The 2019 elections are upon us: Politicians are in full swing, making their rounds. A documentary by the president’s team: The Human Side of President Buhari aired in the last week of December, and a group of governors only recently endorsed the President. Many more endorsements will follow; brace up guys, it only just begun.
The Obasanjo letter introduced a different twist and speculation as to whether President Buhari would contest is picking up momentum. It appears many supporters of Buhari’s administration have turned their backs and have mooted regrets.
In retrospect, it may have been better to remain with the old wife but we cannot afford buyers’ remorse.
I do hope sooner rather than later we can have the so called ‘credible’ candidates who have not been tainted by the old ways. The non-corrupt, young, intelligent, energetic and detribalized types (our Obama or Macron if you like) we know can deliver but never get the opportunity. It is my desire that such a candidate would rise far removed from the cocoon of the APC and PDP, and represent Nigeria in a way she deserves. I do not know when that time will come but what we do have are two strong parties and it is more than likely our next president will come from either of them. What I propose is a system that would help me (and anyone else) make a better choice this time around.
For the record whether or not the APC or PDP (or another party entirely) win in 2019, I believe what would actually be better for the country is a change in guard at the centre like we had in 2015. If this happens, the consciousness of the average politician would evolve towards performance as a yardstick for continuity in government. He ensures campaign promises are kept. He is angry at aides that use redundancies like ‘wailing wailers’, for fear of voter backlash. We need a country where the voice of the citizen is heard. An anti-corruption Czar like President Buhari should not require letters from Obasanjo to have Babachir Lawal prosecuted. There must be consequences for this inaction. You cannot have Herdsmen kill, maim and go scot free like in Escobar’s Medellin. There must be consequences. You cannot have a country where four million people have lost their jobs in a single year, there must be consequences. It should be clear to an aspiring politician that he can lose an election because he held on to a Babachir Lawal or Diezani.
The 2019 election will likely be a battle between the incumbent President Buhari versus whoever the PDP chooses. It may be a choice between two septuagenarians with checkered political histories. There are three keys factors we should look out for: The personalities of the candidates and their views on restructuring and the most important being their vision for Nigeria.
What has the personality or amiability of a candidate got to do with anything? Everything!
It becomes more obvious now that we are being forced to peer into the human side of our president three years into his presidency. People need to know who their president is. In the twilight of the Jonathan administration, Reuben Abati, wrote The President They Do Not Know when he felt his principal was being misinterpreted. What I propose is not just essays or documentaries about presidential candidates but a deeper understanding of a candidate’s mind.
For instance, we would want to know what books the prospective President reads (fiction or nonfiction), or has written. President Obama had a favorite book list and actually recommended 79 books during his presidency. It would be good to know what charities or non-governmental causes the candidates support. What businesses have they built? Did they fail or succeed? Does the candidate keep pets, and what kind? Does he have a favorite football team? Essentially we want to know if he is human; if he bleeds when cut.
Besides President Obasanjo, we have had people who do cameos. They show up for photo-ops and return to the yilla. Our presidents live private lives. We need to know who the candidates’ mentors in politics are. If he/she needs help with these questions then that individual does not deserve to be president.
Other than running for elections and being a military head of state, PMB’s public life is largely veiled from the electorate. These things are important; they give an insight into his soul. They tell us who he is without the dress rehearsal.
Second, it is quite clear to everyone who cares to listen that major issues facing the nation today can be solved if we restructure the country. Whether we restructure regionally, or adopt a resource control type system is not as important as the realization that we are going nowhere with the present system. We cannot found a democracy on quixotic ideologies from the military. We cannot remain static and play the ostrich, denying gaping evidence to the contrary. America has had major amendments to her constitution and still attempts to do so in the wake of gun control challenges. States or regions should determine how their resources are managed. Any candidate who puts this on the table will get my vote.
Third and most important in the choice of the leader is vision. I am pained every time I see an advertisement on television trying to get me to holiday in Dubai. Dubai and by extension the UAE have the same resources as we do but have fared way better, catapulting their country from a transit fishing village to a marquee tourist destination.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum saw something different. After oil was discovered, he mobilized resources to make his vision a reality.
What do our candidates see for this country? What are they most passionate about? In fairness, we can argue that Buhari is passionate about his distaste for corruption. The people voted him on that score but what he did not realize was that what we actually wanted was the benefit of a non-corrupt society and not the crusade in itself.
The average Nigerian doesn’t actually care if you steal him blind. All he wants is his cut. He wants to have food for himself and his family, a life and a hope for the future. Good schools that he can afford and a chance his kids make something of themselves in life. The Nigerian hates corruption because corruption gets in the way of his own dreams and aspirations. We are not interested in the media trial and sensationalism of corruption cases but in a system that prevents and deters corruption.
One examples of visionary leadership in recent times in Nigeria has been that of Donald Duke. Mr. Duke put Calabar on the map in Nigeria. He gave the people something to buy into. Unfortunately, politics got in the way of his plan (which is why restructuring is needed). But what you cannot take away is that even till today, his vision bring people from all over the world into Calabar every year.
Another example is India. They have a similar demographic as we do, with large diverse population. But consider that technology in India has increased its contribution to India’s GDP from 1.2 percent in 1998 to 7.5 percent in 2012. How did this happen? India invested $3.7 Billion USD in Science and Technology in 2002-2003. Somebody saw their potential and led the way. Big picture.
I want to leader who sees Nigeria as technology hub for Africa and is willing to invest big in the young men and women are toiling daily in computer village Ikeja. I want a leader who would invest in education because he ‘sees’ that with education, he can solve unemployment, crime, insurgency, and militancy.
We do not want Northern, Southern or Eastern leaders with cronyistic leanings who would skew political or military appointment to one ethnic group. We want a nationalist. A man or woman with vision. A person who sees big picture.
A people perish for lack of wisdom, the good book says. And truly, the national dream is perishing. We do not have a vision, no hope, no expectation, and no gumption for fine work. What we have had are a group of mediocres who get into positions and begin to figure out what to do to justify the time. From administration to administration, you may have specs of brilliance, but with no glitter at the end, color pallets with no paintings and a set with no movie.
With these guides in hand, I may not know who I would vote for, but like in 2015, I do know who would not get my vote.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Otaigbe Itua Ewoigbokhan is a Sales Manager in Lagos, Nigeria. He writes fiction and essays during his spare time. His writings have appeared in major Nigerian publications including The Guardian and This Day. He holds a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Benin. A member of the Abuja Literary Society, Otaigbe maintains a blog at ItuaLive! where his focus is politics and culture.
Follow him on twitter @otaigbe05