2023: The Road to Aso Rock  


Since the inception of the current democratic dispensation 24 years ago, presidential, and gubernatorial candidates have mostly been elected without espousing clear ideas about what they would do in office to advance public good. The situation is not helped by the fact that political parties in our country are, without any exception, just platforms for winning public offices. But at THISDAY, we believe in raising the standard of leadership selection process by engaging office seekers in meaningful conversations. In participatory democracy, it is such constant interactions and dialogues that make us a community.  

Following the conclusion of the nomination process by the political parties last June, we shortlisted four presidential candidates for policy dialogues with members of the THISDAY editorial board. The choice of the four was based on the candidates’ national appeal and the strength of their political parties. The shortlisted candidates are: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC); former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP); and Mr Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP). Despite repeated assurances, we could not secure an appointment with Tinubu.   

As a watchdog, a guardian of public interest, and a channel to many other critical constituencies, the press has a role to interrogate political office seekers in a manner that would give the people glimpses into the ideas that propel the ambitions of the politicians and what they would do in office should they win. The essence is to add value to the democratic process and help the electorate to make informed choices based on policies and programmes rather than on primordial considerations that Nigerian politicians often sell on the campaign rostrums. In that light, we had productive conversations with Kwankwaso in July last year, Atiku in August and Obi in December.    

At the core of the challenges that we grapple with today in Nigeria is leadership failure, according to the trio of Kwankwaso, Atiku and Obi, each of whom believes he has what it takes to make a difference in our lives. And they all come with vast experience in government. Atiku, whose presidential aspiration dates to 30 years ago, was vice president for eight years between 1999 and 2007. Kwankwaso, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and senator, was a two-term governor of Kano State who had also served as minister. Obi, a successful businessman, was also a two-term governor of Anambra State.   

When these candidates point to leadership failure, they must know what they are talking about. For instance, Kwankwaso alluded to the service chiefs who were removed after “obvious failure” and were rewarded with diplomatic postings. “The same in other security agencies. It’s difficult to remember anybody who was punished for a certain failure. And most of these failures that we’re talking about are about the lives of innocent Nigerians,” said Kwankwaso who argued that a hands-on president will make a difference in the lives of Nigerians. “My friends who are ministers now, it’s like everybody is on their own. Every ministry is like a country. Nobody asks them ‘what are you doing?’ and ‘what have you not done?’”   

The same argument was canvassed by Atiku, who also used the security situation as a reference point. “Nobody has been held accountable for security lapses in this country. Nobody! I have not heard or seen anybody.” That there are no sanctions for bad behaviour, according to the former Vice President, is why things remain the way they are in Nigeria. Meanwhile, Obi sums it all up in a declaration, “as the commander-in-chief, I am going to be in charge!”    

As distinct from debates or formal interviews, what we had with the presidential candidates were dialogue sessions. Yes, political debates among contenders are necessary to test the knowledge and temperament of those who seek to preside over our affairs, but they are more suited for television. Dialogue sessions like the one we had with each of these candidates offer opportunities to understand how they intend to address the most challenging and important issues of the day, in a relaxed atmosphere. It was useful for our members as well as the candidates who must have taken notes of some of the ideas canvassed during the interactions.   

Meanwhile, the engagement series started last April when the editorial board hosted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, in an interactive session. The conversation was enlightening as the INEC boss shared with us the prospects for a credible 2023 general election as well as the fears of the commission, especially regarding violence in some parts of the country. In the coming weeks, we will be engaging military/security chiefs in similar conversations. As stakeholders in the country, such cooperative engagements can only advance our democracy and the public good. That was the spirit of our sessions with the three presidential candidates.   

What we serve in this edition (in the order in which the sessions were held) is the first in a series of interventions that the THISDAY editorial board intends on the 2023 general election.

OKEY IKECHUKWU: With three decades of hands-on experience in the university system, the media and government at the highest levels, Ikechukwu, mni, is the Executive Director of Development Specs Academy, an internationally certified management consultancy and training partner of several institutions and organizations. Ikechukwu was, at various times, Lecturer at the University of Lagos, Acting Editorial Page Editor, and acting chairman of the editorial board of The Guardian Newspapers. He holds a doctorate degree in philosophy from the University of Lagos.

GIMBA KAKANDA: Founder of DMC, an Abuja-based communication and strategy consulting firm, Gimba Kakanda is a notable public affairs analyst, media and foreign policy consultant and author. He is a regular contributor for Aljazeera and several Nigerian publications, including Daily Trust. Kakanda holds a master’s degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics (LSE) and is an alumnus of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.

WAZIRI ADIO: Until recently the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Executive Secretary, Adio had stints as THISDAY editor-at-large, special adviser to the senate president, communication specialist at UNDP etc. He obtained his first degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, a master’s in journalism from Columbia University and another master’s in public administration from Harvard University, where he was, at different times, a Fellow of the Neiman Foundation for Journalism, and an Edward S. Mason Fellow in public policy and management.

PAUL NWABUIKWU: A pioneer THISDAY Editorial Board member, Paul Nwabuikwu, who has also served on The Guardian’s Editorial Board, is a respected public intellectual with decades of experience in journalism, advertising, and public communication. A winner of the DAME Awards for Informed Commentary, Nwabuikwu served twice as Special Adviser to former Finance Minister and current DG, World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Nwabuikwu holds a first degree in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and MBA from the University of Jos.   

‘YEMI ADAMOLEKUN: Executive Director, Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE), a non-partisan network of individuals and organizations committed to building a culture of good governance & public accountability, Adamolekun has a 23-year diverse career spanning the public and private sectors. She holds a first degree in Mathematics & Economics from the University of Virginia; an MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics (LSE) and an MBA from Oxford University’s Said Business School.

