The dark horse phe­nom­e­non in pol­i­tics

Sunday Trust - - VIEWPOINT -

We take it for granted that the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is a straight race be­tween the two big­gest po­lit­i­cal par­ties, APC and PDP. You do not have to seek the opin­ion of a ba­balwo to know why. Their clear ad­van­tages over the re­main­ing 28 par­ties and their pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are rather too ob­vi­ous for any­one to pre­tend not to know.

Still, for the pur­poses of this con­ver­sa­tion, let me enu­mer­ate them. The APC and PDP pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are not strangers to the Nige­rian pub­lic. One, Muham­madu Buhari, is the in­cum­bent pres­i­dent; he was mil­i­tary head of state from Jan­uary 1984 to Au­gust, 1985; the other, Atiku Abubakar, was vice-pres­i­dent for eight years from the in­cep­tion of civil rule in 1999. Both men are not first timers in the pres­i­den­tial race. Buhari ran three times and made it to Aso Rock the fourth time. Atiku sim­i­larly ran for the of­fice three times and hopes to equal Buhari’s record this year. Fourth time lucky? It sure should en­cour­age those like Chris Okotie of Fresh Demo­cratic Party to keep re­ceiv­ing the di­vine in­junc­tion to run in every elec­tion cir­cle.

APC and PDP are rich, very rich po­lit­i­cal par­ties. They have a na­tional spread that the other par­ties can only envy. Each of them con­trols a num­ber of states as well as leg­is­la­tors in the na­tional and state houses of assem­bly. Both of them have been, or are, in power: PDP for 16 years and APC is cur­rently in power.

For­mi­da­ble. Given these clear ad­van­tages, why should the other po­lit­i­cal par­ties bother to field can­di­dates for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion? It is not in the nat­u­ral or­der of things for small mas­quer­ades to take on the big mas­quer­ades in danc­ing com­pe­ti­tions. We do not know much about their po­lit­i­cal par­ties. It is not un­char­i­ta­ble to say that many of them are mush­room par­ties that are show­ing up on INEC reg­is­ter for the first time. It would seem that these 28 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have no chance in hell of go­ing any­where near Aso Rock ex­cept at the in­vi­ta­tion of the big man ten­ant there. It is tempt­ing, and not many have re­sisted the temp­ta­tion, to dis­miss their pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions as a huge joke at best and a po­lit­i­cal comic re­lief at worst.

Still, some­thing tells me it could be a mis­take to dis­miss them as jok­ers. First, I see them as part of the ex­pand­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple out­side the two big po­lit­i­cal par­ties; and even a chance for peo­ple with shal­low pock­ets. Their voices might not be that loud but the ca­pac­ity of the small man to nudge the big man adds some­thing to the na­tional dis­course. The small voice of the small man of­ten turns out to be the loud voice of change and rad­i­cal­ism.

Se­condly, we must ad­mit that these men and women are coura­geous too. I am will­ing to ac­cept that there must be some rhyme and rea­son in their courage. There is am­ple ev­i­dence in the his­tory of hu­man de­vel­op­ment to show that men and women such as these quite of­ten turn the ap­ple cart up­side down – and a par­tic­u­lar hu­man so­ci­ety is the bet­ter for it.

My ad­vice to the big two is not to take it for granted that our pres­i­den­tial elec­tion has mor­phed into pe­ri­odic change of ba­ton be­tween their two par­ties. Sure, they seem solid in their cur­rent stand­ing as pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates of rich and pop­u­lar par­ties but there are two things I would like to ad­vise them not to lose sight of.

One, men and women with rad­i­cal views are of­ten a great at­trac­tion for the com­mon peo­ple. When the cam­paigns be­gin, we will be of­fered such views that might make the set­tled views of the two big par­ties look tame in a coun­try anx­ious to rise above its po­ten­tials. And there is much here for such peo­ple to ef­fec­tively mine. The poor are for ever wait­ing for lead­ers who can lead them out of the Gol­go­tha to which their birth or cir­cum­stances have con­demned them. At times like these, the voice of the saviours of the poor is a shriek that man­ages to rise above that of the men of tim­ber and cal­i­bre. This causes what is known in po­lit­i­cal gram­mar as an up­set.

Two, pol­i­tics has some ad­mirable quirks. Money mat­ters and mat­ters a great deal in pol­i­tics. The rich can al­ways ex­pect to reap the po­lit­i­cal boun­ties from their wealth. But it is not al­ways that the rich have their way. When money loses its power among the elec­torate, we wit­ness the emer­gence and the vic­tory of a can­di­date in an elec­tion that no one was will­ing to bet on. In po­lit­i­cal speak, he is called quite in­ap­pro­pri­ately the dark horse.

We wit­nessed that in 2015. De­spite the haem­or­rhage in the PDP that saw some of its most pow­er­ful men and women desert it, the party was still rich and for­mi­da­ble in every sense of the two words. It looked im­preg­nable. We know that peo­ple who take on a be­he­moth of­ten live to re­gret it.

Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari be­came the dark horse. His new party, APC, was made up largely of men and women who had im­mensely ben­e­fited from PDP for 16 years but who felt that a new voice like Buhari would help to point the coun­try to­wards the su­per high way to El­do­rado, beat the odds against it. The poor saw their saviour and in­stead of tak­ing money from Buhari, they gave him the lit­tle they had. This was the first time that hap­pened in our coun­try with a his­tory of mon­e­tised pol­i­tics. And thus, quite out of char­ac­ter in our na­tional pol­i­tics, an in­cum­bent pres­i­dent was or­dered by the elec­torate to va­cate Aso Rock Villa for his deter­mined chal­lenger.

Can it hap­pen again? Can a dark horse emerge from among the other 28 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates? Good ques­tions in search of ra­tio­nal an­swers. I en­ter a caveat. In pol­i­tics, noth­ing is ever cer­tain. Vic­tory is not of­ten repli­cated even if all the in­dices are sim­i­lar. And the in­dices are sim­i­lar. The rul­ing party is bleed­ing and the hun­dreds of its big men and women are beat­ing the path to the doors of PDP, the party they de­serted in 2014/2015. Many of these men and women are nurs­ing griev­ances be­cause they felt done in by the party that scut­tled their am­bi­tions for elec­tive of­fices. Pol­i­tics 2014/2015. Po­lit­i­cal re­venge is served hot. Need I say more about that?

My crys­tal ball is giv­ing me some funny read­ing. It points to the pos­si­bil­ity that a dark horse might emerge from among the other 28 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates be­cause of the peo­ple’s pos­si­ble fa­tigue with APC and PDP. It points out that both par­ties will once more of­fer us more of the same things we have had since 1999. It says a fresh face with fresh views on those things that hob­ble our rise to great­ness as a na­tion, might be what the vot­ers are look­ing for.

I ask you not to cyn­i­cally dis­miss Don­ald Duke of So­cial Demo­cratic Party; Oby Ezek­we­sili of Al­lied Con­gress Party of Nige­ria; Kings­ley Moghalu of Young Pro­gres­sive Party; Hamza Al-Mustapha of Peo­ples Party of Nige­ria and all the oth­ers in the race for Aso Rock. I do not ask you to ac­cept the read­ing from my crys­tal ball. I only ask that you recog­nise that the un­cer­tain­ties in pol­i­tics are dic­tated by the quirks in­her­ent in pol­i­tics. Any­thing can, and do, hap­pen, in the con­test for po­lit­i­cal power. Let those who have ears to hear, hear my crys­tal ball.

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