Opinion: How to become president of Nigeria

by Basil Fadipe

All we do is shed crocodile tears, lamenting why we always seem to end up with spotted predators perched on our rocks and waiting to pounce.

When I saw our president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, on television doing his media chat last week, I had mixed emotions. Subsequently, when I read the negative rating given him by a US-based Ghanaian academic, I could empathise with his premises, not his logic.

Jonathan’s logic was plainly under-theorised. For his rating, he had failed to examine the factors that uniquely line the path to the presidency in the complexity called Nigeria.

Choosing a new pope from within the ranks of cardinals, a senior member once said: “If, as a cardinal, you walk into the conclave a pope, you come out a cardinal”. No matter how assured you are of your winning chances as a contending cardinal, you must approach the voting chamber, not as though you already a pope, but as a humble contestant. In the same way, if you walk into Nigerian presidential politics, you emerge at the other end non-president.

To emerge president, you must step back first from presidential qualities. You must climb down from any moral or philosophical high grounds that you inhabit. To remain pristine is to court ineligibility.

You must walk your way down elegantly and without remorse into the plains and shrubs below where the voters transact in updated incivilities bordering on splendid barbarism. Otherwise, you will be taken for a joker.

A joker still has a place in Nigerian politics, even if not Aso Rock. But being labelled a joke is an embarrassing reversal of fortune, a curse of some sorts.

To step back from pristine virtuosities is to step forward, not into ridicule or political landmine, but well into your path to Aso Rock. You must lift up your overflowing robes and guide your steps calculatedly back into bigotry, corruption, tribalism, greed, hypocrisy, and then the trophy finds you.

Only such retrograde steps will land you welcomed into the emotional doorsteps of those who will anoint you and anoint they will, if once at that doorstep, your immaculacy still rolled up, you demonstrate consummate bargaining, skilled horse-trading, and an uncanny capacity to speak from both sides of your mouth as you whistle through the middle.

For bigotry, Nigeria spawns three kinds: the Christian, the Muslim and ironically the academic. With each one, you must feign his art and learning to play ‘Catholic more than the pope.’

They are all three of a kind; each, through book or books, disciplined or programmed into unyielding straitjacket views of the world around. Unless you promise to step back into their tunnels, you risk emerging a joke at the end.

Each of the three inhabits a tunnel dug through years of selective schooling and relentless programatisation. The prototype academic has schooled himself into such narrow straits that he now knows more and more about less and less until he knows so much about pretty little and yet, may be the first to want to co-pilot your train totally un-ingratiated with the uncharted ruggedness (not ivory-tower-ness) of the vermiform track ahead.

If he is no fake, the prototype Christian sees no path to progress unless through his own. Your presidential train must, if need be, snake and roar through tunnels of non- eclectic doctrines, blind to realities beyond the tunnels. And unless you promise a deal, concealing any contending purity you may otherwise harbour in your heart, you risk an exodus even before genesis. His Muslim brother, perhaps enemy, is no different except perhaps more self-righteous, more royally blinded, looking but not seeing, and demanding that you, the aspirant, come within his cauldron.

You must laugh and drink with the corrupt. By the time you land on his doorstep, if anything is still left of your immaculate robe, turn it inside out else the stains will deface the garb at its least appropriate. You must show willing and fruitful apprenticeship to successfully graduate from the work shed of the corrupt. But you must not graduate without having first pilfered a few items from his toolbox.

The path to Aso Rock will be perilously unforgiving if you step out of the shed into the path, unknitted with tools to price open a kitty. As a matter of pragmatism, the deans of the shed will never let you off unless they are assured your DNA is now mixable with theirs and the product runs an immutable eternity with room for future genetic materials cloned from shed elements.

To be detribalised is to risk treacherous isolation. Your kith and kin by words or action want your trust and commitment to assure them that lifting you up also means lifting up themselves. You must step back into their chamber to whisper out the arrangements but in clearly audible decibels or you may miss your train by missing the whistle summons to embark, drowned in village mumbles.

The Greedy is ubiquitous. They need assurance that you recognise and appreciate the bottomlessness of their pits. That, even in famine, their personal pots must constantly overrun: the meals, cooked, hot, spiced and glazed; the spoons perennially golden.

The citizens, who are the manufacturers of the leopard are forever shameless. Otherwise how is it that the spots we see on our leopard king now look strange and unacceptable when each spot or crop of them came from individuals or groups during his horse-trading campaign rounds?

All we do is shed crocodile tears, lamenting why we always seem to end up with spotted predators perched on our rocks and waiting to pounce. We de-robe the aspirant, steadily stripping him of his erstwhile spotless garb. The skilled tailors that we are, we re-robe him at every doorstep, but only in our own spotted sartorial images.

If we each pluck off any of the spots we had earlier stuck on Jonathan, what we might get with good luck is a president so lovely and spotless. So when the Washington-based Economics professor went on Twitter to mourn that Nigerians do not deserve a president of such “unsound mind”, he should have first read all of the birthing theories behind our electioneering filters.

First published in the Punch.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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