I’ve met all three of them. And I must say, they are very convincing fellows. The point is, which one do I support, if my support is of any value?
My opinion about the upcoming 2023 elections is that it is for the big boys. I knew, back in 2019, that then was going to be the best opportunity for now, for younger people to contest the presidency – in protest. Though it was hard to see as far as 2023 but if the management of the society and economy back then was anything to go by, I knew that we would be lucky to still have a country by 2023. In time, things got worse. Insurgencies stepped up. Separatism became the order of the day. Insecurity like never before came upon us. Inflation plagued the people. The Naira got devalued over and over. The politicians stepped up to grab power and whatever was left of the commonwealth in any way they could. Unemployment reached a peak at 42.5% for the youths. Add to that, underemployment at 22.5%. Nigeria’s Misery Index became perhaps the highest in the world (when you add inflation with unemployment and sometimes, interest rates). It’s just as if anything that could tempt Nigerians to tip over, keeps showing up. Still, I pray, and strive, through my writings and other public appearances, to ensure we not only preserve this country, but make something positive of her. I fervently hope that nothing too jarring happens before the 2023 elections, that may have existential implications for the country. For I believe that Africa needs larger, not smaller nations. I believe that this great nation can be projected into a great future by solid, visionary, sacrificial, philosopher leaders, not the lightweights we have been getting so far.
Now, I know that Nigeria needs a revolution. My slogan for the 2019 elections was “Revolution of Ideas”. It was so called because revolutions are delicate little things, often throwing up worse tyrants than they get rid of. I also proffered that it is ideas, vision, resolve, imagination, hard work, self-sacrifice that we need, rather than everyone baying at the top of their lungs, demanding everything and giving nothing. Revolutions need people, but they fail when they are all about populism – whipping up the people’s sentiments only. They also fail, when leaders of revolutions do not alert the people early enough to their own responsibilities – the part we all have to play in making our nation great (hard work, sacrifice, humility, patriotism, mutual respect, tolerance along tribal or religious lines).
We had the EndSARS in Nigeria, which was akin to a revolution, but in a short while, the leaderless-ness – and the non-reckoning with the vast majority of poverty-crazed folks who later came out to loot – proved to be a problem. But if that semi-revolution had a leader, or leaders, then people will have put the life of that leader under a microscope, and there is no one without faults. So, we would have had a second hurdle… leadership crisis – as Nigerians proceed to tear such a leader apart for past misdeeds, their heritage, their parents and what-have you. That test of leadership was obvious with two mini-revolutions that we can cite within our environment – the IPOB and Oodua Republic ones. One had a leader whom I personally think is intelligent but quite unhinged. The other had a native orator who probably bit more than he could chew. Both could yet be revolutions in another day to come. But they were pointers to the shortcomings of revolutions, and a reminder to us that perhaps we are better off trying to make the best of our civilian rule by deploying the power of the intellect, not the gun, and not endless disobedience, disruption, dislocation, disorder, which has led into looting, arson, killing of innocent security service personnel, closing down of businesses and even more unemployment and hopelessness, in at least two of the three examples cited above. The Arab Spring of 2010 did not deliver the nirvana that they expected too. In a few states – like Libya – it has been a major setback and in others – like Tunisia, Bahrain or Algeria – the change has been tepid. Of course, in Nigeria we have also tried the military for decades, with disastrous effects. Some of the troubles we battle today is as a result of military governments selling us down the river. Ibrahim Babangida – for instance – may be a charming talker, but he’s an ideologue and may God help us to escape the pacts he signed us into.
So, if we agree that democracy should continue to be our system of government, and are ready to solve the issues that it may throw up as we go along, my hope remains that we may somehow get an elite consensus going, which will set this country on a path, away from the one of mass looting that we have presently, and unto collective development, equity, justice, and profound prosperity that is better distributed among the people. We hope we will get a leader, or leaders – from within the same ‘rotten’ lot – who will veer off and do right by the people, while drawing out our best-ever behaviors. I insist that only an elite consensus can save this country at this stage. Many Nigerians are stupendously monied as can be seen in all sorts of leaks coming out these days (re-Pandora Papers), some legitimately, most with crooked origins. They need to know that they can use their money to save themselves but cannot keep those monies and have a good life. This country is full of opportunities for all, but we need someone in leadership who will really bell the cat and get people to think differently. Naturally, we have to aspire for a better life, but there comes a time when the mere acquisition of chattel just to prove we are better than others becomes a tired venture that reveals that we haven’t attained the maturity that other people have in the rest of world. I believe the private sector can pool the funds required to fix our infrastructure and lift our youths without Nigeria having to continue this borrowing spree. I believe that this economy hasn’t quite started, and we should work at really starting the economy. I believe that perhaps we have turned a corner whereby all the upheavals of recent times have actually prepared us for the next phase – real growth, based on unity, patriotism, and productivity. But we need a leader, wherever they may come from, that will propel us forward. They will surely have a past, but they will have to do the job.
