By Chukwuemeka Otuchikere
My essay is in response to the opinion of Leonard Karshima Shilgba, a writer I have come to admire and respect having read several of his articles which, most times, has a nationalistic fervour and broad-based appeal.
However, in his publication titled ‘The Nigeria I see’ I strongly disagree with some of his postulations as concerning the need for Nigeria to ‘change’ the current president Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan (GEJ) by voting the All Progressive’s Congress (APC) candidate, General Mahammadu Buhari (GMB). Shilgba appealed somewhere in the write up – ‘even if just for the sake of experiencing change, we should vote out the incumbent’. Shilgba is literally asking the electorate to take a gamble with their future. He further highlighted the fact that GEJ promised to run for one term in 2011 and has rescinded, which act is now considered the ‘unforgivable’ sin. Shilgba did not spare words, though he asserted without any empirical evidence that General Mohammadu Buhari (GMB), whom for the purpose of this essay will be referred to as ‘Mr. Promise’ has more appeal and by inference more credibility than the incumbent GEJ.
It is true that Mr. Promises’ unique selling point has been his proposed war on corruption. His unequivocal declaration that he was going to deal ruthlessly with perpetrators of sleaze had captured the imagination of his teeming supporters. Many believe that under Mr. Promise, Nigeria, and indeed, Nigerians will be corruption-free. On the other hand a lot of critics have equally expressed their cynicism that the idea of Nigeria being free of corruption is just too seductive to say the least.
While many of us wish Mr. Promise success, the argument has always been that Mr. Promise is debate-shy and as such, has not been able to let Nigerians know how he intends to eradicate this endemic scourge called corruption bleeding the nation to death.
Going by the proverbial body language of Mr. Promise, he may be tempted again to hound the people into jail with long terms as in his first outing in 1983.
I will advice that GMB, carry out a detailed forensic calibration of the incorruptibility index of his ‘new’ found political allies, most of whom until very recently, were also very key players in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which Mr. Promise accuse of being a hotbed of corruption this last 16 years.
In the years of PDP rule, Nigerians were gradually shedding off the ethnic and religious toga as benchmark for acceptability within political circles. Like Shilgba observed, and correctly too, Mr. Incumbent, GEJ has a mix-grill of capable Nigerians working closely with him, from all ethnic nationalities. Fairly and evenly spread across two major religions-Christianity and Islam.
Mr. Promise may not be so inclined to honour the codes of all inclusiveness. Many in the time past had accused him of being an unrepentant ethnic champion, who often heat up the polity with incendiary, uncensored comments such as ‘Muslims should only cast votes for Muslim candidates’. Like all pious Muslims, Mr. Promise had equally advocated for Sharia law to be given greater recognition in our legal and judicial system. Some of these positions have made GMB a difficult sale in some sections of the nation. Most of whose belief is that it is important that the Federal Republic of Nigeria maintains its secularism.
While I agree with Shilgba that most Nigerian political elite subscribe to a cause to serve a private or personal agenda which is often kept out of the view of the masses who support them, in this matter, I conclude that the fierceness of this presidential contest is not about giving Nigerians exemplary leadership nor ensuring that they have access to a decent lifestyle. The battle is centered around who gets control of the nation’s vast oil wealth. Who gets the lion’s share of juicy contracts, choice employment opportunities and key infrastructural development.
It is about time that Nigerians begin to see beyond the charade sold to them as party manifesto. Governance in Nigeria from first Republic till date has only succeeded in transforming the lives of political office holders who, due to the unrestricted access to colossal state resources, have been busy feathering their own nest while doling out crumbs to those willing to shout, kick out and lick their boots.
GMB is still in the mold of a self – centered messianic absolute ruler. If indeed Buhari is interested in Nigeria, let him anoint a successor. Age and health are not on his side. Leadership without a succession plan is actually failure. GMB cannot be the only Nigerian adverse to corruption. We certainly need a more youthful, intelligent and vibrant Nigerian to pilot the affairs of this country. Somebody commented that the age of Methusellah has no direct linear correlation with the wisdom of Solomon. Nigerians will benefit if we stop recycling our retired men who have served this country in their youthful days while so many virile young people are still tied to their apron strings. GMB has given Nigerians his best during the 1980’s and 1990’s. We all appreciate his services during the Abacha regime.
So, Shilgba, I will be more comfortable if you can propose a credible alternative, a man or woman with verifiable qualifications both academically and with proven leadership experience to take Nigeria to the next level. Mr. Promise will most likely remain in the realm of promises or, worst still, unfulfilled promises. The task ahead might easily require a new set of skills besides the daring hard-man image. We need men with brain, integrity and brawn.
Mr. Chukwuemeka Otuchikere, a geologist, Businessman and public commentator wrote in from Calabar.
Written: February 2015