For the singular purpose of objectivity, inasmuch as I stand to be pilloried, readers should not pooh-pooh this vignette as mere agglomeration of sentences, but as a critical step forward to taking informed decisions during and after the 2011 elections. When in 2003 I rose to immerse myself into the financially handicapped but issue-based campaign caucus of the late Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM), I discovered among other things, that a re-generational and trans-generational mental revolution was the only way out to get Nigerians on the right path. In 2003, I didn’t have any other option against the Hedonic Ogun State Mathew, than my own Gani Fawehinmi (Buhari was a lone ranger then). But Nigerians didn’t understand that there was a need for change. I was scorned at every of my campaign outing for SAM without being paid a Kobo. I just wanted Obasanjo out! Obasanjo, you will recall, never pretended to sophistication. His training neither presupposed it, nor did his wit, which is entirely rustic and sometimes ribald. Inside the ubiquitous Lagos Molue, on the dirty streets of Lagos, at the ever busy newspaper stands in Lagos, jam-packed by the unemployed people, I was out against Aremu while canvassing votes for the then conscience of Nigeria. I was rejected everywhere, not because of anything, but because people didn’t see a need for change. Read people’s lyrics: “Gani can’t win but he is the best man”. This song became a bestseller, fuelled by the Alliance for Democracy’s grievous sin of throwing-in for the progenitor of do-or-die political shindigs in the crippling modern Nigeria.
But as the 2011 election springs on, we have so many ‘change’ mantras, including the frustrated and the pretenders, spreading goebellian propaganda to the easily swayed electorates (once you have the money). No wonder why a friend, out of rage, told me that: “imagine a Jonathan preaching the message of change!” If there is anything good in 2011, it is the singular fact that for the first time since 1999, we have many options to choose from: the Ribadus, the Buharis, the Jonathans, the Adeolas, the Bakares, the Sambos etc. For the first time too, we are having educated people (not necessary) vying for the most exalted office in Nigeria. Come to think of it, all the front runners have their peculiar personality. You think of Ribadu, courage comes to your mind. You think of Bakare, fearlessness comes to your mind. You think Adeola, professionalism comes to your mind. You think of Buhari, integrity comes to your mind. You think of Jonathan, luck comes to your mind. Besides, I am ecstatically well disposed to calling Buhari and Ribadu ‘fools’, given what Jonathan understands as ‘rascality’.
I don’t want to be easily hoodwinked, just like many others, that given the antecedents of Buhari, the tall one (you remember Bakare calling him that? I attend Bakare’s church in Lagos), he is the best that can spearhead the change we need. Of course, he is a better option than Babangida and Atiku (Babantiku). What sets Buhari and Babantiku apart, and puts Buhari ahead at the moment, is the cumulative and sanitising effect of time, or what some historians and biographers describe as iconoclastic posterity. It is indeed a strange phenomenon that someone so aloof as Buhari, can work a crowd so passionately. Stranger still is the fact that he whips the crowd into frenzy, not by delicately wrought words and uplifting phrases, nor by calculated soapbox theatrics and choreographed dances, as perfected by both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), but by the simple fact of his unfathomably aloof personality. Integrity and honesty best describe this tall one.
Modern Nigeria is a fusion of boisterous and sometimes conflicting competitive ethno-religious groups in need of carefully measured but firm handling. However, if the country is not restructured, the contradictions it is groaning under today will explode in the long run. We need an iconoclast with a sublime understanding of how to situate these futuristic but urgent requirements within a wider framework of a flexible society anchored on disciplined but responsive values. Can Buhari be that man? I think so, only if he can assimilate within a very short time frame, what democratic principles are all about. One of his responses at the NN24 debate confirms my study on him. Asked at the NN24 debate how he has been faring with democratic values, Buhari said: “I spent 50 months challenging the 2007 election results in court; I didn’t go to the streets.” Is going to the streets an undemocratic engagement, especially when you are fighting a just course? Was it not on street protest that Buhari found Bakare, his running mate? I have many more reasons but for space!
Buhari has become the North’s hero, not because they think he can win nor because other parts of the country see him as competent to rule, but because they have simply fallen in love with him. After running for the presidency twice, he has demonstrated that losing twice was not enough to lure him into the sort of depressing compromises rife in Nigeria. As presidential candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party in 2007, he insisted on going to court against his party’s wishes, and denounced the Government of National Unity which his party embraced to its peril. He has proved to be reliable, dependable, honest, self-assured and has shown he has the character to rule Nigeria with a steady, confident pair of hands. He is probably one of the few leaders in the world whose charisma has little to do with his speeches or erudition, or even his antecedents. If the turnout in the April polls is heavy in the North, it will be because of Buhari.
