Nigeria 2023: ‘Searching for Mr. President
BY UBAKA OKOFU
For those who understand that Nigeria is on a brink, and steeping to crash into smaller countries, the search for a bridge builder who may be president in 2023, hoping that the contraption will survive the menace of marauding herdsmen and the drumbeats of separation is now.
As it stands, Nigeria does not need an hybrid president with extraordinary intelligence or political sophistry to keep her colonially foisted corporate existence intact. To get out of the woods, Nigeria and Nigerians need a bridge builder who will reconnect, reconcile and reposition the six geo-political regions that till date are the basis for ethnic and religious campaigns.
Frankly, what has placed the Nigerian state precariously on a cliff didn’t start with the Buhari’s administration. It has been simmering since the nation witnessed its’ first coup d’etat in 1966. The coup was an ominous sign that Nigerian wasn’t feasible, but we went ahead in our wild goose chase. Except for the fact that those who carried out the bloody coup were Nigerians, everything about the 1966 coup was wrong. Little wonder that it was a retaliatory coup, barely seven months after the country woke up to a martial music for the first thing in her short history then. No doubt, it was branded a northern coup. The northern elements in the Nigerian military were angry and had to take revenge because they were of the opinion that the Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu led coup was a calculated move to wipe out prominent northern leaders from the political arena to pave way for those of the eastern region to hold sway.
Since the ill fated coup, the deep seated animosity between the north and the south has been legendary. Small wonder the Nigerian civil war broke out in 1967. Since then arsenals were never fired at each other yet, there have been war at various fronts. The internecine war of religion and ethnicity is far more dangerous than one region actually taking up arms against another. Nigerians had, and still fight themselves on almost all fronts. The Igbo man wants the Yoruba man out of his way at all cost. The Fulanis/Hausas seemingly dominate the Immigration services, Customs, Nigeria Police, Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, the Nigerian Military, e.t.c. Appointments into federal parastatals are no longer done on merit and competence. Each ethnic group now tries to outsmart the other over federal appointments.
To be able to keep Nigeria in one piece and manage the country adroitly, we do not need an Igbo President nor a Yoruba President, but a Nigerian President who fits into Niyi Osundare’s poetic rules. In his allegorical poem, ‘The Leader and the Led’ the poet who spoke through an all-knowing Forest sage notes that the search for a quintessential or dreamed leader comes with painstaking and diligent search, and to guide the search from derailment, the search must not lose focus of transparency and astuteness. The Forest sage opines that the dreamed leader will be one who has the following qualities rolled into one: ‘Tough like a tiger’, ‘compassionate like a doe’, ‘transparent like a river’ and ‘mysterious like a lake’ .
Nigerians should brace up to the reality and reasoning of the 21th Century where the fad and focus is globalization and industrialization. Bounding ourselves further into religious bigotry and ethnic tapestry would mean grave danger for generations to come.
The time now calls for us to tell ourselves the truth. Nepotism and sundry corrupt practices only asphyxiate a nation and set the denizens on collusion course. If we must make progress, the various political parties must indulge in the same serious search for candidates whose political popularity traverse ethnic and religious boundaries. Primary or selection exercise must be transparent and credible.
The one who should eventually emerge as President in 2023 must be open minded and be ready to operate an all inclusive administration, one devoid of ethnic and religious sentiments. Appointments should be such that only qualified individuals with the relevant experience should be considered. The administration of whoever emerges must hit the ground running. Particularly, he should be able to douse or completely erase the suspicion presently oscillating between the northern region and their southern counterpart. His administration must be such that the people of the southern must be or seem to have been relieved from the fear of the hegemony of the northern Muslims. The same way, the people of the north should not be seen as parasites.
This writer does not make a case for Atiku Abubakar, but the Turaki of Adamawa has all it takes to tame the marauding herdsmen and the menace of banditry. Besides, his popularity cuts across regions of the country. He is popular in his northern region the same way he is popular in the south. He holds a cosmopolitan view of a Nigeria that is prided above ethnic and religious sentiments.
Age may not be on the side of Atiku, what is needed to keep Nigeria as one indivisible country, at least for now is experience and the ability to act timeously. It must be shown that government is sincerity in its drive to match the country beyond religious ethnic tapestry.
No doubt, there are other Nigerians, whom if given the opportunity would stir the country far from nepotism in appointments and siding with the people of whatever region he hails from. But, one wonders if such individual understands Nigeria as much as the likes of Atiku do. While in service as a top ranked officer in the Nigerian Customs, Atiku had the privilege to hobnob with Nigerians with different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and he made an execellent use of that opportunity.
As Vice President to Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007), Atiku was able to demonstrate unparelled political sagacity that many are still of the view that the engine room of the Obasanjo’s administration was Atiku whom pundits claimed did all the dirty jobs to ensure that the sails of the Obasanjo’s administration was not disrupted at any time.