President Pat Utomi: for Which Nigeria?

by John Iteshi

The candidature of Professor Pat Utomi should ideally elicit great joy and hopes among Nigerians because he appears genuine and credible. Though, it may not be easily ascertained whether he is completely untainted by the stinking mud of Nigerian corruption (just like most prominent young and very rich Nigerians), he appears to have clear visions about what to do to improve Nigeria. He also deserves credit for having maintained his credibility as far as can be seen from outside,at least by not dancing around three arms zone at Abuja in praise ofwicked rulers for selfish purposes, as many other professors and supposedly distinguished personalities do. He is highly respected among enlightened Nigerians who crave for genuine progress in Nigeria. If Utomi was a British, with his business and intellectual acumen, God knows, he would have long been a Prime Minister or a highly successful Sir or Lord by now. None of the over celebrated super icons of entrepreneurship in Britain today (notably Sir Richard Branson and Sir Alan Sugar) could have marched him in any way. Hence, there is little doubt about the desirability of an impressive gentle man like Pat Utomi as a credible person who could salvage Nigeria and the Black race from disaster. The only question however, is whether it is a reasonable (and realisable) project in the first place bearing in mind the realities of fraud and manipulations in Nigerian electoral system or whether he has got some top secret plot of how to outsmart everyone else and get there?

The simple fact is that Pat Utomi will easily win the presidency and commander-in-chief of online and newspaper pages Federal Republic of Nigeria, but does not stand any imaginable chance of being manipulated into the presidency of the real Nigeria. We must reasonably be talking of manipulations instead of elections because there will hardly be any proper election, but sheer travesty of democratic principles as has been the case in the past. The common problem with the majority of genuine Nigerian elites like Mr. Utomi appears to be either lack of touch with the true situations on the ground or simply, idiocy.It does not require any university education to understand the nature of Nigerian politics, but shockingly, we find some of our highly distinguished intellectuals acting in manners that suggest they are far away from local realities. Even semi-illiterate politicians in the remotest villages in Nigeria understand that Nigerian politics does not involve the masses and their so-called votes, but our most respected world-class personalities like Utomi appear to live in a dream Nigeria where a people called Nigerians will have to determine their political fates on the ballot day! They appear to be blindfolded by what obtains in the advanced world rather than the realities in Nigeria. Rather than seek to enlighten ordinary people on the streets on their rights and entitlements, they keep parading themselves and their sometimes grandiloquent ideas on the TV screens and newspaper pages.

Even if Nigeria does exist as a proper society where the people will actually cast votes, Professor Pat Utomi would still have no chance of winning 5% votes simply because he is not known much beyond small enlightened circles. If as the facts clearly suggest, a good majority ordinary Nigerians do not even know who Gani Fawehinmi is and what he stands for, despite his reputation as a consistent defender of the interests of ordinary Nigerians, one wonders which voters in the real Nigeria, Utomi expects to suddenly wake up en mass and wrestle their voting rights from thugs and other criminals. Enlightened Nigerians who really wish to impact positive changes in Nigeria through democratic processes must realise that Nigeria is a predominantly illiterate and poorly developed society and that our usual fraudulent elections are determined in the sub urban and rural areas which is dominated by illiterates and semi-illiterates. The fact that votes from remote villages usually outnumber those from the urban areas ought to be seen by our enlightened personalities not just as a clear evidence of fraud, but as indicating that the rural areas are the real playing fields of Nigerian politics (Read Audio-Visual Voting Method, by John Iteshi). Our professors and journalists cross their legs in Lagos and Abuja, analysing the goings on at Eagle Square Abuja and acclaiming transparency for “their democracy” being shown live on TVs with no questions about how those at Eagle square came about. Televising the voting of delegates from different parts of the country is upheld by those who ought to be reasonable and genuine commentators without questioning how transparent the system that brought about the delegates had been. The essence of this points is to highlight the fact that Nigeria’s political and electoral systems suffer fundamental defects and that any genuine Nigerian who really wants to see Nigeria progress must not ignore the need to correct the defects right at the base where it really hinges. Correcting the system first, will ultimately pave way for genuine people like Utomi to contest and be voted for not merely on some primitive grounds, but on the strength of their credibility.

