By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, on June 12, 2023, Nigeria would have suffered, for 30 ugly years, for the calamitous mistake of annulling our best Presidential election result ever. For the benefit of those who were not yet born, or too young to understand and appreciate the magnitude of the disaster that hit Nigeria since that saga, let me offer a quick explanation of the premise for my conclusion that this was the freest, fairest, and indeed, the best election Nigeria has ever had and that we continue to suffer the consequences of that election being annulled.
On June 12, 1993, there was a Presidential contest between Chief Moshood Abiola and Alhaji Bashir Tofa (who passed on incidentally and sadly just a few days ago, so both protagonists are sadly now deceased). The election produced a clear winner in Chief Abiola, and this has recently been validated by the Buhari administration. However, for no clear and unjustifiable reasons, the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida was neither impressed nor excited about that monumental election. The collation of the results of the concluded voting exercise was abruptly stopped and the national announcement of the election results which was widely known to everybody was aborted. Every effort to revalidate that mandate was rebuffed. Chief Abiola, who was the undisputed winner, was frustrated, punished and incarcerated from 1994-98 when he suddenly died in General Sani Abacha’s detention. Abacha himself had died a month earlier. And General Abdulsalami Abubakar took over as Head of State. The rest is history as they say.
READ ALSO: Sylvester Oromoni Jr. And The Cricks Of Injustice
Let’s fast forward. Nigeria began a fresh round of transition in 1999 after the demise of Abiola which eventually produced and saw a retired Army General and past Military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, returning as civilian President. Those elections were fraught with manipulations, allegations of rigging and downright fraud. The results were contested up to the Supreme Court by the opponent, Chief Olu Falae, and President Obasanjo was narrowly declared the winner. He spent eight years this time. There’s no doubt that Obasanjo recorded some successes. He remains one of our brightest, knowledgeable, bravest, patriotic and most famous leaders, but he suffered eventually from the attempt to elongate his tenure, directly, indirectly or fortuitously. His legacy was blighted by that single fact as he ended up eroding some of those measures that had seemingly made his administration successful.
He was grudgingly forced to allow the natural succession decreed by the Constitution and handed over to Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who also faced an election decried by many as being a farce and massively rigged. Unfortunately, Yar’Adua died in power on 5 May 2010, after being President for almost three years. His Vice President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan immediately constitutionally became substantive President after being the Acting President on the grounds of Yar’Adua’s ill health. There had been some rancorous attempt to stop him being Acting President, but brave Nigerians stood up in defence of the Constitution and ensured that neither the Constitution nor democracy were subverted and truncated. After a total of five years in power, Jonathan lost his second term election to Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari.
Those elections too were largely compromised and would have been worse had it not been for the intervention of the then Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, who stood firm in the face of intimidation and oppression to declare Buhari, who was the opposition candidate and favourite to win the election, the winner. Buhari is currently in his seventh year and second term in office. His second term election was probably the worst of the elections Nigeria has witnessed. There was large scale voter fraud, tyrannical use of security forces and unbridled, brazen and unashamed manipulation of electoral results.
In my view, his government has been the worst ever in Nigeria compared to that of his civilian and military predecessors. Most of the grandiloquent promises made by him remain what they are, realistically, all gas, no substance. There is no point setting them out in this discourse. I must be fair and admit that he has achieved some successes but the reverse in the Nation’s security, economy, social life and above all unity which means that his legacy has been damagingly tarnished. It is hard to see how he can recover in the one year left before the next elections. Some measure of redemption may come if he ensures that free and fair elections are conducted, but his recent utterances in this regard leave much to be desired and makes one afraid that the results of this forthcoming elections are already preordained and predetermined.
This apparent failure in government is now the crux of the matter. Buhari’s administration has fundamentally divided Nigeria across ethnic and religious lines. Under his watch, Nigeria not only became the world capital of poverty and penury but also a certified terrorist nation. It could be interpreted that since June 12, 1993, Nigerians have been severely punished for wasting our best opportunity so far to have a totally detribalized, cosmopolitan, humane and remarkable leader at the helm of our affairs. If Nigeria continues to tow the present path to perdition, the country is likely to break up cataclysmically and record one of the worst disasters in human history. This is why this appeal that I am now making is very sacrosanct.
Who are the owners of Nigeria, realistically? Aren’t we all supposed to be? The answer is not so simple and straightforward. The answer is contained in George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others…” Some people have hijacked this nation, whether they be a cabal, mafia or just simply a group of power drunk bigots and zealots. They are well known in political circles as they try to hold the nation by the jugular and manipulate the nation, its fortunes and its people.
