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Project 2019: Nigeria needs leaders, not dealers


In my journey through this wilderness called life, I have lost a number of solid, older friends who have influenced my journalism. One of them is the late Ambassador Isaac Aluko Olokun, a very brilliant economist and a voracious reader who was always ready to answer my questions while building my stories as a reporter, writer and editor in Abuja. The versatile economist, corporate manager and strategist was always surprised by the unusual happenings in government he served as a minister and an envoy to three European countries. I recall that the subject the Ijesha-man who trained at the New York State University, was always interrogating before death came calling in January 2011, was whether anything was really wrong with being black.

The former UAC manager was quite concerned about the thesis of an anonymous racist who once claimed that he would not like the “the black man because he can’t handle complexity”. Any time of the day, my big brother who was impressed by my inquisitive frame of mind would call as soon as he read any thing bizarre and unusual about us and ask, “Martins, have you forgotten the white man’s thesis? He was always talking about elder Areoye Oyebola’s construct, the Black Man’s Dilemma and contrasting it with the claim of black man’s being unable to handle complexity. I have missed my big brother who was a supreme intelligence not only on globalization but also on global affairs.

He was buying and reading books and journals as a public intellectual. If Ambassador Aluko Olokun were alive, he would have been interrogating all the executive procrastinations, gerontocratic tendencies, governing and opposition parties’ inertia and anomie and monumental corruption everywhere you go within the context of the allegation that the black man may be perpetually unable to handle complexity, after all. It is certain that Ambassador Aluko-Olokun would have written several articles and granted many interviews on the brand new Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) that has been unveiled twice within three months. The former CBN chief economist, would have read, re-read and analysed all the verbose and grand plans, their action plans and milestones and timelines for the news media – in global context.


Besides, my economic analyst and one time national coordinator of NEPAD’s Peer Review Mechanism (PRM) in Obasanjo administration would have been wondering why the president has not announced clear-cut Chief Economic Adviser and Political Adviser that would have been helping in answering some thorny questions about this complex and complicated presidency. Most of the presidential advisers are attached to the office of the vice president. They are, after all, all president’s men. My big brother, a member of Abacha’s Vision 2010 Committee would have been wondering and disturbing me about the expediency of appealing to people who would like to rebuild the country’s broken walls to come out now and be counted.

My radical mentor would have been talking to many journalists at the same time to begin the process of reporting political recruitment that will usher in a new Nigeria in 2019 where knowledgeable and passionate Nigerians would dominate political leadership. The man who introduced me to how to use data to tell stories would have fallen in love with the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and his regular economic analysis. The big man, a very close friend of Chief Ernest Shonekan, would have been the first person to draw my attention to the Malam Nasir el-Rufai’s Love Letter to the President. He would have bought many copies that vendors are now selling in Abuja for one thousand Naira per copy. A multi-dimensional thinker, who hated mediocrity, would also have been wondering why political leaders in the north would not celebrate some of their best such as el-Rufai and Sanusi in these times.

So this column today is a symbolic tribute to my big brother, Aluko-Olokun , a good passionate Nigerian. It is also a clarion call on all the good people who are interested in rebuilding Nigeria’s broken walls to stand up for 2019 calculations. No one should be intimidated by the anti-corruption agencies and their stratagems. All the good men and women who may have been lamenting on social media and digital platforms about how bad Nigeria has been, should stop agonizing and start organizing for project 2019.

Nigeria belongs to all of us. It is time to retire military leaders who have been dominating Nigeria’s political life since 1966. We can all see their testimony. They have failed the nation. The house has fallen on all of us unfortunately. When they came with their correcting fluids in 1966, they met a good and prospering country. The qualitative education they met in schools and even the universities they seized in 1975 have been destroyed for lack of knowledge. The Daily Times and New Nigerian they also acquired compulsorily in their prime time, are dead (don’t tell me somebody is publishing Daily Times). Let’s tell the military men, the ‘militicians’ that the last of their political brand managers is in power at the moment but no one is impressed by not only his age but the age of his ideas that can’t take us anywhere.

