Letter to Chris Okotie, Presidential Candidate

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

To be honest with you sir, I found it very difficult to begin this letter to you.The decision to employ an epistolary medium to communicate my frustration with the way you are carrying on with your presidential campaign or ambition is borne out of the fact that I see you first and foremost as a man with a mien of letters (in a manner of speaking) and a letter it is I must write. I read your book, The Last Outcast, and it made quiet an impression, the kind that Soyinka made with his The Man Died.My thinking is that this man of letters, despite his being an acolyte in the ecclesiastical garden of proselytism surely should absorb the import of my missive with effortless ease.

I could not start by telling you that, ‘I greet you in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ’, because I do not want to see myself as one Christian writing a letter to another one Christian or as one Niger Deltan to another Niger Deltan. In fact, I toyed with the idea of saying to you, ‘Salaam Alekum’ as the first step I should take as the customary etiquette that missive construction permits. I wanted to do this because in my heart of hearts I know you to be a well rounded personality whose call to the service of humanity far, far transcends the bigoted stances we take with our different religious leanings and our geographical origins.

The other reason why I found it a little hard to write this to you is that I fear to be seen as a tribal jingoist and one taking sides in a matter that is as sensitive as the office of the president of a country as Nigeria.Today, and sadly too, our people believe in the ‘my person syndrome’ first before they consider the implications of placing mediocrity side by sideraw, sharp,intellect and integrity. People are saying that the next president must come from their backyard or from their town or village, otherwise they would leave Nigeria ungovernable. This makes me hate to be seen as an ordinary laundry man or campaign assistant, doing the bidding of an overlord by resorting to this method of passing across to you, my emotions concerning your presidential aspiration. In fact, that this letter is to published makes it more and more embarrassing for me, and I guess for you too.

Chris Okotie

But the issues for the rest of us who believe in you outweigh the need for ethical expediency and conventional tact. Any day I watch you on television, I am convinced that you have a little of this great classical antecedent or of that historical or contemporary protagonist. You boil over with the intellect of a Martin Luther King Jnr in Letter from Birmingham Jail and exude the tenacity and non-conformism of a Nelson Mandela who held on so strongly to the garments of racial equality in an apartheid stronghold that he spent the better part of his life in Robben Island. You have the rhetorical stamina of a Winston Churchill. You also seem to carry in you the seeds of human compassion that a Mother Theresa showed to those poor orphans in Calcutta, India. I cannot deign compare you to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, nor to the Great Prophet of Islam, Mohammed (SAW) and this is because these masters had the sort of humility (and I believe that you do not have), that broke the chains of oppression, ignorance and captivity. These other qualities are there in you and there is no better time than now (I believe), that this Nigeria needs a person of such mix of honesty, sincerity and integrity.

I have no idea how you want to be president or what your campaign plans are. Really, I am not too bothered what methods you employ. If you wantto become president because you believe God can get you there, all and well for Nigeria and Nigerians. So many fled your camp when you said in 2003 that God ordained or chose or anointed you president of Nigeria but did not happen as you prophesied. I cannot blame them. They hardly understand the language or dialect of Episcopal proclamations, that the just shall live by Faith;‘faith’ in Christian terminology to mean the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of that that we cannot see. Perhaps Sir, you do not yet understand, even as someone who represents the shepherd and Bishop of our souls that the average Nigerian sees God both in literal and metaphoric terms and the same way the mediaeval yokel did. Perhaps, it can be subject of dialectics and polemics to stateunequivocally that Marx actually had the Nigerian in mind in making his assertion that ‘religion…is the opium of the people’.

The problem here is with your language and attitude to the political process. Just as I asserted in the paragraph above that the average Nigerian hardly understands the dialect of Episcopal declarations and terminology, so also do I put it to you that you have no idea how to use people-friendly language in marketing your worth and value available to us the ordinary people. If you know it that the end product of all communication is comprehension, you would do well now to get off that high horse of grammatical plausibility and begin to speak the Romantic language of ‘man know man’. For now, you speak so much of Latin and Greek in yoursermons that make you more of a Roman gladiator or Greek than the Hausa, Ibo, Itsekiri, Yoruba, Isoko, Kanuri, Fulani, Urhobo people, the Nigerians you want to serve. How the hell do you think they would understand let alone come to appreciate the full import of your followable intention? For instance, you say that there has to be a ‘paradigm shift’ in the way things are done in Nigeria. Well said, I tell thee, but how do you expect the kuose seller by the roads of Maiduguri, the agbero in Ojuelegba, the Nigerian girl who go sell herself for a plate of porridge in Italy and the hoi polloiinterpret all of that gigantic semantic thesis? Believe me, let the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Samson and Delilah tell you that you are going to be president but you would waste everybody’s time and dream if you do not begin now to communicate with the Hausa in Hausa, the Ibo in Ibo, the Yoruba in Yoruba, these being the metaphorical prism through which we can identify your brethren the Nigeria. Speak some raw pidgin sometimes Sir and let us know that you identify with the ordinary man on the streets of Lagos, Sapele, Bama, Ikot Ekpene, Awka and all. Look at President Obasanjo: raw he may be, but his spontaneous linguistic approach to certain issues sometimes is a balm that mollifies frayed nerves in some circles. I hold tenaciously to this because of my conviction in the words of a certain anthropologist, that our world is our language and our language is or world. Tell the ordinary man that the way things have been done in this country is wrong and that ‘levels must change’, I think is a better way of getting them to comprehend yourpassion for a change.

