By: Sonny Iroche
October 31, 2021
The National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has come and gone, following the ruling by the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt, which ruled on Friday, October 29th, against the appeal brought before it by the erstwhile Party chairman, Uche Secondus, who tried to stop the Convention from going ahead on Saturday.
Further to the Convention, and In a post credited to my friend and brother, Osita Chidoka, which paraphrased ‘that no Igbo presidential aspirants, did as much as circulated posters or placed banners to indicate their interest in running for President in 2023, during the PDP National Convention held at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Saturday, October 30, 2021. Perhaps, Chidoka, did not notice that Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa from Abia State in the South East of Nigeria, was shown to have placed his posters and even brought traditional Igbo dancers to the perimeter fence of the Eagle Square.
Going by a deep knowledge and experience of Nigerian politics, and the emergence of at least three of Nigeria’s Presidents; having been a founding member of the PDP, one of the signatories to the joining Agreement between the New Era Association (NERA) with Dr Ekwueme G-35, a National Convener of PDP in Abia State at the formative stage and having contested the Abia gubernatorial primaries in 1998 and contested the PDP National Chairmanship position, when it was zoned to the South East, in 2008. Which was then conferred on Vincent Ogbulafor, by the powers that be at the time. At the time, Ogbulafor did not even print a poster or a banner to emerge as Chairman of PDP. In fact he had only returned a week earlier from an eye operation in India.
It was a mere coronation and a typical political charade, so also are most elections in the country.
A typical example of how presidents emerge in Nigeria, is that of president Obasanjo (OBJ) in 1999. OBJ whom the vested interests landlords of Nigeria, had concluded was going to be the President to take over from the somewhat Interim Abdulsalam Abubakar six- month administration, became very clear, before the PDP Convention in Jos, Plateau State, that Obasanjo was the PDP main stream candidate of choice, by those who funded the party and his candidacy.
Dr Alex Ekwueme, though had his SE support base and his old NPN loyalists (drawing his goodwill as a core politician and Shehu Shagari’s Vice President in the second Republic), was outspent and out maneuvered by the team of well- heeled Generals, led by Generals Babangida and TY Danjuma on the military side. And on the civilian team, led by Mr Fix-It, and ‘The Leader’, late Chief Tony Anenih and Atiku Abubakar with the Shehu YarAdua well oiled and well- tutored in Nigerian political maneuvers PDM machinery behind the OBJ candidacy; Dr Ekwueme and the old NPN brigade and the SE support base had no chance against such a formidable political avalanche. Obasanjo, won the presidential nomination in Jos and with even more financial war chest went on to win the National presidential elections, against the AC candidate, Chief Olu Falae.
Fast forward to the end of Obasanjo’s eight year tenure. Again, in the emergence of the late Umaru YarAdu, as the president, he neither was interested nor indicate any interest for the office. But was rather drafted by the usual vested interest in Nigeria. Not until a few days leading to the PDP convention , did Umaru YarAdua’s name surfaced on the ticket. But all the while it had been a foregone conclusion that Peter Odili was going to be the Presidential candidate of the PDP. In Politics, it’s never over, until the Fat lady sings, as the saying goes.
Just a few days to the PDP convention, Odili was swapped with YarAdua as Presidential candidate and Odili was to become the Vice Presidential candidate. Getting to the Convention, it had been conspired that Odili would be dropped and substituted with Jonathan. It was on the convention ground on that Saturday/ early Sunday morning, that Odili was finally dropped from the ticket and substituted with Jonathan. All that as they say, is now history. However, some of the key players are still alive and relevant today, but may have lost their grip on Nigeria, with the new and emerging vested interests and players filling the vacuum.
I was in a position to know, because I was then very active in politics and was an observer of some of the nuances and happenings at the time.
In the case of the Buhari presidency, which is a known fact that he had contested three previous presidential elections and lost, despite pulling about 12 Million votes, mainly in the North. Not until the merger of his CPC with Bola Tinubu’s ACN to form the APC, was Buhari able to win the Presidential elections at the fourth attempt. Apart from the merger of the two parties which gave it numerical strength, and the support of the South West, the Tinubu’s factor, one of the pupils of Shehu YarAdua’s PDM, put a financial War chest in place, similar to what Chief Anenih and Atiku did for Obasanjo, in support of the Buhari’s candidacy, buoyed and supported by the fact that the Jonathan administration had become very unpopular.
This is only a snippet of how presidents have emerged in the recent history of Nigeria, except for Jonathan that stepped into office, in line with the Constitution, on the death in office of president Umaru YarAdua.
Pertinent Questions To Ask are:
• Must we continue to pretend that we have a genuine democracy, where only a few vested interests, whose main goals are self-seeking, self-centered, corruption and the conversion of our common patrimony to personal and family advantages?
• For how long shall we stay aloof and watch non patriots occupy very critical offices, that determine the economic and socio- political wellbeing of Nigerians?
• For how long will Nigeria, a country that is so blessed and rich in both human and natural resources, is tagged the poverty capital of the world?
