Pendulum: Lessons From My 2011 Presidential Bid, By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, I’m happy to be back again with my political analysis but I must instantly warn that I have yet another negative prediction to make and it is very simple; Nigeria is not likely to select and elect a brilliant and competent President in 2023, if the country remains intact. I am no longer sure that Nigeria will remain one peaceful and indivisible country by then, particularly if  things continue the way they are, and this administration is engendering, fostering and festering the cracks and divisions.  I know that many people would argue that the problems of Nigeria are not about one man or woman, and so electing a brilliant and competent President is not a sine qua non for our existence and development. However, I wish to disagree vehemently. The incurable optimists and jejune analysts are likely to tell you that our challenges are institutional and not personal but that is not wholly true, as I will explain in a jiffy.
It is my personal belief, gained from empirical evidence, that every problem and solution begin and end with the leader at the very top, especially strong leaders like President Muhammadu Buhari who is virtually the law unto himself, and unto us. The Buhari government has so much influence on other arms of government such that it can get away with almost anything, either positive or negative. Despite the much-vaunted constitutional separation of powers, an autocratic and dictatorial personality like this will always ride roughshod over all the safeguards and maintain that it is either his way or the highway! Unfortunately, true to its antecedents, this omnipotent government of Buhari has blatantly refused to deploy this humongous power to the good and progressive use and advantage of Nigeria and Nigerians.
The day Nigerians succeed in electing a very capable President, that would be it as far as I am concerned. So, what are the impediments militating against electing that ideal President, who I will stress once again need not be a saint?
One, I’m not sure Nigerians actually know the attributes of a good leader. I’m almost certain if we see a genuine Messiah, we’ll be busy arguing till he disappears forever into oblivion. Some will say he must be a saint. That’s what led us to Buhari who we clothed in the toga of an Angel and apotheosised for good measure. Others will say, he must come from one particular region or religion. Many will say that he is too young and inexperienced, or that he has no money. The saddest part would be that most of the youths clamouring for a leader of their own would never form a consensus about who from their generation they should back. Instead, they would all hanker after the same position and, thus, dissipate their energy and chances. It is so tragic. Let me take this opportunity to go down memory lane and use my 2011 Presidential bid as a case study.
When I offered myself in 2011, many people I knew said “Dele must be kidding! Does he think the Nigerian Presidency is like the Ovation magazine he runs? How much has he got to spend?” But they were right and wrong. Though I did not have government experience, it is not a compulsory prerequisite to being a President in Nigeria or elsewhere else. The truth is that in a country like Nigeria one wonders what experience our leaders have to proffer the people. For the most part it is the same experience in failure, corruption, incompetence and ineptitude. Examples abound in other countries about those persons who became Presidents without being career politicians. They had distinguished themselves in other spheres of human endeavours and were naturally imbued with leadership skills. Barrack Obama was virtually a rookie in politics when he tried his luck as American President. Donald Trump was much worse, having never been a politician at all but more of a reality star who had used the opportunity to turn around his ailing businesses. He became extremely controversial from the outset of his political campaign but he was able to defeat some of the biggest political machines in America.
I was largely influenced by Obama. I was convinced I had the educational background, business experience and acumen to manage resources, backed by global contacts and exposure. I believed in myself, as Abiola constantly preached to us both in business and politics, and I felt that I had the carriage and charisma, the temperament, the tolerance and detribalized natture, the caring attitude, the courage, the vision, the resilience and tenacity to take on the daunting challenge and goals I had set for myself. I had no doubt that I had the capacity to lead a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation such as ours. Beyond these attributes, I was ready to do what most of our leaders don’t worry about doing, establish a clear ideology and philosophy for my movement. A country as poor and impoverished as Nigeria must operate on the principles of welfarism. No country can practice rabid capitalism without capital, and certainly not without thinking of catering for the greater will-being and welfare of the teeming masses. Nigeria is too poverty-stricken and afflicted by mass ignorance to continue to run an outlandishly profligate variant of democracy, that is even alien to those who introduced us to democratic concepts and ideals. A reasonable, effective and efficient leader must urgently and reasonably work with other stakeholders to restructure the country politically, economically and socially.
I made strenuous efforts to link up with some members of the British Labour Party in London. They were going to collaborate with us on welfare policies, especially in the areas of poverty alleviation, education, national health insurance, housing, transport and agriculture. Unfortunately, the Labour Party back home in Nigeria had no proper links to the labour unions. It was labour in nomenclature only and did not really tap into the stupendous assets that the labour unions in Nigeria have to offer in terms of numbers, organisation and economic might. The Labour Parties of the UK and Nigeria were identical in appellation but that is where the similarity ended. The Parties were certainly not at tandem or similar in principle or policy. Indeed, the Nigerian Labour Party was at best a creature of circumstances and happenstances. I got frustrated and headed to what I always like to describe as GANI FAWEHINMI’s party, the National Conscience Party. It is sad and unfortunate that Nigeria is governed without any clear technical template. Every leader rules ruthlessly and whimsically. Booby-traps are meticulously and rigorously laid for perceived enemies of government. It is a kind of relay race in which batons of wickedness, ignorance, mediocrity and backwardness are exchanged remorselessly and ceaselessly. Of course, my result was utterly predictable in such a caricature of democratic will and principle.
