Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike. Plato
Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right … and a desire to know – Plato
Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty – Plato
Some friends say they cannot understand my support for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu after what they deem as the dismal performance of President Buhari and the APC. Some allege all sorts (myopically that it is about bribe), and some ask why I ran for President in 2019 if I didn’t think we should keep pushing the idea of a younger president. Their arguments are easy to see; Tinubu brought Buhari, Tinubu is old, Tinubu is part of the old guard, and all the usual stuff. I have explained at length how I arrived at my decision but as they say, those who understand need no explanation, and for those who will not understand, no amount of explanation will do. I will still attempt that explanation here today. It is logical, even if complex. And I believe that we are confronted with Plato’s dilemma with democracy. He and his boss had no love for that system of government, and they were prescient like they had in mind a place called Nigeria today. The upshot of Plato and Socrates’ argument was that it takes some very profoundly complex analysis to determine who one should vote for as leader (they used the analogy of a ship captain), and that the struggling masses do not have the luxury of grappling with such complexity or deep research guided by dialectical prowess. I am consoled by a quote by F Scott Fitzgerald; The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
A few friends in the Tinubu camp also believe I am too hard on Buhari. In the build up to 2015, I was so positive about Buhari achieving good results, such that I was warned by those who knew him better. I remember a couple of well-established guys from the north cautioning me about my enthusiasm for Buhari. Some said when he gets what he wants he forgets anybody else. I therefore refused to join the usual frenzy of eating dinner at Aso Villa or waving flags at the Eagle Square when the man was inaugurated. It took all of six months for me to know that we had a problem on our hands. Buhari’s supporters today point to his achievement with infrastructure but I have four issues with that claim; firstly, insecurity has precluded us from seeing all the infrastructure. Secondly, the infrastructure has also come with a spike in our unsustainable borrowings. Thirdly, infrastructure is where – according to the World Bank – most of the corruption is easily done. Fourthly, none of the infrastructure is built by us – by our youths. So, we have learnt little and intrinsically improved by a factor of zero. I will however acknowledge that indeed infrastructure has improved all the same. We have some of the more enterprising ministers in change of that aspect – Fashola, Amaechi etc.
But I don’t know how not to express my disappointment. I am deeply pained. I don’t care much for the noisemakers who try to rub it in that I got it wrong in 2015. If I excuse all the issues we have with the economy, what about the two other cardinal objectives of the Buhari administration; corruption and insecurity? On corruption, we have a situation where the national treasurer, the Accountant General (who is actually a modest man as Nigerian officials go), summarily helped himself and friends to over N190 billion – funds from the supposedly-secure vaults of the country (TSA/GIFMIS/IPPIS etc). I am not sure that the government expressed enough embarrassment and shame for that action. We have seen the sacking of the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission under the allegation of diversion or misappropriation of recovered stolen items. We have seen the sack of the MD of Nigerian Ports Authority allegedly for corruption. And these are the few unlucky ones. The majority are swimming in filth. The nation, Nigeria, has fully consolidated the art of wholesale looting of every treasury in government. People don’t care much for demanding bribes anymore. The best laid systems – like Treasury Single Account, GIFMIS and the rest – have been grossly and summarily violated. No one can be trusted anymore. Impunity reigns. A permanent madness has descended over our people in the public service and there are no professionals in psychology trying to help us explain how we could find our ways through. How could Buhari not have anticipated this? How come he had no plans for a day like this? And what did he do afterwards? Has he merely given up? The truth is that we’ve never had the stealing and impunity so bad. Government operatives and public servants probably got the idea that nobody is in charge, and they went to town. Nigerians now steal from public coffers with impunity, and they usually show it off to the rest of us. When they don’t steal, they simply waste. If government says public servants should no longer fly first class, they find ways around it. They are used to luxury. The poor public picks the bill. Woe betides the Nigerian who tries to live by the straight and narrow. And most of the wealth in display in Nigeria is obtained illegally today more than ever.
What about insecurity? Look at us today? Many parts of the country have become no-go areas. Most people will rather fly. And flights have become something else in terms of cost. How could we not make a dent on insecurity? Why are we roiling in kidnapping, banditry, and a plethora of crimes? Why do we keep security chiefs for long and even roll over their appointments even when hundreds, thousands are killed under their supervision? Why would the president himself express helplessness when Kuje prison was broken by terrorists who promptly freed all their friends? How do we explain the tragedy that is Kaduna train hijack, the trauma that scores of Nigerians went through – including old women and children – and the billions that were allegedly paid as ransom? Or the daily killings of dozens in Zamfara, Kaduna, Niger and other states by Janjaweed people who appear from nowhere and have no cause. I leave it to people like smart guy Ajuri Ngelale and other spokesmen to justify, I cannot. Chief of Defense Staff, LEO Irabor recently stated that 137 entry points into Nigeria are unmanned. His colleague heading the Navy is struggling to dissipate the idea that 80% of the nation’s crude oil or some 1 million barrels of crude is stolen from Nigeria’s waters on a daily basis.
