You can take what I am doing as a one man campaign. I am doing it out of conviction, and because I love my country. My readers should now consider my first article on this subject as my part one, as I am now determined to do a series on this article based on the very positive and encouraging responses I have received on the first article from Nigerians from all walks of life, and from individuals of different political views and persuasion, who think like me, that what a man can do, some women can do better, if given the chance. Since that article has been posted on so many web sites and more importantly on the widely read “Africans Abroad” published for the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, my home phone has been ringing off the hook, and my E-mail box has been bombarded with commentaries and rejoinders from readers around the world. Many of those E-mail rejoinders are anonymous but a good many of them had put their names. I am referring to the very generous comments by Mr. Adebayo Adejare and Dr. Gabriel Otiko. Their own comments seem to stand out. There is no way, I will be able to respond to each rejoinder, but since 99.999% percent of those comments were all in support of the President Obasanjo grooming a woman as a successor in 2007, and 95% of them were also rooting for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, like me, I think I only need to send a generic reply or comment, because there seems to be a meeting of minds on why we all think that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala deserves some consideration.
In making my initial suggestion, I am aware that Okonjo-Iweala is not a politician, and is also not a card-carrying member of the Ruling Majority Party, the PDP in Nigeria which has already assumed it is going to win again regardless of what the voters may think. That assumption, in of itself, is a tragedy in a pluralistic country like ours. The reasons why elections are held every four years, in most democratic countries, is to give the voters a chance to re-evaluate the ruling Party, and to say whether or not they want them back in power. A one Party state is a recipe for Dictatorship, and it is not the type of ideal that President Obasanjo as a pace setter and a front-running horse in our political experiment should be gunning for, if he wants a legacy that may well outlive him. If we compare what Jerry Rawlings did in returning Democracy to Ghana, we all have cause to think again. If Jerry Rawlings had set out with a mind set of creating a one Party system in Ghana, he had all the power at the time to so influence the elections to ensure that only candidates favored by him and the party he openly sponsored and supported are allowed to contest for President. The young man did not do that. That was how the current President, John Agyekum Kufuor was able to emerge the clear winner. Although the same Jerry Rawlings may have had cause to regret taking that position today, it was the right thing for Ghana, all things considered, and I commend Jerry Rawlings for taking the bull by the horn, and putting his nation’s interest before his own for once.
Grooming a qualified and competent successor is very critical in the volatile and fragile Democracies that are currently emerging in our continent, and in a situation similar to the one we had in South Africa, where it was very clear, the ANC was going to win and win big, no matter what. Madiba Nelson Mandela had seen that coming, and he knew he had to be very careful and deliberate in grooming a successor in Thabo Mbeki. It was a very successful experiment, because Mbeki had turned out to be a great successor to Mandela. The stability and progress, we all have witnessed in South Africa today, are all due, in large part, to the vision and wisdom of Nelson Mandela. I believe Thabo Mbeki wants to carry on the Mandela magic and legacy by quickly moving to groom a successor once Mr. Jacob Zuma, the much talked-about “Heir Apparent” in South Africa, had found himself in some troubled waters, following the indictment and the conviction of one of his top advisers, in a shady business deal that could have come back to taint the fine legacies and reputation that both Mbeki and Mandela had worked so hard to build for South Africa.
Who has Mbeki picked? It was a woman technocrat, a former Minister of Mines and Energy, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, (49 year old) who was neither a career politician just like Okonjo-Iweala, nor a Party ideologue like the discredited South African Deputy President whom many had anticipated was the clear front runner for Mbeki’s job. Mrs. Mlambo Ngcuka had obtained a bachelor of Arts degree in social sciences and education in 1980. She had become a teacher in 1981. In 1984, she was appointed Director of an International Program at the Young Women’s Christian Association’s head office in Geneva. She had returned to South Africa in 1987, and had worked as a Management Consultant until 1994 when she had won a seat in Parliament. She was finally appointed a Minister in 1996, and now a Deputy President in 2005. If you don’t try a person, you cannot predetermine what she can, or cannot do. I have gone back to study, in some great detail, the profiles of the new lady Deputy President of South Africa, and I have tried to compare her profiles with those of our own Okonjo-Iweala, and I am persuaded that Okonjo is in no way inferior to the new Deputy President who may well become the next President of South Africa.
As a matter of fact, I would rate Okonjo as superior in certain areas of consideration which I am not going to get into in this write-up. Part of the reasons, Okonjo’s pedigree is so attractive to me, is the fact that she is not a career politician like IBB and Atiku. She says what she means and she means what she says. That, in of itself, is an attribute we so much need in any new leader of our country. We don’t need a master dribbler or a Maradona, We need a straight talker who will tell it like it is, and would be prepared to do what it takes to get our country out of the cul-de-sac, we have found ourselves for too long.