This country is blessed even now with good and knowledgeable men and women that can make the country great again. There are so many young people that have had the best of education from some of the best universities on earth that are doing well in the private sector. But the principalities and powers that have been assigned from the pit of hell to all the geopolitical zones have not allowed good governance in the hapless country. The morons who have been running the country as barons, the dealers that have been masquerading as leaders have destroyed not only the civil service where corruption should be fought and anti-corruption measures institutionalized, they have also polluted the political parties that should be the bastion of policy making and strategic planning. The two political parties in the country today have no party philosophical guidance, let alone national agenda for development.

Now, there is a glimmer of hope. The election management agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday last week had a stakeholder validation of the Second Strategic Plan (2017-2021). In simple term, the strategic plan has been designed to consolidate the recent progress made by the INEC in conducting credible elections in the country. Things are going to get better and better as the Commission is steadily departing from an ad hoc and quick-fix approach to election management, to a more strategic approach. The validation that I witnessed last week in Abuja was a credible project, which represents a forward and strategic planning of the 2019 and pre-2019 elections. Now the coast is clear for another credible election. Let no one blame INEC for failure to jump into the fray this time. Let all the young and credible men not run away this time. If they do, the political scoundrels that have been imposing even candidates of unsound minds, very unhealthy ones on us will still seize the space.

The struggle for the soul of the opposition party, the PDP has begun – so ruthlessly. The goal is not to rebuild Nigeria’s walls that the same party broke for 16 years. The goal of the old soldiers that are in power is to steal with all their strength and to destroy. The governing party, the APC’s falcons cannot hear the falconers. The vultures that are eyeing some phantom offices in 2019 are daily declaring for the governing party for self and family; not for the common good. So, for those who would like to run the country from 2019, this is what Albert Einstein has to say: The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.

Last week, I watched an angry young man who suggested on a social media platform that the best solution to our underdevelopment is to organize “mass burial for all our leaders”. The boy and all those that have been equally angry about the state of the nation, should note that the only armour against them is “mass burial” of what their ill-gotten wealth represents, “mass burial” of their political parties and ideas. But this will not be easy. It is, however, possible through organizing. That is why we should stop agonising rather we should begin organizing without fear or favour. As Bishop Hassan Kukah has been saying, most of our leaders have been products of emergency recruitments. Apart from General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, (what did he achieve too?), most of them have been unprepared for the office of the president. They have no blueprint. They don’t have even diary of events. After they have seized power or have been declared winner, they constitute transition committees to write their road map.


That is why the Buhari administration that has been in office for almost two years just launched an economic recovery and growth plan. This is not what will make the most populous black nation on earth prosperous. The point is that those who would like to run the country at all levels from 2019 should get cracking now. Besides, they should be collecting data on the country now. They should begin to educate themselves. They should start to tour the country and take note of details of critical infrastructure deficit. Those who want to run the states and local governments should be involved in this due diligence from now. Whatever cannot be measured, cannot be resolved. There should be document-minded now so that when they win they can hit the road running. They should read three things about the country as it is done worldwide: politics, philosophy and economics. This is not to say that aspirants have to go back to college and study politics, philosophy and economics. They should read them up. Readers are leaders and leaders are readers.

It means modern governance is not for the fainthearted and those who cannot read around these three subjects, among others within the concept of leadership. Young leaders need to read governance issues, public policy, organizational learning and knowledge, change management and managing change issues. Some that have time should actually enroll in good schools and be equipped for effective leadership. The way our leaders at all levels read from scripts and respond to interview questions shows that most of them have been captured by Epicurean spirit. They should have time for reading good books, biographies of successful leaders and good journals on management, reinventing government, etc.

And here is the thing, we have a responsibility to retire these old men who are in office and in power now through proper planning and organisation. Money is important in politics, no doubt about that. But those who desire a better National Assembly, those who would like to see good State Houses of Assembly should take up the gauntlet today and begin planning and data collection. They should begin to document their visions. That is the only way we can have a good and prosperous country. As Victor Marie Hugo, a French poet encourages this generation of leaders, “you can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come”. So, members of the old setup that have not worked for us, should remember that they should quit the stage now that the ovation is still loud. If they don’t, we should resist them. They have traumatised Nigeria enough. Besides, their talent and credibility have been overrated. Now we know and they should be afraid of the people’s revolt!


In this article:
Isaac Aluko Olokun
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