By Dul Johnson
The title above sounds bleak, but it is not intended to be taken as negative or pessimistic. Rather, it is intended to re-awaken in us a historical fact––a patch of our history we hate to remember, but which––we may have to relive, in a different but more painful way if we fail to do certain things right. There is a popular local proverb which translates as: “The child of ‘Had I Known’ never grows up”, meaning that anyone who neglects the warning signs of danger lives to regret their action; they realize their mistake too late, and therefore must endure the consequences for the rest of their life.
Almost all African countries that border the Atlantic Ocean have a “Point of no Return”, where their strongest and ablest men and women passed through never to return. Those who crossed the point, and their kin left behind, have continued to suffer the pain more than 400 years after. Failure to correct Nigeria’s political problems this time will force us into self-imposed internal slavery for a long, long time. Let no one be deceived, neither your tribe nor religion, neither your political nor regional affiliation, nor your education nor wealth, can take you out of this slavery. Getting it wrong at this critical point spells irredeemable doom for us all.
Fortunately, Nigerians have the intelligence, capacity and common sense to avert the threat of this impending doom. The walk to this freedom––our freedom from internal slavery––begins with the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25th, 2023. This is days away. If you have not made up your mind for the survival of Nigeria, I do not blame you. Most of the politicians have been at their best in their game of confusing and lying to you and playing the kind of crude politics they had pledged not to play. However, the time to make up your mind is now, for, it is only when you have a conviction that you can convince someone to go with you. Let your conviction be for the unity, survival and progress of our country and not for the promotion of = personal and selfish interests.
Sometime in the second part of 2022, I published a series of articles appealing to different groups and segments of Nigeria asking them to save the nation from self-destruction by making sure they voted and voted wisely. My idea and definition of ‘voting wisely’ was to avoid the political pitfalls of yesteryears. I wondered why, despite the cliched warning against doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result, we insisted on repeating our mistakes, believing that politics was an exception to the rule. It is in this pigheaded belief that, in spite of our world-acclaimed intelligence, we have driven the country to the brink. Something tells me that we’re not going to tip it over and drown with it in the Atlantic Ocean.
My suggestions for the solution were simple: This time around, we vote for ‘the person’ that the party has presented, and not the party itself. The kind of person that can take us out of the present rot must be strong, dynamic, mentally and physically sound, has knowledge of global politics and economics, and above all, the GUTS to say ‘enough is enough’. The so-called supper parties have no such persons; they have offered none.
In my write-ups I took no side; I simply urged Nigerians to look out for any amongst the new (or unrecognized) parties that would give us a candidate of the kind described above. My arguments were based on two things: the fact that elections had to be conducted anyway, as the tenure of the ruling party would be over, and the fact that for twenty years the country had drifted from bad to worse, with no sign that any of the parties that had failed us had any ideas to offer to change the situation. Yet, we all know that it is not possible to convince us that there was no one, from any other quarters that could solve Nigeria’s problems. The big parties insist on holding onto power, fooling the masses with their pack of lies, empty promises, deception, plans for stealing, corruption, nepotism, lawlessness, impunity and lots more. This is a game they have perfected and it seems we cannot match them at it. The best we can do, therefore, is to look elsewhere in our patriotic cause to save the country.
I do not suggest that the big old parties should not exist, nor do I suggest that their members should jump boat. No, all I am asking is for you to be patriotic and vote for the survival of Nigeria. If the country falls apart, there will be no constituency for your party to rule, now or in the future. Without a change, we will all be seen as mad people trying the same method for twenty years and insisting it will yield a different result. But we don’t even have a reason to try any of the old parties. We have options in the other parties that are making waves; the LP and the ANPP. If we are serious about the survival and progress of Nigeria, then we must not talk about the liabilities among the top four.