And society decayed. Our youths in the south became cyber fraudsters by the bus loads. Yet we have a pastor representing us in the Executive branch of government. Buhari could not help in reducing corruption but rather we saw a spike in it. And between him and his amiable vice, they made no dent on corruption, immorality and crime in society. I think about the Nigeria society and get quite angry. Can a president, his vice or the governors not speak to the people more regularly such as to guide us to the right path? What did they think the remit of leadership is in this clime? It cannot be just about policymaking (even when you make the right policies), or about photo opportunities, or self-admiration, but about gaining a share of people’s minds and guiding them right. It is a constant affair, an unending affair. Why have Nigerians become more undisciplined? Why do we act anyhow and seek to take that behavior everywhere with us? Can anyone believe we will be more undisciplined under a Buhari? Is it enough excuse that he did not want to act like a military man this time? Was there no other way of changing tack and achieving some results all the same? Look at how Nigerians were messing themselves up in Dubai recently, chasing themselves with machetes on the streets and even killing each other. This led to major downward reviews in the status of Nigeria not only in the UAE but every other country took notice. Hundreds of Nigerians are deported from everywhere, daily, these days. Nigeria is the most disrespected and disdained nation on earth, bar none. We have become the most-worthless people if there is a phrase like that. Why did Buhari allow us to get to this level?
We cannot have lost out on the economy, seen two recessions, lost respect in the comity of nations, lost discipline, become rudderless home and abroad, and so on, and yet claim to be happy. Well, I don’t know how to deceive myself and for me, all I have a keen interest in and about is Nigeria. I believe I have since clarified the reason for human existence to myself, which is to try and add positive value to my environment, my society, my nation, my world. I have since set on that journey by my actions and choices.
MY CHOICE OF TINUBU
Like I said, the choices before Nigerians today is not between black and white, but in considering every shade in between. Perhaps I should itemize why I believe Tinubu is the choice for 2023, in spite of his being in the same party with Buhari and in spite of APC having messed up so far:
- 2023 elections is about the person, not the party. Buhari messed up as a person and because his leadership style started out snobbish then became confused. Tinubu’s leadership style is inclusive, energetic, empowering, modernized… the exact opposite to Buhari.
- And APC-APC transition will waste less of our times than an APC transition to any other political party. Honestly, in my opinion, Buhari’s administration has almost collapsed this country and we would be lucky to see him off in 2023. No hard feelings. A government from another party will spend the next 6 years complaining even as they discover new problems. A Tinubu government will have to just shut up and get on with the job. I am all for the progress of Nigeria.
- Tinubu is the one that possesses the maturity to absorb the large and complicated issues of Nigeria and get on with the job. A Peter Obi will only whine and whine. An Atiku may lose track on grounds of politics, not because he’s unexperienced. PDP will want him to make a point about how bad things have become and that is where most governments lose time. Tinubu has shown over time, that he has the capacity for abstract thought (a key attribute for a leader). Obi is basically about counting pennies and winding up Nigerian youths into destructive anger.
- I score Tinubu highest amongst all players in the field today having considered the following factors:
- Past experience,
- Track record,
- Capacity for abstract thought,
- Local and international connection and respect,
- Ability to mobilize Nigerians behind a good course (e.g socioeconomic development),
- Calculated risk-taking and courage to face hard issues,
- Ability to hit the ground running,
- Communication skills,
- The wisdom that comes with age,
- Networking to get a great team to work with, plus ability to spot and nurture talents
- Political sagacity – viz the support of his political party and also multiparty cooperation when his administration is in play.
Tinubu doesn’t have to be the best on all the indices (e.q communications skills or physical agility), but he compensates for whatever shortcoming by coming in strong on other factors. That is the complexity that comes with choosing leaders in a democracy according to Plato. Plato’s agony.
I believe that the Tinubu team must acknowledge whatever seems like disadvantages to their quest as they forge ahead. The team mut play several strategies… Some members must acknowledge these disadvantages such as Buhari’s administration’s failures, while others will ignore and stay on the positive side. Not acknowledging at all, or always putting up the defensive anytime such issues are raised will conjure an idea of dishonesty among undecided voters. Till date, it looks like the cyberspace advantage was left to Obi supporters who have made it a stock in trade to harass and malign. That is another space where a counterstrategy is needed. I wrote as someone who has imbibed Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Elections are wars by other means non-violent. In order to retain your territory, you must make incursions into your adversary’s territory. That is the only way to hold their advance. And you must deploy every weapon in serious wars – pity and honest are legitimate instruments useful to melt the hearts of undecided voters as well as reasonable supporters of your adversary. As someone who has been doing his bit within his circle to get people to understand the complexity of the moment and why BAT is the best option for very pragmatic reasons, I will not shy away from addressing the most difficult of issues and what appears to be our downside. I have found that there is so much ignorance which has been propelled by the opposite side as the truth and has now solidified in some people’s hearts. Whereas party structure is key, and upstart political parties will surely be unable to reach all 10,000 wards in Nigeria in a solid way before the elections (because their key players are not ready for the financial and physical commitments), still the battle must be seen as a race to the wire. That way, landslide victory can be achieved.
A NOTE OF CAUTION
That said, I want to place on record that the next administration must necessarily be sacrificial. Any attempt to run government as ‘business-as-usual’ will blow up in anyone’s face. Any attempt to bring into government people who see nothing wrong with the waste and wanton stealing that has defined government in the past – up till the Buhari era – will lead to governmental collapse, simple. No two ways about it. The frugality ideas of Peter Obi – which are grossly inadequate to run a country – must be taken on board all the same. A bigger vision must however overlay such expenditure-side ideas and enlarge the coast of Nigeria by improving per capita income, productivity (GDP), social conformity and harmony, mass mobilization around our key concern etc.