Recently, a Nigerian made an analogy on twitter between the kind of president he wanted and the introduction of telecoms companies in Nigeria. Two worlds apart, right? But the online writer managed to make his point. His submission, though, indicates he’s frustrated that his preferred candidate doesn’t stand a chance in the imminent contest. He seems to make his submission because he has come to terms with that reality. His comment was meant to make it known that he didn’t feel he lost completely. He passes the message on that his candidate is a symbol, an idea, a movement, which he says will remain into the future. My aim isn’t to castigate him, but to help shed more light on a relevant conservation he opened.
The online writer believes his candidate is the one who can change the face of Nigeria. In trying to describe his candidate’s qualities, he used the telecoms companies – MTN and Econet – in those early days of their arrival in the Nigerian market in his analogy. He said no one believed they could do it, but the new entrants took over from Nigeria’s publicly-owned NITEL, provided better service, and in the event NITEL became history. By this he implies that the politicians he doesn’t like will become history, and his own candidate will get elected.
In doing this, he doesn’t cover the trail that, like many Nigerians do, he too subscribes to the fallacy that there’s a ‘saint’ somewhere, a ‘good’ man, one without faults, who’ll wave a magic wand and all of Nigeria’s problems will disappear overnight. Each time I come across this kind of submission, I conclude that we don’t pay attention to what goes on around us. Or, maybe we do but we don’t think some of the happenings through to reach enlightened conclusions. If we did we would form a better mental picture of the kind of person the nation needs. So, here I take the submission of the online writer forward by proffering a perspective, what I believe every Nigerian needs to consider as they make their choice shortly. Then I shall round off my submission by interrogating a few other trending arguments regarding the kind of president Nigeria needs.
Now, I deal with a few preliminaries. The online writer used the market model of running business in his analogy regarding the selection of political leaders in Nigeria. He also cites foreign business entities in making his point on how he thinks politicians he doesn’t like will fizzle out. To me, these comparisons are fundamental flaws in his submission. One, selection of political leaders is informed by rather different dynamics; so by its nature, the issues, interests, intrigues and compromises involved it’s impossible to place politics in the same box as market model for doing business. Business entities do what they do for the profit. Politics, politicking, is about service. Political leadership is targeted at taking on a public assignment that is often thankless, it’s selfless service, and in better organised climes one without profit. I won’t pursue that point any further.
As for foreign business entities coming to Nigeria to make a service that doesn’t work to work, this too can’t be placed side by side with politics or the selection of political leaders. The analogy as used by the online writer implies that we can expect some from outside to make what doesn’t work in Nigerian politics work. This cannot happen. So, where will the political leader that the online writer believes will do wonders come from? Among Nigerians. Nigerians will pick among themselves, so this raises different questions altogether. It’s the question regarding how to decide the best candidate for the job. How do we know the person that will perform, deliver on our expectations?
How do we know that one candidate is good and the other is not? Is it by simply saying a candidate is younger and that others are ‘old’? Do we decide who the best candidate is by saying some candidates have ‘stupendous’ wealth and others don’t, and so this makes the latter credible candidates? Is it by saying allegations of illegal acts that aren’t proven are levelled against some candidates but not levelled against others? These questions are neither raised by the online writer nor answered. He simply submits that the candidate he prefers will one day emerge as MTN and Econet emerged, and that his candidate is better than anyone else in ‘agbada’ who’s part of the existing political system.
It’s his opinion, and his best candidate may just be the other person’s worst candidate. Anyway, for the online writer to imply that a candidate, that by his own admission will trash his preferred candidate, is not good for the presidency is an exercise in contradictions. If his candidate is good as he purports, Nigerians should follow him well enough for him to win. But they don’t. And what criteria does he use to arrive at the conclusion that his candidate is better than other candidates? How do we know that such criteria will guarantee performance if his preferred candidate becomes president?
The online writer’s comment creates the impression he believes all that his candidate needs is to be adjudged best by people like himself, and that his being in government alone will change the system. This is my focus. I submit that Nigeria’s system is the type that can turn a ‘good’ man to bad-bad, and get a politician with the best of intentions stuck such that he’s unable to carry out his good intentions. The last eight years have demonstrated this, but we don’t pay attention, the reason some are looking for a ‘good’ man that they believe isn’t part of the system, an outsider like MTN and Econet. Some commended the online writer for his analogy and innuendos. To me, both sides missed vital issues regarding our system and how it works. I shall state such issues, but I urge the reader to follow me a step at a time.
I make this request so that, unlike what some Nigerians often do, no reader would read only this first part and without waiting for me to conclude, judge that I’ve not said anything except my “usual blabbing.” Of course, to them once you don’t write to insult political leaders or comment on unsubstantiated allegations, you’re ‘blabbing.’ Some who like their own perspective to be the only one in town go this way regarding my column, a phenomenon that makes me wonder about the quality of their mind. In any piece such as this one that requires careful dissection, I arrive at the point I’m making in a chronological manner. It’s informing, enlightening, and enriching minds I do on this page, not that fire and fury without substance, the street level argument, that I see in some writings.
With reference to our system that is my focus, and in proceeding with my engagement with the submission made online, I shall largely use the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for my explanation. I shall situate every point I make in the past eight years of Buhari’s regime. This is for the purpose of demonstrating that, going by the ‘shege’ the system showed the president, making a mess of any good intentions he has, any Nigerian who believes a good man with a magic wand is what it takes to turn the fortunes of the nation around doesn’t ponder on what has transpired. For Buhari’s regime shows it’s not one good man who can make Nigeria work, the entire system must work with him and for him.
I return to the time Buhari arrived power. After Buhari won in 2015, a politician expressed his concern to me about the challenges Nigeria had. He asked, “Where will he (Buhari) start from; how will he do it?” Like I usually did, using analytical approach as I was taught in school, I explained to him how our governance structures were configured, their roles, and how the elected president wasn’t meant to do this alone. He can delegate responsibilities. All he needed to do was put the right people in the right places; the system would execute the plans we all expected of the new president at the time.