I will call on former Presidents, Generals Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, and Abdulsalami Abubakar, to help rescue Nigeria from the throes of death in their lifetimes. Military men of influence such as retired Generals, Theophilus Danjuma, Alani Akinrinade, David Jemibewon, Aliyu Gusau, and others are needed in this mission. The Sultan of Sokoto, The Ooni of Ife, the Alaafin of Oyo, The Oba of Benin, The Obi of Onitsha The Emir of Zazzau, Emir of Kano, Lamido of Adamawa, Tor Tiv, Gbong Gwom, and all traditional rulers should do all within their power to encourage a new direction by supporting fresh candidates with fresh ideas. It is in the interest of our business titans to seek and support those who have managed businesses successfully. It is obvious that hard core politicians can’t change Nigeria. They have been abysmal failures since 1979 and have continued to descend further and further into mediocrity, shallowness and corruption, by intellect, nature and character. The time has come, after 30 years in the wilderness to return to the Abiola template. This clarion call is very urgent.
The self-styled, purported owners of Nigeria have been in control of our collective destinies and the time has come to cajole or beg them to dispel the spell they have cast on Nigeria which has become totally overwhelming and suffocating. For the sake of all of us, things must be put right in the general elections of 2023 and the Presidential election in particular. The office of the Nigerian President is too powerful to be gifted out to an incompetent, outdated and selfish leader. Only a handful of those presently seeking to become President from the present crop of political leaders deserve to be given a chance because they have the requisite credentials of intellect, competence, character and patriotism.
However, these upstanding gentlemen are very dark horses. They have little or no political clout because they are relying on the present structures which have been hijacked by the self-styled political overlords of Nigeria. I would suggest to this crop of politicians to look outside the present system and seek the support of the people who truly matter. That does not mean that they should jettison the major political parties which they belong to.
I have consistently said that it is futile to seek to fight the battle for the political soul from outside the confines of the two major political parties unless schisms and division birth a new party as happened in 2015 with the advent of the All Peoples Congress (APC). What I mean is that these few competent politicians, who I have identified but not named, should harmonise their efforts and garner support from the teeming masses, who will make the difference, if properly guided.
The truth though, is that apart from these gentlemen and ladies who are presently with the major political parties but suffering neglect because of their superior intellect and competence, there are several other worthy Nigerians who have the capacity of taking Nigeria to the Promised Land. I believe and know that Nigeria is richly blessed with so many fresh, urbane, educated, charismatic, accomplished and detribalized personalities who are capable of representing us well at home and abroad. A veritable leader does not even have to know everything. Truthfully, it is impossible to find such a person anywhere on earth. All that is required is somebody, like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who can identify brilliant, knowledgeable, competent and diligent patriotic men and women to join him or her in reconstructing this country and changing the mindset of our people.
Nigerias must be convinced that the country can be a better place. However, we must first start by empowering a leader who is convinced himself about this fact. Our next President must believe fervently that Nigeria can be turned around and that he can do so. Sadly, I hear several prospective leaders doubt that Nigeria can ever change. That negativity is what is pulling us down.
Nigeria and Nigerians had that can do spirit before. We were, and rightly so, considered the giants of Africa. The world knew that in the Black part of Africa, Nigeria was the country with the greatest potential to catch up with the Western World very quickly. Somehow, somewhere, we squandered that opportunity by collectively embracing and enthroning mediocrity. If we seek bright and distinguished talents that we can call upon to lift us from where we are, why then do we usually end up with some of the personalities we’ve had so far? I am mystified.
That is why I am deeply concerned about the kind of potential candidates still being thrown up at this time, barely months to Presidential primaries. These are truly worrisome and regrettable prospects when we have outstanding and upright younger men who have distinguished themselves in their respective professions. It would seem we’ve learnt no useful lessons from our inglorious past and we may actually sink deeper and deeper into the abyss and eventual devastating split.
I am not a prophet of doom, but I foresee that if we do not get it right this time, it may be end times for the country called Nigeria. As it is, we are tottering on the brink of disaster in all spheres of our national life. Please, let me say it as it should be said, Nigeria deserves the deepest breath of fresh air in 2023. We must bring joy back to our dear beloved country. The best opportunity for that is now.
While we are busy chewing the cud of foolishness by recycling the same incompetent leaders endlessly, a 35-year-old man just became President elsewhere.
Who have we offended? Why are we so docile and backward-looking? We have tested everyone offered to us and nothing tangible has come from them. While Democracy permits us to keep trying our luck we keep rolling on one spot like barbecue meat and thus end up making a mockery of the democracy that we fought so valiantly for.
Let’s be clear about it. There is no big deal about running a country. I have been interacting with global leaders for decades, I know we don’t require two heads and four legs to perform the needful. Our problem is mainly due to how we often allow those with deep pockets fraudulently, corruptly and illegally acquired from our common wealth to oppress us without challenging them powerfully.
We can do so because we have the numbers. We only need to organise ourselves and with steel and determination overturn the odds in our favour. I am very game for this challenge. I urge others to join me in this quest. I believe if we work earnestly together one of us will achieve our objectives and the Nigeria that our visionary forefathers dreamt, campaigned and got independence for will ultimately materialize. The best is ahead of us, hopefully…