If inspiring speeches and test of character were to be the key indices that would define the outcome of the 2019 Presidential Election, perhaps President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar would find it hard to be heard or received with much seriousness in some places. Unfortunately, the candidates that Nigerians ought to have serious interest in seeing or hearing are presently operating down the ladder, stridently trying to make their feeble voices heard in a political system that panders more to the hollow noise in the marketplace amidst a lackluster economic situation. Regardless of how hard they try to flaunt their intellectual capacity and varied experience both locally and internationally, these voices would continue to resonate in the wilderness until those who determine who gets what begin to see things beyond their selfish and parochial interest. Quite honestly, if Nigeria’s realities deeply matter, Buhari and Atiku wouldn’t be the two sides of a bad coin that Nigerians would be left to pick from in the coming election. Sadly, they remain the leading contenders.
To say the truth, what we have in our hands are two products of doubtful authenticity shrouded in self-claimed delusion of grandeur. And that’s what makes it a hard choice, really. When you ask those hankering for an articulate Atiku candidacy after he routed some more intellectually savvy aspirants in the race at their Port Harcourt convention, they gleefully tell you he is the best man for the job; they mumble something about his tested record of being an employer of labour, waving a list of his economic wizardry as deputy to former President Olusegun Obasanjo during an era in which they claim to have witnessed a profoundly positive turnaround of the economy. And when you try to point out loads of failed moves that cost the nation billions in losses under the same Atiku, they shout you down. Conversely too, the same vacuous adulation applies to those diehard Buhari supporters who blindly assert that he is the next best thing to happen in the history of Nigeria’s democracy despite his loads of crying failures that include gross indifference to rampant waste of human lives and an almost suicidal obduracy in pointing a gun to his own head where one had expected him to apply wisdom.
Let’s face it, the greatest lie anyone could spin about the Buhari administration is the propaganda that credits it with living up to its countless but unfulfilled electoral promises. How? In many ways than one, we must admit that this administration has been a huge disappointment especially in ushering in the positive change it adumbrated as the core of its mandate. Some bare knuckle truth wouldn’t be a bad idea in forging forward. It is also laughable for anyone to assume that the narrative would change if given another chance to enforce a change that has been carried out in the breach in the last three years unless Buhari has decided to adopt an all-encompassing leadership style which has been lacking for reasons best known to him. Sometimes, you ask if Buhari understands the complexities that define multi-ethnic Nigeria and if they matter to him in taking decisions. He doesn’t appear or behave as one who does.
On the flip side, when you ask the cheer leaders of the Atiku-must-be-president band to justify the optimism that his presidency would lead to economic prosperity, they tell you that he would allow money to flow freely and ‘everybody would get something as it was under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration!” Now, don’t dare ask how because you’d be pushing your luck too far. For them, it is enough to have a belief in an Atiku that would open the vault of the Central Bank of Nigeria for all to ‘chop’ according to their social status. With that, they assume Nigeria’s multilateral problems including insurgency would be over. Atiku is the cure-all medicine that would wipe away Buhari’s clannish and feudalistic reign, they tell you. If Buhari was, according to them, unqualified to rule the country because of the controversy around his secondary school certificate, it is a breath of fresh air that an Atiku, with a Diploma in Law, would work wonders on the Nigerian economy. His alleged past misdeeds as captured by Obasanjo and other bodies count for nothing as no single case of corruption is hanging on his neck at any court of competent jurisdiction, they argue. Besides, he is the only candidate with the financial muscle to tackle the ruling party naira for naira, dollar for dollar and pounds sterling for pound sterling. That’s the template for the 2019 election. It is a money contest and lots of it would flow.
Then, you ask: What is the fate of cerebral candidates like Donald Duke, a fine gentleman that exudes limitless sartorial elegance in and out of office as two-time governor of Cross River State? Is Duke, a qualified lawyer and tested hands in governance matters, not better than the one that holds an ordinary Diploma in Law? Shouldn’t we be looking at his chances with the Social Democratic Party? What’s wrong with putting our fate in the feminine but caring hands of Anambra State-born Oby Ezekwesili, a woman whose soul and heart crave nothing but a better Nigeria for all? By now, Oby, who holds a Master’s degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos and another one in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, her quality training with the firm of Deloitte and Touche and qualified chartered accountant, should be top on the lips of those who truly want change for the country. But that would never happen as long we always want to climb to the top through the window.
It won’t happen because, like Oby’s Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia’s African Democratic Congress is handicapped not only due to inadequate funding but also because the hawks of power are either in Buhari’s All Progressives Congress or Atiku’s Peoples Democratic Party. And, in this game, Mailafia’s deep knowledge of the Nigerian economy and rich resume as a Career Economist, Banker and International Development Specialist coupled with service to fatherland as a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and Special Adviser to the President on Economic and Policy Matters, mean nothing. He is just another candidate that would fill the space and record a couple of thousands as votes if not hundreds. So also is Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party. You wonder why people waste precious time making a song and dance of Buhari’s school certificate or celebrating Atiku’s diploma when they could have easily switched allegiance to Moghalu, who happens to be more than qualified to be in that office. His resume speaks volume: He is a political economist, lawyer, former United Nations official and Professor in International Business and Public Policy from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Moghalu is also the Founder of Sogato Strategies LLC and a Senior Adviser of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) having worked with the Central Banking Journal as Contributory Editor. When you hear him talk, you just get that feeling that his passion for a transformed Nigeria is skin deep. But does that really matter?