There is no better time to liberate our country than the year 2011. By then, Nigeria would have been 51 years old as an independent nation. We would have wasted a total of 50 long years trying to build a solid foundation for democracy, good governance and accountability. We would have endured incompetent, kleptomaniac, insensitive, wasteful rulers, for those number of years. 50 years in the life of a people cannot be a joke. As Chief Moshood Abiola once noted at the launch of Dream-maker by May Ellen Ezekiel Mofe-Damijo, “If we spend 50 years dreaming dreams, when are we going to see vision?”
That profound statement encapsulates the story of Nigeria. We have spent 50 years daydreaming. Our so-called leaders have continued to do the same things in different ways. They have not learnt any lesson from history. They have treated the ruled with incredible disdain. Just look at what they’ve just done again in Ekiti. The ruling party told us all to go to hell, when it announced that it had won the most improbable gubernatorial election, practically with the much disputed, and most likely-doctored votes from one local government. What chicanery is this?
But they are wrong in thinking we can be treated like rams being led to slaughter. The shame is theirs to live with, when tomorrow comes. The world would laugh at us as usual. The infidels would ask, where is our God? The faint-hearted would easily give up. But we must not allow the shameless old fuddy-duddies to savour their pyrrhic victory. We must continue this match towards the redemption of our souls. We must prepare for the battle ahead, now that we know the PDP would continue to force its ill-assorted candidates on us. We must reject this slavery, by all legal means available.
There is always a purpose for every situation we find ourselves in. Without the madness of the Bush years in America, there would have been no Obama today. Yar’Adua will be the catalyst for our own Obama. Mark my word. We are back at the barricade, and it is time to scream, Let my people go! We must pray every day for Yar’Adua. We must ask God to grant him long life, so that he can feel what Obasanjo is feeling today. We must pray for him to run for his own second term. This is what we should all push for, for our own Obama to emerge. We must demonstrate our anger against these reckless riggers by making up our minds to register to vote, and stand by our votes henceforth.
We must encourage as many good candidates as possible to come out nationwide. The search for our own Obama has now become a task that must be accomplished. We must stay many steps ahead of our oppressors. Never again must we allow these insults to stick. Nigerians must speak up from every corner. In the mosques, and in the churches, we must continue to pray, for our walls of Jericho to collapse. We must encourage our congregations to stay strong and support good candidates. We must emphasize the ugliness of our rulers. We must put their incompetence on display for all to see. We must convince ourselves that we deserve better. We must accept the fact today that our redemption lies not in the hands of incurable desperados, who must cling to power at all cost. We must salute the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association, for showing us good example, and for being a voice of reason.
Our Obama must be bold. He/she must be selfless. Donald Duke is a good material any day. But he is in a wrong party. PDP will never field such an urbane candidate. The party is led by control freaks and warlords. They will always pick one weakling after the other from their database of political zombies. They care less that the world today is led by smart, young, energetic, trendy, and brilliant leaders. If Donald wants our votes, he must quit the party that has attracted so much shame and repulsion to Nigeria. He has to make his move very quickly.
But will he? Analysts have said he is not likely to do that. Their reason is simple. The average Nigerian politician is never prepared to take the risk of quitting the party that controls all the plum appointments. He’ll rather continue to hope that something would drop in his laps. His is never a call to service. Any job would do. The world is waiting to see if Donald can call the bluff of PDP and join forces with more forward-looking Nigerians.
Nasir El-Rufai is an erudite and tested leader. He demonstrated enough guts in dealing with environmental issues in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Of course, like all mortals, he made a few mistakes, and stepped on powerful toes. But he remains one of the brightest hopes of Nigeria. There are allegations of improprieties against him, and he’s being pursued with the agility of a horse. That is to be expected in a country where we love to chase shadows and the leadership has gone neurotic.
He must make plans to return to Nigeria to defend himself. Every soul knows there are desperate attempts to smear him. Not that he’s a saint. But if we can keep some of the characters we see in the corridors-of-power permanently in government jobs, then Nasir smells like a beautiful rose. He should remain unruffled. Persecution sometimes helps its victim. A good example is that of Jacob Zuma of South Africa who got the overwhelming support from his people despite his “bad boy” image. Such is life.
Barrister Babatunde Raji Fashola is one of the greatest things to happen to Nigerian politics. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria and current governor of Nigeria’s most important state, Lagos. Babatunde reinforces the theory that the future of Nigeria should be placed in the hands of members of the private sector. Our incorrigible politicians would never change their bad habits. Babatunde is strict, smart and business-like. He has given Lagos a good direction by promoting good governance above partisan politics. He was a virtual underdog at the time his former boss, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu practically forced him on the Action Congress.