It is true that the APC and the PDP have been in power for a while. They are therefore well known and see themselves as having ‘political structures’, which the newer parties are said not to have. It seems to me that politicians understand ‘structure’ to mean physical infrastructure such as buildings with big furniture to sit in and scheme, or huge billboards on the streets to mount their posters. They fail to understand that political structures are organized groups of persons, or powerful individuals who can make things happen. In the case of some of these new parties, they have what we may refer to as ‘super’ structures. A party with a dynamic segment of society like the youth, or the Labour Union, or the Road Transport Workers’ Union cannot be said not to have structures. From this perspective, I am inclined to argue that the Labour Party (or its candidate) has more structures than any other party in the present contest.
Nevertheless, my concern––our concern as Nigerians––is not about party. We need a leader that has what it takes to turn things around, and I think that the candidate of the Labour Party fits the bill well. Honest and well-meaning Nigerians know this. They also know that is not the time to play the condemnable politics of religion and ethnicity. Hunger, sickness, fuel scarcity, insecurity, poverty, inflation, potholes, perpetual darkness and many other ills that plague the country know neither religion nor ethnicity. It is true that we still have disciples of religion and ethnicity, but they are an insignificant number whose circles are also insignificant and we should pay them and their rants no regard.
And so, here’s the simple point I’m trying to make: That we all love Nigeria and want it to remain a single entity and develop to become a world super power because it has all the potentials; all it needs to become a super power within a short time. But it needs the right leadership to do so, and not everyone of the top political gladiators can give us that kind of leadership. There are four top contenders at the moment and we love all of them. What else other than love would make so many citizens want to save the life of an ailing patriot by persuading him not to choose suicide through the stress of campaigns and the bigger stress of the office of the president, which, in our country with its peculiarities, has proven not to be a place for old people? Whoever will be our president must be in good physical and mental health, ready to hit the ground running. This is why I am appealing to the APC, the party I have supported for eight years, to pass on the presidency this time around.
The PDP, which was the party I supported from 1999 until 2015, may have a strong and healthy candidate, but what do they want after sixteen years of abysmal failures, fielding a candidate who has been part of the failures? Besides, even before his ascent to the position of the country’s No.2, he had superintended over one of the most corrupt institutions in the country. Neither did he leave the No.2 office with a good score card. So, why is the party bent on foisting a liability on an ailing country? It is true that his failure at several attempts to get the No.1 position is no reason to jettison the idea, but he hasn’t been able to convince Nigerians about his new bag of tricks to tackle the problems he participated in creating. The PDP’s candidate may not be the kind of liability APC wants to dump on us, but he is probably a bigger danger, in that he may return us to where he left off, and complete the destruction of our country.
The ANPP has a younger, healthy, energetic and mentally alert candidate than the two above. He has the education and the pedigree, but his calculations and timing are wrong. He is unmindful of, and deliberately rubbishing the unwritten (unconstitutional) rotation agreement designed to bring stability to the polity. He has a right, just as any other candidate. But, for the sake of fatherland, he should have thought better, and accepted the proposal to join forces with the LP. After all, in the lighter mood, it has often been said that he was the son of an Okonkwo, who came (zo) to Kano and never returned. He would therefore have been running with his ‘brother’. Jokes aside, time and political maturity should have tutored us to think fairness to all parts and ethnic nationalities in the country, especially as it is the one way that will lead us out of the rotation trap. In other words, to say: ‘It is the Eastern Region’s emi lokan’.
The long and short of my tour de force is to appeal to ALL who love our country (irrespective of party affiliations) to put their trust in the candidate of the Labour Party who has, so far, demonstrated ability, determination, capacity, commitment, energy, presence of mind and a grasp of the problems we are grappling with. We do not want to be the children of “had I known”. We can neatly avoid the ‘point of no return’ by putting a capable captain in charge of the ship, who can steer off the direction of danger. Peter Obi is that man. I am not sure that we have had a candidate with the mind, experience and managerial clout that Peter Obi possesses. In the hostile campaign environment, he has demonstrated a rare streak of love and patience in spite of insults and hate speech thrown at him. Our thoughts should not be about ‘trying’ him, but rather, ‘getting’ him to do the job. The rest is in your hands, patriotic Nigerians.
- Johnson is a professor in the Department of English and Literary Studies, Bingham University, Karu, Nasarawa State