Posted by News Express | 16 July 2022 | 660 times
Early in January, I asked a few friends to list five of their Presidential candidates in order of preference and why. Two names were prominent on their lists. They were Osibajo and Obi almost in that order. (Someone whose opinion I respect a lot actually said he would have preferred to have both Osibajo and Obi on the same ticket but knew Nigeria was not ready for that.) The reasons given included intellect, character, capability and sincerity. Please note that these were people largely in my age bracket. And we all know that the youths were more fanatical about the two. Were there therefore to be an opinion poll, these two names would have topped the list by some margin. But we also now know those who topped the delegates’ lists in the two major parties by some margin. We found to our surprise, that the clamor for an Igbo Presidency found no expression among the delegates which included Igbo delegates. We do not need anybody to tell us that those who are currently flying the flag in the two major parties do not represent the wishes of the young and middle class Nigerians. The two candidates belong to the whims and desires of an entrenched system which constantly looks out for its interests often camouflaged as national interests. It is not the first time. When Obasanjo emerged in 1999, he was not the national choice. He was not even the choice of the people the powers brokers were trying to placate. Yar’Adua, sick and ailing, was also not the national choice. The pattern has become obvious now. The power brokers throw up a couple of names as a decoy and the rest of us – the media, intelligentsia, analysts - are left to rationalize our choices. This pattern will continue until we are smart enough to see through it and courageous enough to do something about it.
We know the backgrounds of the two candidates the contrived conventions came up with. We know about their baggage. We know how they got to be candidates. We also know very little would change concerning the sleaze in the polity and the direction of governance if either became the President. We suspect one, if healthy, would be marginally better, but very few of us would feel proud if either of them mounted the podium to represent us at the UN or even at the Commonwealth. There would be no coherence, no passion in their speeches. Or worse, no ownership of whatever they read out. (We’ve had that for seven years). They would also be mounting the podium with their ‘past’ as ‘ stained babariga’ for all to see. Too late, we would then wish for the likes of an Osibajo who could match a Macron, a Trudeau, an Akufo any day for eloquence and strength of character. We would then spend the next four years ruing our choice. (We’ve done that all too often). We seem helpless in effecting the leader we want and buy too readily, the rhetoric of structure and national presence sold to us. For years, we expressed our frustration with the duo of APC and PDP. We wanted a Third Party. But what did we really do beyond the social media to effect this change? Remember, doing nothing changes nothing.
There are many ways to skin a cat as they say. For me as a media person, one way to effect a change in our polity is to go the route of Public Opinion Poll. I hope some media owners and marketing outfits can take up the challenge of setting one up. I know Public Opinion Polls (POP) can be expensive. But it is an effective way to feel the pulse of the people and gauge the direction of the wind. We can, through POP, know when someone - or something - is on the ascendancy and when they are waning. Had POP been in place, President Buhari might not have made it to Aso Rock in 2019 after his first four year outing. Just as it would take a change of fortune for President Biden to make the White House in 2024 based on his current approval rating. That is what POP does. It lets the government know what the people think of its policies while rating the men at the helm of affairs. POP also serves as a way to reduce and control the manipulation of electoral votes – you can’t win by a ‘landslide’ when the exit poll says you are a distant third. It would have been difficult to force Obi out of the PDP presidential race for example if POP had rated him as a front runner. Same thing with Osibajo because then, the delegates would have gone against the grain of an expressed public opinion. It would also allow us to properly evaluate this phantom thing that politicians call ‘structure on the ground’ with which they force their unpopular will on the people. With POP, we would have known how the three main contenders are faring today. We would also have known how well the Labour Party, or the idea of Obi as a future President is getting traction or if he is just a social media hype.
Speaking of Obi, the man strikes me as a breath of fresh air given the baggage the two other contestants are carrying. You can’t stay as long as both Atiku and Tinubu have stayed on the political stage and not acquire baggage – ask Hilary Clinton who knows a thing or two about political baggage. He is also a much younger person which makes him better suited for the rigors of office. But we have to be wary of over-expectation. His supporters are dressing him in robes that are sometimes not supported by evidence or facts. It is up to Anambrans for example, to state whether he is even the best Governor the State ever had. And I do not think his eight years has made Anambra State a Taiwan. Those who dub him Saint Obi should remember he has not been canonized yet. (Some even depicted him as Jesus who is flanked by two robbers). He is a politician; a Nigerian politician. More importantly, his supporters of Igbo extraction should not try too hard to ‘own’ him and thus inadvertently make him a sectional leader. That might put other sections off especially given the wariness some still have about an Igbo President. It is by putting his strengths and weaknesses on the table that will make him a more acceptable candidate. But whatever the outcome, Obi must be commended for the way he has run his campaign so far. He must also be commended for challenging the system and daring to ‘do something’. In so doing, he has energized many youths and given them hope.
•Muyiwa Adetiba is a veteran journalist and publisher. He can be reached via email@example.com
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