He was young and shy. But he has matured into a confident leader who clearly has his master-plan in view, and the willingness to execute it with clinical precision. He has shown exceptional courage in dealing with grave issues. And he’s being applauded by everyone for his stupendous efforts. The question on people’s lips is if Babatunde would risk his plush job to attempt a shot at the presidency. The answer is that he needs more time to tackle the many challenges of Lagos, and that he must wait till 2015. But Nigeria is in dire need of a new leader and cannot wait or waste much time getting such a man.
So our search continues. Professor Pat Utomi should step forward. His rich knowledge of the Nigerian economy should naturally qualify him for this most important job. He also comes with the experience of running for the presidency in the last election. His major problem is how to persuade a largely illiterate community that a very academic man can take Nigeria to the next level of prosperity and accountability. As good as he is, he seems to have an uphill task unless he can get a broad coalition of Nigerian parties to adopt him.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is primus inter pare amongst the women who are qualified to lead Nigeria. Her intimidating job as the managing director of the World Bank makes her a veritable candidate for the presidency of Nigeria. She also comes with the wonderful experience of being our former minister of finance, and subsequently foreign affairs. She ably distinguished herself on both jobs. She was a powerful voice on the continent of Africa and beyond. It is yet to be seen if a largely male-dominated country like Nigeria is ready to jettison its traditional chauvinism to enthrone a proud daughter of Africa in power.
Next on our list of potential Obamas is Dr Oby Ezekwesili, current vice president (Africa) at the World Bank. Reasonable Nigerians would forever remember her heroic deeds for institutionalizing due process in government activities. They will remember with fond memories her epic battles against the enemies of qualitative education for Nigerians. In a very normal society, technocrats like Oby should make a spectacular showing in governance. She’s one of the leading lights of Nigeria, and definitely a lady to watch in the near future. She would be needed to perform some of the badly needed surgeries on our cancerous nation.
One of our best women, Professor Dora Akunyili, has been sucked into government full time. She gave a good account of herself as the Director-General of NAFDAC, where she executed a running battle against the producers and marketers of fake drugs. Her fame grew in leaps and bounds, and she almost won a Nobel Prize for her gallant efforts. There is no woman more popular in Nigeria today than Dora Akunyili but her recent appointment as Minister of Information and Communications has placed her in a very precarious situation. Many of her great fans are very worried about how this job of defending a poor government might affect her political future. She would have to learn how the other women on our list left government with their reputations intact, by not being overzealous about a thankless job.
We welcome Fola Tajudeen Adeola, the whiz-kid of Nigerian banking and co-founder of Guaranty Trust Bank, to this great company. The gentleman with very extensive contacts is respected in many circles. He endeared himself to most Nigerian youths when he voluntarily quit his powerful job as managing director of GTB, and headed straight to the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, near Jos.
It was a move that was seen at the time as preparatory to joining the presidential race. He was briefly involved in political assignments under the Obasanjo government, an experience that must have taught him a few things about the intricacies of working under an insincere leadership. If he works very hard, he’s well positioned to attract massive support from both the Muslim north and the southern Muslims.
No one can ignore Brigadier-General Mohammed Buba Marwa in the scheme of things in Nigeria. There were attempts to rubbish him when he showed interest in the presidential race under the government of Olusegun Obasanjo. He had to make a quick retreat after he was whipped into line by the powers that be. His sparkling military career and outstanding performance as the military governor of Lagos State are enough reasons for his fans to see him as a potential Obama. He’s one cosmopolitan figure within the military mafia in Nigeria, and his relevance endures by his appointment as Nigeria’s High Commissioner to South Africa and Lesotho. His albatross would be his membership of an irredeemable political party, and like Donald Duke he may find it difficult to pull out.
Another school of thought believes that one of the biggest problems Nigeria faces is that of a negative perception by the global community. There have been suggestions that Nigeria should adopt the Italian style of putting a media mogul in power. Such a man would be able to put his journalistic experience into good use by re-orienting our people and building a credible image for a much-maligned nation. The name of THISDAY publisher, Nduka Obaigbena, looms large across the world as Nigeria’s most influential publisher. His foray into showbiz promotion and political and economic summits are said to be part of a calculated strategy to launch a mega political career, an assumption he readily dismisses.
In all, there are many more potential Obamas. The idea was to tickle us into thinking that Nigeria desperately needs a change, and that we are not lacking of our own Obama. The logical follow-up to our search is how to successfully launch and install such a great character in a country where a Moshood Abiola was left to rot in prison until he died. What was worse, the beneficiaries of his death never acknowledged his amazing contributions for the eight years they spent in power. It was as if they even hated him more in his grave. But no man can kill a dream when its time has come.
Our next challenge is no longer the search for the representative of the true aspirations of the people. It is how to ensure that our candidate is not mercilessly bruised or battered by the wolves on the rock.