BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, let me confess straightaway that I have a special space for 2BABA formally known as TUFACE IDIBIA. It is impossible to meet this perfect gentleman and not fall for him. I’ve come to know him reasonably well since his days with the Plantashion Boyz when I invited and took some of the hottest artists to the Obafemi Awolowo University for the biggest show ever, the Ovation Concert. It was a night to remember for many students who were fortunate to attend the event that evening. One thing that always stands 2BABA out is his humility. He is humble to a fault. He has of course been very nice to me generally. Our paths have crossed in far-flung places like Canada and Australia and the love and respect between us is always palpable.
Therefore, when news broke about two weeks ago that he was planning to lead a nationwide protest against the Buhari government, I was genuinely and seriously stunned. Never did 2BABA cut the image of a radical in my view. At best, I knew him to sing love songs and offer subtle criticism of government policies or human suffering. He is one of the most comfortable singers in Africa and my opinion was that he could not be expected to risk anything that would jeopardise his comfort zone. But after watching his recorded videos concerning the planned protest which had gone viral on social media, my incredulity started turning to credulity and credibility. So 2BABA was going to do what some of us had attempted in the past, activity that had landed me in detention at CID Alagbon detention centre Ikoyi, and later forced me to exile in London for three solid years under the dreaded regime of General Sani Abacha, I soliloquised.
Holy Jesus, I screamed. This was it and let’s see how it would play out, I thought aloud as I journeyed around Africa in connection with my job. As days climbed days, we his admirers waited with bated breath. Will government listen to the cries of the people or will government get angry and summarily massacre the citizens in a shooting spree? I doubted such possibility at this time and age and knew 2BABA to be too gentle to cause unnecessary mayhem in the land of his birth, or indeed anywhere else. I decided to encourage and support him him with my modest social media presence. Something needed to be established once and for all; that no Nigerian should be deprived of his right to participate in a peaceful demonstration in our dear country. Freedom of expression and association continue to be fundamental and inalienable rights of every citizen in our democracy and, more importantly, under our Constitution.
Anyway, the dream of witnessing a revolution led by 2BABA, the most unlikely candidate for such venture, opened my eyes to fresh realities. I was cocksure that 2BABA and company would never be deterred or scared by the fear of some armed security guys. It was not I thought going to be a protest that would die with only a whimper, ending up as all noise and sound but no fury. I also trusted that those organising the peaceful demonstration would have to do something about the real risk of breakdown of law and order by hoodlums and political flunkies who would be manipulated to disrupt and distort the noble aims of the organisers.
Barely hours to the start of the protests, news filtered in again that 2BABA and his friends had called off the demonstrations. Who was pulling my legs, I imagined/ The news soon spread like wildfire. There were speculations that 2BABA had been threatened by some government agents. No one could verify the authenticity of all the conspiracy theories. The video lackadaisical video that 2BABA put out did nothing to dispel the views and theories, one way or the other. What was important was that another opportunity to galvanise Nigerian youths into taking their destinies in their own hands had just evaporated into thin air. 2BABA came out in yet another broadcast to warn his friends not to come out on the streets. Many of those who expected some action were obviously disappointed. Some even attacked him as a lily-livered man who promised what he could not deliver. As for me and my house, I knew all the things that could have transpired and how tough it would have been for many of the silver-spoon kids who were largely his followers to follow through on their threats.
That is why I have started out in my headline by describing this generation of youths as an ajebota one, youths who grew up on bread and butter and not village-trained ones who fed on dusty rough meals like us. We should not have expected them to have the kind of tenacity we enjoyed in our time from secondary school, through to University and teaching, when we confronted tear gas and bullets on the streets. This particular generation is blessed with computers, smartphones and social media. They can hide behind some tiny screens to throw darts and arrows at their perceived enemies. We were being stupidly optimistic to have expected so much more from them. However, I was not too surprised or utterly disappointed. I was happy 2BABA had stirred the hornets’ nests and for whatever it is worth, my belief is that it is going to wake up the Buhari government from its deep slumber and seeming reticence or complacency, whatever word you can find in the lexicon. The time has come to, at least, tickle this government and hope that something good can still come out of them.
That symbolic act for me was still an achievement. The future of Nigeria lies in the hands of the youths. I’m not so interested in their street protests but in the efficacy of their votes. For far too long, the Nigerian youths have failed to make use of the power and strength of their majority population to affect their nation positively. I am in a way part of a guilty generation of youths that failed our nation in that way. Another generation is now behind ours. All we continue to hear is that the ancient generation has refused to hand over power, firstly to us, and now, to them. But they studiously forget that they have to go all out to wrestle for power. The youths of Nigeria have always suffered from self-doubt by singing the same endless chorus of “It is not possible, it is not possible for us to take power…” However, we must be reminded that this ancient generation that we speak about did wrestle power from the colonialists in their youth.
