OPINION: 2013 is the window to 2015 – Tunde Fagbenle

If anyone was left in doubt, the President – or those pushing for him – have sounded the beagle; forget any pretence to the contrary: the race for 2015 has begun!

Ghost posters appearing overnight all over the capital city, with the President waking up to deny (not denounce!) having a hand in it isn’t anything new. Same politicians, same old trick.The President or his “promoters” are making an early start of it, sending the message to his party folk that the issue of him having a “second term” is foregone and those who want to negotiate (and benefit) or fight (and lose) can make their choices.

The truth is 2015 is just around the corner. Yet it is far: it is a long time yet for the hopelessness the people face; a long time yet for the suffering they still have to endure under the present government.

President Goodluck Jonathan has disappointed those who voted for him (outside his Niger Delta sectional interest) with the benefit of doubt in his favour: that here comes a young man; here comes a graduate (with PhD); here comes God-knows-what-else! In the last couple of years, when their President speaks, the people cringe. He displays a shocking lack of eloquence and depth, even of a good school certificate holder.

The economy mimics his stupor. Corruption has become byword for doing government business: Halliburton and Siemens scandals have been left untouched; petroleum subsidy scandal running into trillions of naira suffuses the air with its pungent stench; Otedola and Farouk bribery scandal has been swept under the carpet; everywhere the President and his men (and women!) turn, corruption and ineptitude follow.

But the President tells us he has performed wonders so far and promises us some more good luck to come! His poster canvassers have also reminded us how staid and unimaginative everything has been, with fatigued words like “No vacancy in Aso Rock,” and “A good term deserves another.” It is all so sickening!

But the President and his party are welcome to their interpretations of what the country has undergone and is undergoing under Jonathan. The choice is for Nigerians to make, and the job starts today, as the President’s poster pasters have alerted us.

Back in 2009, with two years to the 2011 elections as we have now, this column ran its “Will the youth arise?” clarion call. It opened with an exhortation from Prof. Wole Soyinka thus:

“The ball is now in your court… Election is still two years away…What is wrong in identifying now your candidates and beginning to mobilise support for them? Why can’t you invade your homeland…Use your mobile telephones now to mobilise the people and guard democracy… the way Barrack Obama used the Internet technology to mobilise the youths to strengthen democracy… Mobilise the youths to guard the ballot boxes from start to finish… Defend the vote; nobody is going to do it for you…”

I went further to remind our youths of their historical charges:

“All over the world, students have been active agents of societal change. Propelled by their youthful vigour, fearlessness and imbued with a passion to make a difference, student activism has forced progressive legislation and even brought down unpopular governments.

“Student protesters inspired much of the civil rights movements of the 1960s in America. In 1968, over 800,000 students, teachers and workers marched through Paris, demanding the fall of the de Gaulle government. Similarly, students’ protest spurred the 1989 China Tiananmen Square revolt; Hungarian Revolution in 1956; the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in 2005; Indonesia’s revolts in 1967 and 1998; Iran against the Shah in 1979; and numerous others worldwide.

“Of course, Nigeria has had her own fair share of meaningful student activism: from 1965 when students of the University of Ibadan barricaded the chambers of the Legislative House in Ibadan in protest against the results of an openly rigged election by the NNDP in the Western Region; to 1971 when a student, Adekunle Adepoju, was shot dead by the police while students demonstrated over generally deteriorating conditions in their institutions; to 1978 when Segun Okeowo led university students in “Ali Must Go” demonstration, demanding the sack of the then education minister, leading to the death of a student, Akintunde Ojo; to the 1989 anti-SAP and 1992 anti-fuel scarcity riots.

“But times have changed, sadly so, and the Nigerian students of today are just as mired in the enveloping decay and have themselves become even agents of the forces of regression and political brigandage.

“…The nonsense going on in Abuja, in the National Assembly by legislators that do more looting than legislating, would have received some jolting. The serial electoral rape in the country (Halliburton scandal, Otedola/Farouk scandal, petroleum subsidy scandal, etc.) would have faced the collective wrath and denunciation of a vibrant student body.

“But there are no student protests to force issues or make the leadership know that the youth, whose tomorrow is at stake, are unhappy.

Then about this time last year, this column again brought to the fore the need for Nigerians to “do something” if they truly desire – and DESERVE – positive change.

It began with an idea propounded by Pius Adesanmi, the Nigerian activist professor in a Canadian university. Adesanmi posted a plea on his Facebook status titled, “Desperate thoughts from the precipice of despair,” in which he urged Nigerians to take the matter of the president they want into their own hands by “drafting” someone they would want as president and massing in the millions behind such a person.

Although Adesanmi proposed Bishop Hassan Kukah as his choice, his idea serves for any such person. And I wrote:

“…Nigerians must not sit and mope about their fate… (They should) identify someone who they can trust to lead the country by his dynamism, inspire the country by his selflessness and character, and galvanise the country by his intellect. And having identified such a person, start from this moment to build a consensus around the person, mobilise, and strategise to give the person a political base with which to make their mandate manifest.”

I suggested further that “the way to go about it is to start compiling signatures from now on through the various media of social mobilisation and set a target of, say, five million names between now and 2014, and see how far we can get with that. It must be said that for me at the level of realism, Kukah is only a metaphor, our moral and integrity compass for the calibre of person and character trait we require in our next president.

“Our Kukah-model may come from any part of the country. A guy (a neuter term in this age) can take a five million-strong endorsement to the bank, literally! A backing of that magnitude is enough to start a movement. And, as the Iroko of Ondo (Mimiko) has proved, a popular candidate can win elections on his own steam and party choice. But whether Iroko’s paradigm is translatable unto a national level remains to be seen.”

2013 is here. It remains to be seen how serious Nigerians really are or how much more nonsense they can really take!

Good luck and Happy New Year.


Tunde Fagbenle

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