There is excitement in the air. There is also anxiety. It is partly because of the 2019 general election; and partly because of the prospect of having another change at the seat of power in Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress came to power in 2015 on the pedestal of change. They promised Nigerians heaven on earth. Unfortunately, that has turned out to be a mirage.
READ ALSO: Deconstructing the change agenda
Currently, there is untold hardship in the land. Many people have lost their jobs. Some work without salaries. Some have committed suicide. Some others have sold their children and have had to do all manner of odd things to survive.
Do we talk of herdsmen and sundry criminals who kill people like cows? Do we talk of the insincere fight against corruption? Do we talk of a large chunk of the population who feel alienated from the scheme of things, the major appointments that go to a particular section of the country? Things have never been this bad. Many Nigerians have only resigned to fate and prayers.
But the cheery news is that a lot of individuals have promised to rescue Nigeria. Many political parties actually have good candidates who can do it. But the reality is that only two major parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have the financial muscle and the structure to win the general election.
My earlier intervention on this page says it all. In the story, entitled “2019 presidential contenders and pretenders,” (see Daily Sun of Monday, September 3, 2018) I noted that, among all the presidential aspirants, Atiku Abubakar would be the one to give the incumbent President a good fight.
I had written, “Top on the list of the PDP contenders is former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar. The man has been mobilising and seeking support across the country. He is a successful businessman with a lot of investments in Nigeria. He is detribalised and cosmopolitan and has the ability to give Buhari a great challenge in the election…
“As a tested businessman who understands the intricacies of wealth creation, Atiku appears well equipped to transform this country, if given the opportunity … To pull Nigeria out of the woods, her President must have the mental ability of a Lee Kuan Yew and the business acumen of a Dangote.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo put it better: “For me, relatively and of all the aspirants in the PDP, you have the widest and greatest exposure, experience, outreach and possibly the best machinery and preparation for seeing the tough and likely dirty campaign ahead through. From what I personally know of you, you have capacity to perform better than the incumbent. You surely understand the economy better; you have business experience, which can make your administration business-friendly and boost the economy and provide jobs.
“You have better outreach nationally and internationally and that can translate to better management of foreign affairs. You are more accessible and less inflexible and more open to all parts of the country in many ways.”
Similarly, the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had, two years ago, reportedly heaped praises on Atiku. In a letter to felicitate with the former Vice-President on his 70th birthday, Tinubu reportedly said, “Your life has been a life of service to your people, your country and the causes you believe in. Nigeria has been well-served by your stewardship and leadership … Do not relent because Nigeria needs you and others like you to continue to make life more meaningful.”
Obviously, there are some others who do not like the man for one reason or the other. But the truth is that no human being is ever liked by everybody. The most important thing is that the prospect of rescuing Nigeria is getting brighter.
I am particularly excited that a few days after he emerged as the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku picked Peter Obi as his running mate. Without mincing words, that is also a great choice.
READ ALSO: 2019: Atiku picks Peter Obi as running mate
Like him or hate him, Peter Obi is an enigma. He is quite enlightened and has attended many programmes both in Nigeria and abroad. He has been to the Lagos Business School, Harvard Business School, London School of Economics, Columbia Business School, Oxford and Cambridge universities, among others.
Like Atiku, he is a successful businessman and wealth creator. He has been chairman and board member of many companies. He is former chairman of Fidelity Bank, former chairman of the board of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), former chairman of Guardian Express Mortgage Bank Limited and many others. He was a member of Presidential Economic Management Team during Goodluck Jonathan’s regime.
In the political arena, Mr. Obi is no pushover. Before he emerged as governor of Anambra, the state had suffered monumental bad governance and became the butt of jokes in many quarters. Recall that a sitting governor, Chris Ngige, was kidnapped at a point, to the chagrin of many Nigerians. But Obi changed the narrative. His admirers fondly call him Okwute (the Rock). And upon that rock, God built a solid foundation for the progress of Anambra State. He has gathered many awards in recognition of his outstanding qualities.
One of these qualities is prudent management of resources. In his time as governor, Anambra made savings a cardinal principle of governance. By the time he left office, he had saved millions of dollars in cash and investments for his successor. This contrasts sharply with the huge debts, which his colleagues left behind for their successors. Under Obi, Anambra was the least indebted state in Nigeria. In fact, he did not borrow or raise bonds to finance various projects he executed in the state.
Whenever he travelled as governor, he stayed in modest hotel rooms. He plugged the loopholes through which government workers siphoned money from the state’s coffers. He closed down some state liaison offices that had been drainpipes on the resources of the state. He also stopped many aides from accompanying him to trips that yielded undeserved allowances for them. The money he garnered through this means was deployed in the service of the state.
He attracted and supported a number of companies to invest in Anambra and improve the economy of the state. One of the companies is SABMiller Brewery, the second largest brewery in the world. He also encouraged Innoson Motor Manufacturing Company by buying over 1,000 vehicles from the company.
During his time as governor, the state moved from 24th position in West African Examinations Council and National Examination Council (NECO) examinations to the first position among the 36 states of the federation. Part of the magic he performed was that he handed mission schools back to churches and supported them financially. The change of ownership brought about some changes in the attitude of teachers – no more late-coming, no more teaching and selling clothes and groundnuts. Discipline became the watchword in those schools.
In every other sector, such as health, security and infrastructure, Obi left worthy legacies in Anambra. Development partners such as the World Bank, the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme and UNICEF, adjudged the state as one of the best in development partnership and commitment to reforms for good governance.
What further amazes me about this man is his simplicity and humility. Anambra is notorious for convoy menace. Some of its rich and influential citizens move with convoys that dwarf that of any state governor.
But even as governor, Obi rejected such nonsense. There was no air around him; no show of bravado by security details; and no fawning display of loyalty by aides. He flew economy class. And each time he came down from the plane, he waited to carry his luggage like any other passenger. Many of his colleagues flew first class. Some even had private jets.
In this era of bad governance, Atiku and Obi remain beacons of hope for our lost generation. If you agree with me, raise up your hand. If you don’t, please hold your peace.
Okowa, the Roadmaster
Last week, I was at Asaba, the Delta State capital, for the 14th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference. The host governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, used the opportunity to showcase the achievements of his administration. So far, he has reportedly done 296 road projects and more are in the offing. For this, his people nicknamed him The Roadmaster.
Ironically, the Asaba end of the Onitsha-Asaba-Benin Road is in a bad shape. Travellers have had to endure traffic snarls occasioned by potholes on some portions of that road. I know the argument is that it is a federal road. But I don’t think it will cost the governor much to do some palliative work and save travellers the agony of staying long hours on the road. Christmas will soon be here and the situation will get worse if not addressed. Governor Okowa, please, intervene and take the glory. Waiting for the Federal Government may be an exercise in futility. Expecting a refund from Abuja may also not materialise. But take it that you are doing it for your people. They will like you more for that, as the road is a major gateway to your state.
- First published in The Sun of Monday October 15, 2018.