account.” Taking the moneybag issue further, it is noteworthy that Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who succeeded Obasanjo was equally a self-effacing teacher before becoming Katsina State Governor, and then became the President of Nigeria in near-miraculous circumstances. Yar’Adua was not on any political pundit’s crystal-ball until he manifested as the candidate of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The unfortunate death of Yar’Adua paved the way for “the shoeless one” Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, another former teacher, to take up duties as the Nigerian president without ever asking for it, and not being a moneybag politician by any permutation.
General Muhammadu Buhari who took over from Jonathan always made the point of depicting himself as not being rich, being as ever comfortable with his 150 cows. He got to power without any monetary riches to crow about. The 2023 presidential contest is poised on the cliff-hanger of either the moneybag politicians breaking the jinx of capturing the Nigerian presidency or the less-endowed candidates moneywise continuing with their successful run.
The truth of course is that putting money forward as the only thing that drives any political ambition rankles. It is akin to what is known in popular parlance as “money miss road”. Any politician that wants to rank high in the popular imagination needs to showcase integrity and a can-do spirit. It is remarkable that Governor Fayemi portrays himself thusly to the Kaduna delegates: “I am a bridge-builder. I am a unifier. This is a visit to say ‘hello’ and share my vision and leave you to be the judge of who to pilot the new Nigeria that we are yearning for.”
In essence, Fayemi’s stance against moneybag politics emblematizes the crying need to rescue the country from looming disaster instead of brandishing the cash in one’s large pockets. There is a near total absence of direction in the country, and the fear is that Nigeria may be giddily grinding to a halt.
Chaos looms, unless the presidential wannabes do not want to face reality. The insecurity situation in the country has never been as bad, and not a few politicians have lamented that not even in the civil war years has the nation witnessed the insecurity that is obtainable now. The Hobbesian state of nature in which life is nasty, brutish and very short has overwhelmed the country.
The dividends of democracy are hard to come by for poor Nigerians. The argument that democracy must be sustained cannot mean much when the vast majority of Nigerians cannot afford the basic necessities of life. The squandering of the riches of Nigeria when basic food, shelter and housing are denied millions of Nigerians can only lead to a societal upheaval that may prove very difficult to contain.
The moneybag syndrome that Governor Fayemi cited is even more dangerous when it is noted that it happens to be money looted by Nigerian politicians and their lackeys that are ploughed back to play the dirty politics. The fact that the money was not earned through industry or business or even hard work conduces to more attention being paid to transactional politics rather than attending to the reforms that will heal the land. Something needs to be done urgently to halt the drift that is the Nigerian forte today. It is incumbent on all the presidential candidates aspiring to run the affairs of Nigeria to appreciate that all is not well with the nation. Nigeria bleeds.
The buck stops on the table of an Executive President, and it will do any new Nigerian leader a world of good to tell himself the home-truth and then knuckle down to do the real work that will save the country from the clear and present danger of imminent collapse. The involved political parties and their delegates should follow Governor Fayemi’s lead by discounting moneybag politics in the urgent national need to save Nigeria.
Uzoatu writes from Lagos