By Ken Eluma Asogwa
You cannot wish this country well and vote for someone you do not believe in” — Yemi Osinbajo, June 7, 2022.
The above quote, which I consider the most powerfully-rendered line by any living Nigerian politician, sets the tone for this discourse. Although I have never vied for a political office, I have nonetheless been a partisan politician, at least for the last 12 years. Just like an average Nigerian politician, I have also junketed from one party to another, ostensibly because our political parties are merely platforms to win elections; none has any ideological underpinning. My last sojourn was in the APC wherein I wasted an irrecoverable 5 years of my time before getting infected with the burgeoning harmless “Obidient” bug.
Without discounting the chances of the other fringe candidates in the upcoming 2023 presidential poll, this conversation would largely center on three (3) contenders – Alh. Atiku Abubakar, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Mr Peter Obi – mainly so that the analysis would not be unwieldy.
At exactly 8:44 p.m. on June 21, 2022, I received a WhatsApp message from a very respected septuagenarian veteran journalist that ran thus: “Ogbuefi, with this your nonsense ‘Obedience’ you Igbos are trying to marginalise we Yorubas again. Awa lo kan. We no go gree”. Though I was disappointed, especially given the fact that it came from a well-travelled journalist who should have overtime disrobed his ethnic cloak, I was however not surprised because I have long realized that Nigeria’s major problems stem not from the illiterate uninformed rural dwellers, but mainly from the highly educated ones who shape the public opinion that the innocent poor masses go to town with.
In Chinua Achebe’s 1983 masterpiece titled The Trouble with Nigeria, Achebe tried to heap all Nigeria’s woes on leadership failures. With the greatest respect to Achebe’s insights into the Nigerian socio-political challenges, I believe that his conclusions might have been largely informed by the events of that era. Nigeria’s key problems in contemporary times, I argue, can easily be located around followership. It beggars belief that today’s Nigerian voter who has seen hell in the last 23 years of rudderless successive leaderships would consider casting his/her vote for either Asiwaju or Atiku when there is a Peter Obi on the same ballot. That is what bigotry does! It indeed blights critical thinking.
Even though the way Obi is being canonized by some of his fanatical supporters does not resonate with me, he nevertheless still remains the only candidate who has seized every conceivable opportunity to tell Nigerians what he hopes to do differently when elected. Obi’s central message is moving Nigeria from consumption to production. This message is very unambiguous, concise and easy to understand by even the illiterate ones amongst us.
Sector by sector, Obi has told Nigerians what he hopes to do in every sphere of our national pursuit. He has told the North what he hopes to do with the vast arable lands in the North. Obi has laid down his plans on how to move Lagos which is currently the second most unlivable city in the world, under the watch of Tinubu’s successive lackeys in government, to a world-class livable mega city. Region after region, Obi has regaled us with his beautiful plans for Nigeria. The last time we saw flashes of such beautiful dreams was in the 2nd Republic when we had Awo, Zik and co in the pack.
Conversely, Tinubu has never left anyone in doubt about the reason he is seeking to be the president. Just like my older friend in the above WhatsApp story, the feeling of Awa lo kan has been the central force driving his candidature. He reiterated this in Abeokuta shortly before the APC primaries wherein he openly stated that it was his turn to govern Nigeria. This is the mindset of the candidate that Egbon wants me to vote for. May God forbid it!
I told my Egbon, whom I have always known to be staunchly cocooned in ethnic irredentism, that the only reason he would choose a certain Asiwaju over a Peter Obi is simply that the former bears Bola as a name while the latter’s name is Obi. I also reminded him that I would have remained in the APC if Prof. Yemi Osinbajo had secured the APC ticket, but that I would not in all honesty cast my vote for either Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu or Atiku Abubakar, two men who have refused to render accounts of their past stewardship.
