Okey Ndibe writes that the Presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party is the best

Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) is by far the best presidential candidate in this weekend’s general elections. By any rational measure, he towers above the two men touted as frontrunners in the presidential race—incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Moghalu is so superior to the two men that—in a political universe that wasn’t absurd—both Buhari and Atiku would not be in the running at all. Instead, they would cast their votes for the YPP’s candidate.

Of course, one is not holding one’s breath for President Buhari and former Vice President Atiku to endorse Moghalu. Nor am I surprised that many Nigerians, handicapped by poor information, persist in a binary worldview that swings between the APC and PDP. What I can neither fathom nor forgive is the laziness, ineptitude and ignorance manifested by that Nigerian demographic bracket that is supposedly enlightened. Included in that group are graduates of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. This cohort, whose members reign on social media and hold court at ubiquitous beer and pepper soup joints, chant the maddening creed that Nigerian voters have only two presidential candidates to choose from— Buhari or Atiku.

I was in Nigeria when a crucial debate took place between several presidential candidates in this weekend’s elections. Even though Buhari was invited to the televised affair, he chose to keep away. Atiku was also expected at the debate. He actually showed up at the venue, briefly, and then vamoosed. His argument: that Buhari’s absence from the stage rendered moot his own participation.

In the event, Kingsley Moghalu, Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria, and Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria squared off. It was an illumining debate, and featured robust exchanges. With clarity and eloquence, the debaters offered their visions and programmes for rescuing Nigeria from its crippling developmental crises.

Yet, in the wake of the debate, many Nigerians—included the so-call enlightened ones—seemed preoccupied with the two absentee candidates. A few friends and acquaintances told me that, as Buhari and Atiku were no-shows, the debate was a non-event.

That attitude, I thought, indicated the disturbing depth of Nigeria’s malaise. Come to think of it, Buhari had excellent reasons for keeping away from the debate; his presidency has been nothing short of disastrous. He has spent much of his tenure in Britain, tending to his failing health. Were he a patriot, he might have realized that the running of any country—much less one as complex and trouble-prone as Nigeria—is no business for a sickly person. He should have resigned, pure and simple. Even when he was in Abuja, Nigerians noticed little if any difference. He seemed content to doze as his country went to the dumpsters. He arrived in office with a terribly limited compass. His major political appointments, including in key security agencies, showed that, for him, Nigeria began in Daura and did not extend much beyond Katsina State. Before the 2015 elections, I had predicted that Buhari would prove a dud; as president, he was worse. His bid for a second term is—there’s no better way to put it—ridiculous. It’s also an insult to Nigerians who now have proof, if proof was needed, that this emperor has no clothes—that he simply doesn’t have the fiber and vision to lead a hamlet, much less a nation. If he had showed up at the debate, Nigerians would have seen a fumbling, confounded president on display.

Atiku, too, had good reasons for absconding from the debate. His party, the PDP, set the tone for the current maladies that plague Nigeria. These grave disorders include electoral fraud, reckless plunder of public treasuries, recruitment of some of country’s worst people into public life, institution of godfatherism, veneration of rustics as godfathers, enthronement of lawlessness, inflation of the powers of the executive arm of government at the expense of the judicial and legislative arms, emasculation of local governments, unbridled transfers of public assets to private pockets, inexcusably bloated packages for holders of public office, and scant attention to the basic needs of Nigerians.

Atiku was, with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a major player in the abortion of Nigeria’s promise, the distortion of Nigerians’ expectations for a vibrant, development-focused democracy. Atiku’s critics have rightly called to question his role in the privatization of some of Nigeria’s key assets. Should Atiku become president, the augury for Nigerians is dire. He’s already warned us that he intends to enrich his friends and to sell off more of the country’s prized assets. Note what he didn’t say: he never said he’d invite his friends to bring their gifts to enrich Nigeria. Nor did he commit to a plan to ensure that those who acquired public assets—like power distribution companies—live up to their commitments to the Nigerian people.

Atiku has other negatives. Despite the fanfare of his recent visit to the US, Atiku kids himself if he thinks that it’s not common knowledge that, for several years, he stayed away from America on account of the certain legal jeopardy he faced there. Atiku would have impoverished, not improved, the televised presidential debate.

Nigerians are famous for excusing moral deficits by declaring that a person is not a saint. I’m not in the business of prospecting for saints. I’m looking for a person of vision, mental acumen, imagination and historical perspective who understands the depth of Nigeria’s travails—and is equipped to implement paradigm-shifting reforms.

Here’s the point. Nigeria is in deep, deep doo-doo. More and more Nigerians now haunt refuse dumps for food. Power supply remains epileptic, hampering enterprise and rendering Nigeria inhospitable to its citizens. Healthcare is a foreign idea to most Nigerians. Jobs are scarce. The educational system is in a shambles. The country’s infrastructure is inadequate and in disrepair. Nigerians have been reduced to neo-animal states of existence. Anybody who denies it is a fool or shameless beneficiary from the destitution of millions. Or both.

Buhari has demonstrated that he has no answers. In fact, I believe that his first term, a certified disaster, represented the best he has to give. To reelect him would amount to Nigerians pleading for more misery, more doldrums, and more death at the hands of marauding herdsmen who kill and occupy land. Give it to Atiku, he’s likely to be incrementally better than Buhari in at least one respect: he’ll invite a wider circle of friends—from north, south, east and west—to dine on the thinning carcass of Nigeria.

Moghalu is cut from a different cloth. He and a handful of other candidates possess the vision and enlightenment to move the dial from the zone of hopeless to that of hope. Of that group—which includes Fela Durotoye and Tope Fasua—he stands out. Where Buhari and Atiku would be incapable of seeing beyond Nigeria’s crude oil earnings, Moghalu recognizes that—as he said in a popular lecture—oil is the “god of small things.” His profound sense of history will release him from the lazy mindset of Nigeria’s current and past misleaders who view high earnings from our crude as an excuse to waste and low earnings as a handy excuse for their incompetence.

Nigerian voters should recognize the critical nature of their country’s condition. We—especially the enlightened among us—must realize the urgency of our situation, the desperate state of our being. That’s why it galls to hear people say, in one breath, that Moghalu is the best candidate in the election and, in the next breath, declare that he is too young and inexperienced, doesn’t have “structure,” money, or a presence in the rural areas.

My answer to such cynics: first, make a commitment to vote for him because he’s the best. Don’t recycle a failed Buhari or endorse an underwhelming Atiku. Second, the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo were not Methuselahs when they took on British colonialism. Third, if Moghalu has no “structure,” why not enlist yourself as part of his “structure”? Why not persuade your friends, acquaintances and drinking buddies to vote for him? If he’s not a blip in your hometown, why, make calls on his behalf to your relatives there.

For that matter, if you happen to have the contacts for Buhari and Atiku, ask them to do the right thing—for themselves and their posterity—by renouncing their ambitions. They should vote for Moghalu!

Ndibe is a novelist, political columnist and an essayist