The President Nigeria Doesn’t Need

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Femi Akintunde-Johnson

As the nation stoops, bemused by the extravagant cacophony of political parties and operatives turned money doublers; as we watch in frowning awe at the impunity and sporadic largesse that suffocate logic and the imagination, we must find time to pause and define the type and genetics of the leadership we hope to install in 2023.

  Now, we are no longer surprised when Baba Iyabo down the Lagos street, the Mallam Mai-Tea who used to hang around Sabon Gari in Kano, or Emeka, whose auto-parts shop was recently vandalised by unknown gun-men in Owerri, strolled unto our screens brandishing a multimillion naira nomination form of one vibrant political party or the other. We have brought the bar so low, that even the meanest of us have the latitude to trample all over our acquiescence, and ultimately, our commonwealth. And we wring our hands in futile admonitions, and spineless vitriols on social media.

  The tendency in these moments of extreme disenchantment and cloying frustrations is to “check out”, and “leave their wahala country for them” to squander as they wish; or at the other end of the pole, to completely shut off the empty political noise, and bury one’s head in private distractions and blissful trivia. 

  Yet, neither tunnel leads anywhere near a genuine fulfillment and inner peace. The discerning must find means to pull those distracted and depressed up by the napes of their necks to challenge the monstrosities that clog our power towers. In consistent and constructive deployment of tact, facts and figures, those who see beyond their noses, and would actively resist being fed with sawdust as crumbs, must invite common sense and engagements within the real power blocs of our country: the youth, the women and the working class.

  When in a state of flux, my people have a remarkable proverb that underlines a certain flexibility and pragmatism in their relational worldview: when a bat is not available for the sacrifice, we may as well make do with a parrot. So, amongst the more than 40 individuals who believe they have what it takes not only to rule this country firmly and transparently, but, even more importantly, have the know-how and commitment to turn us away from the insidious paths the previous administrations have marooned this country.

  We should care enough to wish, identify and stand for one or two individuals who are worthy of leading by examples and time-conscious deliverables. That challenge is easier said than done… I know. Few days ago, I was in the midst of about 50 mass communication students, who exemplify the potential calamity of a nation weighed down by a high degree of distrust and disillusionment. Since we were discussing the communication process, and barriers, I asked how many of them have heard the information that Nigerians should register or update their permanent voter’s cards, PVCs. Virtually everyone claimed to be aware as they were all within the required age brackets. When asked how many had actually registered, or had PVCs… they were less than eight! This is the same generation that is vocal on social networks, and fond of quoting provisions of the “Not Too Young To Run”. 

  Their reason is as tragic as it is endemic of the vast majority of Nigerian electorates. Almost in unison: “Why bother when our votes would not count?” Terrified by such defeatism, and energized by the possibility of activating a modicum of passion to fight the folly of their stance: I spent quality time, I hope, to engage and push at the psychological barriers that years of maladministration and brazen corruption had erected in their mindsets. 

  I told the young ones not to succumb to the aroma of apathy and cold frustration perpetuated by crafty politicians who are confident of riding roughshod over our aspirations and ambitions, assured that spending a worthless and unprofitable four years in one office or the other, would not stop them from re-election. I encouraged them to test the new electoral act amendments which seem designed for contemporaneous capacity that the young Nigerian is best positioned to exploit; that they should activate a civic rearguard in their immediate locality, agitate and encourage their friends and street mates – to seize the atmosphere of liberalised possibilities of the new Act, and thus “supervise”, “manage” and “enforce” the legitimate processes and procedures of the forthcoming polls… insisting and persisting that their votes count in their localities. And like a small kindled fire in the harmattan forest, twig after twig, brush after brush, tree after tree, will ignite and spread the fire…until it explodes a wildfire that cannot be extinguished by ballot-box snatchers, political thugs, ‘stomach infrastructure’ of political jobbers, sweet-nothing campaign shindigs and the usual strategies of our indolent and under-developed democrats.

  If my impassioned intervention would yield any result, or if a spark had been kindled by our interactions, is difficult to see. One can only hope that such interventions would continue and spread far and wide…pricking the energetic and creative moorings of our youth to shun long-standing apathy, corrosive disillusionment and such politically implanted negative dispositions. Our young ones must arise to join forces with other patriotic and aware citizens, and dismantle the ungodly structures of evil politicians; scatter the permutations of wicked interlopers; and unsettle the majestic hegemony of the self-installed establishment demigods who crouch over the glory and trajectory of Nigeria – tossing us wherever their decaying and sickly egos desire.

  The next election cycle is a watershed in the political life of this country. We are due a reprieve from the posturing and swagger of charlatans and their marabouts who have turned our glory into dust, our prosperity into poverty, our aspirations into frustrations. We are due a new start, a new way of doing things, a new set of leaders, a new road to a hope-filled future. 

   The moment is here that we need to unlock people who are willing and equipped to lead, and not merely to rule for self aggrandisement, and profiteering shamelessly from the ignorance and lethargy of our people. The moment is now when we lock out undesirable elements and their shadowy godfathers from the centrestage of our electoral outcomes.

  Arguably, we all know those who should not be president from the time we have spent sorting ourselves out of a self-imposed alley of fabricated democracy and home-contaminated ideologies. With almost 33 years of civilian administration, and after five presidents, we ought to have a clear idea of the president Nigeria does not need tomorrow (2023). We do not need a president picked out of obscurity with a provincial mentality that would watch indolently as corruption swirls around him (Shehu Shagari-esque). We do not need a president who will fritter illustrious opportunities chasing enemies all over the world, swathing friends with acrimonious intent – and using his enormous acumen to weaken fledgeling institutions, and terrorise our troubled communities (Olusegun Obasanjo). We do not want a president to whom our biggest regret would be how much he could have positively impacted the nation if he is healthy, and doesn’t hide his health status (Umaru Yar’Adua). We have no need for a president completely unprepared for the demands of the office, and is therefore prone to being teleguided and second-guessed by smart alecs posing as comprador aborigines and kindred spirits (Goodluck Jonathan). Surely, we do not need a clay-footed president who dilly-dallies on critical and urgent issues, situations and circumstances, and whose decisions and legacies are tainted by whiffs of nepotism, irredentism and sheer insensitivity to the peculiar diversity of a troubled nationhood (Muhammadu Buhari). 

  It is time to do the right thing, for the right person, at this moment when we have the motive and the means. Vote smartly.