OPINION – Presidential primaries: Before the delegates miss it

By Emeka Alex Duru

Recall the joke by ace comedian, Chika Okpala, (Zebrudaya Okorigwe Nwogbo, Alias 4.30), of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) New Masquerade series, when he was presented with the award of the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

As he was being decorated with the award, he thanked the president for the recognition but demanded; “Are you are, Mr. President! I have seen the MON but where are the EY?”

There was no monetary attachment to the award. Adding the EY to the MON, would have translated to MONEY. For Zebrudaya, that would have made it complete. That should have been the essence. But he did not get it.

Take the illustration to 2023 politics. That essence, the real deal, encapsulated in vision, is lacking among the presidential aspirants. Ordinarily, Nigerians should by now, have fair ideas on the likely candidates of the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the two main political parties in the land.

Like the village cockerels, the likely flag bearers, barring last minute swings and emergence of dark horses, should have stood out among the packs, with sparkling credentials and convincing mission statements.

APC ,which closed sales of forms on Tuesday, had over 20 aspirants before some chickened out. PDP has 15. The parties, thus, have surfeit of aspirants.

The large number should have been of advantage to Nigerians in offering them options and perspectives in managing the challenges facing the country. Each contestant bringing his agenda on the table, would have enriched the debate, expanded the frontiers of knowledge and enlivened the contest.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Antecedents of the aspirants and their contents, do not give hope. Only very few have been able to articulate and present to Nigerians coherent mission statements. Most are pretenders, merely whipping ethnic and religious sentiments.

The crowd in PDP has been busy with lamentations on how the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has lowered the bar of governance in the country. That is no longer newsy. The administration has in fact, reduced the standard in governance and leadership recruitment processes to the point that any drunk can now stagger out of a pub and aspire for the presidency, with the conviction that he could do better than the present occupant.

That explains the horde of aspirants masquerading in the parties. What is therefore required is not reminding Nigerians that things are bad but presenting them with a template on how to revive whatever that can be rescued.

Nigeria in the last seven years has been hellish. The monster of insecurity has been large, with insurgents, terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and other petty criminals making holding sway. For years running, the country has been ranked with Iraq and Afghanistan as most terrorised nations of the world.

The economy has been abysmal, infrastructure collapse, humongous. Inflation has been on galloping scale, with the national currency, the naira, virtually reduced to a bread label in value. Unemployment is high, standard of living extremely low, making Nigeria the poverty capital of the world. At local and global levels, the country has dipped in essence and reputation.

So, when APC aspirants say they will continue with or consolidate on the policies of the Buhari administration, it simply means that they have no focus on where to take the country to. It is even an insult to every Nigerian. They lack patriotism, an essential ingredient in leadership.

A particular incident took place in the American presidential election on 1980 that has been cited as a true test of patriotism.

In the final week of the 1980 campaign between the candidate of Democratic Party, President Jimmy Carter and Republican nominee, Ronald Reagan, the two were put on debate. In course of the debate, Reagan posed what has become one of the most important campaign questions of all time: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Carter’s answer was a resounding “NO”. That patriotic response cost him the election but America won.

You may not get a similar scenario here. Politics here, is unique and queer. Some say it is a zero-sum game. It will not therefore be surprising if APC aspirants continue to humour the president with the pledge of consolidating on his achievements. They know they are lying but needed to be politically correct in a system that abhors truth.

But then, Nigeria is in deep mess and in dire need of a leader to take it out of the quagmire. Sonny Okosuns, the revolutionary music star, saw the signs long ago. In one of his songs, he posed a philosophical question; “Which way Nigeria?” pained that many years after independence, the country was still finding it hard to stand. Okosuns further asked how long it would take the country to get to the Promised Land. None of the questions has been answered.

Truth be told, most of those with the APC and PDP nomination forms do not have the carriage and courage for the arduous task of rebuilding the nation. They should not be allowed near the presidency.

The challenge ahead is enormous and not that which can be glossed over by mere claim of having been in the political circle, for quite some time and knowing the game. It is not a matter of having deep pocket or war chest as we call. Neither does it call for advertisement of the so-called structures – a euphemism for vote manipulation and capacity to deploy violence. It is one that requires rolling up the pants and stepping into the mud. Nigeria presently needs men and women of ideas, who have the character and capacity to confront her current problems and provide the necessary solutions.

These are leaders the iconic Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu referred to in his well-received book, “Because I am Involved”.

He said; “We need leaders who are servants of the people, not their masters. We need leaders who will serve first the common man. We require leaders who will ensure fairness and equity to the various groups. We need leaders who must be embodiment and at all times, exemplify the ideas of our nation. We need leaders who will keep alive the flames of our national aspirations. We want leaders who will be trusted friends of the people and protectors of the disadvantaged and oppressed. We require leaders who will have the right judgement both of people and situations. We want leaders who must be accountable to the people and are subjected to the collective will of the people”.

Bill Newman in his “10 Laws of Leadership”, adds, that a leader must have a vision, stressing that the vision must be fulfilled by goals that work toward the achievement of the vision.

These are considerations that should bother the APC, PDP and delegates of other political parties at their primaries. As they vote, they should have the picture of the unemployed youths, the out-of-school children, the battered economy that needs to be rebuilt, the country torn apart by insecurity and other incidences of crisis, in their minds. They must get it right or fall for the crumbs and be prepared to live with the country in its continuous slide.

DURU is the Editor of TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos. (08054103327, nwaukpala@yahoo.com)

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