Wednesday, July 20, 2022
New York, USA

Ex-Gov Peter Obi

f we have tolerated the ineptitude, dysfunction, and roguery of presidents from other regions of Nigeria, we can try the promise of competence of a president from the south-east.

Last year I made a case for the next president of Nigeria to emerge from the south-east, stressing that south-east candidates should market themselves based on a vision for Nigeria and personal capabilities, not on the basis of ethnic entitlement or their Igboness, and cautioned against self-affirming stereotypes.

Some of the points I laid out have been echoed by others, notably Christian church leaders and Afenifere. What is intriguing in this presidential election cycle is the advent of a force in Nigeria that is transcending regional politics.

The major political parties dismissed the notion of a south-east president and have done so with self-righteous and vengeful glee. They abandon the constitutional principle of unity, representativeness, and fairness, and arrogantly justify their primordial reasons for excluding entire segments of the population. Their minions parrot negative south-east stereotypes with conceit and derisiveness that only reveal their elemental instincts. They continue to spew gunk on Igbos while excusing the transgressions and pedestrian attributes of members of their regions.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, some individuals and organizations from the south-east have issued public utterances that not only negate their group interest but demonstrate that they are complicit in the political imbalance of the country. Most of the regional organizations in Nigeria are a microcosm of the broken political structure, consisting of rogue elements. They are more or less like deers caught in the headlight of Nigeria's dysfunction. Undoubtedly, the power and influence these groups wield and their refusal to change course is among the reasons Nigeria is in deep crisis.

Strikingly, a refreshing candidate has emerged on the political scene in Nigeria from the south-east. His quest for the presidency is based on competence and pulling Nigeria out of its dystopian mess. Though the establishment and their sympathizers are dismissive of his candidacy, the youth are plowing ahead. They have nothing to fear. They have been beaten down, denied the present, robbed of the future, and are being told that if they do not join in their own destruction they will labor in vain.

Our political culture is blanketed by primeval power fantasies, which to a large extent are on full display. The message from the supporters of the dominant political parties, adept in their rough-hewn politics, suggests that they want to drive Nigeria off the cliff to disintegration. The rest of us treat political and social maladies as mere bruises to which we can apply a band-aid and move on. We have been more accepting of abhorrent behavior and therefore are accomplices in sustaining the rot.

By contrast, the present generation is hedging their bet on transforming themselves into Nigerians, against myriad forces bent on ensuring that Nigeria remains a dysfunctional, self-absorbed, poor, and floundering nation. Having been hunted by images of poverty, hunger, murder, crumbling infrastructure; abysmal basic utilities, poor education, and health services, and malnourished children in Nigeria for decades, the message of the leader of this new Nigeria movement is refreshing, daring, and a revival of hope.

Irrespective of the outcome of the "Obidient" movement that is built around a vibrant youth mobilization in 2023, it is an unprecedented and intriguing phenomenon in our history. With the energy of the youth and evolutionaries such as Peter Obi and General Obasanjo (yes Obasanjo, our Evolutionary-in-Chief), some of the self-protective veils of the rogue class are beginning to peel away. The person around whom this movement has taken shape has a message that is emotionally and factually resonant, and as such, may aptly be described as an "Obinomenon."

Our logical response should be an acknowledgment that we cannot continue on the path of self-immolation. We are cognitively capable of making positive choices. For those who may be blind to their personal bias, I pose these questions: Is it possible that your views are tinted by conscious or unconscious bias? Have you pondered on whether your dismissal of anyone from the south-east is based on a fair assessment of their qualifications and capabilities? Is the state of Nigeria today where you desire the country to be? Do you think that Nigeria's problems can be addressed by revolutionaries, evolutionaries, or people with questionable character? Does Nigeria have the resources to sustain the chop I-chop values that have become ingrained? Are the presidential candidates articulating their vision for Nigeria to you satisfactorily or are you filling in with what you think they might do? Is your inaction or acquiescence endorsing our dysfunction?

Nigeria deserves a leader with a clear and compelling vision to take us out of the declining trajectory, not political chicanery or hypocritical moralism. Nigeria also needs citizens who must show a resolve to stand up to the establishment and ACT that it is enough; not citizens with momentary convictions or citizens who glorify mediocrity, inferiority, crudeness, and pedestrianism.

If we have tolerated the ineptitude, dysfunction, and roguery of presidents from other regions of Nigeria, we can try the promise of competence of a president from the south-east. We have squandered countless opportunities in the course of our history and it will not be a surprise if this one is squandered too. We have a responsibility to ensure that this opportunity is not squandered easily.