“Real change from the status quo will never come from electing a politician—especially not one who leads a political party dedicated to upholding that status quo.” ― Alan Maass
In all ramifications, the 2023 general election will be a watershed in the political history of Nigeria. The signs are already there on the horizon.
We are in the busiest period of our political life since Nigeria’s flag independence in 1960. Something is evolving in our polity that is strange and dramatic. The narration is changing in our political system. The conversation is intense and nothing is predictable. The old order is under severe pressure with more diligent scrutiny. Issues, not sentiments, are taking the centre stage. Precedents, capacity, competence, and character are being discussed as determining factors, not wealth, connection, or entitlements for future leaders. Political mobilisation is at its crescendo with the hitherto docile Nigerian youths in the loudening gyre. Arrogance is giving way to fear and apprehension. The market is enlarging in scope and the conditions are getting tightened.
Ahead of 2023, the political space is bubbling. Never in the history of Nigeria has it been in this active form. This is perhaps due to the vibrancy of the youths who have decided to take the front row this time. Social media has provided a platform for more active participation of the younger generation. Political structure as it used to be is being redefined, away from the status quo. Away from deep pockets to mental content. Things are shifting from who you are to what you are.
Leaders of tomorrow, youths are refusing to wait for tomorrow because today’s men are muddling up things and erasing the hope of tomorrow.
In the past, youths were handy for thuggery and other forms of political nuisance, but this time they have resolved to take their destiny into their own hands. They are now in the forefront, not in the wings as before. In the Labour Party, the youths are the drivers of the vehicle, thanks to Peter Obi whose resonating and piercing messages help to galvanise them. The youths have raised the stake and hardened the wheeling and dealing in the system. Globally, horse trading is normal in politics, but it has become intense in Nigeria.
What is horse trading and how did it become such a political metaphor, you may want to know. The term “horse trading” came into usage 202 years ago, precisely around 1820. Its origin is linked to the notorious shrewdness of traders of that era who bought and sold horses. Perhaps, drawing from the origin, a dictionary explanation of horse trading defines it as a difficult and sometimes dishonest discussion between people who are trying to reach a deal.
In political parlance, horse trading implies any long, drawn-out negotiation characterised by hard bargaining and compromises. It frequently takes place in democratic arenas like the legislature when a parliamentarian or legislator supports some bills or casts votes in exchange for support for one of their initiatives.
This perception of the horse business arose from the difficulties of evaluating and finding the numerical expression of the actual value of a horse on sale. Expectedly, such complexity breeds grounds for corruption as dealers are hardly honest as they try to hoodwink unsuspecting buyers. The distrust and insincerity in political business informed its adoption in the political lexicon.
Horse trading in politics takes place in the parliament more regularly during negotiations and the passing of legislations of high interests. But real and more aggressive horse trading showing the astuteness of the traders during bargaining is at the electioneering period. Nigeria at this moment is in an electioneering period and also witnessing the most intriguing horse-trading.
Horse trading in this dispensation first began during the contest for the political party tickets. In the All Progressives Congress, APC, horse trading saw to it that Bola Ahmad Tinubu torpedoed the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and the National Chairman Abdullahi Adamu.
Horse trading also saw former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerge as the main opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, presidential ticket holder. He outsmarted the most shrewd political bargainer of this time, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Since then, Governor Wike has not yet found his bearings. The pain of losing all the funds he had been investing in in and the fear for his future have driven him from pillar to post.
A recent report of Wike and his team meeting the three presidential frontrunners, Asiwaju Bola Ahmad Tinubu of APC, Peter Obi of Labour Party, and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP in that order shows his desperation for a soft landing by 2023.
Wike has proved to be the most beautiful bride on the surface. In truth, fear of post-office isolation, a Siberia of sorts, is a large part of what is driving him. His spending binge and the likelihood of having nothing to show for the socalled investments puts him under intense pressure with accountability in focus. Already, his Man Friday and anointed candidate for the Rivers State Government House has been dodging sitting down with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. The target though is not the “accountant turned politician.” The governor who enjoys status-conferred immunity. Aware of the unavoidable chat with the Commission that awaits him, Wike strives to use whatever he has today to secure his post-office era. Nothing wrong with that provided public funds are accounted for.
By May 29, 2023, the governor’s immunity cover will expire and he may have to account for stewardship. What type of gloves the anti-graft agencies will use on him will depend on where he finds himself at the end of the day, the ruling party or the opposition? Now, his strategic goal is to secure where his “sins will be forgiven” [apologies to APC recruiters]. All the ongoing horse-trading is designed to be in the right place by 2023.
Horse trading is made all the more complex because of the uncertain electoral fortunes of the leading parties jostling for 2023. Nobody as of today can say for sure that this or that the party is going to win the Presidency. Horse trading would have been straightforward.
The choice of a highly controversial flag bearer who, besides his baggage of befuddled identity (background), moral, and health challenges, has drawn out northern Christians with his same-faith ticket has diminished the incumbency advantage that should benefit the ruling APC. Ordinarily, the main opposition party should have been dancing to victory. However, it shot itself in the foot with its actions and or inaction that edged out Peter Obi to form a formidable third force, using his Labour Party ticket. Now, PO and LP are gradually changing the political narration and landscape of the federation.
The presence of Obi and his LP has significantly disrupted the existing political calculations to the extent that it would be naive to do any political permutations without factoring LP into it. The message Obi is carrying along is too penetrating to be ignored.
So, as politicians go from one deal or the other ahead of 2023, the question to ask is, in whose interest? Certainly, they will say it is in the interest of their people but in most cases, it’s about self and nothing more.
What the voting population need to know is whether the socalled horse dealings are in the interest of the public, not the usual ego-serving, selfish negotiations.
Let us, therefore, refuse to be used as a political party or political leaders’ tools. Instead, stand up for what is right and good for society and the nation. Let us have it at the back of our minds that horse traders are usually focused on self-interests and are most often not driven by any corporate or patriotic zeal. The vigilance of the electorate is therefore recommended to watch and monitor closely dishonest negotiators who are on the loose now largely for themselves rather for the people. May God help us.