The question begging for an answer among political parties as the seventeen (17) Presidential flag-bearers emerge in line with the Section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022 is the choice of suitable running mates that will ensure a win for both the presidential candidates and parties in the forth coming 2023 general elections.
Consequently stakeholders of the political parties are currently engaging in wide consultations across the nation to find suitable and acceptable running mates before Friday, June 17, 2022, issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the expiration for submission of names by the parties.
In the first instance, a running mate is the person who runs with you on the same party ticket without which your nomination is not valid.
This choice is particularly imperative at this period when the Country is facing existential threats, particularly to our unity.
These centrifugal forces being championed by anti-establishment elements range from the challenges of kidnapping, farmer-herder conflict, insurgency, separatist agitation, religious intolerance, increasing socio-economic gap between the rich and the poor, low political literacy level among the masses, seemingly hike in poverty and unemployment rates.
However, these unhealthy developments, which are not only restricted to Nigeria, but transverse the global spectrum have so far served as a cog in the wheel of the nation’s governance with increasing apprehension over the possible conduct of the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
It is recalled that the just concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland featured discussions on some of them by the world leaders, who attempted to proffer solutions to them.
No doubt, pundits are already permutating and speculating over who should be adopted as the Vice-Presidential flag bearers, the fact remains that parties’ gladiators, stalwarts and hierarchies are in extensive consultations over whom to adopt for such nominations with both national and international acceptability to Nigerians within and in Diaspora.
It is quite disturbing that this ongoing move is characterized with both religion and ethnic sentiments as the present state of the nation’s fragility is being exploited to stir discussions along the divides.
On one hand, Governor Nasir EL-RUFAI of Kaduna State had posited that nothing was wrong with Muslim-Muslim ticket, while the youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) maintained that any political party that adopts such a position is bound to fail.
Interestingly, the annulled 1993 Presidential general election was presumably won by M.K.O ABIOLA (Chief) and Babagana KINGIBE’s Muslim-Muslim ticket under the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Nevertheless, with the increasing population growth of the most populous black nation in the world, the issue of religion is being amplified to balance the political equation under the principle of fairness, equity and justice, with a view to strengthening the already strained national unity.
For instance, in 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had to factor this into its selection process when it replaced Bola Ahmed TINUBU (SEN), a Muslim with Yemi OSIBANJO (SAN/Prof.) of Christian folk.
Apparently, the nation has benefitted tremendously from this choice as the Vice President, a Professor of Law has brilliantly showcased his potential through a worthy display of capacity, competency and character each time he held sway in acting capacity, whenever President Muhammadu BUHARI was outside the country.
This was evident in his ability to engage in timely intervention on lots of issues, including dousing mounting tension by militants in the Niger Delta through effective consultation during which daily production of crude oil across the nation was stabilized.
Instructively, the office of the President is saddled with onerous responsibilities of nation building, providing effective governance, including security of lives and properties as well as the wellbeing of its citizenry as enshrined in Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution as amended amidst the increasing threat profile, characterizing the polity.
This situation has consequently necessitated the need to adequately complement him with a worthy and competent Vice President who will completely be instrumental in surmounting the aforementioned challenges, by divorcing the nation’s politics from any sentiment despite the fact that religion is a major defining factor in such selection.
Therefore, this is especially a cause for concern as one Femke Van ZEIJI, a Lagos based Dutch Journalist aptly captured this sentiment in her write up, captioned “Mediocrity” overtakes graft, wrecks Nigeria”, dated 2nd April, 2013.
The authored regretted that the term “meritocracy” has been relegated into the background due to the fact that mediocrity has eaten deep into the fabric of the entire system. Recall that Governor EL-RUFAI of Kaduna State had through his memoir in a book, titled “The Accidental Public Servant” alluded to this assertion.
As political parties, we must urgently rise above the cankerworm, but rather embrace “merit” through a selection and recruitment system that places emphasis on the tripartite “Cs” of Competence, Capacity and Character.
The need to ensure that Nigeria takes its position as the “Giant of Africa” through effective foreign and local policies on economy, security and infrastructural development, among others by choosing running mates with aforementioned qualities, cannot be overemphasized with the overarching objectives of securing and improving the standard of living of the citizenry.
This is in addition to possessing the virtue of patriotism to the nation and its constitution, with the overall interest of its citizens at heart. This is as factoring religion as a critical element in such selection is quintessential as threat by CAN and other religious bodies should not be taken with a pitch of salt.
This is consequent upon the need for the incoming administration to get the overwhelming support of all and sundry in order to collectively surmount the evolving challenges.
More importantly, the Media as the fourth realm of the Estate must de-emphasize sentiments, capable of disintegrating the nation. The Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) must intensify efforts at censuring and sanctioning erring media outlets with iota of partisanship.
Also, religious leaders should prevail on their followers to shun inciting statements capable of heating the polity, while politicians should never allow advocating their myopic self-interest of becoming Presidential running mates overrides the collective interest of building our nationhood.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information in partnership with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) at all levels must be awaken to its responsibility of embarking on effective sensitization of the masses on dangers, inherent in embracing politics of ethnicity and religion, capable of polarizing and setting the nation on edge as we draw closer to 2023 general polls.