Saturday, February 9, 2019
Ontario, Canada

lmost 20 years of democracy is indeed a milestone for Nigeria. This is topped with three successful transitions that have allowed the country to enjoy a measure of political stability. Nigeria has moved farther away from military rule and we can only believe that it is a closed chapter reserved only for history. However, from 1999 to date, one can arguably say that the blue print of a change in leadership style has not been clearly outlined, as we have always been presented with the same group of leaders who were active in the pre-democracy era. The same ideas, the same people, the same mind-set, the same old story... The same names dominate the party landscape, campaign trails, and political conversations. A fresh face does not necessarily mean a young person, but a cry for change is still an illusion when we have "New wine in an old bottle."

During President Obasanjo's era of 1999 to 2007, one outstanding accomplishment that etched him in the history book of Nigeria is the revolution in the telecommunications industry; the GSM phone in particular. The strategy to tackle one major "national headache" which in turn had a ripple effect on other aspects of everyday life is something that an ordinary citizen can relate to. It was a major infrastructure overhaul by the Obasanjo administration that will not be forgotten in a hurry. Could he have done more about the epileptic power situation too? Well, that is debatable. The administration also helped the country to clear its Paris and London club debts. Eventually, Obasanjo's time on the "Presidential throne" ran out and his ambition for a third term was snuffed out.

President Umaru Yar'adua came into power in 2007- the first graduate to step into the highest position of leadership in the land. Could a leader with high academic standards move the country with some intellectual prowess? Sadly, we are left to wonder what he could have accomplished if ill health did not end his presidency and life. A vacuum was indeed left but not for too long.

President Goodluck Jonathan, Yar'adua's Vice President, stepped in as the acting president and eventually won the elections to solidify his presidency. He was hailed as a "breath of fresh air." A well educated man with a Doctorate, a minority from the Southern part of the country... Oga Jonathan embodied change. His bowler hat was unmistaken all over the world. Nigerians waited for the radical change, until the next elections crept in.

With President Buhari's victory in 2015, it was a clean sweep! Anyone else, but Jonathan! Mr. Goodluck did not waste time in saying "bye bye." He accepted his defeat and handed over peacefully, transferring the leadership baton on the journey of democracy. President Buhari renowned for discipline and perseverance finally got a second chance at the presidency after multiple attempts. With his victory and the rise of a new leading party, the dreams and hopes of the Nigerian people bloomed on the concept of change. But here we are again on the threshold of another election asking, "Can new wine in an old bottle deliver for Nigeria?"

The common denominator is that these leaders are the same people, with the same mind set. What are the possibilities that change will happen if we continue to have the same cycle of leaders? Nobody comes into power with the intention to destroy the country or to make life difficult, but they are not doing or surrounding themselves with those who think differently. Why is Nigerian politics inherently restricted to the same people? Few hold the political clout. A nation cannot continue to do things the same way and expect a different result. Elections 2019 has already painted a familiar picture; nothing new, but the people must vote. Will it be about the man or his party? Will it be about who can deliver? Somewhere in there lies a combination of person and party to give a winning formula for the presidency.

Nevertheless, Nigeria is on a journey and we pray for leaders who are able to stir the ship on the tidal waves of democracy. 2019 offers another opportunity to continue to weave the political tapestry of Africa's most populous nation. We hope for a peaceful and secure electoral process. The outcome of this election is eagerly anticipated as whoever comes out victorious will continue, must continue, and can continue to lead the nation to a place of stability and strength. We only have one country and hope and pray that a leader who is in touch with today's reality will capture the vote and hearts of the people. Nigeria is in pursuit of a new leader; who will it be?