Given the tumultuous crowds that welcome Buhari at every stop in the North and the fairly massive crowds in the South-West, Buhari is capable of springing up surprises, though I won’t be surprised. Nonetheless, in all the talk about Buhari’s acceptability and the growing fanatical support for him, which has put Jonathan on the jittery foot, there has been little or no reference to his programmes, his suitability for high office, or even his political competence. They talk about his character, and he has it plenteous. They talk about his honesty, and he is impeccable. They talk about his courage and fearlessness, and to me, he is unsullied. And then they talk about his experience and discipline, and he is unimpeachable. But remember what they told us about the late insular of Katsina, Umaru Yar’Adua. They told us that he was honest too; they told us that he wasn’t corrupt; they told us that he has integrity. In the real sense, what we got in the long run were contradictions. Yar’Adua and all his travellers in the rickety wagon of Vision 20:2020, including Jonathan, never governed us well. I am quick to point out, with hardihood too, that by not owning a house in Abuja cannot guarantee Buhari’s ability to govern Nigeria in a democratic setting. So also by not owning an oil block as Petroleum Minister, by birthing our refineries, and by not being eloquent (recently adduced), cannot guarantee his optimal performance as civilian president. He needs, among other things, to be garnished with democratic fundamentals that are doable (he currently lacks them).
One of the greatest strengths of Buhari’s manifesto is the strong tie it has with constitutional reform, which is futuristic. This in a way, puts him far ahead of other contenders, were campaigns have been issue-based. Of course the Nigerian constitution, like a speech worked and reworked by many experts, has no soul. And so we have a responsibility to rise to the higher levels of existence and to stand and fight for something much nobler, something extraordinary, something more filling than food and clothing. For Buhari to have been able to think out constitutional reform, even if it is not that comprehensive, which will put Nigeria on the same path that is giving Lagos a face lift, then Buhari should be a ‘fool’, since Fashola is a ‘rascal’ as far as Jonathan is concerned! If Buhari is elected, either through a run-off or an alliance, he will bring to the office of president indomitable self-will, courage, honesty and an unquenchable patriotic spirit to move the country forward, I think so!
Again too, I refuse to be mesmerized with Ribadu’s sing-song of belonging to the age group of world leaders, albeit I commend his wit, candour and uprightness in his anti-corruption crusade. To me, age has never and can never be an instrument to show leadership capability. Ribadu has the genuine intellectual enablement to gather bright people around himself and not suffer complex. He also has the ability to formulate domestic and foreign policies that are forward-looking, sensible and inclusive. However, my problem with him is that he left the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with conflicting integrity (think untainted integrity, Buhari has it in abundance). While he was fighting the negative status in our corruption lexicon, just because he stood firmly on the abomasums of corruption, he took with himself, a share of the corruption, getting promotions he never qualified for, especially when one considers the undue process his promotions passed through. More importantly to be noted as part of Ribadu’s strength of character in office was the singular fact that public officers soft-pedaled on their bicycle of corruption shenanigans. Unfortunately, he was removed from office unceremoniously, just like the garrulous arch-rigger for the PDP, Maurice Iwu, who hitherto seemed to have remained immovable on the seat he no longer deserves. While the Federal Government coerced Ribadu out as against the wish of Nigerians and the international community, Nigerians sacked PDP rigging machine, Iwu!
However, Ribadu represents the yearnings of Nigerians. He portrays a brand new posture that Nigeria needs and his acceptance among the young population of Nigeria shows that if votes count, he can get the spread among the different age groups that make up our 140million number. He has unparalleled precision with his evocative message, even with his sullied eloquence, which is peculiar to the Fulanis. By training, by disposition, and by his interactions, Ribadu is cosmopolitan and seems to be more passionate with comprehensive grasp of the root causes of Nigeria’s injuries. With progressive friends ranging from the bohemian to the lengthily liberal, and from the largely divided North to the ecstatic secular Niger Delta, Ribadu will be more given to consensus construction. To me, Ribadu is more exposed, both locally and internationally, well refined, mild and energetic. Notwithstanding his relative inexperience at the highest levels of government, his policies are more likely to benefit from broader consultations, rigorous debates and intellectual, even academic, inputs. We would certainly be treated with daily interesting stories in the papers because to me, his government would be more engaging!
But the fact that Ribadu is also selling himself as the most righteous baffles me. What pains me most is that our supposed leaders don’t see any bad thing about their past. To all the presidential contenders, all of them are saints! None has any sin to confess to Nigerians! To me, this is menacingly untrue! Where then did they get the honesty they are preaching about themselves? The singular act that drew me to Obama during his campaigns was when I heard Obama saying: “My only regret in life was that I took marijuana when I was in school as a student.” He took himself to Americans for cleansing. Just like others, Ribadu lacks the level of honesty needed to govern Nigeria that is practically made up of God-loving people!