It is in this light I consider the top runners for 2023 presidential elections. I am focused on the presidency, because as we can see, no senator or rep member can actually do the job of turning Nigeria’s trajectory. A governor can show an example with his state, but a president can torpedo everything – for good or ill. We have seen that we can sink really low when that reference point at the very top of the pile – the president – is dismal, discouraging, and lacking in energy. The president’s position is powerful for turning this country around. I want to hope, that we have hit rock bottom and can only grow from henceforth.
I once met Bola Ahmed Tinubu at Lagos House, Asokoro, Abuja. I had written an article based on some of the ideas espoused in a writeup attributed to him. He was fascinated and got his SA to reach out to me. The article of mine was later splashed in pages 2 and 3 of The Nation. I must confess I read everything Tinubu writes. Some people said his assistants usually write those articles, but I see a streak that goes beyond mere hack writing. From these writings, I see that Tinubu subscribes to a branch of economics that believes a sovereign should leverage its resources and not depend on foreign dictates. I believe he will be hated for his beliefs in international circles. And he also carries a baggage of corruption. Plus age is not on his side. Many believes he owns half of Lagos. I cannot confirm that. But what I can confirm is that he is one of the few leaders with an eye for talent and good grounding in succession planning. Nigeria’s ministerial lineup should be a lot more vibrant than it is today, if a Tinubu was president. From what he has achieved in Lagos, and the consistent production of very smart folks to lead that megacity, I should say I have quite some confidence in his abilities. As a strong leader, Tinubu should be able to make a difference if he becomes Nigeria’s president. Will he steal the entire country? I doubt. Again, I need to remind readers that I am talking realpolitik here. I am talking of pragmatism. 2019 was a little romantic, and a number of young people came up. 2023 is a different ballgame and we may have to choose from some of the devils we know. In other words, let us forget about finding a ‘holy’ leader for now. Did Buhari not claim to be holy?
I should probably also mention the current Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. Very smart fellow. Eloquent, energetic, urbane, and efficient. We saw that when he acted as president there were immediately visible changes. But Buhari stopped handing over to him entirely on his subsequent trips for some reason. He is not known to be a dealmaker or to be corrupt. But I have some reservations about his economic ideology as compared with Tinubu’s. I am not sure Osinbajo is pro-people. As a ‘smart’ guy, he may just be totally swooned by liberal economic rhetoric, when indeed the world has moved to a more nuanced, empirical economic mode. The winners of this year’s Nobel in Economics, won on the back of empiricism. I am still trying to get my head around Osinbajo’s belief that we throw this economy open to cryptocurrencies and fully float the naira – when he is not pushing commensurate policies to curb excesses of politicians and top civil servants. My fear is grounded in the fact that such uber-smart people are usually taken by the liberal view of economics (a view which has dominated the world by force of money and power in spite of so many failure). Anyone who rolls too much with the Harvard/Cambridge/Chicago-types must go through a detox program before being unleashed on national leadership in this type of clime.
I have met Atiku too. I did at Chido Onumah’s book launching a few months ago. He is a lively guy, with above average energy for his age. He is also quick to make friends – and has always been that way before someone says it’s because he is looking for votes. Atiku is also a headhunter and brought in a number of the sharp heads in Obasanjo’s government. He is futuristic and has experience in leadership. He served in government in the good old days (1999 – 2007) and so he could claim the successes of that era, which makes today look so backward. Atiku carries a baggage of corruption too. But again, perhaps we should be pragmatic. We need someone akin to a benevolent dictator with vision. I am not corrupt – in case someone wants to take a dig. But when I traveled to North Africa, I saw what corrupt but benevolent dictators could do for their people. I mean the likes of Mubarak, Anwar Sadat, Al-Sisi, Bouteflika, Gaddafi, Ben Ali, and the kings of Morocco. The best leaders in the USA/UK were not necessary democrats too. Think about Theodore Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and Churchill. Nigeria has the worst incidences of poverty, illiteracy, and insecurity, in the world. So, we need to understand what our problem really is. This country is not at the level of Europe, or the Americas. In terms of human development, we are not even at the level of many African nations. So, what we need and very urgently too, is a leader that can understand this enormous task and set about making then needed impact. Atiku will be a far sight better than Buhari but I hope he has learnt some lessons in his years outside government, of the need to balance economic policy with human development. For example, it is true that his father was jailed because he didn’t want his son (Atiku) to get western education. Why have we then allowed 15 million children to roam about on the streets? What did he do in his first coming?
