Learning our lessons
I have been watching with interest how in the past one week Nigerians on the internet, in the bukateria and even in the workplace has been very interested in creating a so called Presidential Dream Team (PDT they call it). Overnight, we transformed from opposition jagbanjantis to political strategists! Talk of third term miracle. Indeed, opinion has been far and wide. This is particularly not new, many including yours sincerely have engaged in these permutation even months before the current change in the political climate. The difference of course is that the tones of these arm chair Machiavellis is changing from that of permutation to one of agitation and desperation. Ribadu and Duke, Kalu, Okonjo-Iweala,Akunyili, Odili, El Rufai (not as many dunno why), Pat Utomi, IBB, Tinubu and of course Atiku have been canvassed for or denigrated as the strategists may think fit in their infinite wisdom.
However, in the midst of all these ideas flying around an overwhelming consensus appears to be emerging that a leader that should be next president of Nigeria must be all that our current President is not but must also keep the economic reform program going. Nigerians want a true democrat, a man with an open mind, someone with fresh ideas, and someone that is a realist and is in touch with the common man, someone with a history of performance: someone that will not just talk the “work” but is read to walk it too (no pun intended) . Many suggestions have been outright pragmatic; others have been at best laughable. While attempting not to burst anyone’s bubble I must submit that at this point, it is absolutely disappointing that forty something years after independence we are still preoccupied with personalities when it comes to choosing our leaders.
The death of the first republic can be traced directly to the politics of personalities that prevailed in that period. The main players being the leaders of the three major political parties: Sir Ahmedu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe. Indeed, the persons at whose watch the national enterprise imploded i.e. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was by many account a minor player at best, and a gentleman to the core. Balewa would not play on the same stage his giant contemporaries played but ultimately paid the supreme sacrifice on their alter of chicanery.
The first republic was about bigger men and their big boys. We had the affable Akintola, Alhaji Adelabu of penkelemes fame, Chief Okotie-Eboh, Sir Michael Opara, Chief Bode Thomas and Fani Kayode. What TOS Benson the godfather of Lagos politics, Mallam Aminu Kano and Joseph Tarka. These men were the issues in their days. Some were gods and are still revered till date. Woe betides the idiot that will have the nerve to write a two hundred word essay to disparage Awo and Zik till date: no juju will save your head when the millions will descend upon you. The ultimate disaster that spelt doom in that republic in form of coup was purely a product of clash of personalities first between the three titans at the center stage and then between their subordinates i.e. Awo versus Akintola. The imprisonment of Chief Awolowo, the crisis in the west, and other chain of events ultimately let to that dark day in January when an evil wind blew across our nation and we are still yet to recover.
How about the other spasm of hopes we have had as a nation? Or the other disasters we have suffered? The civil war, the Murtala years, the Shagari years, the Buhari-Idiagbon interregnum of discipline and brutality or are it the IBB-Abacha darks days? All these were personality based regimes that resulted in personality clashes or missteps. The reforms of Murtala Mohammed could hardly survive him because it all centered on this revolutionary, also the demise of the second republic was directly tied to the weakness of the persona of then Mr. President. The IBB years were all about one man (a man still eager to be the subject of Nigerian politics till date).
May be personality regimes was just an art in those years up until 1999. In President Obasanjo’s time it has been elevated to the level of a science. Be in OBJ’s good book and you can do and undo. You can even execute a coup plot and still become member of his party’s board of trustees. If you like you can kill, get jailed and get elected as a senator from prison: no questions asked. If you like you can execute an impeachment one or two votes short of the constitutional requirement. Who cares? It is all about OBJ and who knows him in this day and age. Some people told us it was either OBJ for life or no one; but alas they are wrong. But in many ways they might be right: for even after the failure of the agenda, all we are still tied up talking about are people and persons; idol worshipping and hero adulation is the order of the day. We have learnt nothing.
No doubt, while an escapist tendency is generally to choose a wonder dream team of technocrat-politician or one that is not a member of the so called “old hands” club, or others that are worthy disciples of the reform cause, we must be careful not to descend to the same pit that has brought us to the height of national misadventure. Of course, I do have my preference since I will prefer at least at the minimum to have a woman on the ticket but that is my choice but one out of 120 million plus people. The truth however is that the political cemetery in the past is filled with the remains of forced partners when it comes to contesting and managing political offices; from Aso Rock to Lagos to Osun and Ekiti or even Abia or Anambra, bosses have clashed with their subordinates even though some of them were styled as marriage from heaven, or “winning ticket” as the case may be. The rancors often generated by these mixed marriages often clog the good intention of the individual players by themselves: the fight between Governor Tinubu and Buknor-Akerele is a case in point. It took the exit of the madam to unleash proper governorship in that state.
It is also very true that naturally when the politics of our nation is reduced to personalities then ethnicity start playing a major role in our reasoning than logic. Indeed, many strategists have been trying to come up with a rainbow configuration that will maintain an evidence of ethno-religious balance in the ticket seeking our votes next year. Truth be said, until the center and the power of presidency is deemphasized then we are bound to have ethno-religious crisis every election year. Hence, the most desirable program/platform for any leader at this point is that which will seek to weaken the center, the presidency and restore true federalism. If any leader is not ready to put his/her head out there for this matter, then he/she is wasting our precious time like his would be predecessor: Pa Obasanjo alias baba Iyabo.
In this vein; can we move on from this loose talk of winning team? Can we stop the loose talk of south-north presidency, east-west candidacy? Can we start seriously digesting and probing the depth of thought and creativity that goes into the programs of these would-be candidates? Should be begging someone to serve after we just got tortured for eight years by someone we “begged” to lead us? It is true that political evolution is slow but sure for any enterprise governed by humans but it will be ultimately retrogressive to retort to the tactics of the past to solve the problems of today.
In the next part I will be exploring the theory of political evolution “From people, to Programs and then Ideas”.
Watch out for part 2.