All our past Leaders and Presidents are people who go to learn on the job, starting from our very first Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa who was a teacher, and probably a minister in the old North, before being railroaded by his boss, Sardauna Bello, to go lead the whole country.. So was Aguiyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Shehu Shagari, Mohammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Ernest Shonekan, Sanni Abacha, Many of the military men, out of them, have all emerged as leaders from a successful Coup with little or no experience at all on how to lead a country. Most of them with the exception of Aguiyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon , Shehu Shagari, and Shonekan and Abdulsalam Abubakar in that order ,were all picked after successful coups, because what they did were pure illegality to begin with. The only exceptions, in that respect, were Abdulsalam Abubakar who was picked to succeed Abacha, and Obasanjo who was picked to succeed Murtala Mohammed by consensus, and who was eventually elected a civilian President in 1999, when his election was based, more on expediency rather than popularity or merit per se. Okonjo-Iweala becoming President after a stint at the World B
ank and Harvard, and four years as Finance Minister, should really be seen as a first in our country. She would be the first leader in our country to be so well prepared, educationally and professionally to lead our country, if you can accept that.. She would be more or less following the track record of Margaret Thatcher who had attended Oxford before becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain. So the few Nigerians who still argue that Ngozi has no experience, just don’t know what they are talking about. If Lieutenant Colonels, and Generals who never fought a single war before their promotion, can justify their elevation to the leadership of our country, so can Okonjo-Iweala, if you are familiar with her resume.
I am not unaware that Nigeria may be far more difficult and complex to govern than South Africa, because of our multi ethnic cultures and religious divide, and more so because of our “Tower of Babel” in the so many languages or dialects we speak, more than 252 at my last count.I know we are completely different from South Africa because the White supremacists, in spite of their evils of Apartheid, had succeeded in laying a sound foundation, and providing crucial and basic infrastructures in the urban centers of South Africa, if not in Soweto and the ghettoes, just like Ian Smith and his white cousins had done in Rhodesia now renamed Zimbabwe. I submit, however, that Nigeria of today is no more the Nigeria of the 60s and 70s. Education is a powerful force to reckon with in our country today. There are more graduates today in the North than there ever was when Nigeria first became independent. Every State in the North today, including the old Sardauna Province with headquarters in Mubi, talk less of the South, can boast of so many graduates, in all fields of discipline, hence it is now easy for Obasanjo to reshuffle his Cabinet as often as he wants. I briefly met one Professor Yadudu and one Dr. Maxwell Gidado from Maiduguri at a symposium on Nigeria at CUNY (City University of New York) three years back. The Nobel Peace Laureate, Wole Soyinka, himself, had also come to address the same gathering.
The two individuals were part of the Federal Government Delegation at the symposium. They had both made a huge impression on all of us. I told myself a huge wind of change had blown through our country and those who still believe that the North is still what it used to be, had to be living in another planet. Those who also argue that Nigeria is just too difficult to govern, probably forgot it was the same country that Murtala Mohammed had governed in 200 days of dynamism, never before seen in our country. I don’t agree with those who argue that a woman cannot govern Nigeria. Why not? What a man can do , a woman can do better,if you give her the chance The instrument of governance is the Constitution. There is no abracadabra about it. If you can read and write, and if you are ready to do justice, and articulate what is it you are doing, and be fair to all, to the extent guaranteed by the Constitution, you, sure can govern Nigeria. Our leaders who complain that Nigeria is difficult to govern are mainly those who have hidden agendas, or those who have sold their conscience and have compromised their free will through infinite “quid pro quo” and secret and ungodly contracts with a cross section of Nigeria that they dare not reveal to the rank and file of our people. Okonjo-Iweala does not carry such baggage, or have such hidden agenda or track record. If it were so, she would not have risen to be Vice President at the World Bank on her own merit. She has got to be doing something right to have risen that high at the World Bank, is what I am saying. If Okonjo-Iweala is not good enough, what of Emeka Ayanoku, the former Secretary to the Commonwealth. There are many qualified people in the South East or South/South or the Middle Belt who can succeed Obasanjo without any doubt. But my personal choice is Okonjo-Iweala because I think a woman would serve Nigeria better, at this point in time.
