Judging By Their Speeches

Last week, Thursday to be precise, some contenders for the 2011 Presidential Elections took various bold steps toward the actualization of their closet desires. These steps were characterized with strong underlying political indications, thoughtful strategies, and technically sound counterstrikes.

Viral Jonathan took the shine off IBB’s Eagle Square rally by flawing the retired General’s ingenious multi-million Naira game plan with the aid of a free Facebook status update that got to thousands of Nigerians. Also, Nuhu Ribadu told everyone who cared to listen that his presidential ambition is more than a Night of a Thousand Laughs joke. And in the same vein, Dele Momodu got the loudest ovation so far heard from the Labour Party which announced him as the first person to signify interest in the party’s presidential ticket?a proclamation that calls for an evaluation of what the party’s ticket truly worth.

In what looked like a boring MSc. molecular biology class without the necessary apparatus to demonstrate genetic sequencing and BLAST technique, IBB delivered a familiar tale with little or nothing to add. On the podium, he failed to address any of the numerous pertinent issues that seem to be the clog in the wheel of his campaign. To add salt to a debilitating diabetes wound, his speechwriters made the mistake of acknowledging supporters who couldn’t make it to Abuja to show their support for the Niger state hill-top resident who ruled Nigeria for a decade short of two years. Who are those that wouldn’t love to be seen with IBB in public?

According to IBB, “after almost two decades of deep and serious reflection, increased exposure and review of our past and present, I am, today, even more convinced and indeed determined to take on fully the challenges ahead of the country…My renewed desire to participate in the political process is motivated by very compelling challenges, which confront the country”. This statement has raised some questions.

Are the compelling challenges different from the ones we faced when IBB was the president? Why didn’t he solve some of them convincingly during his eight-year tenure when he had every power at his disposal?no legislature to query his steps, and only few journalists were bold enough to look at him straight in the eye via their articles? He also promised not to seek tenure elongation, which is a first. But will he be able to solve Nigeria’s problems in four years when he couldn’t even scratch the surface in eight years?

His manifesto is marasmic. IBB’s is an immiscible concoction of intention declaration which did nothing but present him as a confused comic contortionist. His hurriedly prepared speech further ascertains the widespread rumor that there is another impetus?other than leading the nation to a higher pedestal?behind his political interest. To support his ability to better the lot of Nigeria and Nigerians, he mentioned his ‘everywhere’ projects like NALDA, DFRRI, Community Banks and Peoples Bank. If this is his plan for Nigeria in this jet age, I suggest he’d take a job as a history lecturer in any Nigerian university to remind future generations of evanescent government projects.

Many Nigerians still loath IBB and his purported “experience”. Hence he shouldn’t bank on that. It is grotesquely comic, shockingly incongruous, repulsively distorting, and offensively insulting for IBB to boast of a tenure that was marred with accusations of innumerable assassinations, illegal incarcerations, and murderous arbitrations.

He should talk about what Nigerians want to hear from him. He ought to have necessitated the need for his democratic presidency as a means of resolving the flaws and mistakes he made while in office. He should be solemn, sober and somber. Willingly or otherwise, IBB needs to tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians, take full responsibility for the deeds and misdeeds of the military regime he led, and visit the families of those that lost their lives as a result of the actions of his administration. By doing these, he stands the chance of attracting popular sympathy. However?for reasons best known to him?he has decided to propagate the success of failure.

What if he had invited families of MKO Abiola, Dele Giwa and others to the rally, and had apologized openly like Chris Brown? The song on several Nigerian lips would have been chants of I-B-B! He however chose to give the usual Proudly Nigerian promises and left sensitive issues that could torch his ambitions untouched!

Lucky Jo was slightly smarter.

With a speech in which ‘despaired’ was copiously used, President Jonathan made known his presidential ambition. He bragged with statements like “Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is the man you need to put Nigeria right”. While I understand the blow-your-trumpet clause in Nigerian politics, I’m perplexed at the sudden change – something like a mutation – of the once humble Mr. President. Many fans of President Goodluck Jonathan envisioned him as a very humble man, a supportive deputy, and an amiable Ijaw chief. With his traditional hat and bewitching smiles, he typified the much-talked-about injection of fresh blood. But with boastful comments like the aforementioned, Jonathan’s candidacy deserves a second thought.

President Goodluck Jonathan is surrounded by the so-called bad men and women who are omen to Nigeria’s ménage. Take for instance the state governors in attendance, and who ferried the mammoth crowd to Abuja. One of them, Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo state reportedly mobilized and transported six thousand PDP members from the state’s PDP secretariat to Abuja Eagle Square. Other governors in attendance were said to have followed suit. It therefore becomes expedient, and a matter of national interest, to know the extent to which Jonathan had been initiated, or inducted into the league of corrupt leaders.

