PROLOGUE: NIGERIAN LEADERS, BECOMING POLITICAL DEMAGOGUES?
HISTORIAN Reinchard Luthin, sees demagogue as “…a politician skilled in oratory, flattery and invective; evasive in discussing vital issues; promising everything to everybody; appealing to the passions rather than the reason of the public; and arousing racial, religious, and class prejudices – a man whose lust for power without recourse to principle leads him to seek to become a master of the masses. He has for centuries practiced his profession of ‘man of the people’. He is a product of a political tradition nearly as old as western civilization itself — [Reinchard Luthin]
BOLA TINUBU, presidential flagbearer, of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for 2023 election, last weekend, visited President Buhari in his country home, in Daura, Katsina State, northwest Nigeria. The president was holidaying and celebrating the Muslim Eid-El Kabir. Tinubu informed Buhari that he has chosen Kashim Shettima, former governor of Borno State, as vice presidential running mate. Making it a Muslim-Muslim ticket – Tinubu himself a Muslim.
Some media reports, did not tag it “Breaking News”. Usually the case with such news. It was no longer a big-breaking news. Tinubu’s likely choice of a Muslim vice presidential candidate was almost certain, baring any last-minute manoeuvring. APC stronghold, had flaunted the idea of Muslim-Muslim ticket to Tinubu. They strongly urged Tinubu to go for that choice, if he will make headway in winning the 2023 presidential election.
Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia State, and APC serving Senator was a major advocate of Muslim-Muslim ticket. Though he said it was his personal opinion, he strongly advised Tinubu to go that way, to stand the chance of getting close to power 2023. Giving the formidable political influence of Atiku Abubakar in the north, who is the presidential candidate of the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Kalu urged Tinubu to brave a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Kalu is the Senate Chief Whip, on the platform of APC, at the national assembly. His words: “Listen, do you want me to speak frankly? If I am in Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s position, the wife is a Pastor in a Pentecostal Church. I will go for Muslim-Muslim ticket. The most important thing is for the party to win. We should stop this rubbish about religion”. Kalu’s response came while speaking to Journalists at the lobby of the national assembly, weeks ago.
The Muslim-Muslim ticket vanguards urged Tinubu to jettison Nigeria’s age-long political expediency of Muslim-Christian ticket, for the country’s top-two positions – president and vice president. In the long years of military rule in the country, the principle and tradition of Muslim-Christian ticket was towed. When the military Head of State is a Muslim, the second in command, Chief of Staff, a Christian. That balanced the plurality in the polity, in Nigeria’s Christian-Muslim dominated political environment.
The exception, however, was in 1993 presidential election, when late MKO Abiola, presidential candidate of SDP, a Muslim; picked Babagana Kingibe as vice president – a Muslim. And the ticket flew. This was the reference point for those urging Tinubu to fly the Muslim-Muslim ticket. In the case of Abiola, Nigerians caredless about his choice of Muslim-Muslim ticket, at that time. The focus of the political class and Nigerians was the obvious need to chase military dictatorship out from governance in the country.
Whatever was needed and necessary to achieve the breakthrough of pushing the military out of government, occupied the political class and Nigerians. MKO Abiola’s popularity, credibility and acceptability across the divides of the country was the motivation. The political strength of Abiola against the military was seen as a done deal for the military to exit power.
RECREATING ABIOLA’S 1993 scene, in 2023, 30 years gone past, according to observers, is like the proverbial head of a camel passing through the eyes of a needle. Abiola’s political environment in the country, at that time, has gone and gone forever, analysts argued. Even though religion was a factor in politics then, Nigeria was not as intolerably divided religiously, as it is presently.
Observers said religious tolerance in the country, presently, has been replaced by “religious intolerance and bigotry”; made worse in the past seven years of Buhari’s APC administration. Some believe that those making reference to Abiola’s Muslim-Muslim ticket, may be “politically hallucinating” and in “quandary”; and insensitive to the religiously volatile situation in the country.
Anthony Sani, former Secretary-General, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, criticized Tinubu’s choice of Kashim Shettima as his running mate. He hinged his position on the religious sensitivity of Nigerians at a time, when there is the need for inclusiveness in the task of nation building.
He said: “The challenges posed by Muslim-Muslim ticket is not so much about winning the elections but about the aftermath of governance in an era some notable Nigerians have alleged Islamization agenda against APC government however misguided”.
And added: “I had hoped a Muslim-Christian ticket would be more expedient, considering that such a ticket will not scare the Muslim North due to the electoral value of Christians who control only three states out of nineteen Northern states and at the same time, appease the South which is predominantly Christians”.
FURTHER REACTIONS have trailed Tinubu and APC Muslim-Muslim ticket, for the 2023 presidential election. Matthew Hassan Kukah’s signed statement, on Monday, said Tinubu’s decision to pick Shettima as running mate, should not be much of concern to Nigerians. He said those dissatisfied about the choice, should support other candidates.
Kukah’s words: “This is what you call team selection and everybody will choose depending on what they think will give them a fair chance. So, people will take responsibility for the choices they have made. For me, it is not something to lose sleep over”.
Kukah added: “If people feel unhappy with the kind of choices that have been made, that is why we are democrats, you can’t force it. We outsiders cannot force a choice of any candidate. It is now left for you to look at the choices that have been made. And there is no guarantee that all Christians will vote for Christians and all Muslims will vote for Muslims”.
Chukwuemeka Ezeife, elder statement, and former governor of Anambra State, told journalists that APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is “provocative and insulting” to Nigeria’s secular State. He said Nigeria has two strong religions, Christianity and Islam. He wondered why anyone would consider Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket in the 2023 general election.
Ezeife added: “There was a time MKO Abiola and Kingibe, two Muslims, ran and won the election but that time had gone. We didn’t have the kind of religious intolerance that we have now, then.
Political inclusiveness, religious sensitivity, among others, were copiously considered by drafters of Nigeria’s constitution. That governance and appointments should be based on the principle of “federal character”. That Nigeria is not to be governed on the basis of religion.
IS NIGERIA BECOMING a political domain for demagogues, according to Historian Reinchard Luthin. That once elected to executive office, political demagogues moved quickly to expand their power, both de jure and de facto. By getting legislation passed to officially expand their authority, and by building up networks of corruption and informal pressure to ensure that their dictates are followed regardless of constitutional authority.
That political demagogues exploit fundamental weakness, in democracy, because ultimate power is held by the people. And it becomes possible for the people to give that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.
Also, that demagogues usually advocated immediate, forceful action to address a crisis while accusing moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness or disloyalty. Many demagogues elected to high executive office have unraveled constitutional limits on executive power and tried to convert their democracy into a dictatorship, sometimes successfully.