My strong point for Ribadu however, is that I see a new Nigeria in him. There is a certain robust effervescence in him that is suggesting that. His “Pathway to a New Nigeria” blueprint shows that he has the depth, instinct, and passion, garnished with resounding foreign policy relations (given his exposure and acceptance in the international community). His manifesto is aggressive (though not promising too much), which is what we need for now. Aggressive policies that can be aggressively implemented are what I can see in Ribadu’s paper, words and deeds. With all these, I deem it fit to call him a ‘fool’, since Fashola, the only template Nigerians are using for governance evaluation is a ‘rascal’ in the lexicon of President Jonathan! With Ribadu in the Villa, more young minds would be involved in governance, restoring hope to the young population that the future indeed belongs to the youth!
Jonathan’s sudden rose to stardom has succeeded in the development of a new postulate of life. ‘Luck’, not hard-work, can guarantee success, simple! No doubt, Jonathan has formed major prayer points in churches and mosques as people jostle to name their babies Goodluck. With no shred of dubitation too, Jonathan is the most popular candidate running. He has the national spread and his campaign has been largely attended by massive crowds too. It is interesting that the frenzied politicking around Jonathan’s campaign is entirely limited to disproving the zoning formula and juggling supports from the states and the zones. He does not speak to issues with any visionary fervour, and indeed cannot. He does not connect with the electorate emotionally, and indeed, he is too distant, too detached and too plain to even try. And while his assumption of power has done a lot to give everyone a sense of belonging — and I would have loved him to win and continue in office — the presidency is far too serious a business to be reduced to the dynamics of zoning and the permutations of states support rather than the competence of the candidate. Four more years of Jonathan will corrode the national will to compete. I can bet it!
I must state lucidly too, that by not having shoes when he was young, by not having bags for schooling and by going hungry often during his youthful age, are not enough excuse why he should be voted. While his advertorial stories are not inspiring, probably because they may not be true, his personality does not speak volume. But Jonathan is wholly without restraint, as his re-enactment of the politics of the 1960s is showing. As far as he is concerned, the only line to draw is at one extreme end, not in the middle. He is not only intimidating the Southwest and engaging in name-calling, he is apparently willing, without understanding the consequences, to use state apparatus to demolish all obstacles to his electoral success. His indifference to the assault on the constitution by his supporters and friends in Ogun State and Bauchi cannot be ignored. So, too, his intemperate responses to the opposition’s verbal assault, which is seriously unpresidential!
However, there is a strong reason why Jonathan may be better off than Buhari and Ribadu. He can sacrifice anything in his life to achieve a course. At the expense of many of our ungracious politicians including himself, Jonathan has initiated an electoral reform that may even swallow him, I can foresee it! One may be displeased with the way important sections of Uwais’ Recommendations were treated to rubbles, but the fact still remains clear that Jonathan birthed the long awaited reform. He represents the cries of the minority. He stands as symbol of hope to his people in the Delta, and for the first time too since 1999, the incumbent president has a strong resolve for one man, one vote (Obasanjo never did that!), but then, I find it hard to pitch my tent with his resolve. He never for once, showed to me that he meant it! Jonathan, from my study, is humble in words, not in deeds, probably because he rose to stardom by sheer luck. What set him ahead of other contenders is that he is more prepared this time around to lead Nigeria and he is more experienced in terms of understanding contemporary Nigerian complexities, having risen from being a Deputy Governor, to Governor, to Vice President, to Acting President and to President, all in modern Nigeria, not in the Nigeria under the military junta (here Buhari has a say, don’t even think Ribadu at all).
Jonathan would be better off as our president only if he can fill up his seemingly empty blueprint with intellectually enabled content, buttressed by pragmatic implementation framework. He must show to us that he is widely accepted by Nigerians, not by coercing the electorates to believe this, but by the free will of the Nigerian people. It is unarguable that Jonathan cannot match Fashola in terms of governance understanding. To me, Jonathan is not a ‘fool’ since Fashola is a ‘rascal’.
I have decided not to vote for any of the candidates above based on their personalities because of my reasons aforementioned, mainly because none of them is honest enough to talk about his bad past. I hate to see people claiming ‘saint’! Flipside, I have decided to vote for either of them based on their manifestos, having followed the spirits and letters of their blueprints. Let me point out that I am swinging towards the manifesto that is both aggressive (because of immediate need) and futuristic (because of long term benefits). Sadly, none of the blueprints has the duo elements combined! Were it possible to vote for two candidates, I would save myself the brainwork. An alliance between Buhari and Ribadu would make my decision less rigorous to take. With the failed alliance talk for the first ballot, with Ribadu making the biggest sacrifice of his life for the national project, which many would not do, just like Buhari, then my logic suggests that my vote should go for Ribadu. We need a leader with a sacrificial heart, not a leader who does not see any thing good in his followers, talkless of trusting them. The alliance talk experiment, followed by tear-dropping of Buhari showed to me that Nigeria is full of deceit. Ribadu has finally won my ONE vote…The POWER OF ONE!
It is me, @Obajeun
First published on my Facebook note on March 23, 2011
Jonah Ayodele Obajeun blogs @www.obajeun.com. Catch him on twitter via @Obajeun