2023: When desperation meets aspiration

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By Emmanuel Onwubiko

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

“Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed.” – Abraham Lincoln.

As Nigeria awaits the proper commencement of electioneering campaigns as a prelude to the general election in the first quarter of next year, the Country is abuzz with momentous and memorable moments and statements attributable to politicians jostling for the plumb office of the President of Nigeria.

These moments and affirmations have unique characterization of the manifestation of extreme desperation and then there is the other very interesting side to it that demonstrates articulate aspiration on the side of some of the Candidates already chosen by their political parties.

For instance, the Labour Party’s candidate Mr. Peter Obi has made a lot of commonsense and have manifested an uncommon comprehension of the demands of millions of Nigerians from the next occupant of the Presidential office in Abuja from next May. Peter Obi it would seem, has broad-based understanding of the right things to say to appropriate audiences and he has shown a lot of charisma and candour that have started reshaping the contest as that between reason and empty ambition for ambition sake.

Peter Obi exemplifies the former. Peter Obi has also started well by first consulting some politicians of the advanced society of Great Britain.  He flew into London and was driven in a free ride to Number 10 Downing Street where it was reported that he met and discussed with a wide range of political leaders including the current occupant of Number 10 Downing Street who is the British Prime Minister. He held discussions and debated issues of common interest to both democracies and he has since returned to Nigeria and from most of his speeches, it is very clear that Mr. Peter Obi is ready for the job. He has spoken about industrialisation.  He has spoken about police reforms and the measures to adopt to combat insecurity.  Peter Obi has spoken about youth unemployment and finally, he has also spoken about bringing the masses into the mainstream of decision making in politics. This to me is the meaning of constructive ambition and well guided aspiration to power Nigeria to the truly developed next level.

The former Governor of Lagos State Bola Ahmed Tinubu exemplifies the latter which is all about his ambition to become the President because he thinks he has earned the right of first refusal to be given the position of the President of Nigeria.  Bola Tinubu has made it clear that he it was made President Muhammadu Buhari and that this is pay back time in which he expects that the incumbent President should simply let him achieve his lifelong ambition of becoming the President if Nigeria.

He has just reminded President Muhammadu Buhari how he, Tinubu, came to his rescue to make him win the 2015 election after Muhammadu Buhari failed thrice to clinch the position.
Tinibu says: “After losing three times and crying on national television, I went to Buhari and promised that I’d make him president is the latest of the series of Tinubu’s political  revelations.

The presidential aspirant and national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, on Thursday, said without him, President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), would not have become the president in 2015. Tinubu spoke at the Presidential Lodge in Abeokuta, the state capital, while addressing the APC delegates ahead of the party’s primary. The national leader was accompanied to Ogun by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; his Kano State counterpart, Umar Ganduje, and former Borno State governor, Kasim Shettima. “You have not heard this from me before. This is the first place I am saying this,” Tinubu who addressed the delegates in Yoruba said. Speaking on Buhari’s emergence, he said “If not for me that led the war front, Buhari won’t have emerged. He contested first, second and third times, but lost. He even said on television that he won’t contest again. “But I went to his home in Katsina, I told him you would contest and win, but you won’t joke with the matters of the Yorubas. “Since he has emerged I have not been appointed Minister. I didn’t get nor request a contract. This time, it’s Yoruba turn and in Yorubaland, it’s my tenure.” He added, “since the time we started with the Action Congress, Action Congress of Nigeria, and now the All Progressives Congress, I wanted to contest for president that time. “This is me telling you between me and God Almighty, Buhari called me to be his Vice President. He said because the first time he contested, he picked Okadigbo, flamboyant, catholic, but Nigerians didn’t vote for him. “The second time, he picked another Igbo, Omesioke, Nigerians didn’t vote for him, that if he goes to bring the Pope to run as his vice, Nigerians won’t vote for him, “but you, Bola Tinubu, you have six governors, you have never lost an election before, come and be my vice”.

On policy matters, Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not said much apart from the general promises to end insecurity but he hasn’t articulated a framework of how he intends to go about achieving that lofty goal which is the most pressing need of Nigerians. In terms of how Bola Tinubu is pursuing his ambition,  he has similarities with his friend the President Muhammadu Buhari because to him, the younger ones need to allow him attain his lifetime ambition of becoming the President.

When confronted about the decision of his political son Professor Yemi Osinbajo to compete against him for the same position, Tinubu wasted no time in telling the reporter that he doesn’t have a son big enough to run for office of President.  But he was economical with the truth because his adult Son came with him to the Transcorp Hilton venue of the screening exercise in Abuja and seeing the big boy tells you that may be his Dad could have let him run instead of the old man attempting to foist himself on the 21st century compliant Nigeria. Tinubu has not addressed the issue of constitutional or police reforms.

