When I was aspiring to become president, a veteran journalist asked me why I decided to cast aside my good life in America and muddle with the murky waters of Nigerian politics. The gentleman appeared perplexed when I answered that the sacrifice was “for me.” I would further explain that a core part of my vision in life is to promote public welfare that can guarantee my individual welfare. I reasoned that I am as good as my immediate environment. I reminded him that like many, including the big men, I am most at home in my hometown; in this case, Ugbo, a serene hilltop habitat in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State. Like many Nigerian communities, my hometown sparkles with magnificent mansions and celestial places of worship but lacks standard public amenities.
Yes, I can equally afford quality medical care and quality education for my family members overseas, but it smacks stark ignorance to assume that such opportunity would guarantee me peace of mind. That is, what happens if I or any close relation encounters serious medical emergency at any given hour of the day or night while in that small town that has no standard health facilities?
The answer to that question prompted my earlier piece: ‘Every Nigerian Blood Is On The Line.’ I was able to enumerate the fate of many prominent politicians who had lost their loved ones or encountered other serious health scares because of the unfortunate condition in their local environment. The list is long, including David Mark, Ike Ekweremadu, Nemadi Sambo, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dame Patience Jonathan, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Lamidi Adedibu, Muhammadu Buhari, and Goodluck Jonathan, to name a few.
The exemplar with Jonathan, then a sitting president, best makes my case: His younger brother, Meni Jonathan, suddenly became ill on one fateful day at their hometown of Otuoke and needed urgent medical attention. But any notion of luck ought to have limitations. Hear Mr. Goodluck himself as he narrated the predicament in his own words: Meni “drove himself down to Yenagoa to board the chopper to Abuja. He got to Abuja that Saturday and was admitted in hospital. The following Monday, his breathing changed. I said, let us make arrangement to get him out—to let him get treatment outside. So, an arrangement was being made. Unfortunately, the following day he had cardiac arrest and inflamed heart at the State House Clinic.” Sadly, despite the expedient excellencies, a president’s brother, like an ordinary Nigerian, gave up the ghost in November 2012 at the capital city of Abuja.
The gist of this plea mirrors a famous quotation by an American president, John F. Kennedy: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
Aliko Dangote needs no introduction. Touted as the richest black man, he is also widely admired for a proclivity to showcase Nigeria at any given chance. It was not surprising therefore that instead of hosting a world class wedding for his beloved daughter in some of the choicest destinations in a foreign land, he brought it home along with a bevy of guests drawn from the who-is-who in both the political and the corporate worlds. It also presented an opportunity for the Nigerian rich and famous to ostend their wealth along with expensive goodies, including the latest samples of private jets and lush cars. Yet, this grandiose show of affluence is common in country that has been established as the poverty capital of the world.
Bill Gate, the famous American billionaire, who deploys billions of his personal wealth to fight poverty in Africa, also graced the wedding of Mr. Dangote’s daughter. Though Mr. Gate appeared to appreciate the African hospitality, which is second to none, he could not reconcile the degree of ostentatious wealth with the degree of poverty in the land. He showed his disgust by leaving the big men with following words: “Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive. If you invest in their health, education, and opportunities- the human capital we are talking about today, then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity.”
Of course, Mr. Gate told the gospel truth. But, as the eminent political historian, Bala Yusuf Usman, once noted, many highly placed Nigerians are some of the most ignorant, because they like to forget that politics should be about the common good of the society. Instead, many Nigerian rich and famous people typically collude to loot the funds budgeted for public projects, thereby denying basic opportunities to the ordinary people. But the realities are setting in.
The long years of elite impunity have led to mass poverty and, consequently, a level of insecurity never imagined in the land. The naked truth is that the masses are angry and cannot take it anymore. Today, no Nigerian—whether rich or poor—is safe anymore. These days, the rich and famous can no longer enjoy their wealth in the Nigerian space, as they would please. Even convoys of contingent of army and the police, which usually trail the big men, no longer stoke fear, let alone deterrence.
Further, if things remain any close to the current situation, the children of the rich and famous—who are being groomed overseas—may never come back home to inherit their riches after all. If the mass exploitation continues, as Bill Gate had warned the big men, their beloved businesses will not sustain.
The most proverbial yet is another quote from the same President Kennedy. The American appeared to have a country like Nigeria in mind when he stated that “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” The point is that, barring a radical change from the status quo, mass revolution is imminent in Nigeria. And, as recent events have shown, any “violent revolution” will not be a conflict between the tribes or between the Christians and Muslims, as some politicians would wish, the target are the ruling elite and their influential sympathizers.
The only solution is true change. The Nigerian presidential election of 2023 is a make-or-mar for that elusive change. Of the candidates seeking the presidency, only three have legitimate chances of victory, namely, Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), and Ahmed Tinubu of All Progressives Congress (APC). So, is it Atiku that represents the change? How, and how can? Is it then Tinubu, the National Leader of the ruling APC, who roundly endorses those actions of the current government, as well as its functionaries that have combined to ruin Nigeria?
With every sense of modesty, unless one is unpatriotic and blinded by a timid clad of ethnic, religious or party sentiments, the choice in 2023 is a no brainer: Mr. Peter Obi stands out as the candidate most likely to bring us any semblance of change at this time in history. Moreover, the former Anambra governor is the choice of the Nigerian restless youths and, of course, the sole answer with the potential to avert an adverse revolution.
The youths have made a good choice. Unlike the presidential candidates of PDP and APC, Peter Obi is not only physically and mentally sound, but he also has the right set of visions, character, competence, and the capacity to rescue Nigeria and reposition her to path of honor. In short, no sane Nigerian would wish another absentee president like Umar Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari, which the candidacies of the ageless Atiku and the ailing Tinubu clearly represent.
These stark realities compelled me to dump the candidate of my party to endorse the candidate of the masses in Peter Obi. It is incumbent upon the Nigeria’s elite, as well as the Nigerians in the Diaspora, to join the Obidient movement. This movement is the nonviolent alternative. It is the long-awaited democratic revolution that can save both the many Nigerians who are poor and the few who are rich.
Dr. SKC Ogbonnia, an ex-APC presidential aspirant, writes from Houston, Texas