An Open Letter to Osita Chidoka, By Pius Adesanmi
I must congratulate you for an exhilarating debate performance yesterday. You shone like a million bright stars. Such was your brio that we should not even be here today discussing the possibility of your winning the forthcoming election. It should be a no-brainer, a foregone conclusion. However, we have to face the grim fact that we are dealing with a tragedy called Nigeria, which makes your brilliance and exceptional qualities an electoral liability.
On the stage with you yesterday was an incumbent whose incoherence and dullness would be funny if he had not already governed for four years. Another competitor, the APC candidate, is determined to build “portable roads”. The others are as forgettable, as dour and tragically uninspiring as these two. In other words, your competitors are precisely the sort of leadership material that Nigeria has embraced since independence for Nigeria, by definition, is a way of either doing things wrongly or leaving things undone.
This tragic irony notwithstanding, you should be the next Governor of Anambra state. I am rooting for you and so are thousands of Anambrarians and non-Anambrarians. Your candidacy is becoming the symbolic expression of a nationwide deep-seated yearning for paradigm shift. And this is where I begin to fear. This is why I wanted to check with you to make sure that you have done enough soul-searching to understand what is truly at stake.
You hit all the right notes yesterday but you operated essentially at the level of platitudes, albeit brilliant platitudes. Now, to the heavy conceptual lifting. I will ask you a question to help deepen your awareness of the stakes as the election closes in. Have you accepted the fact that you could be a one-term Governor? No candidate for public office, who isn’t ready to accept the real possibility of a single term or even of impeachment, can be the truly revolutionary reformer that Nigeria needs at this important moment.
What you are proposing to change, fundamentally, is a national culture built on a status quo foundation of corruption and rottenness. This culture of corrupt dysfunction inheres in every state and every LGA in Nigeria. It is entrenched. It is deadly. Every Nigerian within it benefits from it. Every Nigerian without it lives wholly and exclusively in anticipation of integration into that political economy of corruption and rottenness. The Nigerian screaming and yearning for change hopes that this change would happen only after he has benefited maximally from the rot. In other words, within or without, no Nigerian truly determines a radical, fundamental shift in the system.
These Nigerians will fight you to a standstill once they detect that you are a Governor who “does not understand”. They will ensure that you do not get a second term. They will try to correct the mistake. Are you prepared for this? Are you prepared to damn the consequences, run the risk of being a one-term Governor and spend four years draining the gutters, the pit latrines and the “soakaways” no matter whose ox is gored?
Let me break it down for you. Your townspeople will own you and your mandate in a Nigerian manner that is at variance with modern practices of democracy. Their son is now the state Governor. It is their turn to eat. The Igwe of your town and his council of elders will immediately start to make representations to you. They will expect you to establish a brand new state University in your hometown within one year of your mandate. They will expect appointments – whether their candidates deserve it or not. They will expect “dividends of democracy such as are befitting the hometown of a Governor”. Are you prepared to spend the next four years blowing grammar and explaining the evils of nepotism to your Igwe, his council of elders, and your townspeople?
If you cannot do this, you cannot rise up to your promise as a revolutionary reformer. Yet, going against the semantic portents of “it is our turn to eat” means alienation from your people, from your immediate family, from your extended family, from the status quo. Are you prepared for this? This is a question President Buhari never really asked himself when he offered to serve. His failure began when he failed this fundamental Nigerian challenge and bowed to the demons of nepotism and parochialism.
Also, look at Rochas Okorocha in Imo. His most glaring failure is not in the morbid imbecility which has reduced him to wasting public funds on statues. His failure started from his inability to say no to nepotism and the personalization of public office for himself and his family.
The same pressures will descend ferociously on you. If you cannot say no to your brothers and sisters and your kinsmen, to special interests and the status quo, you will slip into the status quo you promised to change. If you say no, you will be alienated and you will run the real risk of being a one-timer. Have you thought about these things?
You are not the first promising kid on the block. Dimeji Bankole was 37-years-old when he became Nigeria’s No.3 citizen. Brilliant, cosmopolitan, eloquent. Just like you. He has entered the history books as a colossal failure. There have been other “youths” like you and Dimeji. As state governors, Ministers, Senators or political appointees, they have virtually all failed. Every one of them was consumed by the status quo because they never really gave a thought to this one question I have asked you.
Again, whoever is not prepared to risk a single term or impeachment can never change Nigeria.
If you are not prepared for this risk, you will never change Anambra. You will deceive yourself that you will go easy and rush through your reforms after having secured a second term.
Many have gone that way. Once you lose your bearing within the first two years and become status quo, you never recover. Please give a thought to these things and strengthen your resolve to damn every consequence and bring light to Anambra.