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Can Imumolen repeat Ruto’s Kenyan experience in Nigeria’s 2023 presidential elections?

By Ayo Babalola
08 September 2022   |   1:49 pm
History has a way of repeating itself in different ways, different forms. Kenya's recent presidential elections, in which William Ruto destroyed the age-long power structure led by the country's aristocrats since independence to clinch the presidency, have been seen by astute political watchers as not only an upset, but an example for transparent elections on…

Composite image of Accord Party’s presidential candidate Prof. Christopher ‘Chris’ Imumolen and Kenyan president-elect William Ruto.

History has a way of repeating itself in different ways, different forms. Kenya’s recent presidential elections, in which William Ruto destroyed the age-long power structure led by the country’s aristocrats since independence to clinch the presidency, have been seen by astute political watchers as not only an upset, but an example for transparent elections on the African continent.

For Nigeria, the supposed ‘giant of Africa,’ there are definitely new things to learn. First, Ruto, who upset the odds to wrest power from a dynasty of rulers that had seemingly passed around the baton of leadership among themselves for decades, proved that a candidate from a humble background could rise to the level of a number one citizen.

Ruto, even though the deputy president to the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, was never a silver-spoon kid who benefited from state-sponsored comfort.

He once sold chicken and groundnuts by the roadside. This was why his slogan of being a “hustler” and selling his messages of generational change anchored on relatable slogans resonated with the Kenyan people, who desperately needed a break from the past.

Again, he earned huge credibility and mass appeal for vigorously pushing causes that seemed to benefit the people. For example, he made sure that Uhuru Kenyatta’s sinister plans to arbitrarily change the constitution in 2020 did not see the light of day after he challenged the move in the Supreme Court.

Ruto would later become a hero when the apex court ruled in his favour, thus frustrating the plan.

His stock further rose with the electorate when he kept harping on the need for generational change. And his age would ultimately prove a huge factor in the election. From the way the voting panned out, it was clear that Kenyans actually bought into his vision of seeing a younger man take over from the ageing, sit-tight generation.

Ruto played the age card to the hilt. He came into the election, brandishing his younger age of 55 against his opponent, Raila Odinga, who is 77, and was attempting to be the country’s president after four previously failed attempts. At the end of the day, age won!

LIKE RUTO, LIKE IMUMOLEN?

A similar scenario is simmering in Nigeria as another election to determine the country’s leaders comes up in 2023.

After several years of misrule in which Nigerians have endured untold economic hardship, they appear set to take their destinies into their own hands with a firm decision to do all that it takes to install leaders who will fight for their interests this time.

Enter Professor Christopher Imumolen, an accomplished academic, businessman, philanthropist, and industrialist. At 39, he is one of the youngest candidates ever to contest any presidential election in Nigeria.

He doesn’t only have his age as an asset. He is equipped with a cache of solutions for a myriad of the country’s problems that have seemed to befuddle even the astutest of leaders in Nigeria’s seat of power for decades.

Interestingly, just like Ruto, he appears to be winning converts. And like his Kenyan counterpart, he also comes from a humble background with no opportunity for a privileged upbringing.

His message is clear and simple: to return Nigeria to the path of prosperity through formulating and driving policies that would empower and enrich the people. To inject new life into a seemingly dead economy through reviving abandoned and moribund industries in order to create employment for the huge population of the unemployed, to restore the health, educational sectors to their former pride of place where hospitals and schools were well equipped and run, to boost the agriculture sector in order to ensure food security, to end insecurity in the land through tighter border control systems anchored on modern technology, and to rebrand Nigeria and make it a place to be proud of again.

Unlike in the past, when his message would have been lost in the cacophony of unbridled tribal and religious sentiments, today’s Nigerian is determined to look at the man preaching the message and not how well connected, rich or privileged he is.

Does he have credibility? Can he deliver if he gets the chance? Will he unite Nigeria or be an ethnic or religious bigot? Will he lead us to economic prosperity?

These are some of the questions they will ask, and are asking.

Imumolen is on the threshold of history. He is not only in the frame to shock the ‘establishment’ as Ruto did, he would be making a strong case for a paradigm shift that has somewhat eluded the country in ages.

And should he do what now seems unthinkable considering the odds hugely stacked against him as a fresher and a non-conformist to the old order of corruption and bad governance, he would have succeeded in not only replicating Ruto’s feat in Kenya, but also ending up as Nigeria’s youngest president since military head of state Yakubu Gowon and the most educated president ever.

Ayo Babalola wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria