Opinion: The Mistakes Nigerians Must Not Repeat In 2023 – By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I’m back again with my epistle this week. As we inch closer to another monumental and hopefully defining election, I need to sound this note of warning in earnest. This admonition is addressed in particular to most of our young ones who love to grumble and lament like the Biblical Jeremiah about bad leadership in our country. What is the point in exchanging verbal blows on social media when you won’t take concrete steps to correct the anomalies in our body polity? It is distressing and depressing to know that those that lament the most are the ones going to sit on the fence and look the other way on election day. One may understand the disillusionment and frustration of the aged but how can you explain the lackadaisical and dangerous attitude of supposedly innocent and effervescent, dynamic youth, especially our celebrities? It makes one weep for our dear country, Nigeria.
Let me be brutally frank. The old cargoes, as you like to call them and the incompetent politicians you despise so much are already warming up for another round of election cycles that will never provide any tangible development or appreciable progress for our country. And you can’t blame them. The two leading political parties are already overloaded with career politicians. And their stock in trade is to act as seat warmers for one or two terms before passing the baton of mediocrity and hopelessness to the next set of incompetent politicians. Unless our youths who are in the majority do something concrete and meaningful about this the outcome I predict is all but assured.
If anything must change in our country, how we select and elect our leaders must be the first change we embark upon. The few good aspirants must heed my clarion call. They should climb down their high horses and accept the reality on ground. None of them is going to win any Presidential election on the platforms of weak or virtually non-existent political parties. No single personality in Nigeria is able to muster the cult followership of Obafemi Awolowo, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Aminu Kanos, Waziri Ibrahim, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and M K O Abiola, I believe that only Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu have been able to garner that sort of cult followership in recent times and the result is that we have a weak an ineffectual leader occupying our country’s hot seat. Whether our young guns agree or not, the only structures available today are firmly in the grip of APC and PDP. I know the standard response is “the two parties are pathologically corrupt, and I can’t join them…” But Democracy is about majority and minority and not about saints and sinners. Politics is a game of numbers, and no candidate will invite angels from heaven to vote.
And no leader will govern over saints alone. Leadership is about managing people and resources. You can never win elections if you do not know your people well and your people don’t know you well enough. To be able to do this effectively you must belong to a mainstream party and use the hugely significant structures that those parties have successfully built, even if it is at no benefit for their party or the Nigerian populace. It has always been my contention that it is an act of sheer cowardice to insist on leaving a strong party supposedly filled with charlatans and fakes to set up a weak party with no substance. If there must be change, it must come from within. That is what strong personalities are made of. It is the strength and steel that I think Vice President Yemi Osinbajo possess as he subtly fights his battles from within. This is similar to the strength of character and determination displayed by Bashorun MKO Abiola as he fought and caged the principalities and powers that had sought to dominate the Social Democratic Party (SDP) making it little different in ideology and philosophy form National Republican Convention that it was opposed to. Abiola alone made the difference and changed the narrative of the SDP convincing people that it was truly a Party that had the interest of the masses at heart and not just that of a few greedy politicians.
All those who crave change in Nigeria must first change their holier-than-thou attitudes. They must learn to be practical and ready to be reasonably tolerant and understanding. No Democrat can threaten fire and brimstone and succeed. That is the way of dictators and tyrants. Unless you are a military person and able to seize power forcefully, there are steps you will never be able to take as a thoroughbred politician. This must be part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s frustrations, the fact that he lacks the military powers that he once possessed and used to extreme effect as a maximum ruler. The more he tries to be dictatorial, the more he would be resisted by all men and women of good conscience and told pointedly that he has no such powers anymore . Buhari’s monumental failure stems largely and primarily from his military arrogance and superiority complex. It would have been nice and sustainable if he backed both up with positive results and glorious achievements. More than six years down the line, and less than two years to go, I see no victory in the horizon. I doubt there’s anything tangible the APC can achieve in the next few months.
That would be in the realm of miracles. Rather than turn water into wine, the Buhari government will easily turn wine into water.
So, what’s the way forward? Power must shift by fire by force. Those who are saying, with tongues in cheek, that it does not matter where the major candidates come from are not being fair or sensitive to the wishes of the generality of Nigerians at all. I have fervently stood for merit in the selection of who will be our President. However, there comes a time when political expediency dictates that merit alone is not enough and it should take a back seat to some extent whilst other factors including rotation take centre stage. That is the kind of period in which we find ourselves, just like in 1999. That is not to say that merit should not prevail when selecting the presidential candidates from the South.
