News The African Way

Nigeria: Who the cap fits?, By Wole Olaoye

“Why is nobody putting me under pressure to contest for an office? Where are my people?”, asked Jibrin Ibrahim on Twitter. One of the interesting replies he provoked was by M J Balogun (@balogunjide1), a former director-general, Administrative Staff College of Nigeria: “We, your people, are here! We want you to run. We have the brain and all. But here is the “but”– we have no money, no thugs, and no certified poll riggers. Still ready to run?”

That exchange is no laughing matter. It shows the obstacles stacked against honest people with capacity to make a difference in their country but who have to be consigned to political irrelevance on account of lacking the triune factors of money, agents of violence and electoral manipulation.

At the last count, 35 politicians have signalled their intention to vie for the highest office in the land. Some are serious aspirants while others are serious jokers, but most are either moneybags or have access to limitless funds with which to buy the office.

It is difficult not to be bemused by the ambition of Madam Nonye Josephine Ezeanyaeche, the 102-year-old grandma who made her presidential ambition known through the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). Party-less as at the time of declaration, the grandma is miffed that younger politicians have so far come up short. If not for the fact that this is Nigeria where the river bathes in the women and mango trees climb children, I would have laughed at Madam Ezeanyaeche’s joke. As it is, the joke is on the rest of us non-centenarians.

There are five other women presidential aspirants from the SDP, PDP, APC, PRP and APGA. It is not prophetic to say that, as far as the presidential race in today’s Nigeria is concerned, they are going nowhere.

Let’s now take a random look at the probables, the possibles and the outright charlatans.

Yemi Osinbajo and Bola Tinubu seem to be frontrunners in the All Progressives Congress (APC) but appearances could be deceptive. So far, Osinbajo has conducted his campaign with dignity and restraint, while the same cannot be said of Tinubu, whose supporters are irritating the public with their claims of his entitlement, as if Nigeria’s presidency is an APC heirloom. The tag of Judas does not sit well on Osinbajo but it diminishes Tinubu and exposes him to dangerous controversy, for, if Osinbajo is Judas, is Tinubu Jesus?

However, Osinbajo had better realise that the serious business of presidential aspiration requires very exacting due diligence. I hope he has benefitted from Victor Oladokun’s masterful assessment of the declaration speech: “Why VP Osinbajo’s presidential declaration got it wrong on so many levels: Why Communication and Branding Matters”. Going forward, let the masters design and review your communications stratagems. Intellectual endowment without tying the bolts and nuts of communication and branding is vacuous.

Some political technicians within the APC are trying to engineer the candidacy of Emeka Nwajiuba, current minister of state for Education, as the ultimate dark horse. Don’t laugh! More frightening stratagems are known to have been hatched in this land, which is home to the world’s happiest people (haw-haw-haw)!

Whatever our ideological persuasions, I think it is good to keep our reactions civil. That is why I find the description of Rochas Okorocha, Anyim Pius Anyim, Dave Umahi, Yahaya Bello, Ayodele Fayose, Orji Uzor Kalu, Ihechukwu Dallas Chima, Tunde Bakare and Nwachukwu Anakwenze as gap-fillers rather uncharitable. These are presidential aspirants for crying out loud! But I think we all agree that they are probably in the race as a bargaining chip for some other political appointment if and when….

One of the most hardworking aspirants on the field is political economist Kingsley Moghalu, a former deputy governor of the central bank. He has managed to cast himself in the mould of a man with a mission, without the toxic verbiage of some of his co-aspirants. In addition, he is not known to carry any ethical baggage — which is more than can be said of another credible aspirant, Peter Obi. But I haven’t yet come across anyone who can fault Obi on his capacity (the new magic word in our political lexicon) for the job. Don’t ask about Amaechi.

I have heard the whispers of some patriots who want to draft a continental champion, Akinwumi Adesina, to come and fix the country of his birth. Noble idea! If a man can do it on the continental stage, he certainly can help his own country. But I foresee two hurdles: (a) the protagonists of this view assume that they can easily persuade Adesina to leave the presidency of the African Development Bank for the presidency of Nigeria; (b) they assume that their idealism for the transformation of Nigeria is shared by the political leadership.

Perpetual aspirant Atiku Abubakar has all it takes to give Bukola Saraki, Nyesom Wike, Udom Emmanuel, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Bala Mohammed a run for their money within the PDP. However, Nigerians don’t seem to consider any of them attractive enough. Tambuwal’s strategy of basing his messaging on the false premise that only a Northern muslim candidate can win Nigeria’s presidency is already backfiring. There ought to be more intelligent arguments against zoning than this ethno-religious fib.

Sam Ohuabunwa and Dele Momodu are also in the race. I know both men personally. I suppose the ethical thing to do is to leave the Nigerian public to decide on their aspiration. Sam got to the zenith of his career at Pfizer/Neimeth Pharmaceuticals and went on to attain the presidency of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria. Dele is a General in journalism and public relations. The most any well wisher can do is wish them well.

In the APC, the impression is given that whoever the incumbent president favours will emerge as the Nigeria’s president. Fallacy! If the party operates on that wavelength, it will find out in the general elections that Nigerians don’t set their political clocks by Buhari’s timepiece. It is understandable, though, that all aspirants will try as much as they can to humour the incumbent president for the simple reason that it is better to have him on one’s side. But don’t oversell his value because he comes with a lot of baggage.

So, what should Nigerians do? Simple! They should, this time around, apply good old common sense in choosing the country’s next chief executive. The next president must be able to synthesise Ganduje’s ranching programme with Zulum’s total devotion to alleviating the suffering of internally displaced persons, Akeredolu’s and el Rufa’i’s zero tolerance for insecurity and Soludo’s refreshing common touch, to deliver a new Nigeria. Nigeria does not need another monarchical president.

This commonsensical reminder in the shape of an obituary published in the London Times brings the point home:

“Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense… He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; Why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn’t always fair; And maybe it was my fault.

“Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

“His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place… Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

“Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault. Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust; by his wife, Discretion; by his daughter, Responsibility; and by his son, Reason.

“He is survived by his five stepbrothers: I Know My Rights; I Want It Now; Someone Else Is To Blame; I’m A Victim; Pay me for Doing Nothing.

“Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone.”

Under normal circumstances, a country should be throwing up its best elements for leadership. A situation where a school certificate failure is all the qualification required to become president, while a local government councillor must have a pass certificate cannot take any country out of underdevelopment.

About time we re-enthroned common sense and selected as presidential candidate for any and all of our political parties, whoever the cap/headgear fits! If you ask me, it is people like Adesina and Jibrin that we should be lobbying to be our chief servant.

Wole Olaoye is a public relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021.

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