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Opinion - January 3, 2023

When missed endorsement turns sour grape

 

 

By Olukayode Oyeleye

The wheel of high-wired and aggressive political rhetoric has been set rolling since the first day of the new year, January 1, 2023. Frustrated and disgruntled media handlers of identically different presidential aspirants of two rival political parties have been upset and therefore gone on the offensive, flying off the handle, each with their own denigrating comments to whittle down and counter the apersonal opinion of only one man.

Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria, has apparently further upset a hitherto disorganised set of noisy articles and disrupted the swarm of those nocturnal non-bird flying creatures that habitually perch by hanging upside down while resting. He wrote and published an advisory on the forthcoming general elections and which presidential candidate he thought should be voted for. It got very interesting that the campaign publicity managers of these two opposing parties became so listless and perturbed that this advisory from the former president became their first and major preoccupation at the very beginning of the year.

It might not be far from the truth that, as an experienced soldier, Obasanjo’s element of surprise caught these two parties’ aspirants and their handlers off-guard. It would be rather simplistic to assume that Obasanjo was not expecting vitriolic responses to his advisory. But here they are. And, in the two such sharp responses, the gloves are off! They avoided the message and chose to go after the messenger. Wrong approach, to say the least.

One, in a lengthy but disingenuous press release, tried to cast Obasanjo’s advisory in the mould of a ‘third term’ agenda. Although this narrative appeared to have caught some attention and public sympathy during a build-up to 2011 elections, it sounds now more like a hollow and worn-out expression that has lost relevance in the context of time. The same handler obviously had no problem with it when Obasanjo endorsed the incumbent in 2015 as it suited their purpose then; he therefore probably had amnesia when he was choosing to push this third term rhetoric in trying to make a point. The other handler, obviously unmindful of the backlash from his approach, thought to dismiss the advisory from Obasanjo, going further to state that his endorsement of any presidential candidate other than his own was worthless. But, wait and see the stuff some politicians are made of.

Meanwhile, some months ago, the second candidate (obviously to the knowledge of the handler) has made a tricky but failed attempt to secure an endorsement from the same Obasanjo. During a high profile visit, accompanied by influential party members, this candidate had met Obasanjo at home, expecting to use the visit to bolster a regional support for his candidacy. The plan not only fell apart, as Obasanjo did not commit himself to the visiting aspirant, the former president made it known thereafter that their private agreement not to disclose the outcome of the meeting to the public was breached by the aspirant’s side when one of his men — a federal lawmaker — spoke to the media, insinuating that Obasanjo’s body language showed he endorsed their candidate. What a double-speak!

The same Obasanjo’s endorsement, earlier desperately sought by this candidate, is now considered worthless after Obasanjo has given it to a different candidate who wasn’t even as desperate. And then came the tirades and such indecorous expressions. In the first place, why seeking after what was worthless at all? What an unreliable rubber yardstick! This is a clear case akin to the tale of the fox and the sour grape. The fox only just realised that the grapes were sour, all because it jumped up many times to pluck some grapes from the vine and his attempts yielded nothing. It then said to itself, oh after all, they were sour grapes.

So, Obasanjo’s endorsement has now suddenly become worthless because it was not given to their own principal? This is comical in the first instance. Moreover, it speaks loudly to the confirmation of the entitlement mentality that the aspirant has been accused of, which was confirmed by himself from his comment that it is now his turn.

Unknown to those two aspirants whose handlers have responded so very swiftly and negatively to Obasanjo’s advisory, the tide has turned. They missed the message. Both clearly have a lot of baggages to contend with: age, physical and mental status, background history, moral questions, sources of stupendous wealth and all. They have only just buttressed the points made by Obasanjo in his write-up that was essentially directed at the younger generation of Nigerians. They probably thought the older generation, anured to the old ways, is still as strong a force as they were some two decades ago. Truly, time is no more on their side. Those two relied so much on weaponising poverty to get elected, based on their financial war chest. But they are coming at the worst time after Nigerians have been through nearly eight years of suffering under a geriatric and would have none other geriatric worsen their situation. The fixed tribal and religious sentiments they both thought to exploit are crumbling in the face of a shift in sentiments to more dynamic contemporary issues.

Today, more than anytime in recent history of Nigerian politics, people are comfortable with voting for someone else outside party affiliations or religious and tribal boundaries. And these have created real unease for the “experienced” political tacticians and strategists. The traditional “structures” they depended upon for delivering electoral victory in the past are now looking like ineffectual. Their permutations are no longer straight line, but have been made more complicated by the confounding variables that have been introduced this year as previous voters’ apathy seems to have given way to an unprecedented enthusiasm and readiness to vote.

They are still in denial, ignoring the handwriting on the wall. They seem dazed at the realisation of a critical mass of people from various strata and backgrounds calling for a younger, more vibrant, frugal, accountable and decent candidate with a clean past record in public office to lead the nation henceforth. They don’t want representatives with questionable and deplorable records of their past activities in archives of some foreign country.

For a country that wants the best for its people and wants to compete better with many other countries in this dispensation, the combination of Mr. Peter Obi and Dr. Yusuf Ahmed Datti is a product to go for. Nigerians are presently rueing their decisions of the last two election cycles and are painfully dealing with the buyer’s remorse for their choices then. Are they prepared for an extension of that now? The choice is up to them. But it is good to choose wisely. And how is that to be done? Obasanjo, by his submission, has just nailed it. Obi is the man to choose. Enough of those who are out of touch with today’s reality. They have had enough. They can go and take their much deserved rest. Obasanjo has endorsed Obi. Let him be. Or they should go and get their own high profile endorsements and celebrate them too.

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