It has been copiously written by various persons who are in the know that Tinubu returned from exile penniless in 1998. In short, it has been written that he had his gubernatorial posters printed for free by Segun Osoba and Yinka Odumakin due to his inability to fund it. This same man is today a bullion van collector and we are not asking questions! In the same vein, Atiku Abubakar retired from Customs in 1989 and just three years after leaving public office, without any record of business undertaking, he was already vying for the presidential election ticket of the SDP and no one has taken him to task on how he made the money. Tufiakwa!
On the issue of deliverables when elected into office, I am yet to hear Atiku say one thing he would do when voted into power. In short, as a matter of fact, he returned from Dubai (where I understand he has been residing since 2019), “bought” the presidential ticket and relocated back to Dubai. Apparently, he is waiting for the general election wherein he hopes to again come back home to “buy” himself into Aso Rock. But it is heart-warming to see splinters of resistance coming from different quarters. I am certain that given the present trajectory, his deep pocket would no doubt disappoint him on D-day. The SoroSoke spirit of the year 2020 is now gradually being reawakened, and given the level of ongoing sensitization, both Atiku and Asiwaju would be made to kiss the dust, their bullion vans notwithstanding.
It is befuddling to see that the above two persons who should in saner climes be stigmatized by society are being followed by some Nigerians whose futures the duo has pocketed. One of them is said to have been fingered in a bribery case in America that led to the successful conviction of an American Congressman, while the other is said to have run a drug cartel under various aliases in same America. One is said to be involved in identity theft that has ensured that he has changed his name from Yekini Amoda Ogunlere to Bola Ahmed Tinubu, while the other is said to have been implicated in the Siemens bribery scandal while serving as the Vice President of Nigeria.
One is said to have committed perjury while giving his particulars to INEC in 1999, while the other is said to have been involved in the PTDF slush funds scandal of 2006. One told INEC that he acquired a university degree without first attending primary and secondary schools, hence building something on nothing, while the other was indicted by an Administrative Panel of Inquiry in 2006 that tried to bar him from holding public office in Nigeria. It is said that one is from Osun State, and not Lagos State as he would have us believe, while the other was alleged by no less a personality than President Buhari in the 2019 Presidential Election Petition to have come from Cameroon. The dirt is just endless!
Let’s be clear on one thing: Nigeria’s present morass requires a radical departure from the norm. The above duo represents all that ails us. From all that we have seen, the Nigerian state is gradually winding up. Terrorists in different guises have taken over our national space and here we are trying to micro-manage governance. Nigerians are drowning every day in the Mediterranean while going in search of elusive greener pastures in Europe but here we are discussing whether a candidate is Nyamiri or Omo Igbo, or whether it is time for Awa lo kan or whether it is time for Nigeria to entrust presidential powers in the hands of persons from certain regions.
Crucially, people should be made to understand that 2023 has gone beyond Peter Obi being electable or not. It is largely about Nigeria surviving the next decade. The sovereignty of the Nigerian state is daily being challenged by non-state actors and it is important to understand that poverty is at the heart of insecurity in Nigeria. Kidnapping for ransom is gaining traction because the people have got no work to do. The only man who has expressed clear vision on how to resolve some of these lingering challenges is Peter Obi.
Aside from Obi’s visions, he carries less baggage than others. He is not a Saint (and I don’t think he has marketed himself in that light) but he remains our best available option if we are truly interested in salvaging whatever is left of our broken Nigeria. When an online newspaper claimed that his investment in the International Breweries was $12.5m, and not the $20m as he claimed, a certain Twitter user wrote an interesting piece. According to him, three persons are seeking public office, two are alleged to have stolen from the public treasury while the third is said to have invested public funds in the public interest. Intriguingly, the masses have spared the two who are said to have stolen, while upbraiding the third for investing a lower amount than he claimed to have invested. That is a very unfair reproach!
We, therefore, owe it to God and the Country to ensure that the right leadership is enthroned in Nigeria in 2023. And Peter Obi remains our best possible option in that regard. Like Prof. Yemi Osinbajo fittingly said, you cannot wish your country well and vote for someone you do not believe in.
Mr Asogwa, a lawyer and foreign relations expert, is the CEO of Afri Forecasts.