Whenever I look at the Nigerian polity and the developments therein, I always come to the sad and painful conclusion that our politicians are taking all of us for a ride. In a country of over 200 million people, a few individuals, who are privileged to find themselves at the centre of politics, are arrogantly playing God. They ride roughshod over Nigerians. They decide what they like. They take what they want. They have entrenched themselves in the system, sitting tight and daring everybody to do their worse.

Recently, the presidential primaries of political parties were concluded. Prior to that, many politicians and pseudo public office seekers saw themselves as the next President of Nigeria. Most of them not only wished it but also told Nigerians so. Some said they were the chosen one by President Muhammadu Buhari and the powerbrokers. Some others said their aspirations were divine, being the ones anointed by God to be the next President. Whatever they claimed, they did so with so much seriousness.

In the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), 25 aspirants or their proxies obtained expression of interest forms and nomination forms for the presidency. At the screening stage, only 22 of them appeared before the panel and were cleared to contest the presidential primary election of the political party. Most of the aspirants were everywhere in the country, in the name of consultation. They dominated media space. Most of them abandoned their current duties, endeavours and responsibilities and embarked on what was obviously mission impossible.

In the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), 13 aspirants collected the expression of interest forms and nomination forms. They were screened and cleared to contest the presidential primary election. These aspirants hyped their desires. Some of them travelled to states in meet-the-delegates visits. Others visited nobody but dominated media space and social media. Many of them went about the presidency project as if they were really serious when, deep in their hearts, they knew they were deceiving themselves.

At the presidential primaries of the APC and PDP, the truth, to the effect that among the aspirants were the serious, the pretenders and the jesters, came out. In the two major political parties, there was endless drama at the primaries. It was obvious to all that most of the aspirants were not really running for the office of the President but embarked on the exercise as an instrument of negotiation and relevance. Among the aspirants were many who would not win proper election of their town unions. They knew it and they embarked in a needless exercise to insult our sensibilities.

For most of the aspirants, the whole exercise was a circus. They blew N100 million each, in the APC, and N40 million each, in the PDP, knowing that they did not stand a chance and should not have ventured into a presidential contest. Most of them entered the race and perfected a plan to grandstand by stepping down for the media hype of it. Nigerians saw this in APC, with about seven aspirants stepping down for whatever it was worth. Also, one aspirant in PDP executed a coup de grace in the presidential primary election.

To prove that these politicians want to not only have their cakes and eat them but also are taking Nigerians for a ride, a few days after the end of their presidential aspiration charade, some of these aspirants transmuted to either senatorial or governorship candidates. One, Sokoto State governor, Amuni Tambuwal, withdrew from the PDP presidential primary as voting was about to start. On stepping down, he asked his supporters to vote for Atiku Abubakar. Atiku won the presidential ticket. Soon after that, magic happened and the governor emerged as the senatorial candidate of the PDP in Sokoto State.

Two, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State contested for the presidential ticket of the PDP. Despite pressure on him to step down, he ran the race to the end. He came fifth with 20 votes. The governor returned to Bauchi and soon after emerged as the Bauchi State governorship candidate of the PDP. Another political magic!

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Three, Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, contested for the presidential ticket of the APC. He was confident that there was something for the South East in the APC, having defected from the PDP because, according to him, the opposition political party had nothing for the South East. He came fifth in the race with 38 votes. Unable to stomach his loss, on return to Ebonyi State, he took the apex pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in particular, and Igbo in general to the cleaners, accusing them of sabotage. He also took the joke too far when he told Ebonyi indigenes to, henceforth, not to see themselves as Igbo but strictly Ebonyians. Before Nigerians could say Jack Robinson, there was political magic. Umahi emerged as the senatorial candidate of the APC in Ebonyi State.

For Senate President Ahmad Lawan, there is speculation that he may also emerge as a senatorial candidate in Yobe State, if the man who won the ticket earlier would relinquish it for him to pick.

If politicians would delude themselves, go on a roller coaster ride, embark on what they know may be a wild goose chase and finally come back to do what they ought to have done in the first place, it simply means that they are taking Nigerians for a ride. These people exploit, make nonsense of and foul the system to have their way. If a failed presidential aspirant would quickly switch to vie for a senatorial or governorship seat thereafter in the same election regime and nothing happens, there is something absolutely wrong with our electoral system.

There ought to be a standard. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released a timetable for elections. In that timetable, there is a period for political parties to sell nomination forms. There is a period for political parties to conduct their primaries. There is a time for political parties to submit names of their candidates. There is time for the publication of candidates’ names by INEC. There is time for candidates to start and end electioneering. The political parties also released timetables for sale of nomination forms, screening of candidates, appeal by aspirants screened out, conduct of primaries and submission of candidates’ names. If an aspirant would obtain nomination forms for presidential, senatorial and governorship elections at the same time, in the same party, we are deceiving ourselves pretending to be practicing democracy. This is what I would call “try-your-luck politics.” It is funny, vexatious and rankles. Politicians are just playing chess with Nigerian democracy, with the system and the people as pawns.

Across the nation, governors hijack the political developments and happenings in their states. Using the instrumentality of their office, they manipulate the system and muscle out those who have dissenting voices. They solely select those to get election tickets. They select those to be delegates to political party primaries, single-handed. They subvert subsisting power rotation arrangements in their states to suit their whims and caprices. They are political emperors and kings.

Twenty-three years of democracy is long enough period for this system of government to not only take root but also begin to work for the country. People should be convinced about the position they want to vie for, taking into consideration their strengths and weaknesses. Where they vie for a position and fail to get election tickets or win elections, they should move on. Failing in one aspiration and switching to another one is simply “kallu kallu” politics. The system should not allow this.

Political parties are supposed to be the bedrock of democracy. They should, therefore, do things that would strengthen democracy as well as make the country be taken seriously in the comity of nations. Political parties should stop encouraging politicians to do whatever they like. Political parties should know that they hold the yam and the knife and whosoever they give a slice would have a share. Therefore, they should insist on the rule, giving no room for members or stakeholders to call the shots for them, when the reverse should be the case.

The electorate should know that they are the basis and anchor for democracy. Democracy is defined as “government of the people, for the people and by the people.” The people should be the fulcrum of democracy, playing a prominent role in elections. Voters should take their destiny in their hands. They should go out to vote. They should ensure that their votes are counted, recorded and count. They should begin to take a leading role in democracy, to ensure that it is their will, expressed with their votes, that is done in elections. They should do the needful to ensure that democracy becomes truly “government by the people” in the country.