By Joseph Y. Chibok
On Thursday, December 1 in Abuja, Senator Datti Baba Ahmed, the vice-presidential running mate to the Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, addressed a press conference.
And what was the theme or main focus of the conference, one faithfully following the on-going presidential campaign, would ask? Well, according to the online publication of the Punch Newspaper, which reported the event, what Baba-Ahmed sought to convey to Nigerians was nothing else other than to ‘hail’ the vice-presidential candidate of the All-Progressives Congress, His Excellency, Senator Kashim Shettima, on his “improved dress sense’’ to public functions.
The whole of the Baba-Ahmed conference was, of course, a play on, or a sarcastic reference, to an incident which took place on August 22 when Shettima who honoured an invitation to the Nigeria Bar Association annual conference on behalf of his principal, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, turned out in an outfit which drew the ire of fashionatoes. He was criticised for wearing a set of suits over sneakers by the fashion judges who considered it an improper dressing. Shettima, on his part, had said in his defence that he deliberately wore such an outfit to shame his critics.
But for the issue to become a subject of a conference addressed by a vice-presidential running mate of a party is what some of us cannot fully understand. Has the presidential campaign turned to issue of what some of us consider inanities, irrelevancies, little mindedness or non-issues?
In between his speech, Baba-Ahmed devoted a chunk of his time to launch diatribe against Shetimma. This is understandable because just like Peter Obi is acutely aware that he is no match to Bola Tinubu, same goes to Datti whom I believe is green with envy over Shettima.
Yes! Shetimma served out his Eight-Year tenure as a governor in Borno State with distinction. This came after a very successful career in banking. He was a serving Senator of the Federal Republic before becoming the running mate of the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Shetimma is highly influential in the politics of the North East ditto in the entire North having served as the Chairman of the influential Northern Governors Forum.
Could that be said of Datti-Ahmed who suffered defeat in his bid to retain his seat in the Senate. We also remembered his forlorn attempt to run for the presidency in 2019 on the platform of the PDP. Having realised that that was a pipe-dream, he settled for the governorship of Kaduna State, which he knew could not materialise because the PDP would certainly not handover its ticket to a “lightweight” who couldn’t even retain the senatorial seat for Northern Kaduna.
That was the political trajectory of Baba-Ahmed before he was picked as the running mate of Peter Obi and not because he is bringing anything to the table apart from the fact that Obi was just looking for a person of northern extraction.
Shettima is head and shoulder above Baba-Ahmed in politics, intellectual capacity, public and personal accomplishments.
Surely, the outing by Baba-Ahmed raises some alarm in the hearts of some of us Nigerian patriots. And that alarm is that has the very serious campaign to be president of Nigeria degenerated to a level where some of them at the very heart of it now dwell on comedy? Has the race for the presidency become a circus? There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about a candidate seeking to pour sarcasm on his opponent to make him look a little ridiculous or laughable in the eyes of voters, but are the proponents of such a course of action serious themselves? Let us please note that in any serious public venture, such as in a campaign for a high political office, what you a candidate in it say or focus on, tends to reveal or define you even if you are not aware of it.
Even if it is determined that Shettima is a poor dresser, which he is definitely not, not many Nigerians will be too worried about that. What many of us are concerned about is the person, capacity and outlook of Shettima. Is Shettima a good person or bad? Does he have what it takes to serve as the Vice-President of Nigeria? What leadership credentials does he have? These are valid issues in a presidential campaign. It is hardly about the colour or dress combinations of a man seeking to be president.
I will advise Baba-Ahmed to seek to engage Shettima on issues such as such development and how can our beloved Nigeria overcome the numerous challenges bedevilling it.
We want our politicians, especially those of them seeking to be at the highest level of government, to concentrate on calling themselves out on these issues of economy, health, social cohesion, agriculture, sports, etc.
What we expect from those campaigning for the high office of the presidency or its vice to always keep in view are issues of development and re-assurance for the citizens that Nigeria is on the path to greatness, especially under the APC. The summary of all we are saying here is that our leaders must focus on issues and leave comedy, sarcasm and mockery and frivolities, which are meant for entertainment.
Chibok writes from Abuja