Lest We Forget The Heroes By Dele Momodu

“Once you start thinking about financial security, you’re beginning to run the risk of eroding your true self…Once you start thinking about money… I’m not sure you’re going to be able to take the risks you need to take. You want to stay clear of that; let that part, hopefully, take care of itself.”
-Robert Redford

Fellow Nigerians, it is important to remind ourselves that the victory we recently recorded at the polls didn’t just happen by chance, it occurred as a result of a combination of forces. As for me, I was never in doubt that it was possible and achievable. I knew it was going to be a tough battle but I knew with God on the side of Nigerians the miracle was going to happen.

The drama of the weeks preceding the Presidential election would remain vivid in my memory for a very long time. All manner of permutations took place. The rumours were more petrifying. There were prophesies of total breakdown of law and order and possibly even apocalypse as far as Nigeria was concerned. We were told the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega was going to be sacked and replaced by a certain malleable Professor from Ondo State. If that did not materialise, the second option would be to send him on compulsory leave. If that fell through, either an Interim Government would have to be imposed on the nation or the military would be encouraged to take over power in a palace coup or whatever nomenclature they give their putsch.

Against all odds, the elections went reasonably well even if there were bloody fireworks in a few places. As Professor Jega was declaring General Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the Presidential election, our incredible politicians started making their usual moves in the direction of the new centre of power. Congratulatory messages flew from left, right and centre; even those who worked fervently against Buhari joined in the cacophony of adulation and jollification. Such is life.

I have not been anywhere near Nigeria since then. As far as I was concerned, there was no need for anyone to hold Buhari to ransom by playing God as no single individual or entity can lay claim to providing the magic wand that catapulted Buhari back to power and world acclaim. After God, the glory goes to every Nigerian who displayed and maintained an uncommon determination to rid Nigeria of the scourge of PDP. The mood was absolutely favourable and Buhari made the task easier through his enviable credential as an incorruptible leader.

It is therefore disheartening that our politicians feel nothing should change and it should be business as usual. I will plead with our President-elect again not to succumb to the unholy pressure. It would be a great disservice to our wonderful people who worked tirelessly to make things happen. The expectations are very high and nothing should be done to kill the present enthusiasm. All over the world, Nigerians are exhibiting a positive mood I’ve never experienced. It is borne out of the faith we have in the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket to do things differently.

Just like I did for President Goodluck Jonathan, even if my admonitions fell on deaf ears, I won’t get tired of advising our in-coming government as regularly as possible. I know General Buhari may get too busy to read newspapers as I know he does presently but I would encourage him to browse through every now and then. He should not rely on redacted and edited press cuttings from sycophantic press secretaries and other media aides.  Since the voice of the people is said to be the voice of the people, our President-elect and his deputy should endeavour to listen more to them than the ubiquitous liars who often litter the corridors of power.

The APC is blessed with fantastic leaders who are capable of leading Nigeria to the Promised Land. I was proud to know and work with a few of them in the course of this campaign. I wish and pray that the new ruling party would take advantage of these world class politicians. The party elders and juggernauts such as Chief Bisi Akande, Chief John Oyegun, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and others should be proud of the crop of politicians the party has managed to amalgamate.

For academic purpose, I would like to single out a few leaders that I’ve watched keenly who should be reinvigorated to do much more than they have done so far. I always disagree with those who sing the mantra that there is no difference between PDP and APC for the fact that I’m sure APC has the capacity to turn bad people into good ones while the PDP is too set in its way. This should be obvious from the way APC has conducted its affairs so far. Everything should be done, therefore, to avoid bickering on account of power-sharing. Once General Buhari and Professor Yemi Osinbajo agree on some principles that are sacrosanct, the job should not be too tedious for them.

The basic tenets to follow are simple and straight-forward, equity and fair-play as well as rewarding merit and excellence. While zoning and Federal Character have their roles and effects, the best of characters must be selected and picked from every zone. There are leaders in our country who have broken down the barriers of ethnicity and religion, two major weapons that many politicians have used to divide us, and we must seek to replicate these types of leaders.

Top on my list as always is Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Picking him as a model has never been hard for me except for those who just detest self-assured people who know their onions. What I admire the most in Amaechi is the way he has been able to demystify power. You can call him what you will but he knows what it means and takes to develop Nigeria. He has the courage of a lion and does not transfer his responsibilities to others. He has the strength to bear his own cross. I was amazed to see the quality of his pet projects in Rivers State and truly wished a few Federal projects could attain similar levels of accomplishments.

As Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum, Amaechi was able to represent the general interests of his colleagues as opposed to seeking personal aggrandizement. This was what made it possible for him to defeat the President’s faction of the Governors’ Forum. There are not too many people with the confidence level of Amaechi. Once he takes up any assignment, he attacks it with the agility of a horse and the tenacity of a lion. It is not surprising that General Buhari chose him as Director-General of his campaign.

