OPINION: Uche Ekwunife, Kindergarten President and Mobocracy, By Law Mefor

By Law Mefor

There is a disturbing executive rascality and mob mentality brewing in the buildup to the 2023 Presidential election. The recent occurrences by some state and non-state actors typify the unfortunate trend – Zamfara, Ebonyi, Lagos and Akwa Ibom cases are ready examples. Governor Matawale of Zamfara shut down media houses for covering the PDP rally. Labour Party’s senatorial candidate in Ebonyi state Linus Abah Okorie was arrested by the Police  and charged to court  for allegedly insulting almighty Governor Dave Umahi. The Police just tear-gassed the youths who gathered to mark EndSars at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos.

Some non-state actors are also growing intolerant and now mob and bully whoever professes alternative view. They are a threat to democracy for attempting to shut down the democratic space and force their choices down the throats of other Nigerians. Senator Uche Ekwunife’s experience is typical of this mobocracy(rule by thugs in the name of democracy). In the penultimate week, a mob descended on Senator Ekwunife aka Iyom for daring to define the President that Nigerians need in 2023.

In  case you missed it, Iyom said: “The president must be someone that understands the economy of this great nation, someone that understands the diversity. Someone that understands the complications, someone that truly knows what this country is all about. Today, we’re trying to choose someone that can take this country to prosperity, someone that can take this country from being a consumption country to being a production country. Someone that can address all the issues we have from security, economy, education, and infrastructure, to women empowerment, to youth empowerment, everything. And I believe we have the total package for the Atiku/Okowa Presidency ticket. Nigerians, we don’t want a kindergarten president…”

Strangely, some vying for offices under other parties picked on the catchphrase: “We do not need a kindergarten president”. They claim that it was Mr. Peter Obi, the Labour Presidential candidate that Senator Ekwunife referred to. How they reached this conclusion remains unclear since the ranking senator never mentioned Peter Obi in her statement. Is their presumption that Obi was the one referred to as kindergarten president, not a way of de-marketing the presidential hopeful of the Labour Party whom the same people claim they are promoting him?

In the ongoing 2023 presidential race, there are 18 presidential candidates, the majority of who are in their 40s and never tasted any public office at any level. Yet none of them or their supporters claimed that their candidates were referred to.

Peter Obi, on the other hand, is over 60; Obi has also been a governor twice, a presidential adviser, and a one-time vice presidential candidate/running mate to Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 presidential election on the PDP ticket.

In terms of life experience, Obi can be said to have seen it all in the private and public sectors, and gone past his prime in chronological and mental age. He can therefore not be referred to or seen as a kindergarten presidential candidate. In terms of protocol, Obi perhaps ranks lower only to Atiku Abubakar, who has been Vice president of Nigeria before who he also calls his boss. The other leading presidential candidates, namely, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of NNPP and Bola Ahmed Tinubu of APC are both former governors like Peter Obi. Though Kwankwaso and Tinubu are older than Obi, they can be seen as in the same ranks. Yet, none of them or their supporters felt they were the kindergarten presidents.

Why then are the spinners seeing Iyom’s remark as targeted at Obi, and not at Kwankwaso or Tinubu; or the other much younger candidates of the other 14 motley political parties? One can only hazard a guess. Many had resented the refusal of Iyom to defect to the Labour Party along with Obi even after she had secured her ticket to return to the Senate under the PDP. Iyom though wishes Peter Obi well as a close friend and brother is she expected to abandon her political party at this moment of need that the PDP is fighting to return to power at the Centre?

Uche Ekwunife’s fidelity to the PDP is unmatched and her towering personality remains admirably peerless also. This has made her an asset both to the party and Anambra and Ndigbo as a whole. It is this solid personality that her detractors target and wish to destroy, for the fear that her phenomenal profile would affect the prospects of other candidates of other parties in the 2023 General Elections.

It is quite important to put some of the issues in perspective. There are contestants to various elective posts that hope to ride to power and relevance by clinging to the apron strings of Peter Obi’s candidacy. Lacking in electoral value and relevance, they see themselves as a mismatch with Iyom on the election battleground. They are therefore on the voyage of discovering what could help them bring the iron lady down. They jumped at the ‘kindergarten’ statement without checking to see that Obi was not even mentioned at all and that there are indeed many kindergarten candidates in the race.

Come to think of it, are there no kindergartens in the race? One who has not been even a local government counselor before now would want to start his or her political career as the president of Nigeria is nothing but a kindergarten presidential candidate.

The office of the president of Nigeria is not a child’s play. The Incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, recently said in Daura during his Salah break that governing Nigeria is a very difficult job, and made it clear that he eagerly looked forward to handing over peacefully and taking a much-deserved rest.

So, if Iyom says Nigeria does need a kindergarten president, she is right. Nigeria is the most populous black nation on earth with a population of over 200m; 8,812 wards, 774 local governments, 36 states, and FCT. What is more, the institutions are very weak, meaning that almost everything rests on the shoulders of whoever is the president. It is certainly not a job for rookies, the inexperienced, and the unprepared, and Iyom unapologetically spoke in that light. If other candidates and their supporters see Obi as a kindergarten presidential candidate, they are the ones saying it, not Iyom.

It is also important to draw attention to the growing intolerance in the political space driven by the mob. Their cyber-bullying is becoming more and more overbearing and unacceptable. They insult and assault whoever attempts to engage them from an alternative point of view.

One understands the frustration being felt by many Nigerians who are desirous of change. But they are not alone in facing hardships in Nigeria. Some of them were active and intolerant as today while fighting to remove Goodluck Jonathan from power and have him replaced by Muhammadu Buhari, who promised them change, which has turned out to be a chain.

This is a multiparty democracy, and people belong to different political parties. Political Parties faithful, including Uche Ekwunife, are duty-bound to sell their parties, manifestos, and candidates. They are by the dictates of the political party process required to tell Nigerians why their candidates should be preferred and allow them to decide. Their intolerance and attempts to hound members of other parties are undemocratic and not helping any candidate.

Thank gracious Senator Ekwunife has humbly and characteristically clarified her statement as having nothing to do with Peter Obi who she incidentally represents in the National Assembly at the moment. The 2023 presidential election will come and go but Nigerians are expected to remain compatriots and fellow citizens thereafter.

This democracy and nobody should turn it into ‘mobocracy’ (rule by thugs), which can make the ongoing electioneering violent, and tar and mar the 2023 general elections.

Dr Law Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: drlawmefor@gmail.com; Twitter: @LawMefor1.

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