The president Nigeria needs...

‘Nigeria is on the march again, and we are in search of Mr. Presi­dent,’ goes that popular advert, heralding Chief Moshood Abiola’s HOPE’93 campaign. The jingle concludes by chorusing: ‘MKO is our man o.’ Who wears the crown? Who becomes Mr. President in 2015? Tough question.

Unlike in 1993 when it was pretty clear that Abiola was as good as clinching the popular votes, even before the June 12 poll, no one can be definitive who the ultimate man will be. Whether it will be incum­bent President Goodluck Jonathan or General Muhammadu Buhari? The field is as fluid as any can be. And this is understandable: So many things have happened to us since 1993, when we had a historic election that was inexplicably annulled by Nigeria’s rapacious military gang. Elections have since descended to a do-or-die since June 12; rigging couldn’t have been more scientific. The most popu­lar candidate has no guarantee that he would be announced winner. In this ding-dong, it becomes impossible to predict who would win an election. Unlike June 12, when it was apparent, even to the blind, that Bashir Tofa was a terrible mismatch for the ebullient Abiola, who eventually knocked him silly in the election, trumping him even in his Kano homestead. 

As I was saying, and like every­one can see, so many things have changed since June 12, 1993. We have so much regressed in our thought process, that 22years after, primordial and base issues we thought we had surmounted with the outcome of June 12 elections, now seems to define our electoral campaigns. How come we have become worse off as a nation, al­lowing non-issues define our process rather than concrete issues that propel development? How come issues of tribe, region, religion and zone have become so pronounced in a battle that ought to be about competence and ability to perform? How come we have allowed the anarchists, ethnic and religious jingoists in our midst drag us to the point where what seems to dominate public discourses are religion and region: North or South, and not who will best deliver the golden egg? It’s sad and certainly dishearten­ing.

Let me explain what I’m getting at: In 1993, when Abiola ran for elec­tion, no one gave a damn about where he came from; whether he was from the South or North; if he was Muslim or Christian. Nigerians simply forgot about ethnic or religious sentiments and rallied behind one man, a man of all seasons, a man of the people for the people, who seemed to encapsulate their dreams and hopes. Across the nation, the Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Ibibio, Kanuri, Kalabari, Calabar, Bachama, Bini, Egba, Ijebu, Ogoni, indeed, every tribe, tongue and religion, saw one good man whom they felt had what it took to lead the country, and gave him their mandate.

It was dramatic. Enchanting. Simply incredible. A Muslim from the South- West, scoring popular votes in the Eastern Christian stronghold, Muslim Northern majority and a landslide in the South-South, traditional allies of the North. Neither religion nor region mattered. It was simply about who Nigerians felt could deliver democ­racy dividends to them.But, what do we hear now? Acrimonious debates over whether the parties should field Muslim-Muslim candidates or Muslim- Christian or Christian-Muslim, and so on and so forth. All kinds of illogical, meaningless and definitely, unhelpful arguments, in my view.

In the 21st century, when serious-minded nations are seeking out their best citizens to occupy the No. 1 posi­tion, we are bickering over where the president should come from or what religion he should profess. We are hopelessly bogged down by the section of the country or zone our president should come from.

This is where I stand: In 2015, all Nigerians need is one good man, who will lead us to the land of our dreams. A land of gainful employment for our teeming unemployed youths. A land of plenty in food and other good things that make life worth living: Decent shelter, efficient health care, quality education, among others.

We don’t need to split hairs if our 2015 president is a Christian, Muslim, traditional religionist or an atheist. Let him serve and serve us well. Any leader dutifully serving the people is serving God and doing God’s work. What is the use of having a leader or president, who professes a faith, but doesn’t live up to expectations? What’s the use of a Christian or Muslim presi­dent in a nation of majority poor and hopeless? What’s the use of a Southern or Northern president, who can’t pro­vide better life for the people he leads?

To my countrymen and women, I declare: Campaign for, and vote in a president your conscience tells you will best serve you. The man, who will safeguard your interests, provide you with dividends of democracy. Neither religious nor ethnic nor tribal considerations should ever propel your choice in 2015.

For too long, ethnic and religious sentiments have been used to exploit and confuse the people of this coun­try by the politicians and ruling elite, for essentially, their selfish goals. They play these cards, knowing that’s what easily ignites the flame and passion of the people. They tell them candidate A or B is not of their faith and tribe, so should not be voted for. They get power and exploit their offices; amassing stupendous wealth for family, friends and cronies, forgetting the masses who they have cruelly manipulated to ascend office.

Election : They are back playing the same hate song and dance. And the people, fickle and gullible, forget yesterday and become swayed by base sentiments that have no signifi­cant impact on their socio-economic wellbeing. Truly, Marx was right when he wrote, ‘religion is the opium of the masses.’ In Nigeria, we may add: ‘Tribalism and ethnicity are the intoxicants of the people.’ Our people must know that corruption and looting of the treasury wear no religious or tribal marks. Just like poverty and deprivation. When politi­cians are elected and get into office, as we have seen over and over again, they bury whatever differences they have and concentrate on the business of serving themselves and looting our treasury. At that time, neither religion nor tribe matters. But, they begin to drum up these issues as soon as election approaches. Enough of these nonsense. Only the best is good enough for Nigeria. The best in leadership and competence. When we need religious or tribal leaders, we know where to search for them. Governance is serious business for the serious-minded. A nation in search of progress cannot afford to falter on the altar of meaningless sentiments. This, I strongly believe.

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