Then comes Moghalu. He is the only prominent person so far who has pushed forward from the class of 2019. The terrain is currently looking like APC, PDP, and Moghalu. Or perhaps, Atiku, Tinubu, and Moghalu – in my view. I think if APC and PDP finally nominate other flagbearers apart from those two old men, they could also play into the hands of Moghalu. You have to respect his tenacity. Anyone who has lost much money running campaigns in 2019 and is back with a bounce must be respected. When he first asked me about running again in 2023 I told him that from what I see, only a candidate on the platform of PDP or APC could win. I still smart from the mass deregistration of young parties by INEC – a rather senseless move orchestrated by the ruling party (as championed by Kabiru Gaya) in cahoots with PDP (Ekweremadu), really. I saw how blatant these folks can be in holding on to power, and I did not see how we could import new Nigerians in 2023 who will vote based on ideology, and programs, and eloquence in putting ideas forward. By 2023, hunger and illiteracy will still define our polity, unfortunately even more than before. But I have seen Kingsley being very tenacious. He recently explained his plans to me after he had joined ADC – known to be Obasanjo’s party. ADC came 4th in the last elections I believe. And I was like ‘okay’….
On the asset side of Kingsley’s balance sheet is that he is not tainted by corruption. His reputation is intact even though he had served in CBN as a Deputy Governor. He is younger than the two gentlemen I first analyzed above. He is eloquent and strong. He is smart and savvy and connected with the modern world. And he is Igbo. Now, that adds a new twist to the equation. The South-East of Nigeria presently roils in some sporadic violence from what they call unknown gunmen. Elites in the East did not speak up as these things ramped up and today, many live with fear. IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu’s idea, swears that they want their own country, but when we examine the reality, we find out it will be a fairly impossible quest. The South-East will at the end not be led by the nose. But Nigeria still owes a debt in that direction. I had pushed for a president from the South-East in the past, then got tired with the recent issues that have come up. However, the thing about these quests is that we often never know who is going to sweep the stakes. Could it be Kingsley? Can he get that elite consensus going? Can he push forward a balanced ideology that doesn’t throw poor Nigerians under the bus but lifts everyone in productivity, human development and wealth?
There is strategic precedence. Look at when Yorubas agitated over Abiola. Who swept the stakes? Obasanjo, whom most Yorubas did not like, or vote for. Nigeria’s presidency has often been handed to underdogs too. Think about Yar’Adua – who never wanted it and wanted to retire as a lecturer (a very honest guy I will say, again). Think about Jonathan, who had to be pushed to step up to the plate – though he had little energy or ideas. Think about Obasanjo himself, sprung from prison. If the elites – powers that be – come together, they may push for Kingsley, and we may find that the money and popularity that he doesn’t have will spring up overnight. This will be my advice to them though, because this country needs a new lease, like never before. His presidency will at once quell the unproductive agitations in the South-East and South-West, and we can then have some reprieve from violence, crimes, kidnappings, and insurrection, just as we had when Jonathan and Obasanjo ascended. It will then be left to him to hit the ground running. Anyone can criticize him to high heavens, but I say, rather than criticize, why not step up and run if you think these things are easy? It is only those who step up to the starting line, that+ can win the race. It may also be somehow significant that Kingsley is in Obasanjo’s party, because latter can help put in a word with his foreign connections, without whom no one can become Nigeria’s president. Kingsley, having worked in United Nations and lived extensively abroad, may also have a few buttons he could press. I must quickly chip in though, that I am usually wary of these foreign folks, and their antecedents haven’t augured well for us here, but it is what it is. People like me could never be supported by them.
Of all these three gentlemen, if anyone really needs my help, it is Kingsley Moghalu. The other two have extensive structures and experience. If the scenario plays out as I am proposing here, it will be quite painful for Atiku, whom I repeat will do a far better job than Buhari and has kept trying to come in. Corrupt as he may be touted to be, I think he has business acumen to have maintained his wealth so many years after leaving government and that is something to go by. It will equally be painful for Tinubu, who supported Buhari in 2015 and was promptly repaid with snobbery and betrayal by the puritan man who hit the ground like a wet towel. His support for Buhari, and nomination of Osinbajo, was meant to strategically open the way for his quest in 2023. These are political Chess-masters. They plan several steps ahead. I could never plan that far for political reasons because my imagination is too volatile. I’d be like, who is sure of being alive in 4 or 8 years time! But these guys are great optimists. As for the others still playing on the fringes – Tambuwal, Wike, Fayemi, Yaya Bello, Kwakwanso, and God-knows-who else, I think it’s important to step up urgently and let Nigerians know what you have in mind. The other day, some youths were even swearing for Peter Obi to run or else! The man said he’s not running. They said he had no choices in the matter. It was a very interesting exchange.
Let’s talk realpolitik!