MAHMUD JEGA: Following his stint as a lecturer in Biological Sciences at his alma mater, the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, Jega has practiced journalism non-stop for more than three decades. For a total 13 years, he was Managing Editor, Editor, Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Board Chairman of Daily Trust Newspapers. Prior to that, Jega was Editor, New Nigerian Newspapers, Editor of The Sentinel magazine, Kaduna and Assistant Editor, Citizen magazine. 

JOHNSON OLAWUMI: Retired Major General of the Nigerian Army and former Director General, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Olawumi held several strategic appointments at the service, defence and public levels. Olawumi obtained a first degree in Mathematics from the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) from the University of Ilorin and a Masters in Defence Studies from the Kings College, London. He is an alumnus of the National Defence College, Abuja, and a proud winner of the presidential award for best graduating participant.

CHIDI AMUTA: With more than 30 years in reportorial and management journalism, Amuta has held senior editorial positions as foundation Member, Editorial Board, The Guardian; Chairman, Editorial Board and Editorial Adviser, The Daily Times Group and, until 1999, Chief Executive, The Post Express. Amuta holds a First Class Honours degree and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), where he taught Literature and Communications Strategies for ten years before moving to the University of Port Harcourt.

BENNETT OGHIFO: Trained in news writing by Reuters Foundation at Rhodes University, Grahams Town, South Africa, Bennett Eyituoyo Oghifo holds a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s in public administration from the University of Benin and a Post Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. Oghifo is a fellow of Leadership for Environment and Development, (LEAD International), a global network supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, and a member of Africa Association of Science Journalists.

SANYADE OKOLI: The CEO of Alpha African Advisory, Mrs Sanyade Okoli has over 27 years of financial advisory; private equity; corporate, commercial and management finance; and auditing experience. She holds an MA in Mechanical Engineering from Cambridge University, UK and trained as a Chartered Accountant with Arthur Andersen (UK). Sanyade is also a trained inner healing minister and life coach. She is the founder of inspirational blog, www.justasiam.ng and creator of life-transforming e-course, Pursuing Wholeness.

MONDAY EKPE: Currently an adjunct lecturer at the University of Abuja, Ekpe was at various times editorial page editor, features editor and general editor at THISDAY. A brilliant writer with special interest in human stories, Ekpe obtained his first degree in English and Literature from the University of Benin and a master’s in Communication and Language Arts from the University of Ibadan where he completed his Ph. D in 2015.

KAYODE KOMOLAFE: A journalist with over 30 years’ experience, Komolafe has participated in numerous international conferences in Journalism, labour, democracy and development including the Leadership and Simulation program at J.Mac Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. In 2013 he was inaugurated into the National Human Rights Commission Governing Council. Currently THISDAY Deputy Managing Director, Komolafe holds a first degree from the University of Calabar, Calabar, and a postgraduate certificate from the International Institute of Journalism Berlin, Germany.

BOLAJI ADEBIYI: A two-term presidential aide and immediate past editor of THISDAY Newspapers, Bolaji Adebiyi is the managing editor of the newspaper. Elected the vice president (West) of the Nigerian Guild of Editors last year, he attended University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife, obtaining both bachelor and master’s degrees in History. A British Chevening Scholar, Adebiyi also holds post-graduate and advanced diploma certificates in Journalism from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos and The Thompson Foundation, Cardiff, Wales.

AISHA SHUAIBU: A business consultant with a decade of experience in brand and strategic management, Ms Aisha Shuaibu is Managing Director of Waffle Way in Abuja, and President of SWA Sports, an initiative that is promoting local talents in kickboxing, wrestling, and Taekwondo. Ms Shuaibu obtained her B Sc in Business Studies from the University of Bedfordshire, Luton in the United Kingdom and her Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Bahcesehir University, Istanbul, Turkey.

SONNY ARAGBA-AKPORE: With cognate practice in the media spanning more than three decades, Aragba-Akpore was an Assistant General Manager/Head, Corporate Communications at the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) Ltd. In November 2014, he became the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Assistant Director/Head, Media & Public Relations, a position he held until retirement in July 2020. He attended the University of Lagos and holds B.A and M.A. in English. He is also a member of Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR).

NDUBUISI FRANCIS: From 1992 when he started his journalism career, Francis has covered health, labour, capital market, energy, and aviation correspondent before becoming Deputy Group Business Editor, Group News Editor and currently, Associate Editor (Business) in the Nation’s Capital. Winner of several awards in journalism, Ndubuisi holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Lagos, a Diploma in Journalism from the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Abuja.

KASHIM IBRAHIM-IMAM: Currently, the president of the King’s College (Lagos) Old Boys Association, Ibrahim-Imam has been active in politics in Nigeria for about 35 years. He holds a BSc in Political Science from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria MSc in International Relations from the University of Maiduguri. At the business level, he is the Chairman of UniCapital PLC (an investment banking firm) and the Chairman of First Guarantee Pensions PLC, among others.  

PETER ISHAKA: A 1983 graduate of Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Peter Ishaka worked at NEWSWATCH and TELL magazines before joining THISDAY in 1997. He left the newspaper for a brief period to edit ‘Who’s Who in Nigeria’ before returning in 2011. Ishaka is currently THISDAY Editorial Page editor. 

OLUSEGUN ADENIYI: Journalist, writer, and former presidential spokesman, Adeniyi is a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters (FNAL) and chairs THISDAY editorial board. Author of several books, including ‘The Last 100 Days of Abacha’ and ‘Power, Politics and Death: A front-row account of Nigeria under the late President Yar’Adua’, Adeniyi holds a first degree in International Relations from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and a master’s in international law and diplomacy (MILD) from the University of Lagos. 

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