2023: Where Are The Masquerades?

2023: Where Are The Masquerades?

There are masquerades in every culture and the life of every individual. The masquerades wear masks for different reasons – from prevarication, illusion, fantasy, fright, horror to protection. No matter the reason, masquerades thrive by covering up who they are and taking up a persona unique to the image they want to portray.

This image becomes the identity of the masquerade. And the persona behind the masquerade dies for the masquerade’s persona to live. In most cultures, it is a taboo to unmask a masquerade. Even at the threat of losing its life, a masquerade will fight to hide the identity of the person behind the mask.

In the past, masquerades were a rarity and often appeared on special occasions and festivities. Nowadays, both literally and metaphorically, we are all masquerades. We wear masks these days as a necessity. Facial masks existed before COVID-19, but the coronavirus, at best, only heightened its usage. The face mask, during this pandemic era, has become a symbol of self-preservation against a deadly viral infection. Asides literal masks, we also wear ‘symbolic masks’ to protect ourselves from emotional and psychological elements that we confront daily – financial secrets, relationship secrets, and the privacy of life and family.

Since the drumbeats of the 2023 election started, we have seen big “political masquerades“ coming out to declare their interests in the struggle for power and relevance. Across party lines, powerful politicians, likened to big masquerades, and their cohorts, are showcasing introductory and essential aspects of their election dances and using both old and novel gimmicks to make their interest in the presidency of Nigeria known. Some have visited the incumbent president to formally inform him of their ambitions; some are still consulting with stakeholders; some are waiting for the call of God and their people to declare their intentions publicly; while others have gone ahead to make their presidential ambitions public via the mass media.

So far, there are no surprises yet. Those who have declared or those rumoured to be on the verge of announcing their intentions to rule Nigeria are the same old political warhorses who, to a great extent, are known by Nigerians. We expect more of them to make their declarations in the coming days and weeks. This is part of the political process, and any Nigerian is free to aspire to become president and compete for the post through any political platform of his or her choice. In Nigeria, at least for now, only masquerades wearing the masks of the All Progressives Congress, APC, or the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are considered to have realistic chances of winning the presidential election. But these are early days, and a third force political platform may challenge this status quo.

It is about 12 months to the general elections for Nigerians to choose the leader of the most populous black nation on earth, at a time of significant political, social, and economic turbulence. Nigeria faces, on all sides, existential threats that will require a highly skilled, competent and charismatic leader to galvanise all the human and natural resources at our disposal to tackle the vast socio-economic challenges confronting us. Among these “masquerades” declaring their interest, one will emerge as the leader. This underscores the importance of galvanising Nigerians with outstanding leadership and empathic qualities to step up to the arena to be counted. One must be in the race to win.

Nigerians often complain about the same old leaders taking political offices and doing nothing innovative to develop the country, but forget that it all starts with the calibre and quality of politicians coming out for the presidency. It is from that group that the president will emerge. Therefore, I implore all Nigerians to use this opportunity to encourage proven leaders with the proper knowledge and skills to come on board to compete for the presidency. Nigeria, now more than ever before, needs quality leadership at the highest level.

It is a positive for democracy that so many citizens are stepping forward to lead the nation, indicating increasing political participation. However, nothing yet distinguishes one aspirant from another in terms of either ideology or public policy postulation. For now, we are stuck at the level of personality cults, geopolitical interests, and the ethnic entitlement syndrome. Even where aspirants are from different party platforms, their utterances do not yet reflect the broad agenda of those parties. More disturbingly, there is nothing that indicates depth on national issues from any aspirant.

Dakuku Peterside is a policy and leadership expert.

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