Given the referenced institutional barrier, one therefore shares the view that it would perhaps have been more prudent if folks like Oby had chosen to fish in little political rivers with better prospects of victory, rather than spreading their scant net too thin in the vast ocean without much hope.


Oby Ezekwesili caused quite a stir on Sunday on Abuja streets. Even as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition PDP continued to trade insults days after individually presenting their election manifestos ahead of what promises to be a grudge “rematch” in 2019, the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria opted to share pamphlets to folks gathered, probably more out of curiosity than solidarity.

In her own estimation, that roadshow should suffice as answer to the growing taunts that she is bidding for the highest office in the land without a structure. So, the street campaign strategy is to make up for her obviously lean pocket for the campaign in the countdown to the elections due in roughly 80 days.

Hear her rather simplistic argument: “What we’re doing is distribution (of booklets and leaflets), because a lot of people do say, ‘Where is your structure?’.”

As if choreographed, two major national dailies – ThisDay and Guardian – also published her extensive interviews on the same day.

While Oby’s commitment to save Nigeria has never been in doubt and her courage to step forward now and bid for power must be saluted, she cannot evade the reality check.

With the confidence she pontificated, we are tempted to suspect Oby might have been burning the midnight candle understudying the Lula model. The man who had barged onto Brazil’s political scene in the the first decade of this millennium similarly came empty-handed once. Lula da Silva started by sharing leaflets in city squares, with the stalking tenacity of the proverbial Jehovah Witness, in Nigerian speak.

Before the existing right-leaning political establishment knew it, he had captured the people’s imagination sufficiently to win the presidency. Between 2003 and 2010, he would inspire a populist fairytale never seen in the history of the Latin American country.

How utterly naive of Oby then to downplay the challenge of election day. Were the motive behind her current exertion the mere thrill of participation or the symbolism, such characterisation could be pardonable. But if indeed it is to capture power, then more rigour is certainly required.


However, the pretender thinking the Lula formula could easily be transposed to Nigeria today is hardly prepared to answer one hard question: Does s/he have a ready critical mass behind him/her like the fanatical labour movement that enforced Lula’s victory back in Brazil in 2003?

Without wishing to dampen the spirit of the likes of Oby, who I am sure are getting involved for a purely altruistic reason, the bitter truth is that they stand no fighting chance with the prevailing national leadership recruitment process. Only those who had run for presidency before and got thoroughly squeezed are perhaps best placed to attest that the arena is certainly not for those with modest means or where you count on luck, instead of commonsense.

How utterly naive of Oby then to downplay the challenge of election day. Were the motive behind her current exertion the mere thrill of participation or the symbolism, such characterisation could be pardonable. But if indeed it is to capture power, then more rigour is certainly required.

While it may be possible now to leverage modern tools like social media to minimise the resources spent on publicity, which would have been prohibitive in the old media, the zestful presidential candidate will sooner than later find that the first real acid test actually awaits them on the eve of election: when to deploy incorruptible agents and mobilise such foot soldiers to defend their interest at each of the well over 100,000 polling stations located in the 774 councils across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, alone requires billions of naira.

Of course, that is always the first fortification against being rigged out.

While the novelty of card reader in 2015 and the promise of electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) this time will alter the character of tabulation and summation from what we are used to, nothing suggests a change yet in the human factor – the siege by those representing, potentially, the 91 political parties in the contest.

In reality, the party agent constitutes the first line of defence on election day. It is at this point the more established parties bring their weight to bear through the sharp practice referred to as “Cooperative Society”. Once the agents of “lesser” parties are compromised, the field is cleared for the dominant ones to manipulate the results in favour of their paymasters, but not without the active collaboration of unscrupulous presiding electoral officials.

Needless to stress that a true visionary doesn’t always have to insist on capturing federal power to bring about the progress our society badly needs. The lowly placed counsellor who keeps faith with his/her oath of office is, let it be said, already advancing the community in his/her own little way.


Of course, once you are not captured in the results originating from the polling station, it is needless attending the collation centre thereafter, unless as a spectator or “election monitor”.