And then I observe too that you carry out your ‘campaign’ mostly on the pages of newspapers and on television. I hope you know that the percentage of Nigerians who actually read are in the minority. But even ifthey are any sizeable a number, most hardly can buy the various papers on account of the hardship in the land. The elite are mostly compromised and aligned to the highest bidder in Nigeria’s political mine field. So then, whose and which constituency are you appealing to? Do you know that you can almost count the number of homes today that have uninterrupted power supply, apart from those who have those little 950 Tiger power generating sets maliciously referred to as, ‘I better pass my neighbour? What happens with these people is what I know you know already and that is why I will not waste your time further by rendering a c

atalogue of the health and social implications of the use of power generating sets in residential premises.

Lastly Sir. Do you really think that just sitting there probably in your plush pastorate like the priests and monks described in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, churning out one academic sermon or the other will make the change my generation expects of you? Look at the men I see whenever I see you. Martin Luther of the Council of Worms saga and Martin Luther King Jnr of the I-have-a-Dream fame. They were out there in the streets engaging the status quo in one fight or the other. Hear me sir, I do not mean the literal street. I am talking of the kind of passive and sometimes active campaigns that were championed by the Mahatma himself or that by the Black Panther of the United States. The little I do know concerning the politics of democracy is that it is about people. All kinds of people and your ability to harness, no, network them into one big ball of energy that can be passed on from generation to another. There was one time I actually saw MKO Abiola in Benin on his presidential campaign to the palace of the Oba, His Majesty Erediuwa. The big crowd that thronged him there was not allowed in but what we saw on TV that night stunned us. As a gesture of his respect for the traditional institution,MKO Abiola, the business mogul himself lay full flat on his face, on the floor in front of the majestic Oba. That night, we didn’t need word from the palace or elsewhere that the vote had to go to the chief. Now sir, how many traditional rulers are in this cause with us? How manymarket women have we met? How many business captains are ready to sail with us? Sir, you need to ‘blend’ with people. All manner of people. Our lord and Saviour Jesus ‘blended’ with all sorts: the tax collectors, the sinners, the prostitutes and even those possessed of evil spirits recognized him. He didn’t do that from feeling comfy in headquarters in Bethlehem of Judea. The Holy Writ says of him that he went from place to place doing good and all who experienced his touch gave glory to God. Look for some money somehow and move around. Let Nigerians know that you are there because frankly, they are hardly interested in all of the big oyinbo that you speak. They need somebody with a passion as yours to pursue the dream of a golden future time. They need an assurance that aligning with you should guarantee an availability of garri, tuwo, an availability of some decent accommodation and some social security. Many of them are not interested in a ‘yonder place where the stars are shinning bright’, the lyrics of that beautiful song of yours. They need you first of all to carry them along and that, I know is the stuff of great leadership.

I wish you consider some of myaccusations and take them in good faith.I believe you really are the president we need right now. If not, take your time, dig deeper, work hard on your language, your networking with the rank and the file, the high and the low and I look forward to the day I shall be able to address you as, ‘Mr. President…er’.


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okocj August 23, 2006 - 8:36 pm

The writer of this article obviously is a correct thinker. I was impressed.

Paul Odu June 5, 2006 - 7:25 pm

Well said. Rev. Okotie does not have any political framework in Nigeria to give him the presidency, as simple as that. He should concentrate on his pastorial calling and leave the political process in the hands of people with genuine political ambitions. Nigeria is too big a country for people to toy with this time around after what she had withnessed since independence. We pray that God gives the country a leader with the will, character, human kindness and uprightness to uplift the fortunes of this country crying for greatness. I hope Rev. Okotie will read your letter and listen to your words of advise.

BIGFEST June 5, 2006 - 3:35 pm

I wonder how a man that was not able to manage a family will be able to govern a bigger family call NIGERIA.Nigeria is too big to be governed by a BACHELOR in this present era.A man that cannot cross the small river in his backyard will not probably be able to cross a bigger river like RIVER NIGER.Those who have eyes,let them hear.Afterall,"small pinkin wen e get sense,na eye dem take day talk to am"


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