Nigeria is in the grip of party primaries in the two most dominant political parties and from which is emerging how long the road the country still have to travel in terms of the democratic ethos. The ethos emphasise level playing field but the godfathers are just writing epistles justifying a fatal attraction to imposition. The President Buhari/Adams Oshiomhole fascination for the strong man has left the governors and other tin gods with an approval to impose candidates without caring a hoot about the horrendous outcomes of the legacy of arbitrariness over the years in the insurgencies, criminality and other forms of insecurity Nigeria is witnessing. The Nigerian power elite is not about to exercise any elf-control, not even in Borno State where the most horrendous violence is still playing out.Instead of toning down, the otherwise logically fascinating Governor Kashim Shettima did the most baffling by writing a vacuous epistle justifying temptation to authoritarianism without knowing it. Obviously unaware that meaning resides in what is unsaid, he went on and on enumerating why a genius should be his successor. But, no language use can be that innocent, no matter how memorable a governor can be as in the following sections of Gov Kashim’s letter:
With humility and absolute respect for all aspirants, I will like to say, that from overwhelming opinions and feedbacks, the aspirant with an edge in understanding the Peace-Development Nexus of Borno’s post conflict future is Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, mni.
….I consulted to extents never reached in the recent political history of Borno State. I have met virtually all the critical segments that make up our dear State. I have held closed-door meetings and had frank and open discussions with our royal fathers and elders. I have visited homes and met with past and serving leaders, party stakeholders and professionals of various fields. I even went as far as employing the services of agents unknown to each other, which I sent to communities across our 27 local government areas to feel the pulses of our citizens. In all my consultations, I created one-on-one atmosphere to get undiluted opinions. I held one on one meeting with public office holders across different levels of Borno. I made sure I was getting the honest opinions of everyone. I was able to collate views as comprehensive as humanly possible. I looked at these views as objectively as possible.
…………As Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement since September 2015, Professor Zulum has been in the thick of our recovery and restoration efforts. He has proved to understand the dynamics. He has established enormous amount of contact in the post conflict development sector and has earned the confidence of local and international stakeholders. Borno needs such confidence in the task of completing our ongoing social and economic recovery, rebuilding of communities and livelihoods.
…………If we succeed, Insha’Allah, we shall go round Borno State, to remind electorates from Gwoza to Chibok, Bama to Damasak, Konduga to Kaga and all over Borno State. We shall tell electorates to look around their neighborhoods and see how Professor Zulum was able to rebuild their communities—from thousands of homes, hundreds of schools to healthcare centres and restored their livelihoods at the risk of being attacked by Boko Haram.
It is strategic to seek, find and install a genius as a leader but the governorship contest/selection is not about a genius but about a level playing field so that the delegates rather than the governor would detect the genius. In the end, the governor did not only end up advertising his fears but also ridiculing Prof Babagana Umara-Zulum. It is either the governor has no script advisers worth the name or did not even submit the draft of his epistle to any of his aides for a second opinion. Alternatively, he thought he had anticipated all contending views as for the letter to appear to him a knockout in need of no alternative reading.
The incumbent governor has already had his way in terms of power over the selection of his successor. His preference for the job, Prof Babagana Umara-Zulum, has won with remarkable gap between himself and the others. He carted away over 4000 out of the about over 5000 delegates, leaving the others to share the 1000 in miserable bits. The assumption is that when elected and even before then, the youthful Professor would set out managing the rupture that comes with the manner of his selection.
It is a manifestation of one dimension of the Nigerian crisis whereby departing governors erroneously think that unless they handpick someone who would be sheepish enough, they cannot sleep fine. Unfortunately, the person who would remain permanently sheepish does not exist because human beings constitute and are constituted by variables they do not determine in all cases. So, a mathematical sense of loyalty is an investment in wishful thinking. It is not surprising that no such investment works.
It is possible this is what Kashim Shettima took into consideration by going for a professor. That is, it is better to bring an intelligent fellow who has a trained mind and, therefore, the ability to take a critical or informed view of things and would always thus give the former governor his due, no matter what. This interpretation cannot be ruled out if but his approach fails all the tests. What he wrote was simply an exercise in socially constructing and constituting the contest, not a reasoned argument he thought he was engaging in.
Already, there is one shocker from him that cannot be forgotten in a hurry. In late 2017, he told a television journalist he was not contesting for anything. He said he was, instead, heading back to the university for his PhD. It was so categorically stated and widely circulated that it was thought to be a reflective exercise. Now, he is contesting to be a senator. That is his right but it is a problematic about-turn. Nothing exceptional about that! That is what is going on across the country and in almost all the parties. It has only become an issue in the aftermath of his adventure in letter writing.
In other words, the same thing is done over and over and over again in anticipation of a different outcome. But such outcome will never come. Apart from Lagos where godfather versus godson palaver has escalated, the APC still hasn’t got a governorship candidate in Benue State till this moment. Meanwhile, Benue State which merits attention because it equally has insecurity challenge is offering its own drama in the return of the incumbent governor to the main opposition party and his ability to clinch the governorship. Interestingly, he left the party in 2015 precisely because he could not get the governorship then. The APC was still deciding its governorship till late evening yesterday. What is the drama there is the negotiation between Abuja’s preference and Makurdi’s, Abuja meaning Federal operatives or precisely APC National Chairman, probably at the instance of the president and Makurdi meaning the godfathers of the APC in Benue State. Up to this moment, the APC has no governorship candidate. Yet, this is a state that ought to open up the space for a popular candidate popularly elected and therefore capable of legitimating power and governance because peace and security is a function of leadership and power.
In Plateau State, despite the clamour for younger elements, there is a vote for age in a retired General for the PDP governorship. Of course, the incumbent APC governor, Barrister Simon Lalong got the nod for a second term. Each side of the parties is sure of victory in 2019. But from Plateau has come an appealing element of consensus worth noting. The incumbent APC governor was allowed the right of first refusal, which is fine. In the PDP, all other contestants had to withdraw for Gen Jeremiah Useni so that the Plateau South Senatorial District would exhaust its own quota of the principle of rotation of power. They did so also in the hope of putting someone with understanding of the security complexity of the state in power.
The implication is that Plateau joins Cross Rivers State as the exceptions in favour of the principle of rotation of power at the state level, a simmering threat which no one is paying attention to yet until it begins to blow up in the affected states.