- PUNCH LINE
Fellow Nigerians, I’m sure this must have been a very interesting week for you like it has been for me. I spent the first few days attending the Inauguration ceremony for the brand new President of the Republic of Liberia, former World Footballer, George Opong Weah and his Vice President, Senator Jewel Howard Taylor. I must say I was greatly inspired by what I saw in Liberia, a country which is like another home for me. About ten years ago, I received one of the greatest honours in the country when I was “gowned” and made a Chief with the powerful title, The Kiazolu of The Grand Cape Mount County. I’m eternally grateful to the Council of Traditional Chiefs of Liberia for such privilege. Interestingly, one of the dignitaries at my “gowning ceremony” then is now the new Vice President, Senator Jewel Taylor.
I met many African leaders in Monronvia, including Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, former Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John Dramani Mahama. Of course, our one and only indefatigable President Emeritus, General Olusegun Okikiolakan Aremu Obasanjo (Rtd.) was fully on ground. The Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi and his wife, Mrs Florence Ajimobi, stayed in the same hotel with the Ovation team which included the Editor, Michael Effiong. Naturally, the Boulevard Palace Hotel, where we stayed, became a Mecca of sorts. It was the place everyone wanted to be accommodated in but this was well nigh impossible.
It was while in Monrovia, that I read former President Obasanjo’s bazooka of a letter to our dear President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.), and the impact and reverberation of what can almost be described as an atomic bomb is still being felt at home and even in far flung places. The letter did not come as a total surprise to some of us. It was in fact long awaited and sooner expected. Baba’s letter was much more longer and extremely detailed than the one I wrote to President Buhari about three weeks earlier, but we shared some things in common. The verdict out there on the streets is that the ruling Party, APC, has performed far below expectations and cannot, and should not, in good conscience, seek another term in office, under the current leadership of President Buhari. The other major challenge for the President has been his health which became very worrisome for several months last year. Miraculously, the President resurrected and returned triumphantly to power after some of his vociferous critics had written him off. But what is not known, is if he has enough stamina to cope with the rigours of running a country as complex and complicated as Nigeria, never mind the rigorous campaigning that must precede an attempt at a second term. Obasanjo amplified this particular issue, repeatedly, in his latest missive. The long and short of the matter is that Obasanjo believes that Buhari should not contest again.
Many have argued that it is undemocratic to ask Buhari not to contest when the Nigerian Constitution expressly allows him. But there is no big deal if the same people that supported him in the past are now advising him to save himself from the stress of campaigning again. The advice can easily be ignored since it is not enforceable. Let me confess that I thoroughly enjoyed Obasanjo’s letter. Wow, if Baba was not a soldier, he would have been a journalist. I’m not surprised that he is an accomplished author to boot.
But as much as I enjoyed this letter, which I’ve read repeatedly since it was released, I’m not so sure about Baba’s thesis, or hypothesis, on the issue of a third force.
I have no doubt in my mind that Nigeria truly requires a serious political Party with impeccable ideology. This was my dream in 2010, when I decided to join the Presidential race which I eventually contested in 2011. My idea was simply that Nigeria deserves better Parties than the ones on parade right now. I decided to join the Labour Party for that purpose. Little did I realise the naivety in that decision. First, I did not know that the Nigerian Labour Congress had no direct control or influence over the Labour Party. Just imagine a party with all Nigerian workers as bona fide and fee-paying members. This dream was truncated because no such thing existed and I had to try my luck elsewhere. I joined the National Conscience Party and won the Presidential Primary after a stiff contest. I eventually contested as a Presidential candidate in 2011 but lost resoundingly. But despite this loss, I gained two things, experience and exposure. It is based on that experience that I wish to plead with the conveners of the third force to be very careful.
Politics is a game of numbers and figures. It is not for the faint-hearted. I’m almost certain that no major force apart from PDP can sack Buhari and, or, APC from power next year. It is an established fact that only two dominant Parties are viable in most countries of the world. There are a few exceptions here and there, but they belong in the realm of magic and miracle. A quintessential example of how tough it is for a third force to emerge and succeed is Donald Trump who had to hijack the Republican Party in the United States to get a formidable ticket. I believe that it is too late in the day, with elections coming next year, to build a third Party, or movement, of force, or whatever to compete against APC or PDP.
I understand where Obasanjo’s problem lies. He can neither join APC nor PDP now. Both political Parties currently harbour some of his sworn enemies, or people he doesn’t fancy at all. If he would have any influence or relevance, he would have to seek and work with other Parties except those two. But I must sound a note of caution urgently. As much as I’m not a fan of PDP, I don’t see any other Party that can unseat APC right now, unless that Party addresses all its internal conflicts and presents a united front. Truth hurts but we must swallow that bitter pill. If Baba has virtually foreclosed Buhari coming back next year, he must be ready to accept whatever or whoever PDP throws up. It is not possible to eat your cake and still have it. Nigeria has finally reached a cul-de-sac so soon again after the exit of PDP.