Pat Utomi and others like him must stop their grandiose dreams of changing Nigeria from the top and consider more realistic ways of impacting concrete changes in their societies. For instance, it will be more easily realisable, for such powerful individuals to start from their respective locations to change Nigeria. Professor Utomi and his likes must consider building the Nigeria of their dreams from their various states and local government areas of origin at least as their springboards towards their National aspirations. If Pat Utomi were to devote his resources towards mobilising the ordinary people of Delta State against electoral malpractices and irresponsible governance, he will not only become a legend among his people, but will also build a unique Nigeria out of that miserable State. If half of the resources accruing to Delta State (just like any other state) could be utilised responsibly, God knows, the life of every Deltan would be substantially improved. The fact that people like Pat Utomi and many other great sons and daughters of Delta State have done nothing about the situation of corrupt and irresponsible governance in Delta State where public funds are siphoned and mismanaged by the fraudulently elected governor means that they have shirked their domestic responsibilities as elites of Delta State. Prominent personalities who think they genuinely love Nigeria must stop deceiving themselves about changing Nigeria in Abuja while they have abdicated their natural responsibilities at home. It may sound demeaning to implore someone who thinks of himself as a national figure to go down to state level, butNigeria is made up of Sates and local governments and only when these basic tiers of government are corrected will Nigeria be right. We must realise that the only way to change Nigeria through democracy is for self righteous men like the Utomis, Soyinkas, Ganis, Falanas and the Ekwuemes of course, to engage in building the Nigeria of their dreams from their respective locations even if it be from the local government level. It will be inspiring to have at least one example of what we want to be and this is very easily achievable under democratic dispensation where each state can to a large extent determine what do with its resources. The resources of these personalities can easily subdue their local government areas of origin and local people there will be grateful to see their resources properly managed for the first time. The amount of moneys flowing into states and local governments are

enough to substantially improve the quality of lives of Nigerians, but we have all abandoned each governor to run his state like private estates while we all mope and moan about things happening at Abuja.

We must open our eyes to the reality that the presidency of Nigeria as things stand today under democracy, is not about the number of PhDs one has. It is not about the genuineness of the candidates. Great ideas that will transform Nigeria are not what those who determine things are looking for. Even if the presidency is zoned to Ndi Igbo or even Utomi’s village in particular, he would not be made the candidate not because there would be a more credible candidate, but simply because those that determine things at the highest level would not be interested in his ideas and credibility. Obasanjo’s emergence as president despite being the least reasonable among the crop of Yoruba candidates in 1998 should have been instructive to us about the nature of politics in Nigeria. Pat Utomi should face realities and save himself the ridicule of following the footsteps of Nigeria’s icon of political idiocy, Tunji Braithwaite who would contest the presidency at every opportunity, just for contesting sake.

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Joshratsinger November 14, 2007 - 1:32 pm

Excellent comments by F. Alese. We need learned men like this from Africa in Africa.

Femi Alese September 26, 2006 - 6:02 pm

This is a lengthy gibberish with the attempted premise that illiterates do not have the ability to make the right choices when it comes to things that matters to society as a whole. This view is not only ill-informed; it is also severely divorced from reality. It easily discounts the widely recognized fact that humans exist primarily to serve their own interests as best they could. Put simply, Nigerians like any other group of people are receptive to ideas – particularly, if appropriately presented.

The high level of illiteracy has not stopped the Nigerian distribution sector – particularly at the retail level – from being hugely dominated by the so-called illiterates. There's a fine tradition of our top footballers not being formally educated, yet, they are able to negotiate difficult contracts and make right choices for their careers. There are thousands of illiterate landlords in many of our big cities, savvy enough to realise the idea of owning property and generating income for other purposes. Experience also shows that they usually come from rural areas to achieve these feats and retreat there during weekends and festive seasons. They are not in the minority: countless industries such as textiles and durable goods are in general dominated by illiterate Yoruba women and Igbo people trading in big cities but not fully residing there.

If you can understand economics; you can understand the world. These illiterates are in general aware that order in the village is only kept alive through the observance of the rule of law; that loans are secured on reputations and repaid on that basis and; that the idea of loyalty, respect and family are not only central to the individual but necessary for preserving the fabric and security of the village as a whole. Utomi, Gani, Braithwaite and such people are merely trying to take these factors to a broader level.

