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2023: TVCP and Leadership Recruitment

It is common knowledge that while Nigerians and, of course, the global community were on Sunday, January 1, 2023, celebrating the ‘arrival’ of a brand new year, former President Olusegun Obasanjo released to Nigerians his regular trademark Open Letter, where he, among other remarks, endorsed the Labour Party candidate in the forthcoming general elections in the country, Peter Obi, describing him as a presidential candidate that has the edge over others in terms of knowledge, discipline, vitality and character, and, therefore, admonished Nigerians not allow opportunity that Peter Obi represents in the February 25 presidential poll slip through their hands.

As expected, the development has elicited reactions from political stakeholders and the general public. While some hailed the action of the former president, others viewed it with scepticism. The boundaries between both spheres have shifted back and forth for some days. In some cases, they have ended up igniting a lot of tension.

For instance, the supporters of Peter Obi believe that the insight that flows from Obasanjo’s letter remains credible and encouraged other past leaders to emulate him.

On their part, APC Presidential Campaign Council sees the endorsement as worthless because, in their estimation, the former president does not possess any political goodwill or leverage anywhere in Nigeria to make anyone win a councillorship election, let alone a presidential election.

The Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organization shares similar opinions with APC. To them, the support for the LP presidential candidate by Obasanjo was his personal wish, which did not reflect the opinion or position of the overwhelming majority of Nigerians across the country.

Indeed, while the debate about the viability or otherwise of the endorsement rages, there are, however, some silent but salient points that Nigerians must not fail to remember.

First and very fundamental is that it takes an illuminated mind to write a good letter, and it is, therefore, important that readers focus more on the message and not the messenger, as no one is infallible.

In the same way, one of the intrinsic privileges participatory democracy and the election of leaders confer on all is the enjoyment of access to the free flow of information. It gives each individual more standing within the society without reference to a class or fortune- to claim a measure of dignity equal to all others and empowers individuals to scrutinize the use of power by those in government so as to ascertain if we are the one using power or whether power is using us.

Considering this fact, I found nothing out-of-ordinary to warrant the ripple reactions that characterized Obasanjo’s recent use of analytical methods to advise Nigerians, particularly the youths, on the forthcoming general election.

Very germane, aside from enjoying the constitutional backing as enshrined in the nations’ 1999 constitution (as amended), to express his opinion, the open letter provided an honest roadmap that will assist Nigerians to elect as President someone that will restore the political and socioeconomic health of the nation.

Obasanjo captured it this way, “I will, without prejudice, fear or ill-will, make bold to say that there are four major factors to watch out for in a leader you will consider to hoist on yourself and on the rest of Nigerians in the coming election and they are what I call TVCP: Track record of ability and performance; Vision that is authentic, honest and realistic; Character and attributes of a lady and a gentleman who are children of God and obedient to God; and Physical and mental capability with the soundness of mind as it is a very taxing and tasking assignment at the best of times and more so it is at the most difficult time that we are.”

More than anything else, Obasanjo’s latest letter, in my view, further confirms that leadership holds the key to unlocking the transformation question in Nigeria, as only a sincere and selfless leader and a politically and economically restructured polity brought about by national consensus can unleash the social and economic forces that can ensure the total transformation of the country and propel her to true greatness.

Supporting the above assertion is the elder statesman’s encouragement of Nigeria to jettison in the country’s leadership recruitment system that has bred corruption, inefficiency, primitive capital accumulation and socially excluded the vast majority of our people, and in its place, work to build a new social and political order that can mobilize the people around common interests, with visionary leadership to drive this venture- as only then can we truly begin to resolve some of the socio-economic contradictions afflicting the nation.

Also, there is, in the opinion of this piece, another strategic reason to believe that issues raised by the former president may not be lacking in merit but should be considered accurate and charitable.

Recall that President Buhari, according to reports, had in March 2015, among other things, described Obasanjo as a courageous patriot and statesman who tells the truth to the power when he is convinced that leaders are going wrong. It is my prayer that PMB and other political gladiators will heed this truth that is now coming from that same courageous patriot.

Away from the current open letter, from public affairs analyst’s point of view, I believe and still believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with APC as a political party acronym that throws into confusion any nation they assume the mantle of leadership. It is not only in Nigeria but in Africa as a continent. If you are in doubt of this claim, wait till you cast a glance at this documented account.

In 1985, the All Peoples Congress (APC) took over the mantle of leadership in Sierra Leone (pre-war days) with Joseph Momoh at the helm of affairs; just immediately, the nation came to a halt; the civil servants’ salaries stopped, the road fell to pieces, the schools disintegrated, the National Television stopped in 1987 when the transmitter was sold by the Minister of Information. And in 1989, a radio tower that relayed radio signals outside Free Town fell, ending transmission outside the capital, with weapons pouring over the border as the government disappeared. The economy finally collapsed, and Sierra Leone kissed calamity.

Looking at the above account in relation to what is currently happening in the political geography called Nigeria, it rings apprehension as to whether the country will not be heading for the Sierra Leone experience if voted again in the forthcoming general election.

Essentially, even if an answer is provided to the above, it will not at any significant level erase the common belief by Nigerians that APC lacks the solution to the hydra-headed socioeconomic challenge facing the nation, a feeling that has, in turn, eroded the goodwill the party enjoyed in 2015.

In my view, what is happening is neither Peter Obi endorsement-specific nor open letter induced. The truth is that before this ripple reaction that trailed the latest letter, Nigerians were shell-shocked at ugly developments in the country under the present federal government.

This worry is particularly evident in the current administration’s inability to keep to the promise made in 2015 and 2019 to create a climate of opinion in the country that will look upon corruption in public offices as a threat to society. Instead, it has plundered and plummeted the country into more corruption while leaving the nation’s economy to walk in the valley of the shadow of death. This failure majorly explains what irked Nigerians against the present administration.

While the ultimate result of what the federal government is doing currently is in the womb of the future, and the result may not be palatable if the trend is allowed to complete its gestation without something dramatic done to have it aborted, the truth must be told to the effect that the APC-led federal government has eloquently proved to be pleasant talkers but inept in political will to implement any policy. They have, within this period, promoted corruption and made the entire brouhaha about the corruption fight superficial that only exists in the frame, with the vision neither sharp nor the goal clear.

Most importantly, Nigerians, particularly the youths, like Obasanjo suggested, must, therefore, not allow themselves to be confused but should look towards building a future that is free of suspicion and a nation that will be viewed at the world stage as the zone of peace and prosperity.

In the interim, this piece holds the opinion that Obasanjo’s open letter and endorsement of Peter Obi remains the most dynamic and cohesive action expected of a past leader of his class to earn a higher height of respect and the former president’s TVCP political formula on its part, is the only way forward.

This is a message that Nigerians, particularly the youths, must not allow to go with political winds.

Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374

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