…Nigeria is in dire need of a unifying factor that can unite the ‘warring’ parts and arrest the steady descent to anarchy that the current administration is supervising and (seemingly) orchestrating. Nigeria needs a leader that can unite all the regions and give reason and hope to its diverse ethnic groups, so that their interests are duly represented and well-protected.
No doubt, President Buhari represents everything Nigeria is in no need of – not in our present yearnings nor in our future aspirations. Today, Nigeria is at a major crossroad – haunted by its chequered history and stuck with our unwillingness to learn from history. There will be no reprieve for a haemorrhaging body that Nigeria is until it is attended by a trained physician which, unfortunately, now, we have none. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, goes a popular saying.
President Buhari probably has little regard for history, and perhaps that informs his lacklustre style of leadership which has been consistent in displaying an unbelievable deficit in understanding the importance of perception about citizens’ disillusionment with the way they are governed. How glaring is the divisive and unenvious effort of the current administration in orchestrating, instituting, supervising and normalising chronic nepotism, parochialism and ethnic chauvinism?! No thanks to the government’s (seemingly) nonchalant attitude towards the general populace. Given Nigeria’s unique history, distinct trajectory, and disparate aspirations, that are in some way mutually destructive, it’s safe (even safer) to say that supervising the affairs of Nigeria is above the pay-grade of a president with no sense of inclusiveness, heterogeneity and diversity.
The 2015 election was unambiguously believed to be the most polarising moment in Nigeria’s democratic dispensation. Nigeria was (literally so) on the brink of disintegration. Nonetheless, the country’s unity triumphed. A strategist general would have, after inheriting divisive platoons, developed mechanisms of unifying the warring units and understanding the various contending social forces and grievances. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Instead, we were greeted with a clannish, tribalistic leader, who, at the onset of his stewardship, spared no time and has apparently been insensitive such that he said that “those who voted for him 97 per cent cannot get the same dividends of his government as those that didn’t vote for him or voted 5 per cent.” In his words, “it is only fair” that the government had to show appreciation for those who helped to bring it to power. How unfortunate!
At the moment, Nigeria is in dire need of a unifying factor that can unite the ‘warring’ parts and arrest the steady descent to anarchy that the current administration is supervising and (seemingly) orchestrating. Nigeria needs a leader that can unite all the regions and give reason and hope to its diverse ethnic groups, so that their interests are duly represented and well-protected. We cannot continue to have a president who is so insecure in his own self, fickle in thought, narrow in thinking and parochial in approach. If, in the last 76 years of his existence, and despite serving in the military up to the rank of a general, he could not have dependable allies and trusted friends across divides, then he has no business running the affairs of a country so heterogeneous and diverse as Nigeria.
Atiku’s history of a perfect talent-hunter makes him a candidate who can go miles, away from his comfort zone, to search, persuade, recruit and appoint people who will deliver, regardless of any parochial coloration.
The growing disillusionment, disappointment, erosion of trust, lack of social cohesion, and mutual suspicion that a number of Nigerians harbour against each other can only be cleaned by a more pragmatic, forward-looking, patriotic leader who has demonstrated a level of commitment in healing the wounds of the lack of respect, recognition and tolerance of minority groups as legitimate citizens with stakes in governing their affairs, as created by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government. Thanks, but no thanks to the APC-led government for expanding our fissures and further dividing us along ethnic, regional and religious lines through its insensitive assembly of a security architecture dominated by a single ethnic group. Landmass, boundary and a national anthem don’t make a country. It takes more than millions of acres of land and a few creative lines of poetry! What makes a country is the sheer sense of belonging, of being welcomed, accepted and respected by citizens. Your world would fall apart if you don’t have a say in a house you helped build. Today, an Ibibio man in the creek may have no regard for Nigeria for the simple reason that he cannot see someone who can protect his interest, and the people supposedly assigned to protect his interest have made no attempt to assure him that his interest would be well protected and respected. What can be sadder than this?!
Permit me to paraphrase the words of Chris Ngwodo: history offers a profound lesson in the physics of decline. It is true that Rome was not built in a day. Neither did it fall in a day. That mighty empire’s collapse occurred gradually over the course of more than two centuries, with most of its elites too obsessed with self-serving politics and the past glory of the realm to discern its steady decay. In Nigeria, the danger is that long-term governmental dysfunction has been the reason for our terminal decline. Consumed by the political intrigues of the day and the relentless pace of the news cycle, we do not perceive the slow poison coursing through the veins of the body politic, paralysing the state, dulling its reflexes, locking it stealthily into what will be recognised too late as the onset of rigour mortis.
Nigeria deserves more than what the APC is offering us. Of all the candidates, the person whose persona, image and antecedent demonstrate sense of inclusiveness, cosmopolitanism, and have enough clout, coverage and acceptance by all and sundry in this regard is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Atiku is the unifying and stabilising factor that Nigeria currently needs. His disposition and acceptance of the other as a “legitimate other” makes him a perfect candidate that will be at home watching the celebration of the arrival of New Yam Festival in Abiriba; never to be offended by listening to the melodious song of Jukun warriors on Ukenho; and will comfortably dance to the rhythm of music played during Egungun Festival.
Atiku’s history of a perfect talent-hunter makes him a candidate who can go miles, away from his comfort zone, to search, persuade, recruit and appoint people who will deliver, regardless of any parochial coloration. As a man who successfully runs a business empire and knows very well that brilliance, honesty, hard work, dedication, etc., are not exclusive traits of a certain group, let alone the rhetoric that “he can only appoint the people he knows”, it can be said that he is fit for the job. He knows that nature has appropriately and equitably allocated and distributed such beautiful traits across all divides. Such is the type of leader Nigeria needs, such is the type of leadership Atiku Abubakar will provide.
Ahmed Ibrahim writes from Abuja.