It is important to note that most of the names being bandied as potential aspirants and candidates are not likely to be able to tackle Buhari readily and easily. PDP would have to get its act together. Over-ambitious members would have to bury their vaunting ambitions and make the huge sacrifice to rescue Nigeria by seeking the best candidates at all levels. APC can also spring a surprise by dropping Buhari peacefully and give their ticket to any of the younger and cerebral elements. The job of the President these days cannot be treated as business as usual. No country, least of all a developing one, can afford to run on cruise control or auto pilot. That is more or less how we have operated these past years. The President of Africa’s greatest country must be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with world leaders and speak their language, discuss business, talk foreign affairs, understand diplomacy, and so on. Exchanging the baton of backwardness every four-years can no longer work to our advantage. Nigeria is too big to be handled and handed to those without requisite preparation for the new world order.
I believe the third force can checkmate the traditional politicians while working slowly and steadily on building a new coalition of like minds. The death knell of APC was sounded when it chose to welcome every Tom, Dick and Harry into its fold, but it had no choice if it wanted to win elections. I also suppose that is an essential aspect of democracy. However, what APC lacked was the will to consign the chaff, flotsam and jetsam to the rubbish heap. On the contrary, they were promoted to vantage positions. Truth seems to be that the good candidates would not win elections in the near future without the assistance of bad guys. The immediate priority of APC and PDP should be how to save Nigeria from the monumental tragedy of ineffective leaders. I really do not care which Party gives us the next President but I care about the quality of leadership. If care is not taken and a third force fails to align to one of the existing Parties, the third force may act as a spoiler by chipping away at some of the votes a creditable, credible opposition Party would have garnered. A good example is the 1979 scenario where the combined force of UPN and NPP would have torpedoed the abysmal and woeful NPN which Obasanjo bequeathed to Nigeria. Clearly, this does not augur well for Nigeria.
I hope someone is listening to my patriotic sermon…
TIME TO END OUR MILITARY MENTALITY
I was happy to watch President Donald Trump’s speech in Davos yesterday on CNN. I was very impressed about how he spoke eloquently and convincingly about the new ease of doing business in America today. I saw a man who was very serious about creating jobs at home, by all means necessary. As a businessman himself, he obviously understands the rudiments of running business and creating opportunities for job seekers. That should be the priority of all governments, but I’m not sure Nigeria is ready to treat our investors as the kings they are in reality.
I was shocked to read the latest harassment of one of our business icons, Dr Mike Adenuga, on social media yesterday. According to the widely circulated reports, Dr. Adenuga’s company is owing the Federal Government some huge sums of money running into billions of naira. It was not stated how members of the House of Representatives arrived at their figure, but they claimed they’ve summoned Dr Adenuga to appear before them several times but he refused. The tone and anger displayed by the committee members probing the alleged infractions sounded more like vendetta than genuine interest in getting whatever amount his companies are allegedly owing, back to government coffers. One of them went downright personal when he said Adenuga is not the only billionaire in Nigeria and he cannot disrespect them. My view is that unlike public service where you may call for the Minister or Agency head, you cannot do the same for a private company, particularly where the individual is not an executive Chairman. There are appropriate officers of a company to deal with such matters. Asking Adenuga to come personally demonstrates not only a lack of understanding of corporate nuances but also unseriousness, even arrogance, by our legislators who appear not to have done their homework.
Furthermore, if the Honourable House members have concluded their investigations and findings, are they the ones to prosecute and judge at the same time? The allegations they make are matters which are either for the civil or criminal courts. Their powers are limited. Therefore, why can’t they refer the matter to the appropriate authorities instead of this unnecessary grandstanding. If we continue to humiliate all our great and visionary business men and women publicly by trial in the court of public opinion rather than the Court of Law, who would be left standing? I agree that matters of this nature should be investigated, but not in this barefaced gra gra manner.
Dr Adenuga is undoubtedly one of our hardest working businessmen. He has provided employment for thousands of Nigeria. We all know him to be reclusive in nature and he does not partake in the orgy of ostentation that some of our politicians are known for. He is shy to a fault and is hardly seen in public. Such an institution deserves some respect and protection. If he collapses, God forbid, many thousands of Nigerian families will suffer. We should try to find means of helping people like Adenuga to stay afloat for the sake of our youths. Before our very eyes, Etisalat ran into troubled waters and could not swim afloat. The same must not be allowed to happen to Glo. Once in a while we must eat yam because of palm-oil or eat palm-oil because of yam. No man is perfect in life but we can help to make people perfect, out of love, genuine concern and even the selfish interest of the nation that is already in its death throes from businesses being mortally wounded.
May the tribes of Adenuga increase and may God bless Nigeria mightily through them…