A Stable Full Of Stalking Horses
By Oluremi Kosoko
As Nigeria’s two gladiatorial parties – the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – prepare to subject the country to another round of their phony war, the danger signs are flashing yet again. Unless we heed them, we have little hope of redemption. Falsehood has become the stock in trade of our political carpetbaggers.
The phrase a stalking horse has its origins in a sixteenth century hunting practice. “In order to get close to fowl, hunters employed trained stalking horses. These horses could walk up on game birds without alarming them. The hunters hid behind these stalking horses until they were in a position to shoot at the birds.”
So, in the context of the coming presidential primaries, stalking horses disguise true intent; to wit, false candidates are run up the flagpole to divert and divide, temporarily concealing the real object of their intent.
In seeking to understand the proliferation of political pygmies passing themselves off as prospective presidential candidates, I am left with no choice but to conclude that most of them are stalking horses. Are we really expected to believe that all these pseudo-candidates are anything but cannon fodder, prepared to waste, at least, N100,000,000.00 on a flight of fancy? I think not.
We are not only besieged by marauding murderers and kidnappers; we are also at the mercy of politicians so self-centred that they are totally immersed in a no-holds barred contest for power rather than the right to serve. The range of those presenting for president, particularly in the APC but not only in that gaggle, suggest there is more to this than meets the eye.
Like the propriety of moving a bullion van into one’s home on the eve of an election, since there are no laws or rules proscribing the mass deployment of stalking horses, we can only look to self-imposed ethical boundaries as a bulwark against the near-total depravity threatening to submerge us.
The hurdle of N100million clearly means nothing to our happy band of legalized looters. We are readily assured that the necessary funds are provided by “supporters” who, presumably, have in turn received assurances of rich returns.
It is true that politicians are irredeemable optimists but surely even they have their limits. Does Senator Ibikunle Amosun really believe that Nigerians see in him our hope for renewal? Does Adams Oshiomhole’s fertile and febrile imagination really conjure up a Nigeria reimagined in his image? Do Dimeji Bankole’s delusions encompass a triumphant return to Abuja, like an all-conquering general?
What I find most disconcerting is how little conversation we have had on this glut of unviable candidates, and how little opprobrium has attached to the tactics of using stalking horses. We have become so complicit in a political system mired in reprobate behaviour that the denigration of standards has become normative.
Let us for a moment return to the earlier definition of a stalking horse. Amongst Nigeria’s unending crop of aspirants in the presidential primaries, the trained stalking horses are the phony spineless politicians willing to play the role of pretenders to the throne. The game birds are the party delegates that have the vote in the presidential primaries. The hunters are those directing and positioning the stalking horses. We can only speculate as to the actual individuals but in doing so, we are able to make reasonable suppositions.
The likely way this scenario is primed to play out is telling. It is safe to assume that the hidden hunter is someone able to deploy copious amounts of money. The stalking horses have to purchase the necessary presidential forms from party HQ, in the case of the APC, at a N100million a pop. None of these latterly candidates, with little or no hope of winning in their own constituencies, are likely to put down such a large bet with such long odds.
So, assuming these willing dancing primates will do their master’s bidding, what might the organ grinder have in mind? I can well imagine a situation where, in the final run-in to the primaries, the puppets drop out of the race, declare their support for the organ grinder, and help in giving their Master the all-important momentum at the primaries.
Is this illegal? No. Does it speak to the kind of propriety we sorely need in our politics and from our politicians? Not in the least. Should we be surprised? Given the kind of people we have enabled up and down the spectrum of politics, we cannot be heard to declare ourselves surprised.
In calling out the skullduggery clearly afoot, we are taking away the opportunity for delegates at the primaries to be easily swayed by such subterranean tactics. Indeed, those that do not wish to join in being the cat’s paw will know what to do.
This is part of a pattern of money being the key metric in determining who rules us. If the delegates allow that, they will once again be complicit in the degradation of politics and the denial to the nation of another chance. It may well be that the delegates do not care; we must let them know that we care and expect them to rise above pecuniary politics.
As we approach yet another inflection point, we cannot afford to submit to despair; despair is not an option. We must rid ourselves of the carpetbaggers that obsess about state capture. We are in a big hole and unless we stop digging, we will bury Hope.
In choosing a president (which the primaries form a critical part of), we must continually draw on the distinction between those that want to do a job and those that want to hold a position.