Tinubu has yet to address the matter of expanding the frontiers of respect for the fundamental rights of the citizens. Tinubu has no blueprintbon developing the manufacturing industry and he hasn’t yet spoken about jobs. These are the key issues that Nigerians expect to hear from ambitious people who are coming out to canvass our votes.

Peter Obi on the other hands has consistently sounded reasonable and Democratic. In his acceptance speech after his nomination as the Presidential flagbearer of the Labour Party, Peter Obi promised to make Nigerians the owners of the democratisation process.

He states as follows: “I thank Nigerians; especially members of the Labour Party who have gathered here since yesterday to partake in the primaries to choose the person that will fly Labour flag in the forthcoming National election to choose the President of Nigeria.

History beckons. Nigerians remain hopeful for a national rebirth, which implies returning Nigeria to Nigerians –   farmers, teachers and students, lecturers, artisans, workers, pensioners and over a hundred million poor Nigerians who are not sure where their next meal will come from.

Therefore, what you are doing today is a patriotic duty towards seeking the desired political emancipation of our dear country, which stands wounded by many years of cumulative leadership failure.

Painfully, our current dysfunctional system rewards unearned income and conspicuous consumption; allows university lecturers to remain on strike for months; keep our youths at home; and owe pensioners, who gave their patriotic sweat and their youthful energy to serve this country.”

Candidate Peter Obi said also that the despicable contrast is that those responsible for the mess -those elected to take care of them – have abandoned the national currency and are living in opulence and like kings, spend dollars to buy delegates as well as houses all over the world.Meanwhile, they owe most workers, lecturers and retirees.

“Yes, our country stands hijacked by forces of retrogression. We are almost zero in all indices of development. As a result, our future, especially those of the youth and generations unborn is in ruins. We have become a laughing stock among other nations, including African countries where we were once revered.

As a party that represents the workers and masses of this great nation, we are people organised and working for our economic rebirth.  As I am nominated today, I humbly proclaim that the journey towards the emancipation of the country has begun.
I note with humility that the journey is going to be a collective one that will certainly require the cooperation of critical stakeholders in our country, especially the youth, whose future has been thoroughly degraded.

I therefore thank all of you and call for your sustained support towards returning Nigeria to Nigerians from forces of bad leadership and retrogression. Such a noble tasks brooks no conscientious objectors.”

Peter Obi continued: “I hardly use war metaphors for political analysis due to my belief that politics is not adversarial and not war. However permit me a little indulgence here, to relate what we are embarking on to the ancient battle of Thermopylae, where the Greek forces, conscious of fighting for the life of Greece held on against great odds in the defence of their country.

In the battle to re-take Nigerian, the odds are great and seemingly insurmountable, but with our commitment, patriotism and understanding that we are doing, what we are supposed to do for our country, lest she shall die, we shall move on discontent with what is and focused on enthroning what ought to be. In doing this, our battle cry shall remain: get your PVC and become part of this great liberation!

Our governance mission will be twin-tracked. Secure Nigeria in every ramification: national security, human security, food security and tackling insecurity created by unemployment.
We will also seek to unite our nation by pulling our people out of poverty, and creating a new sense of nationalism and patriotism. Nigeria shall rise again: and her people will be proud to claim ownership of her patrimony. Doing so is in our collective national interest.

As I earnestly thank Nigerians for their faith in me. In the days ahead I will publish our governance manifesto, which will spell out our top governance priorities.  I assure you that no region; state, local government or communities will be left behind.
I also assure you all that the struggle continues and that victory is certainly in sight towards the guarantee of a meaningful future for our youths and making this country a respected and viable member of a 21st century world, that places high value on production over consumption.” Peter Obi concludes.

These are exactly the two extremes that have emerged as Nigerians are warming up for the much anticipated election in their lifetime.
There is a demarcation now between ambitious people who simply want to get into certain offices because to them it is their right to be so elected. Then from the other construct is the people who although are ambitious to become who they want to become in the political scheme of things, but their ambitions are reasonably moderated and guided by the needs of the largest percentage of Nigerians. Whereas the people who think they own the Country may not even have articulated a developmental blueprints on how to move Nigeria forward, they already have it at the back of their minds that it is their turn to assume the positions they are now canvassing.

Nigerians should only elect those who are coming with implementable blueprints to take away from the quagmire of mass poverty, insecurity, joblessness and the collapse of key infrastructures.

  • Mr. Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association and was National Commissioner with the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.