Okonjo-Iweala is a straight shooter who was bold enough to tell Obasanjo under which conditions, she would agree to leave her job at the World Bank to go work for Nigeria. And when Obasanjo suddenly started to move the goal post, after her taking the job, She Okonjo did not bury her head in the sand. Obasanjo had, all of a sudden, broken up her Ministry into two or three units, making the Minister a talking head with little or no clout to change anything. Okonjo-Iweala has had the courage of her conviction to politely tell Mr. President she would resign, if the President would not keep his own side of the bargain. I know many in Nigeria who can kill to be named a Minister, and who will kiss the President’s ass just to get a ministerial appointment. Okonjo-Iweala is not that kind of Nigerian, and that is part of what will make her a great President, if given a chance. She is more than qualified than any of the major candidates today running for the office, and I know she will do the nation proud.. She is not going there to do Boxing. She is not going there to dribble and play soccer. She is going there to use her brain power and powerful connections with the international community to get Nigeria the best deal possible. She is going there to manage our economy and to formulate policies in conjunction with the National Assembly to make Nigeria the true leader of our continent and to improve the lot of our people. She is not going there because of bottom power or the alluring power of “Ndomi” that makes some Nigerian women yearn so much for breast implant, in an effort to look good. She is going there to do serious business that would make our country proud all over the world. If Obasanjo would, because of her, change the rule and agree to pay her in dollars, he Obasanjo must have seen something special in her. If that is so, why is Obasanjo canvassing for a man whose policies he used to seriously criticize for the few years he was in retirement at Otta? What has changed, except the “quid pro quo” arrangement I have alluded to in my part one of this article?
All I know about Okonjo-Iweala is all I have read about her and the good work she has done as a honest and dependable public servant. She is a good Minister of Finance and can be a good President, if given the chance. Those who argue she has a fierce temperament are only saying that to blackmail her. Can her temperament be worse than that of her boss who got so angry, one time, that he took the whip from a Police man, and publicly whipped another police man, he believed to have been overzealous in doing his job? Could she be more temperamental than Obasanjo who had shredded the nomination paper of the first Olowu-elect, because the king makers had refused to dance to his tune? Could he be more temperamental than his boss who had told off Kabiyesi, Oba Adejugbe, the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, before Television cameras saying “if you ever see my feet in your Palace again, cut them” My point is that a bad temper is not necessarily a disqualifier for anybody to be President.
I once worked for the great Murtala Mohammed in the Ministry of Defense at Republic Building, Lagos. He, Mohammed, was not only temperamental, he was also very impatient. Did that stop him from becoming the most effective and
benevolent leader in all of our History? No. The man had a job to do, and he just would not tolerate any distractions. That is what it was. I recall Pierre Trudeau, arguably one of the best Prime Ministers of Canada, a black belt champion in Karate who would openly defend himself, if he needed to, even while he was Prime Minister. Check it out.. Ronald Reagan for all his charisma, was known to have a very bad temper. Did that stop him from being a successful President? No. As a Governor of California and Presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan once argued with a moderator, in a televised debate, telling him on screen, he had a right to the microphone, because he had paid for it. Temperament, as long as it is not overdone or overblown, is not, necessarily, a disqualifier for any one who would be President. I think we even need such an attribute in all of our leaders when you consider how some of our public officials openly rape or abuse our country. I recall Obasanjo shouting “Tafa, Tafa, Tafa”, in a flurry of rage when Tafa Balogun, defending the indefensible, would not let the President complete his sentence. That kind of rage and temperament in a leader, is understandable because that is what makes them human. Those who expect our leaders to be saints are not being practical. I recall Jesus Himself cursing the fig tree for not bringing forth fruits or Jesus driving out of the temple those who have turned His father’s house into a market place. What do you call that? Appeasement or what?
I am told the President of the World Bank had once told Obasanjo that he would gladly welcome Okonjo-Iweala back to the World Bank, if for any reason, her contract with Nigeria, does not work out. For any white-dominated Institution to say that about a black woman, is about the greatest testimonial any black person can ever get.. If Okonjo-Iweala is good for the World Bank, she evidently has to be good for our country. It is about time we stop re-circling the men in uniform, be it Navy or Army or Air Force or Customs or Police uniform.. They are all the same thing. Let us, for once, make a clean break from the past. Let us make way for a pure civilian to lead our nation for once, and let that civilian be a woman for a change. I am all for Okonjo-Iweala. Getting her to run on a PDP platform should not be such a big problem, if the President is serious about his plan to change Nigeria for good. Wasn’t Obasanjo himself brought out from prison to run as a candidate in 1999, because somebody had argued his leadership was urgently needed at the time? Obasanjo should forget whatever promises he has made to handover to Babangida. The nation is not fooled. Eight years. in the governance of Nigeria is enough for a man who always thinks he is above the Law. Let us settle for a non-career politician a woman who can truly lead our country and truly convince the Igbos and the other minorities. in our midst that they are all part of us, and that merit trumps all other considerations for people aspiring to lead our nation..Gone are those days when Obasanjo used to tell the Nation the best candidate does not have to win. In a hotly contested soccer match you pray for the better team to win. When a leader prays for the worse man to win, as Obasanjo is now openly doing for IBB, he makes a mockery of his sincerity and his ultimate goal and his real intentions for our country.
I rest my case.