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Will 2019 elections end an era?

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Stickers for ballot boxes are seen during the electoral preparation at a local office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 22, 2019, a day before postponed voting day. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Before the vote counters and returning officers complete their job this week, it is important for us to note that the outcome of the presidential election held yesterday may not bring about the change we all desire, but the exercise should be celebrated as a means to an end, yes beginning of the end of an era of politics and ‘militricks’ that have underdeveloped Nigeria. I am talking specifically about this cycle of 2019 elections that should signal the beginning of the end of the era of the Generals who have since 1966 artfully created their ‘militricks’ and dominated politics that has underdeveloped the most populous back nation on earth. This is not yet a seminal paper on how the ‘soldiers of fortune’ as Max Siollun calls them, have underdeveloped Africa’s most strategic nation. It is not yet a chronicle of the years the locusts have eaten in Nigeria.

This reflection on 2019 elections is just a word of encouragement and consolation to our people that in this election I have seen ‘hope of a better tomorrow’, which Ngugiwa Thiong’o, a Kenyan writer says, ‘is the only comfort you can give to a weeping child’. It is my hope that we can deepen our understanding that the outcome of the presidential election held yesterday will only enhance what the late Chief Bola Ige called our ‘civil rule’ without deepening democracy in the country. The election (if concluded) will either retain President Muhammadu Buhari in power or produce a President-elect Atiku Abubakar. Both are members of the old set-up in Nigeria who have been part of the ‘politricks’ that has shaped the way we are in Nigeria.

And here is the thing, we will either remain with the APC or we return to PDP. We are therefore still between the devil and the deep blue sea. We will begin to see from later today where the pendulum is swinging. My take is that we should be expecting the result that will emerge as continuation of a system that General Chris Ali, a former army chief calls ‘Federal Republic of the Nigeria Army’, a model that has shaped Nigeria since 1966. We only need some patience to allow all the old banana trees to wither away. The suckers that will replace them will begin a Nehemiah era that will rebuild the country’s broken walls.

The world as been waiting for Nigeria to rise from the rubble of colonisation and the dubious house Lord Lugard built in 1914. But the journey to greatness, which began when we attained independence in October, 1960 was scuttled by ‘soldiers of fortune’ in 1966 when they struck down democracy and its majesty in federalism then. Since the Class of 1966 came in with their phony correcting fluid, we have not risen as the soldiers have since been in charge – of Nigeria. Let’s list them: Generals Aguiyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, (who begat ShehuShagari and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as elected President), Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida (who begat M.KO Abiola’s presidency he aborted), SaniAbacha, AbdusalamiAbubakar (who ‘recloned’Obasanjo who has been producing successive president since 1999).

What a Republic of the Nigerian Army! General Buhari whose government was over thrown in August 1985 by General IBB sought re-election for a second term of four years yesterday. He is on the verge of completing the first four years as an elected president. He promised a radical change and we trusted him as a man of integrity in 2015. It has since been discovered that the change promised four years ago is still an illusion. But in this county of anything-is-possible, political leaders don’t have to run for a second term on their performance. After all, the voters may not determine who wins, counters and collators of the votes and security agencies may count more than voters. So, it is possible for President Buhari who has boasted to several interviewers that nobody could unseat him, to get four more years. We may have to endure four more years to get the change promised since 2015. It doesn’t matter; we have a culture of low or no expectation, here, after all. One thing is however clear, even if President Buhari gets re-elected, he has only four years to flaunt his overrated integrity and anti-graft warfare. I doubt that his region will find another political figure that will have a cult-like following that the lanky General has enjoyed.  So it is with Atiku Abubakar, who has been contesting presidential election since 1992.

Most young people may not know that the veteran politician, Atiku contested with M.K.O Abiola and others in Jos in 1992 on the platform of the SDP. No presidential candidate since 1999 has faced the kind of persecution and profiling he has faced in this 2019 contest. He too has benefited tremendously from the years if locusts in Nigeria. He was a very senior customs officer who also invested in the permissive system as a businessman just like Generals T.Y Danjuma, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, etc. The man from Jada, Adamawa markedly changed the face of this presidential race. Despite the fine face the governing party top guns have been putting on, it could be discerned thatthe race was not going to be easy for President Buhari’s party. No one was sure yesterday who could win this election. So, even if veteran Abubakar wins the race, he can only be in office for the first four years and possible renewal for another four years. But it will come to pass that after the next eight years, the era of the members of the old set up will expire, hopefully.