Innovation and creativity are two things that Jonathan’s campaign seems to be lacking. His campaign theme “Hope” is similar to that of US President Barack Obama. I even saw some expertly copied-and-pasted lines from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s 2006 Abuja Polo Club Presidential Declaration, in Jonathan’s Eagle Square speech. These are quite disheartening considering the fact that Nigeria is different, evolving, and several thousands of kilometers away from God’s Own Country?the United States. The issues, people, circumstances, and systems are entirely different. And Mr. President, of all people, ought to know these without being told.

He has promised to create a Sovereign Wealth Fund with an initial capital of one billion US Dollars. The fund, he said, would be used to initiate an economic transformation that encompasses usual stuffs like job opportunities, poverty alleviation, health, blah, blah, blah… He promised to deal with kidnappers, criminal elements and miscreants, but left out oil militants.

Is Mr. President planning to spare the rod when it comes to an issue that centrally affects the region he’s from? Is this an assertion and affirmation of the notion that he’s enjoying the support of the Niger-Delta militants? If this is his manifesto, then danger looms in the oil regions since Mr. President, if elected, will be unperturbed and less concerned with the safety of oil workers, infrastructures and installations.

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0;re-train, revamp and motivate the civil service”, and he mentioned corruption in his closing paragraphs. This is suspicious. Let’s know how he intends to contend with the menace that deserves to be the number one priority of the next administration. Unlike his late master, the Jonathan-led administration has been incoherent, unsteady and confusing with the way it’s handling corruption and corrupt officials.

In the Abuja address, Mr. President used the derogatory term “ordinary Nigerians” to describe those whose votes he would like to have. He further said “I am one of you”. It’s like President Jonathan wants to condescend and stoop low to the level of ordinary Nigerians at the polls and go back to his high pedestal after the elections. This is not the kind of pompous attitude and overtures that Nigerians expect from their President. We want respect! And if he fails to address these and other related issues, other aspirants might usurp his seat. One of such is Nuhu Ribadu.

Nuhu Ribadu?former anti-graft agency chief?says his desire to run for the presidency is as a result of the dire need to “remake Nigeria”. At a breakfast meeting with journalists in Abuja, he said that he’s still “consulting”, and would soon declare the party he will be joining to actualize his ambition to rule Nigeria. Tentatively, he promised to transform Nigeria within two years!

Like Martin Luther King Jnr. and Biblical Joseph, the slimmest presidential candidate who has so far declared his intention to run, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, is a dreamer. He said “I have a dream of a new Nigeria; I have the dream of a changed Nigeria”.

But he demonstrated sheer naivety by saying “I want to see if there is a possibility of opening a new chapter for the country…I want to see the possibility of capturing the vision of majority of Nigerians who today are the young ones…I want to see the possibility of giving our country opportunity of equal treatment, fairness, respect for people…I want to see if it is possible for us to give a leadership that can listen…We want to bring out the energy in all of us and see if we can make a country that all of us will be proud of”. Nuhu Ribadu should realize that Jega’s clock is ticking very quickly, and Nigerians, impatient more than ever, desire swifter actions. Hence, he needs to speedily figure out all the possibilities he could come up with. If not, he should consider the possibility of not running in 2011.

Dele Momodu also spoke on his ambition to be Nigeria’s next president. His speech was void of concrete plans to implement. All he did was flaunt his résumé like a fresh job applicant. Like a reader pointed out, his speech was filled with several “I am this, I am that; I have this, I have that” and other personal effects that could make a CV look more attractive.

Dele Momodu and other contestants?Davids and Goliaths?should realize that the presidency is the highest post anybody can occupy in Nigeria. Though enviable and prestigious, the post is subjected to more jibes, blows, attacks, insults and assaults than they could ever fathom. It’s therefore important that only the capable should step forward.

Professor Jega didn’t allocate any time for thinking and consulting, hence they shouldn’t waste time on these endeavors when we already know the outcome of such consultations. We want nothing but the best candidate to emerge victorious.

Nigerians need to be watchful. Let’s start asking pertinent questions, and request for explanations and clarifications; and we should thoroughly analyze the utterances of these politicians and other political office seekers. Like other politicians, they have sweet, smooth and silky mouths that can sweep anybody who doesn’t stand well off the feet. Our historic gullibility had gotten us to our present dismally precarious situation and we shouldn’t fold our hands nor rest on our oars, expecting everything to be resolved on their own.

On May 18, 1959, Sir Ahmadu Bello gave an advice. “Let us therefore pray that God will give us the strength and wisdom to lay our bricks straight and true, plumb, level and square, and that He will give His blessing to our efforts to increase the peace, happiness and prosperity of our people”. Few years later, after realizing the unique nature of Nigeria’s problems, he changed his tone and gave us a recommendation that comes handy as we decide who to vote for. According to the late sage, “we must now shape our own future”.

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