Two, the uninformed electorates. Most Nigerians don’t know how terrible the situation is. You only need to travel to some remote parts of the country to see and understand the magnitude of the problem. The poorest of the poor turn out to be the worst  fanatics of these inept and visionless leaders. They accept and savour whatever crumbs are thrown at them periodically from the lofty heights that the charlatans have manipulated themselves into. Since a man who’s down fears no fall and feels nothing good can ever happen to him, the lumpen proletariat can’t see anything wrong with the pittance being given to them to sell their respective souls and future.
Three, the media as the fourth estate of the realm is also culpable in this grand conspiracy against good candidates. My experience was extraordinary. I discovered the unbelievable. Journalists actually look down on themselves. We seem to lack self-esteem. Despite my personal successes (I’m not being immodest) and global brand, my colleagues were not ready to promote me as a credible alternative to the other contestants. They were happy to push others onto the front page but not one of their own. I made uncountable media rounds and visits, leaving nothing to chance, but met brick walls in most newsrooms, which was my natural constituency. Till today, I struggle to fathom the rationale for their attitude. Some say that it was simple envy or jealousy. Others suggest that it is a trait synonymous with the oppressed who cannot see beyond their noses and slavishly and sycophantically follow their oppressor. Unknown to most of my friends, if a Dele Momodu was not qualified to lead Nigeria, it may be an impossibility for any of them to climb that Herculean height even within their profession. Perhaps, many of them lacked a sense of history. Many of our Nationalists had one form of journalism stint or the other, Herbert Macauley, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro, Ernest Okoli, Samuel Ladoke Akintola and even Ooni Sir Adesoji Aderemi whose newspaper was the forerunner to the Nigerian Tribune  of today and others. So, I often wondered when journalists became dregs of the society that they can no longer aspire to the greatness that their predecessors attained.
Four, The Godfathers in Nigeria hardly consider non career politicians. They usually go for hard core politicians and military chieftains who are actually probably better politicians without a civilian garb. After watching, and later reading, former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s interview last week, I pray members of the privilegentsia will be willing and ready to throw their weight behind global champions instead of the usual lacklustre candidates. Nigeria is too richly blessed to continue to throw up those who have not achieved much at home and abroad. I know some people who don’t know how Nigeria works may want to dismiss The Godfathers as inconsequential, I won’t join them. They may not be able to give you votes in general elections but they have the capacity to determine the candidates at the top party levels. In effect they direct the voter’s mind and choice by placing only their own candidates as the alternatives from which the people are to choose. To me, that is the ultimate voting card. The joker in the pack!
There are many vested interests in who becomes the next President of Nigeria.. The ex-military Generals are right at the top of the pyramid. You can’t ignore the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, former military Generals Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo (the longest serving leader), Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi, Theophilus Danjuma, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, Alani Ipoola Akinrinade, David Jemibewon, and others. There are also very influential and powerful traditional rulers including the Sultan, the Ooni, The Alaafin, Emirs, Obas, Obis and Amayanabos amongst others. It is a testament to the power and influence of the traditional rulers that government falls back to them at the first hint of major crisis including, insecurity and social upheaval. The Captains of Industry would always want someone who can protect their business interests. They are very critical to the emergence of candidates of both leading political parties. Candidates need tonnes of cash and Nigeria is not yet a country where you can rely on regular folks making substantial donations. In this category, no candidate no matter how saintly can ignore the Dangotes, Adenugas, Elumelus, Rabius, Ovias, Otedolas, Alakijas, Adebutus, Otedolas, Sayyu Dantatas, Okoyas, Bola Shagayas, and many of the big personages and companies operating in Nigeria. Religious Organisations are not left out. Apart from generating mega bucks, they wield enormous influence on their members. They include the Imams, the Adeboyes, Oyedepos, Olukoyas, Kumuyis, Esther Ajayis, Tunde Bakares, Paul Adefarasins, Tony Rapus, Agu Irukwus, and so many others. Remember, politics is a game of numbers, so they are all adding up.
Five, you must factor in INEC, the armed forces, secret services, judiciary. I can confidently confirm that none of them is truly independent. Finally, I venture to say that as a matter of fact, the hoodlums, thugs and miscreants have become incredibly influential in Nigeria, powerfully emboldened by our desperate and despicable politicians. Depending on the government of the day, the security forces are not able to arrest anyone when the gangsters go on rampage.
Six, our celebrities, social media influencers and bloggers are expected to influence who to vote for, but they often prefer to support the government of the day, stay aloof or even go for awoof from the highest bidder. It is such a shame how superstars waste their incredible popularity on useless candidates.
Seven, the big Brothers are lurking around somewhere. These are the foreign powers who are in Africa to mint money and exploit resources where possible and available. Don’t let anyone fool you that their interest is altruistic or in any way noble. They like most people are in it for what they can grab! No matter how much they sermonise about Democracy, the economic interests of their countries remain paramount and irrevocable. They will never support a hot-headed candidate who will rock the boat. They are more potent than all our leaders put together. Ignore them at your own peril.

There is so much to write but little space. I shall be back…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *