Lessons for Pat Utomi from Oshiomole

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

I have always wanted to see Pat Utomi become President someday. Forget about all these late Apostles to the altar- right from the days of Patitos gang, I saw in him a passion uncommon, a vision unparalleled and a gentleman to the core. Pat Utomi is devoid of the fluff. He does not come with the baggage; not someone given to extreme vanity, his ego is neither too large for his brains. It was in this spirit I endorsed his candidacy and have tried at every corner to offer good advice. But alas, Uncle Patitos has disappointed me.

Uncle Patitos’ campaign is high on ideology and complaints but low on strategy; politics, whether you like it or not remains a game of numbers. Even in Nigeria, where the electoral process is often perverted, it remains a game of numbers. Forget those perennial losers called opposition parties in Nigeria, rigging does not, I repeat for emphasis, does not change the ultimate result of an election. You cannot rig where you do not have substantial support. Or let us put it this way: you can only rig where people are either in active support of your candidacy or have substantial apathy towards the candidacy of your opponent. Hence, while the five non-performing governors of Alliance for Democracy can very well prove that they were rigged out by PDP in 2003, their loss was their own hand making. Who could care less if all those old men beholden to Afenifere (who became governors and strayed away from the people’s mandate) made it back to the government house?

Hence, it will be with great regret I will be giving you tomorrow’s news today; “Newsflash: Pat Utomi loses in Moonslide in the April Nigeria Presidential Election”. I am sure to you the dreamer and idealist, insulting my incongruence will be your best bet but hear me out. All hope is not lost. The loss of Pat Utomi is a lesson to all idealists out there. Idealism does not win elections: in fact, the unsaid motto of every political struggle in Nigeria is that “may the best man never win”. If Pat Utomi had won with his lackluster, strategically defeatist campaign I would have been sorely disappointed in the Nigerian electoral process. Politics is about personality- colorful ones for that matter. More so, it is about connecting with people.

In fact, I am not going to bog you down with practical methods for an idealist to win an election as I have already done so in a previous write-up, but the key will be using practical examples. In the state of Edo State a revolution is ongoing. For the first time, in the history of that state a non-godfather backed figure might finally emerge as the Governor come May 2007. The latest and hottest cake in town is Adams Oshiomole the no nonsense labor leader who have managed to eclipse Obasanjo-Anenih handpicked candidate- Prof. Osunbor or whatever his name is called. You see Oshiomole is so downright popular, that even the anointed candidates of the big man is not even known. It is of course self evident that the bad luck of Edo state citizens under “Lackey” Igbinnedion might finally be reversed.

How did Oshiomole break the chain of oppression? What did he do differently that our man Pat Utomi is not doing? What is the fundamental difference between the candidacy of Oshiomole and that of Utomi? There is no doubt in my mind that both candidates represent a new generation of Nigerian politician and a departure from the shenanigans of the past eight years. Indeed, both Oshiomole and Utomi can be identified with the peoples’ cause. Oshiomole in his long tenure as labor leader had filled in for the AWOL opposition of Nigeria; often serving as a voice of the masses and an unbending advocate for the poor, oppressed work force and unemployed. In the process, he was known for his tough negotiation, level headedness, common place sense and above all an ability to be reasonable. You see, Oshiomole is the only living Nigerian to confront Obasanjo and truly earn his respect. Obasanjo respects Oshiomole and this was seen in his so called Leaders of Tomorrow invitation extended to Adams even though only Oshiomole and a handful of others (definitely not Obasanjo’s blood sons and daughter, also in that meeting) represented a truly bright future or tomorrow for our nation.

However, the similarities between both men end at this point. Oshiomole and Pat Utomi are activist alike, but different politicians. Oshiomole is pragmatic, while Pat Utomi is not. This is self evident in Oshiomole build up of the Labor Party infrastructure and his decision to give tactic but not overt support to the 2003 Obasanjo’s candidacy. Indeed, come 2006/07 his pragmatism led him to shun the PDP machine which was already discredited in Edo in favor of a LP-AC alliance that has provided him with a national base and funds to prosecute his dreams for his home state. Above all, Oshiomole did not fool himself to think he can transmute from a national activist to a national politician like Gani Fawenhinmi and Pat Utomi have tried to do. Instead he has decided to start small in Edo state- stoop low and conquer, and watch as the events at the center evolve.

This strategy have turned Oshiomole’s cause to a winning cause, a winnable idea and above all an odd to beat favorite heading to the final leg of the campaign. There is no doubt in my mind that given the fact that Oshiomole have since mastered the art of connecting to the common man, best seen in his carnival like entry and populist verbosity as he tours the state, that victory is nearer than Otta Farms is to Obasanjo come May 29. Be it as it may, Oshiomole unlike Pat Utomi have refused to speak in elitist, self gratifying manner preferring instead to tackle PDP head on in bombastic boasting that flush the veins of the political faithful with red hot blood and enthusiasm. Hear him: commenting onthe alleged poor turn-out by PDP members during Obasanjo’s visit to Benin due to the scorching sun and late arrival of the President, the former NLC President quipped : “Why did they not use the umbrella for cover if it had not been torn into pieces in Edo State. It is a sign that the party (PDP) was dead in Edo.”

In declaring the death of godfatherism in Edo state he said, “Today marks a new beginning, a day of freedom for Esan people, from the grip of one man, who cares not for the people… we must work hard to secure our tomorrow (emphasis mine). We are on a rescue mission. We will set the people of Opojie, the people of Ekpoma, Uromi, Benin and Auchi free from politicians whose official slogan is “share the money, and impoverish the people.”This is as reported in the Guardian when his campaign train stormed Ekpoma in grand style on Tuesday. That to me sounds like a winner not a whiner that I am afraid Uncle Patitos has transformed into on the campaign trail. I just pray Adams can achieve the ultimate: shaming the naysayers when he governs.

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Edo boy! April 5, 2007 - 6:00 am

u really hit the nail on the head ,who cares about what the Yank says and the only person thats goona get shocked is Anthoman who seems to believe Americans are the bastions of knowledge .u have written an excellent piece which should be applauded and not responded to by hate mail keep it up.Adams oshiomole might some day save Nigeria.

Anthoman April 3, 2007 - 1:49 pm

Michael, Interesting Piece;

Did you describe yourself as a problem solver?

You seem to have simply restated the obvious. Where is the insight, proposed solutions etc? For someone who so loves Professor Pat Utomi for President of Nigeria, your article does nothing to advance the course of Transforming Nigeria, which is Dr Utomi ‘s sole reason for jumping into the murky water of Nigerian politics

Does Nigeria, at this critical point in our history need a clown or an Idealist to lead us?

Look, let the Man remain the idealist, let ADC get out the revel rousers, to make the noise, you so presume, the dumb Nigerian electorate needs.

An American friend, in academia, after reading your piece, sighed and muttered “—dam stupid Nigerians; go talk that crap when your parents end up in refuge camps.

BTW, he plans to contact you personally.

Pat Utomi for President, 2007, and this shall come to fruition.

Michael, you are in for a shock

omon March 29, 2007 - 11:19 am

wel u ve said it all,the same thing i had in mind but u know people wont appreciate what u ve said but 2 me i say keep it up.more powers 2 ur elbow.


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