I did not vote in the last Nigerian elections. I couldn’t have from my abode in Europe where we tried to mobilise the Nigerian diaspora for the Pat Utomi for president project. Though the results did not go the way we had hoped, I am still a happy man knowing that we tried our best to effect change in our country.
If not for anything, emails from some professional associates living and working in Nigeria and in other parts of the world that they voted their conscience when they cast their vote for Pat Utomi on election day is not only satisfying but encouraging. One of them is Kester Onyema, an MTN executive whose recent email captures the mood amongst Nigeria’s many professionals. “It is over” he says, “the election that is, but all hope is not yet lost for the future of Nigeria”.
When I drafted myself into Prof Utomi’s campaign in the summer of 2006, I knew very much what I was getting into, I wouldn’t now say that I am surprised at the outcome of the election but still that statement of intent to change things which summarises the Utomi campaign was well worth making, for me at least.
We always knew that it wasn’t going to be easy but there are lots to take away from the experience. Like Apostle Paul, I really think that considering the circumstances, all those associated with the Utomi campaign fought the good fight.On a personal note I don’t think I have anything to regret by associating with the amiable professor and the campaign to elect him as Nigeria’s president. Had we succeeded, it would have been the stuff dreams are made of, perhaps Hollywood movie producers would have fallen over themselves to secure the movie rights to what would have been one of the most amazing ‘political outsider’ stories anywhere in the world.
But it wasn’t to be.
In the course of the campaign, I have come to build friendships and hopefully lasting relationships with many people, it is indeed amazing that despite our many differences, Nigerians can actually unite and agree over issues as important as moving Nigeria forward. I got that feeling from working and networking with some of those that were in on the Utomi campaign. Many of us never even met each other but we kept in touch exploiting emerging technology and still did what we had to do.
This is not a roll call but I really thank the many Nigerians and organisations that have worked with us in the background as we tried to kick-start the European and American end of the campaign, which eventually became the forerunner for the Nigerian campaign. Much shout out should also go to the various internet websites and media houses that helped us in the early sensitisation stages. They indeed helped the campaign to achieve its visibility despite the zero budgets we were operating on at the time, including those that built and ran the Utomi campaign websites with their own resources.
In my associations with the Utomi campaign organisation, certain individuals have stood out and represent to me the future hope of Nigeria. Dr Anthony Kila is one of them, a good man who believes in a good cause. From day one Dr Kila’s passion for the Utomi for President project was never in doubt, even when I expressed some doubts, his enthusiasm always won me over, a loyal ally till the end and even took a sabbatical from his teaching appointment in the UK to see the campaign through in Nigeria. Tony also threw his personal resources into the campaign backed by the group Europe 4 Nigeria; I remember our nightly banters and really hope that the final outcome of the election has not made him to lose hope in the Nigeria project.
Patrick Okigbo is another individual whose belief in the Nigeria project saw him anchor the North American angle of the Utomi campaign. Together with his team he ensured that the Utomi message was heard by all Diasporan Nigerians in America through the town hall meetings they organised in several cities in America, including the pioneering town hall teleconference with Pat Utomi.
Eugene Nwosu with his daily emails to a worldwide list ensured that subscribers were regularly kept up to date with the happenings inside the Utomi campaign team, his spirits remained high till the end even when results sauntered in, he sent a hilarious one liner to everyone on the list which reads – “Hurray…..Hurrah…..Hooray…..!!!
Celebration time…..Nigerian democracy has achieved a milestone…..civilian to civilian democratic hand-over…..Love, unity, peace, prosperity, progress and happiness to all”.
Almost like he was feasting among sharks, Odunayo Kila held his own and anchored the Nigerian media angle, ensuring that the Utomi message penetrated all nooks and corners.
These Nigerians gave up their time for a cause they believed in using their personal resources in the process. There are several others that deserve mention but who would rather wish not to be mentioned for different reasons. Those that donated accommodation, catering and equipments during our various town hall meetings, those that mobilised and sent emails of support, and contributed to the campaign fund as well all deserve a big shout out.
I’m sure that Pat Utomi will eventually get round to doing the honours himself, this is just my own little show of appreciation and love to you all including those that shared ideas with us, including those that from day one felt like we had lost our minds backing the ‘wrong horse’, they would rather that we channelled our energy to the usual suspects, now that they got their wish, I hope they would have a good night’s sleep now.
Just ike Ndigbo would say, Aka ka aka, gbajiri aka, it was not for lack of trying, neither was the fault in ourselves and please let us not blame the stars as well. The failure of Pat Utomi in the presidential elections is not the failure of the candidate himself, neither is it the failure of his campaign team. You can go ahead and ascribe that failure to that of the Nigerian system which favours mediocrity, wayo and wuruwu over talent and honesty but still there is always tomorrow; Echi di ime (tomorrow is pregnant).
To the entire Pat Utomi for president 2007 campaign crew, there are still other ways we can work together and help in contributing to the greatness of our beloved country. Perhaps Nigeria deserves Musa Yar’Adua the president that it has got; only time will tell. Hopefully, we have all learnt one or two things from this experience, which will guide our actions in the next outing, be it at other levels of government in Nigeria.