Nigeria’s democracy has been raped by desperate politicians – Akinyemi

In this interview, Bolaji Akinyemi, president/convener, Apostolic Roundtable (ART), also a political analyst, speaks on the 2023 general election, as he shares his views on the emergence of the presidential candidates of political parties. Excerpts by SEYI JOHN SALAU:

The presidential primaries of the two leading political parties in Nigeria were alleged to be dollarised with financial inducement of the delegates; what does this portend for the future of democracy in Nigeria?

It happened that way because of the two very desperate presidential aspirants; one in each party. You know how many times Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has contested to be Nigeria’s president, and seeing this as his last opportunity he is ready to break his treasure box to have it. Then we have Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has never given a shot at the presidency but has nursed it as his life ambition. These are mega bucks people.

They tend to change the expectations. They upped the game and everywhere you turned it was money. I don’t think some of the delegates in both parties, if they had worked for 10 years, would have gone home with the kind of huge money they were said to have been given in one day. As regards what the dollarisation of the political primaries portends for the future of democracy in Nigeria, it’s a minus for Nigeria’s democracy.

Nigeria’s democracy has just been raped by desperate politicians and we just might need to put in place concerted efforts to rebuild the tenets that should guide the practice of democracy in Nigeria. It is equally a shame; a very big one to a government that claimed it came to fight corruption. It is also a shame to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as an agency responsible to fight corruption.

EFCC officials were seen at both the PDP and the APC primaries, how come so much money exchanged hands. Could it be that some things also exchanged hands towards them? How come nobody has been arrested? How come nobody has been prosecuted? The party primaries were so much monetised everywhere as we have never seen before.

What then is your take on the outcome of the primary elections that went that way?

It is quite interesting that quite a number of people were expecting the results of the presidential primary elections of both parties to be different. Basically, I knew it was going to go the way it went. Political party primaries are strictly a political affair.

Where primary is involved it is usually won by the best politician or by the candidate that belongs to the strongest political caucus. If we take our minds back to 2014/15 when the retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was beckoned on; and an alliance was forged among critical stakeholders that birthed the All Progressives Congress (APC), it was looking good for Engr. Rabiu Kwankwaso who was coming from the powerful People Democratic Movement (PDM) family.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar also came from the PDM family. Now, we had two candidates coming from the same political network. So, people must understand that political party primary elections are determined by network. When some people were saying that some particular aspirants would defeat Atiku Abubakar at the PDP presidential primary election, those were just wishes. I also wished there should be one aspirant that could defeat Atiku.

But that was impossible because primaries are all about networks. Atiku has been on ground for many years building a network across the country ditto Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC. So, the best politicians with the strongest network in both parties picked their presidential tickets.

Do best politicians translate to best candidates?

It is just the best politicians. We need to distinguish a politician from a candidate. A candidate is someone who is offering himself for service to the people, and it is the responsibility of the people to determine who the best candidate is among the pack.

The needs of the country will determine who is fitting to occupy the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, none of the candidates can say he is the best candidate for the country. It is the people that must define what the needs of the country are.

The needs of the country will determine who the people choose, knowing that these are what we need and this person will be the best for us.

With the obscene monetisation of party primaries, are there hopes for the poor political aspirants to contest political offices in Nigeria in the future?

I think in the midst of all of the money they are throwing around there is also somebody who gives us a fresh hope. Mr. Peter Obi’s movement out of the PDP to the Labour Party says no to the politics of obscene financial inducement.

That is a lot of encouragement that you don’t have to be desperate if the desire is to serve the people. You must not be desperate. You must not buy people. All you need to offer the people is what you are bringing to the table. If it sounds impressive and they are convinced they would give you their support without any form of inducement.

You see the dynamics of what has happened between the time Obi moved from the PDP to the LP he virtually re-jigged that party (the LP) and that brand is now doing well because he took value to that brand. So, I believe that in the midst of the monetisation of our political process there is still a ray of hope in persons like Obi.

Read also: Why we want more youths involved in 2023 elections – EU

What are Peter Obi’s chances as Labour Party’s flag bearer in the 2023 presidential election?

In politics we have the informal structure and we have the organised structure. The informal structure is what Peter Obi is enjoying now. Everywhere you turn in recent times you are hearing Obi! Obi! Obi! As loud as that structure is it cannot win elections.

You need the organised structure to win elections. The organised structure is the presence you have in all the 774 local governments in the country. When we talk about all the wards, we are talking about over 10,000 wards across the country.

Then we talk about all the polling units, we are talking about over 200, 000 polling units across the country. And you must have your people there. So, we are talking about something that is very huge. But something that is going for Obi is the fact that the platform that he chose (the Labour Party) is about the best platform for such a time as this.

Why is it the best platform for such a time as this? In this platform you have organisations and unions that are more like affiliate unions of the Nigeria Labour Congress (the NLC) under which you have Trade Union Congress (TUC), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) among other trade unions in the country. So, all you need to do is to engage all these unions.

These are the kind of people that are actually needed in the space of politics. These are the kind of people that cannot be induced with N2, 000 or N3,000 and bought over as party agents. For instance, If Obi approaches ASUU and rolls out his plan for education, his plan for prompt payment of their salaries and retirement benefits and they see hope in his manifesto, they will buy into his candidacy.

And once they buy into his candidacy they will see his government as their own.

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