To the Wannabe Governors who would be President

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

There are a lot of governors today who hold that legitimate ambition to be president. Their position as chief executives of their respective states to a large extent is a testimonial that they have what it takes to take our country to the next level. In fact, what other parameter do we need to adjudge their suitability for the highest executive office in the land if not to assess how they fared as presidents of their own states? If you look at that country that is said to be civilized and modern about their democracy, you would realize that some of their greatest presidents were governors from/of a particular state. Reagan was governor of California and was popular as a ‘conservative politician who wanted to reduce government involvement in the economy and society’. This was what later metamorphosed into the term known as ‘Reaganomics’; when Clinton was governor of the state of Arkansas he was a popular crusader in the fight to introduce reforms in the education sector. He fought to pay teachers more money and give scholarships to bright but indigent students. The things that are well known about the incumbent American president when he was Texas governor were the following: he became a millionaire with the sale of his shares in the baseball team, Texas Rangers; there was national and international focus on the death penalty in his state, Texas; he was particularly interested in using faith-based organizations to do work traditionally done by government probably because he believed that issues of morality were a major stake in the affairs of government. And the records show that they were successful, to a large extent.

But the story is a little different with our wannabe governors. You almost cannot ascribe too much to their credibility. They hardly have something they believe in if it would not enhance their political fortunes. If the parameter with which we are to adjudge their suitability and how prepared they are for the presidency is the question of credibility, then there must really be a lot left to be desired. Worse still, if we are to juxtapose their achievements with the ones mentioned above that qualified these other governors for the presidency of that country, there should be no basis whatsoever for any comparison, what with the stupendous amounts of money at their disposals. But some of my friends say that there actually are some of them who are gunning for the office of president who have a good enough record. They have cited their favourites in the fray whom they think qualify and if it means that I would be insensitive if I mention the names of these governors, then leave out their names I would. My friends have said that these governors have tarred roads; have built a tourism industry that has international status, have constructed independent sources of power supply despite the incidences of hostage-taking. My friends argue that one of them particularly qualifies to be president because he is a role-model; one that he has the gift of articulation and carries everyone along.

But I insist that having a good record in the construction of a tourism industry, in the harried tarring of roads in the twilight of the administration of the aquatic state, in having independent source of power supply; these are not enough parameters with which we should assess these aspirants. Having a good record is alright but that is not all. A ‘good’ political record is a relative item and term that can be bought and sold in a supermarket of politics. A good record can also be equivalent to subservience to certain political demagogues who mostly occupy the shadows, never to show their faces. The good records that these presidential aspirants parade is bait, carefully disguised all of these years to programme us into swallowing their hook, line and sinker. Where has that record of good roads, with the good record of a tourism industry and a very clean state; the good record of an independent supply of power left you and me?

Please allow me quote the whole of the first paragraph in an article I titled, ‘The Dilapidation of a City’, published in Daily Independent, Thursday July 1, 2004 to let you in on why I am this skeptical about the so-called ‘good record’ that many a governor enjoys. Lucky Igbinedion swept us off our feet by his deeds as a Local Government chairman in Benin City in times gone by. He was like a mayor and he donated all of his salary to an orphanage (yes he did), constructed an overhead bridge at a sensitive spot along Ugbowo, close to the General Hospital and known for bad cases of accidents. You would see him then pursue the interest of that ancient city and also fight for sitting space in that yellow scrap of a Benz model 200 of his. Some people were sure that he was after something big apart from spending his father’s money to fix streetlights and repair roads. Some of us were naïve. We believed that the chap was a representative of the new breed that Ibrahim Babangida said he was cultivating. I believed that he was a renaissance personality who was a model of sorts in an environment that had the characteristics of a medieval village. The only reason he lost that election between him and Odigie-Oyegun was that people had this fear that the Igbinedion may run the state as they would a family unit, that is, selfishly and possessively. This was what seemed to make the military government of Babangida, with Aikhomu at the rear, back Oyegun.

What I think we all who are going to vote should look out for this time is not the superficial good records of the wannabe governors. We should be more interested in a closer scrutiny of who the godfathers or dogfathers of these governors are. Believe it or not, if one of these governors eventually becomes president they would have records not too different from the chap above. Look at it the way we normally do when we cite Okafor Law: if a wannbe governor had a godfather who dictated to him, why do you think that that same dogfather will not exercise an over bearing influence on the Mr. President from May 2007? The first tenure of that president may not be altogether different from Obasanjo’s first term when he had IBB breathing down his neck, and not different from Igbinedion’s whole tenure as governor of Edo State.

So, this is what I would recommend. Let the wannabe governors have all the good records and bad if they want. Let them be able to establish tourism sites that are the most elaborate in the world; let them build all the castles they want in the air; let them tar all the roads they want. They may even have the fire of passion for the uplift of Nigerians burning in their eyes now, but until they come forth to tell us who really will call the shots when they become president, we should not take them any seriously. I maintain that Nigerians have come too long a way to be this manipulated and maneuvered. We have suffered too much in the hands of a few seedy politicians to be further taken for a ride once more.

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