This is the stark reality at the moment. It probably explains why the variable of personal popularity has always counted for little or less in electoral transactions in the country till date.

Indeed, if national visibility, demonstrable credibility and articulation of a seductive vision are all it requires to win the presidency, immensely popular and articulate Gani Fawehinmi would have easily won in 2003 on the platform of the National Conscience Party (NCP). Popular journalist, Dele Momodu, similarly put up a brave fight for the presidency in 2011, framing Obama-style messages targeting mainly the nation’s millennials. But at the end, he had bitter tales to share, including being swindled of his cash by some sharks in one of the parties he associated with.

Given the referenced institutional barrier, one therefore shares the view that it would perhaps have been more prudent if folks like Oby had chosen to fish in little political rivers with better prospects of victory, rather than spreading their scant net too thin in the vast ocean without much hope. For instance, what would have stopped her from scaling down by contesting the chairmanship of the Abuja Municipal Authority, where her vision of the good society can be pursued with a view to making it an island of success and the progress made easily measurable along the journey?

On the other hand, Yele Sowore would make a great senator. It is a lot surer to put a bet on him for the Senate or House of Representatives had he sought to parlay his cult-following among the student population to, say, seeking to represent the mainland in Lagos on the platform of debutant African Action Congress, with the huge campuses of University of Lagos (UNILAG), Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) and the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH).

Needless to stress that a true visionary doesn’t always have to insist on capturing federal power to bring about the progress our society badly needs. The lowly placed counsellor who keeps faith with his/her oath of office is, let it be said, already advancing the community in his/her own little way. It is when such islands of exception are aggregated that we can then aspire to evolve the archipelago of redemption for the country futuristically.

That miracle is however not likely to happen in one or two election seasons. In fact, the first real test is knowing how to judiciously invest limited political capital to make maximum impact.

Ikeogu, Oh No!

Ikeogu was the quintessential artist: a truly liberated soul for whom life or talent meant nothing if not devoted to the service of community or the pursuit of truth.


There was an echo of frailty in his voice when last we spoke three weeks ago; but nothing had prepared me for the bombshell I received in the early hours of Saturday from Azu (Ishiekwene). Azu’s text from Houston, the United States whispered the tragedy:

Ikeogu Oke passed on moments ago!

He was the laureate of the NLNG Prize for Literature in 2017.

In what turned out as our last chat in October, Ikeogu had expressed delight at my column, “Intifada of the old Guard”, summing it a rare rendition of patriotism.

Responding, I wanted him to view it as a mere re-echo of what other truly committed artists like himself say or write in defence of society and not tribe, ideals and not deals.

With the nation faced yet again with the dilemma of choice ahead of 2019, Ikeogu promised to join more vigorously in the public debate once he got better from “having had something removed from my body that was not supposed to be there.”

He earlier underwent a surgery for pancreatic cancer.

Leveraging his immersion in the rich Igbo oral tradition, he brought a new intensity – pulsating in resonance – to Nigerian poetry. He lent clarity to the expresssion of human emotions in a way no photography could.


Before going under the knife, he probably had glimpsed death. This is the epitaph he would pen for himself in September, about one week after the surgery: “My Epitaph: Here lies a man who loved virtue and art, And gave to both his fortunes and his heart. Ikeogu Oke (1967 – ).”

How prophetic!

Ikeogu was the quintessential artist: a truly liberated soul for whom life or talent meant nothing if not devoted to the service of community or the pursuit of truth.

Leveraging his immersion in the rich Igbo oral tradition, he brought a new intensity – pulsating in resonance – to Nigerian poetry. He lent clarity to the expresssion of human emotions in a way no photography could.

Living out the creed of the true artist as moral exemplar, Ikeogu had fiercely refused to be recruited into a scheme to defraud at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, owned by Atiku Abubakar. He was supposed to get a handsome cut from the deal in dollars.

For this, he was persecuted by his superior. Rather than mortgage his conscience, he chose to resign from the job and walked away with the joy of righteousness.

Adieu, the people’s poet.

Louis Odion is a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE).