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The presidency and its failings

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Aliko Dangote, billionaire and chief executive officer of Dangote Group, PHOTO: Jason Alden/Bloomberg


People aspire for the office of president of a country for many reasons. I hear Aliko Dangote is being pressured by admirers to run for the office. If I were him, I wouldn’t run, because he has a stature greater than that of a president. What does a Bill Gates need the presidency for? His platform extends far and above one provided by the U.S. political scene. They both don’t need political offices to make money, for they are already rich. Power, right? Then you must have forgotten the late Herman Kahn’s (U.S. political commentator) speech-mark, “authority is not power, that’s coercion. Authority is not knowledge, that’s persuasion or seduction. Authority is simply that the author has the right to make a statement and to be heard.”

Now, who was it that said, “the right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously?” You got it right. Hubert Humphrey. Everyone is an oracle and a hero to someone. So forgive me if I goof in this article. Be guided by Humphrey’s advice.

There are many reasons that make people seek political offices. One of which is to serve humanity and solve pressing challenges. Secondly is to make history and have a good time and, finally, to steal. Ken Saro-Wiwa in one of his books categorised President Shehu Shagari’s government of the second republic amongst the worst in modern history. I wonder the performance metrics he used to arrive at that and what he might have said, were he alive in this fourth republic. And so, maybe, Shagari wasn’t prepared for office but went to make history and to have a good time. I have heard people say that there aren’t legacy projects that Nigerians can remember that government for.

In the fourth republic, President Olusegun Obasanjo came to unify the country and to serve. He succeeded up to a point before he veered off, painfully. Today, some of the pangs of disunity that the nation suffers were planted by his actions and were further entrenched by President Goodluck Jonathan. But the quirks of Obasanjo notwithstanding, he never favoured any region above another and was not loyal to persons above national interests. Not even his close friends could be unwieldy. He dealt with them, jailed some and even harassed man. I am not a fan of OBJ though. He let me down in his poor handling of the Sharia crisis caused by a bearded governor who chose to be a cleric in office and not a governor.

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua didn’t aspire to be president but his antecedent showed that he came to serve. I wish he lived longer. His death was a big disservice to this nation because his successor didn’t follow his agenda the way President Lyndon Johnson astutely followed the agenda of President John. F. Kennedy in the United States of America.

Check the OPEC figures of Nigeria’s earnings in oil and gas during the administration of Jonathan without adding earnings in taxes and you would know that Jonathan, like Shagari went to the presidency to make history and to have a good time. And he really had a good time. Just like Shagari, his lieutenants steered the ship of state. Pardon me, Rowed! They never steered.

I voted for President Muhammadu Buhari because I saw him as a better alternative. A retired soldier who had history behind him and could reform the system, not change it. I never fell for the blarney of his party’s change mantra. It is difficult to change a country without a clear-cut national philosophy. The president in my view came to serve. Regrettably, he hasn’t served well in my estimation and can do better. I hope he isn’t waiting to serve well in his second term, a return which is not guaranteed. He had better seek Jonathan’s counsel on how not to wait for a second term to serve well. I refuse to judge him on the economy. Experts know, that the straits we are in wasn’t caused by him but he seems to be telling his lieutenants how to lead instead of showing them.

While I do not regret voting for him, I do not fancy his style of leadership. Why for instance should he keep pampering certain establishment players at the cost to national growth. We still travel to lands to pray not privately but at a cost to the nation. Why should sections of the country think they are more of stakeholders to the Nigerian project than other people owing to the president’s place of origin caused only by an accident of birth? I can’t understand why he should settle to be a president for four regions instead of six. I can’t understand why certain people aren’t pursued in the fight against corruption but some are. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan (Republican) was once quoted as saying that, “it makes no sense to investigate fellow Republicans.”

This was after Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump resigned over his alleged clandestine contacts with Russian government officials to favour Trump against Hillary Clinton in the presidential elections.

Has Nigeria’s democratic space grown to that level? Aliko Dangote has what it takes to give PMB a run for his money in the next general elections, should he decide to run. The drawback is that, the business tycoon doesn’t have the popular appeal with the masses in the north like PMB and may not be supported by the establishment. Dangote should be another John D. Rockefeller who was quoted to have said:” I believe the power to make money is a gift of God to be developed and used to the best of our ability for the good of mankind. Having been endowed with the gift I possess. I believe it is my duty to make money and still more money and to use the money I make for the good of my fellow man according to the dictates of my conscience.”
Abah wrote from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.


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