But I have taken strategic note of what a top political analyst, Babajide Otitoju said of this ‘hypothesis’ on Friday on TVC’s Journalists Hangout when I raised the issue of the end of an era of the gerontocrats. Babajide had noted that we might have wait for two more election cycles before we could get rid of them. He anchored his conclusion on an understanding that there exists a covert succession arrangement within the political class that could bring forth the not-too-old and not-too-young politicians such as the Tinubus, the Gojes, the Kwankwansos, the Orjis, the Dukes, etc. Jide and some others have argued that money would continue to answer most things in political recruitment process here. The argument that these prominent children of Goliath, who have always been part of the old set-up would always call the shot is understandable.

There is an underreported storyline in ‘the art of battling giants’ in the scriptures, which management experts such as Malcolm Gladwell, author of David and Goliath have elevated in business and management journal. The context is that ‘Goliath actually had children’ the Israelites and the house of David didn’t know until they rose to contend with the house of David as Goliath their father did.

The scripture is a classic on how not to underrate the Goliaths in our affairs because once you defeat a Goliath, you may still have his children to contend with.So, the implication of this revelation is that in the modern art of battling the giants who are likely to have a terminal date with history in 2023 and beyond, we need to encourage people who would like to succeed them to begin to organise instead of agonising about the Goliaths and their offspring. It is not about power of oratory and being members of what Duff McDonald calls, The Golden Passport – being members of the Harvard Business School MBA elite.

It is about the power of political management and organisation. These old and new Goliaths who appear to have conquered Nigeria but are retiring and prepared to take over have one thing in common: strategic planning power for themselves. They never planned to develop the country. They don’t plan for their children to attend schools in the country they lead. Despite the relative poverty attributed to even President Buhari, all his children are graduates and undergraduates of British Schools in Togo and United Kingdom. The Goliaths and their siblings in power have never invested in good hospitals here. There is no ban on their medical vacation abroad. We know where our leaders get medical attention.

However, there are some low hanging fruits of what they have destroyed from the good they inherited in 1966. They inherited good education system. For instance, Chief Obafemi Awolowo developed a world-class university with its own identity – for learning and culture to address development challenges in Western Nigeria. AlhajiAhmadu Bello of the then Northern Region also established the Ahmadu Bello University, a distinctive university. Dr.NmamdiAzikiwe also founded a University of Nigeria modelled after the American system at Nsukka in Eastern Nigeria.

These universities were set up by instruments of the regional Parliaments of the First Republic. The Generals seized them from 1975. They have destroyed them as federal universities. There are records that journalists from the New York Times once visited the Nigerian Daily Times, then a very successful private newspaper, for organisational learning. Based on a pepper-soup joint rumour that one director had too much power, the military government seized the newspaper and the New Nigerian too set up by the then premier of Northern Region, Ahmadu Bello.

They have destroyed them. Has anyone told the young ones that Nigerian Television Authority(NTA) too was not set up by the federal government? NTA was a Western Nigeria’s property, in fact, the first television station in Africa Chief Awolowo set up as Premier of Western Region. The military government authorities seized the station as a national broadcaster. Look at what they have made of the station. Behold, it is not run as a national broadcaster. There is also a sense in which one can claim that they have also violated the old Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (WNBC). These are some of the organic issuesmost young people and some unscrupulous elders do not appreciate when we talk about the essence of federalism we lost in 1966.

So, it is time we realised thatthe rank of strong men who have been subverting democracy and development will shrink with the conclusion of this presidential election. And those who want to succeed them should realise that they should begin to organise to conquer themselves first. They should begin to plan on how to succeed Buhari or Atiku. The Moghalus, the Ezekwesilis, the Durotoyes, the Sowores, the Mailafias, etc should not wait till 2023 before planning succession politics to the National Assembly too!


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