A joker in poker is a wild card. It can be flipped; it can substitute and be substituted. And it can just be that jester. Nigeria’s political caravan is saturated with jokers. While some jokers are well aware of their status as factotums of other interests in the political circus, some are just aboriginal jesters taken up in their own vanity and delusion of importance. There are presidential hopefuls and there are presidential jokers.
Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra state and member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is a presidential joker. I believe Obi knows that he cannot succeed in his presidential expedition under the current political arrangement. The entrenched system which abominates merit is not of his making, but it is an obvious encumbrance to him emerging as the presidential candidate of the PDP. Peter Obi is no match for any of the APC presidential hopefuls — Bola Tinubu, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, and Rotimi Amaechi. This is an uncomfortable but evident fact.
As I wrote in a previous column, if it were a sectional contest where only Igbo votes will decide the winner, perhaps, the former Anambra governor will have a chance. But this is a national election where every Nigerian – north, south, east, west – will decide the outcome. Obi does not have the requisite community network and he remains suspended on the fringes of political relevance. He does not matter to those who really matter in elections – the hoi-polloi. But I give it to him, he is a favourite of some Nigerians from the south on Twitter. But there are no polling stations on Twitter.
It has been speculated that Obi is using the presidential quest as a gambit to negotiate for a vice-presidential position in the PDP – because he may not get another chance like in 2019 when he was the running mate of Atiku Abubakar, PDP presidential candidate, in the election. According to whispers from party insiders, a running mate from the south-south or south-west may be selected, if the presidential ticket goes to a northern candidate. This is on the assumption that a popular running mate from the south-west can bite into the bloc vote of the APC in the region.
Ayodele Fayose, former governor of Ekiti state, is another presidential joker. The good thing is, the ‘’Amala and Ponmo’’ exponent, admits he is a joker. Fayose does not try to be suave or rational about his status as a hoaxer; he is honest about his ‘’presidential’’ pursuit. He is a political scullion. Fayose knows he is not popular and that he lacks the needed network for presidential nomination and election. He knows it will even take him an effort to win a senatorial election in Ekiti.
But who is the former governor fronting for? It is alleged that Fayose may be jesting at the behest of the ‘’grand patron’’ of the PDP – a certain governor from the south-south. Real contenders in internal party contests often flash jokers to boost their negotiating and electoral chances. The jokers act in the interest of the pied piper while maintaining a façade.
However, Dino Melaye, former senator and the liveried footman of Atiku and Bukola Saraki, accused Fayose of acting in the interest of another godfather in the APC. So, the former governor may not only be a joker but also a spoiler.
“It is clear from the verbal missiles deployed by Fayose that he was simply de-marketing frontline aspirants in PDP as a counterintuitive strategy to shore up the chances of his political godfather in APC,’’ Melaye said in response to Fayose’s ‘’demarketing’’ of Atiku and Saraki.
Dele Momodu is a presidential joker. Cerebral, cosmopolitan, expansive, yes, he is. In 2011, the CEO of Ovation group ran for presidential office on the ticket of the National Conscience Party (NCP). But he only secured 26,376 votes, coming a distant 11th on the election log. Momodu is vacant of grassroots appeal and appears sequestered from everyday Nigerians. He has a mélange of friends in the elite phylum, but not enough political network to swing the presidential pendulum his way. It has been speculated that he is fronting for Saraki.
Tunde Bakare is another presidential joker. He said God told him to run for president. Well, I believe the fiery preacher knows the celestials will not be voting in the elections – only Nigerians. Perhaps, he wants to take the baton from Chris Okotie, the debonair pastor known for running for president every election cycle without getting as much as 50,000 votes.
There are other persons in the band of presidential jokers. They include but not limited to Cosmo Ndukwe of the PDP, Anyim Pius Anyim of the PDP, Orji Kalu of the APC, Bala Mohammed of the PDP and David Umahi of the APC.
There are presidential hopefuls and there are presidential jokers. The jokers bring nothing but comic relief, and perhaps, excitement to the contest. And who does not fancy a good laugh?
Nwabufo is a Journalist.