It would be disastrous for power not to shift to the South in 2023, not because I have anything against the North but because the unfortunate spate of insecurity will persist for as long as a Northerner is in power. Have you not noticed how things were a bit calmer and less unruly whenever President Buhari was out of town and the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was in charge? Someone from the South needs to reconcile the nation urgently. The man or woman must act speedily and teach us how to love again and how to be our Brothers’ keepers. It is evident that someone from the North is incapable of doing so right now because his people will even see him or her as a traitor to their cause, notwithstanding that it is a bloody and gory cause.
The debate of whether Nigeria should be divided or remain indivisible has been raging and ricocheting across the world. It has taken on supersonic speed under this Buhari government than at any other time. It will be very insensitive and risky if the Northern elders do not sacrifice their personal interests and reverse this blinding speed towards perdition. I won’t be surprised if they don’t. They seem not to care and are blinded by power only, while their people have gained little or nothing. It is a known fact that Southern leaders have even done more concrete projects for the North.
Let’s now move to the meat of my epistle today. I’m still willing to place a bet on PDP slugging it out with APC in the next Presidential election. As PDP stands today, the Party looks feeble and frail, but it is in its supposed weakness that I see brighter hope for Nigeria and the promise of salvation. I foresee the possibility of a Saul becoming Paul if the Party unchains itself from the debilitating manacles of the past and welcomes newcomers with open minds. I sincerely commend their online registration of new members.
Nigerians in general should proliferate the two major parties with the brightest people, otherwise the rigid politicians will continue to dominate. We must be ready to challenge the status quo. New and credible opposition leaders must emerge asap, not those who will contest and move on without as much as a whimper and only return when the next electoral cycle arrives. Political Parties should not be treated like personal property. Nigeria now urgently needs fresher and brighter minds than ever. If the opposition does not offer something and someone new, unfortunately, it should be ready to remain in opposition for much longer. Even within the ruling Party I clamour for upright, motivated and dynamic go-getters to stand up and rise to the challenge. They must be willing to fight for the soul of the ruling Party lest their Party be supplanted like the PDP and go into potential obscurity and even oblivion. The same goes for our youths. If they remain impractical and insist on repeating the same mistakes of contesting on multiple platforms, it would be good riddance to bad rubbish. My prayer is that new synergies will be formed sooner rather than later…
Season of Obituaries
In fact, I don’t even know where to start from because I have been totally overwhelmed of late. I have lost friends and family in recent weeks.
Let me start with Captain Hosa Okunbo, a former airline pilot, businessman extraordinaire, philanthropist and much more. Though we’ve known each other for about three decades, we got even closer in the last one year when we collaborated on a few projects. I knew he wasn’t feeling fine and had to travel to England, but no one ever envisaged the sudden turn of events. The news of Captain’s departure came as a rude shock to virtually most of those who knew him well. I have been in denial ever since because even while on his sick bed, we chatted from time to time. He fought so gallantly but lost the battle eventually.
Next came the news of the sudden departure of my wife’s Uncle, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, former banker and Director at the Central Bank of Nigeria and National Mint. He was recently the Chairman of the Nigeria Communications Council (NCC). He was a Lawyer and politician par excellence. In 1992, he was a Presidential aspirant. When the June 12 Presidential election was annulled, Chief Durojaiye fought spiritedly for its revalidation. He was arrested and detained by the Abacha junta and Amnesty International declared him “a prisoner of conscience” and campaigned vigorously for his release. His strong health plummeted and developed complications. He was a strong man who worked tirelessly on public assignments. His reputation as a man of impeccable pedigree and integrity could not be controverted.
Chief Durojaiye loved me to bits and the feeling was mutual. He showered his love on me and my wife and we reciprocated in kind. We shall surely miss him as our father figure we used to run to in the days of trials and tribulations. Even at 88, his energy was amazing. May his soul Rest In Peace.
Then came the news of Brigadier General Adetunji Olurin, a man who was close to our family, a good friend to Professor Femi Adelowo and our Sister Engineer Mrs Oyin Adelowo, my wife’s older sister. He was a great military man who served his country meritoriously on several occasions when he was assigned big responsibilities.
The news of Rear Admiral Sunday Adekoya’s departure hit me like thunderbolt. We became close when he was Governor of Ondo State and he invited me as Editor of Classique magazine to State House, Akure, about three decades ago. He never left me since then. He watched over me like his own son and he and his wife remained wonderful to me while out of office. I will miss his constant prayers.
CHIEF JONATHAN ADIO OBAFEMI OLOPADE also passed on yesterday at 95. He was a man of style till the very end. He danced so much when he celebrated his last birthday at The Metropolitan Club, on Kofo Abayomi, Victoria Island, on July 31, 2021. His close friends include former President CHIEF OLUSEGUN OBASANJO and CHIEF OYEKUNLE AREMU ALEX-DUDUYEMI in whose house I last saw him. May Papa’s soul rest in peace…
– Momodu is a respected journalist and publisher of Ovation International magazine