The youths don’t seem to realise that when one of their own comes out to contest, they are the first to shoot him down and say he lacks experience. However, what they call “experience” is mainly the ability to have looted enough funds while serving in one government position or the other and coming back years later to buy everyone with this loot. If elections were held tomorrow, I won’t be surprised if our youths vote again for men in their seventies under one excuse or the other. I can speak authoritatively on this as someone who came out genuinely to champion the cause of the younger generation a few years ago. Everyone else was qualified to run for presidential election but not a publisher. A Soldier, Police officer, Customs officer, Teacher, and others were eligible because they had somehow served in one government or the other but not an international Publisher who on account of his job had been able to be close to governance in many countries. Many, in fact, took delight in poking fun rather than look objectively at the credentials and programmes of each candidate objectively, thoroughly and dispassionately. They did not consider any guiding principle or ideology. They were hoodwinked and mesmerised by the old foxes who had amassed wealth legally or illegally. At the end of the day, they were sorely disappointed.
The story of Nigeria is not about age or generation alone. President Goodluck Jonathan, if we are to believe his official records, was not that old when he became President. He is easily the most experienced leader Nigeria could ever have in terms of service at the highest level of each tier of government. He rose through the ranks going through the gamut of governance as Lecturer, Agency Director, Deputy Governor, Acting Governor, Governor, Vice President, Acting President and substantive President. What more could we have asked from a candidate? But he still could not take us to the promised land. After him, we have now tried a man with the age and wisdom of Methuselah in President Muhammadu Buhari but it is still no longer at ease. What then is the solution and what is the future of Nigeria?
As always, I will propose a few things. My humble thesis that while it might not really matter in all instances, a country like Nigeria once again deserves some injection of youthfulness in governance. It seems that we have once again returned to the nascent days of our struggle for independence from our colonial masters, except that the independence that we now seek is from a corrupt, incompetent and twisted gerontocratic oligarchy. Anyone above 60 to 65 may soon become a liability to the nation. Those who made retirement age to stand at 60 and, with certain exceptions 65, were not stupid. The law of diminishing return begins to set in once you cross that age barrier.
I wish and hope that Nigerians would support some bright and smart Nigerians in the next dispensation. Buhari for a variety of reasons does not deserve to run again but it is his prerogative to run if he so chooses. If he does not, then within his party, the coast should be clear for younger folks to run. The baton could go to the likes of Yemi Osinbajo, the current Vice President, Bukola Saraki, the current Senate President, Nasr El Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode. From PDP I can think of Godswill Akpabio and Ben Bruce and from the currently non-aligned, Oby Ezekwesili, Donald Duke and Fola Adeola stand out. There are so many others from APC, PDP and the other fringe parties.
Running a nation is not rocket science. What matters most is performance over and above our obsession with fighting corruption. Corruption would reduce when we bring on board competent and hardworking men and women who love their country and are willing to perform and not just attain power for self-aggrandizement and the fun of it.
Please, note that I can’t be bothered about party affiliation for now. I’m more interested in performance only. I’m also disinterested in zoning formula. I don’t really care where our next President comes from. We have wasted enough time and resources on primordial sentiments and we should move forward or perish in the process of sticking to our old ways of doing things. If we truly wish to get Nigeria out of this quagmire, we should be prepared to do the unusual and go for radical reforms. We all seem to know what is wrong with Nigeria but refuse to do the needful. This is one of the reasons I am happy with the Ajebota generation as they seem to care less about those primordial ethnic and religious feelings that have for so long been a huge divisive setback to our progress as a nation.
We must seek very modern, well-educated, urbane, civilised, exposed, energetic, accomplished, detribalised, visionaries as leaders. Please, note that I did not say a saint because we are not likely to find one anywhere. Murtala Mohammed was no saint but in the few months that he governed he brought discipline, respect and performance to Nigeria. Enough of experimenting dangerously as time has already left us behind. We need to search critically and frantically from every part of Nigeria and beyond since God has blessed us with incredible talents.
Next we must reduce the cost of governance drastically because our country is haemorrhaging heavily and it is being killed quickly. The atrocious resources we waste on public office holders can never augur well for our nation. Under President Buhari, a man who is well known for frugality, the cost of running the presidential villa has been most disappointing and embarrassing. Nigeria needs to declare a state of emergency on the current spending spree or collapse under the weight of our reckless profligacy.
The next leader must demonstrate practical ways of bringing our infrastructural deficit to a reasonable level. It has become obvious that a typical politician would only come to waste four to eight years and this is not the type of leaders we need. If we fail to act and only succeed in bringing another ceremonial leader to Aso Rock, then it means Nigeria is jinxed, doomed and sentenced to eternal damnation and perdition. We should then blame no one for our woes but ourselves…