• For how long shall we remain docile and watch the unemployment of our youths and misery index run and remain in double digits?
• For how long shall the members of Nigeria’s National Assembly (Senators and Representatives), be the highest paid in the world, when some states can hardly pay the salaries of teachers, civil servants and pensioners.?
• When shall our members of parliament engage us in parliamentary surgeries, as practiced in some advanced democracies. To listen to us and some of our concerns? And they in turn tell us how well they are representing us?
• For how long shall the monthly Security Votes of Governors, which run into billions remain unaccounted for and unaudited?
• When shall we demand and hold our political office holders accountable to us?
• whether the video that recently went viral of pupils in a school in Makoko in Lagos with their feet in polluted flood water, yet singing the National Anthem, whether staged or orchestrated; the truth is that such slums as depicted in Makoko, do exist in many nooks and crannies of Nigeria- South, North, East and West.
At over 60 years of age, people in my generation, can say without equivocation, that Nigeria was good to my father’s and my generation. So, people of my generation, should not contemplate relocating out of Nigeria or have a Plan B. For some of our relocation and Plan B countries went through some of the challenges that Nigeria is facing today and were able to overcome it. We too shall definitely and surely overcome the current state of our dysfunctional country . It took us long to get to the point that we are today and It would equally take us long to fix it. But let us begin.
We attended quality free primary education at some point in this same country.
We attended, some of the best Government Colleges and Missionary Secondary Schools. Some of us studied for our Masters and PhD degrees in and outside Nigeria and gave excellent accounts of our academic standing- Tall.
In the early 1970s, at the three campuses of the University of Nigeria (Nsukka, Enugu and Calabar), undergraduates were two in a room, at worst three. There were no swatters.
In my Zoology department at the Calabar campus, there were about 15-20 of us in class. All the lectures knew each and everyone of us by name. Same was applicable at the other two campuses.
The story is not the same today, let me just end that story here. Today’s undergraduate can fill the gap.
WHERE DID WE GET IT WRONG AS A COUNTRY?
Now back to the looming Nigeria President come 2023.
Nigeria’s President , and/or any high profile political offices from past experience are usually not decided at political parties conventions, (PDP or APC) or by the distribution of banners and flyers on the convention venue.
For any meaningful presidential aspirations to achieve his/her ambition, now is the time to
1) put ears on the ground- intelligence gathering
2) like it or not, consult Washington and London, who are our main development partners. Who runs Nigeria, may be critical to them, being some of our trading partners and the leading economies of the Free world.
3) earnestly court the other ethnic groups in the country, in order to assuage their fears and apprehension and to win their trust.
4) like Zik said in 1979; “it is too early to dance in public, when the music has not started”. Those who do, Zik continues, “risk breaking their legs before the real dance starts”
Watch and Pray. After all human permutations, God still has the final say.
What Nigeria needs today, is a president that can:
• build trust across all ethnic nationalities and unite the country. • mold Nigeria into a nation state
• a man or woman who has the will, strength, domestic and international reach.
• someone who is experienced in leadership in the various sectors of human development such as economic sector, some modicum of experience in security/intelligence/military in any form or shape; infrastructure.
• a presidential aspirant who can win the trust of all the ethnic nationalities.
SOME RECOMMENDATIONS & WAY FORWARD
1. Justice for All Nigerians, irrespective of state, class or creed
2. Restructure Nigeria to it pre-1966 coup to a true Federation
3. Allow each regional block autonomy to federate along the lines of a New and possibly Amended Constitution to be written by we the people
4. Let each Region or State mine their resources and enter into as many trade agreements as they choose to
5. Decentralization of the Nigeria Police Services, to allow for regional or state policing. I had in the past opposed the idea, due to the fear of politicizing the police by state Governors against their opponents. But weighed against the unprecedented state of insecurity in the country, and new realities, the benefits outweigh the cost.
6. Scrap the bicameral parliamentary system to unicameral, to save cost
7. Revert to the parliamentary system of government, to ensure adequate and proper representation of the people and cost saving.
8. Hopefully, a new constitution would scrap and/or address such divisive and unfair practices, such as state of origin and emphasize the Secular Status of Nigeria in very clear terms.
9. Merit based admissions and employment into Federal and State own institutions
10. Privatize a number of the State Owned Enterprises, including the Federal Secondary and Tertiary Institutions, transport (Railways and Water transport)
11. Grant the Central Bank of Nigeria, full autonomy. And the Federal government should desist from interference with the CBN. Further, create three Strong Regional CBN, in the North, East and Western Regions, to run and cater for the peculiar economies of those regions.
12. Restrict ex Governors, in a kind of Constitutional Garden Leave, not to contest for Senate, until at least 10 years, post exit from the office of the Governor.
NIGERIA CAN BE GREAT AGAIN IF WE PUT SOME, IF NOT ALL OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS ABOVE. IT SEEMS A TALL ORDER, YET ACHIEVABLE, IF WE WISH TO AVOID THE LIKELY UNSAVORY ALTERNATIVE OUTCOME.