I met Amaechi in Abuja one day and he was actually in a simple bus driving to a location to personally check an office for Buhari’s campaign organisation. I couldn’t believe the level of his commitment and dedication. It was while on that trip that a debate ensued on whether Buhari should drop the General from his name and Amaechi turned to me: “Bob Dee, do you agree that General should be removed from Buhari’s name because it connotes dictatorship?” I responded that “No one can remove a man’s greatest achievement. What would you call Buhari if you delete General? Chief, Mr, Alhaji or what? He is the people’s General…” And Amaechi saw it made sense. Amaechi, contrary to misperception, is a wonderful team player who likes to carry everyone along but hates being bogged down by too much protocol and officialdom.

In case APC does not know how come the youths got connected to its message of hope and change, Amaechi and his dear friend, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, made it substantially possible. Amaechi’s faith in Red Media, an outfit owned by youth leaders made a huge difference. Dr Saraki on his part assembled a formidable team of computer geniuses who took over the cyberspace such that PDP with all its advertised billions couldn’t catch up.

Just like Amaechi, Saraki is the boss of all bosses when it comes to understanding the most powerful block outside the Presidency in Nigeria, the Governors’ caucus. The Governors virtually control the National Assembly and many of them would form the next Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Like his great dad who was Senate Leader in the Second Republic, Senator Saraki has since become a powerful voice championing people-oriented causes despite his privileged background. He was harassed and threatened but refused to buckle or be intimidated. He has worked very hard to become the most visible leader from the North Central axis.

Dr Saraki has endeared himself to many admirers like me as a result of his impeccable education at home and abroad which has offered him not only a cosmopolitan background and exposure but also access to an extensive international network through Old Boys’ connections.  He left King’s College, Lagos, in 1978, and headed to Cheltenham College, Cheltenham, before attending London Hospital Medical College, University of London where he obtained his M.B.B.S in 1987. He practiced at Rush Green Hospital, London before returning to Nigeria to join his father in the banking sector in 1989 where he distinguished himself.
It is noteworthy that Dr Saraki has carried on his father’s legacy of reaching out to the poor and needy all over Nigeria while contributing immensely to progress and development of the country in respect of which three projects stand out; the Zimbabwean farmers project in Kwara State, the intervention in the lead poisoning incident in Zamfara State and championing the eradication of the corruption ridden fuel subsidy regime.  This is the reason the people of Kwara State have continued to give him their unalloyed support.

The golden Governor of APC is Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola. As Governor of Lagos, Fashola who took the baton of a progressive Lagos from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has succeeded in taking the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria to the another level entirely. Lagos may not be an Eldorado but Fashola has laid strong foundations to make it so. Fashola’s story is a case study in how the power of determination to succeed where others have failed can make all the difference.  The Buhari government has a lot to gain from Governors like Fashola who have shown great competence, financial dexterity and administrative capability. They have roles to play still. Fashola’s good works speak volumes about his uncommon abilities and the necessity of tapping into them by the new Government cannot be over-emphasised.

Even the opponents of APC agree that there is a political magician in the Kano Government House. His name is Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso. He has transformed Kano into one of the most important destinations in Nigeria. His success has reverberated so much that he alone was able to deliver humongous votes to APC and General Buhari in particular.

You cannot talk about the stars of APC without mentioning Dr Kayode Fayemi. His intellectual prowess would definitely help define the direction of Buhari’s government. I can’t forget Professor Pat Utomi. I listened to him on Channels TV a few days ago and couldn’t help ask why such a man has not been allowed to make serious contributions to governance in Nigeria. I dream of Buhari inviting one of my favourite Nigerian politicians to join his change movement, the one and only irrepressible Donald Duke. Nigeria would be a much better place when we bring our stars together.

I was happy to see the camaraderie that still exists between General Buhari and Pastor Tunde Bakare who certainly has a great role to play in the new Nigeria. I believe that the zeal and fervour he demonstrates on the pulpit will complement that of Prof Osinbajo and greatly enhance the anti-corruption stance of the Government.  Let those who called Buhari an Islamic fundamentalist see how he is carrying everyone along.
Any Government, especially one that seeks to youthful but very experienced leaders; I cannot think of anybody who can fulfil this role but my good friend Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi.  He will bring into the government the wealth of his experience gained since he was a member of House of Representatives in the short-lived third republic and honed as a two term Senator and latterly, Commissioner in this dispensation.  He’s worked with the political gurus including General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Baba Gana Kingibe and Chief MKO Abiola. Senator Afikuyomi is greatly admired by friends and detractors alike for his brilliance, unwavering loyalty and passion for a cause. His relentless monitoring of elections and protection of results is legendary.

I long for Mrs Oby Ezekwesili’s return to government. She is just awesome. I love the perfect gentleman, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, a most charismatic politician, who as a Senator made Lagos State very proud. Of course, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa has worked her way to the very top with her exceptional contributions to the well-being of Nigerians in diaspora. One of my most respected brains is Mr Fola Adeola and he would be a worthy addition to any progressive government.

I’m sure you are beginning to have a feel of my ideal cabinet. A few very experienced icons can still be injected into government. I would love to see a Professor Tam David-West. His knowledge of our petroleum industry is unparalleled.  If anybody can bring sanity into that sector it is surely Professor David-West.

It is time to find, engage and promote our cerebral, diligent and upright leaders and give the hardcore politicians other mundane responsibilities.
Nigerians are waiting.


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