These are separate issues from our ways of doing things politically, the deference that is commonly paid to debauch Community leaders due to unnecessary clan loyalty and tribalism and; the general lack of courage in our society as whole. These factors, rather than the failure to recognise good ideas due to illiteracy, are the chicanes that prevent Nigerians from choosing right leaders. They can only be rectified top down and not bottom up.

As for Dr Braithwaite, there's no factual analysis that could be presented that would show that he persistently contested election for the sake of doing so. He's been a tireless fighter for democracy and a social justice with an unquenchable thirst for representing those without access or means to legal representations. The fellow is also a philanthropist who had used his own money in the late 1970s and early 1980s to provide free buses for pupils and students in Lagos.

More importantly, Dr Braithwaite is one of the extremely select few never to have served in any of all the military dictatorships we have had or the persistent corrupt civilian regimes of new skin, same reptiles. Logic would seem to dictate that such a man would have been provided with many opportunities by these corrupt people to join them. Rather he's been a thorn in their smelly backsides..

Dr Braithwaite is a remarkable man and a remarkable servant of our country. This itself is demonstrated by the fact that he was the first to make it known that he would challenge the late Monster Abacha – when the beast and his odious cabal decided that the then existing political parties had determined that he should lead them in a civilian regime.

While I may not agree with some of the policy positions of Dr Braithwaite; I say hooray to his likes!!!

Afolabi Shokunbi August 25, 2006 - 2:50 pm

I live in Nigeria. I'm sure Iteshi does not. Read, read, read my lips: "WE HERE NEED CHANGE". Utomi's kind of change is what we need now! Please Iteshi, don't write anything again. Let me tell you why. You are only

benefitting from the greatest evil which that political class you so dread has done,-that is;batter 'the people' so much educationally (social, political,& intellectual) that you think (AND BELEIVE IT'S OK TO MAKE THE NIGERIAN PEOPLE) beleive when you tell them something as wonderful as an Utomi contesting is a subject leading to ridicule and idiocy. Ha! Iteshi! Look man, just wake up now.

imnakoya August 23, 2006 - 12:29 am

"For instance, it will be more easily realisable, for such powerful individuals to start from their respective locations to change Nigeria." There is a lot of sense in this statement, and ideally this is what Utomi needs to do. However, given his wealth of experience and popularity, and if backed by a well-oiled political machinery and creative publicity campaign- he sure stand a good chance of turning the table against the so called king-makers. Although MKO's surpasses Utomi in terms of popularity, MKO was able to pull considerable ballots in the June 12 elections despite not being locally involved in any executive capacity. No doubt, the going will be tough, but not insurmontable.

Anthoman August 16, 2006 - 11:35 am

Well written piece. Point of view is well articulated. What gets me is the writers choice not to opt for a better vision of Nigeria. Ah!! Its easy to restate the obvious " — idiocy. It does not require any university education to understand the nature of Nigerian politics, but shockingly —–,

Come on Man!! , there has been no better time than now to change the course of Nigerian history.

That is what Pat Utomi brings to the table, a vision, that Nigeria has the wherewithal to be a great nation.

How do you validate your statement, that the venerable Pat Utomi is not known much beyond the "enlightened circle" Man!! That is outright condescending. It implies that unenlightened whatever that means in your world} can not identify themselves with Leadership driven by a positive vision and integrity.

Let us collectively decide to change the way we think of Nigeria. Lets chose to believe in the triumph of Good over evil. Lets get out and Drive Pat Utomi for president to critical mass.


chike igbokwe August 12, 2006 - 4:48 pm

It is interesting to notice that some Nigerians have the rare guts of thinking and acting beyond the box.I salute the courage of Prof Pat Utomi..who basically overlooked the messy and chaotic situation of the Nigerian leadership and brought himself forward ,how can he succeed if he never tried,to be honest we need to stand behind him..criticising those with pragmatic ambitions does no nation any good..I HAVE SPOKEN

BIGFEST August 11, 2006 - 4:10 am

The prof.would have made a good president for Nigeria but the incumbents will not allow that so as to cover up their past misdeeds from being probed.It is a pity that in this part of the world,good men don't win elections.But if it is the wish of GOD that the prof. would win,no matter the evil manipulations of mortal men.Those who have tried to block the positive wheels of progress has never lived to see the end.We should not forget the transposition of ABACHE.


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