BY IJEME OMOLEGHO
LET’S think hypothetically for just a minute. What should we expect if Rev. Chris Okotie of the FRESH Party, becomes President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? The same old display of inept and un-creative governance, or a departure from the status quo to world class ideologies that shape the times, and brings international discussants to ‘study’ the new and emerging Nigerian governance model? Other options that have been mentioned, who fit into this hypothesis include Governors Adams Oshiomhole and Raji Fashola, Mallam El-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu, etc.
This thought takes me back to the elections of 1979, when we had the luminous political quartet of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (NPP), Chief Obafemi Awolowo (UPN), Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim (GNPP) and Mallam Aminu Kano (PRP), all of blessed memory, as actors vying for the office of the President of Nigeria on our political stage? What would have become of Project Nigeria if we had got it right at that crucial point? With hindsight, that ‘Judelex (Judicial, Legislative and Executive) coup’ as Chief Obafemi Awolowo described it after the 1979 elections, was the genesis of today’s failing Nigeria.
Unfortunately, we missed that boat, which resulted in the subsequent line of Buhari-IBB-Abacha-Shonekan-Abdulsallam-led governments which cocooned us in almost two decades of pariah nationhood. At that crucial juncture in our socio-political and economic evolution, we made a wrong turn, which spiraled our nation down to the abyss that entrenched corrupt politicking as an inherent nature of our politics.
1999 also presented the opportunity for a shift, as we all hoped for a new beginning as a nation, but again sentiment ruled over reason, and almost two decades on, with hindsight, we obviously took a wrong turn as the images of our democracy leaves little to be desired or celebrated. That was probably why Comrade Uche Chukwumerijie said in a recent Guardian Newspaper interview that, “we have not begun our journey to nationhood”.
By 2015, it will again be almost two decades after the elections of 1999 like the elections of 1979 before it, and looking at the stage of obvious possible aspirants, we can safely say that we again need a shift in our political paradigm, which is vital in determining the course of our lives, both individually and as a nation.
In dealing with the failing bureaucratic structures of any system, as in our politics, a shift from the norm presents the best possible option to reverse the adverse effects of wrong decisions, and create a new beginning for maximizing the potentials of the human capital and national assets, for the general good of the people. This is what a paradigm shift accomplishes.
We need to reappraise our assessment of aspirants, and our stance on national issues that affect us adversely. This is why I believe in Rev. Okotie’s call for a paradigm shift. It has become a national imperative that we change our thinking.
Anyone with an objective outlook, who has heard Okotie speak on national issues, or has read his commentaries on Facebook and the national newspapers, can tell without doubt that he has a sound understanding of the problems that confront us and how they can be solved. He announced this grasp of political profundity before the 2003 elections when he appeared on the Presidential debates, where he literarily made mince meat of political stalwarts who debated with him.
By 2011, his invitation to the debates was withdrawn, for obvious reasons, which subsequently led to other aspirants boycotting the debates as President Jonathan had to be interviewed alone. We would like to hear Okotie on the political rostrum speaking in a public debate or media chat on matters arising on the local and international scene.
But one of his biggest challenges is that he has not been a public figure in terms of religious, social or political appearances, so people have not been able to properly appraise him, and we are generally afraid of the unknown. That is why we fear change. We seem to be more comfortable with what we are used to. Like President Clinton once said: “We vote for people we claim to hate”. The public on one hand wonders if he will not go the same way as our corrupt politicians, while the political class believes he will carry out a witch hunt of corrupt politicians when he ascends office. This is like living between a rock and a hard place.
Pundits have also expressed the fear that Okotie is an unknown in the field of politics, or the corridors of power. They have asked what political pedigree equips him to handle the nation’s problems. In an apparent response to this reasoning, he told his audience last year on the occasion of the 26th anniversary of his church that “ministry is all about service. It is probably the best nursery and training ground for leaders in any sphere of human endeavour. It is in ministry that the complex problems of humanity stare you in the face”.
But how does this equip him for partisan politics and all its internal convolutions? He again said that in ministry, “you encounter circumstances that only God could handle because of their sheer complexities and bizarre nature… financial challenges, domestic upheavals, issues of economics, ministry politics, envy, rivalries, competition, you name it! That sounds familiar to veteran politicians”. That is why he once said that the government should not ask the people to tighten their belts; rather, government should tighten its belt by reducing recurrent expenditures.
Rev. Okotie has declared his intention to contest in the coming 2015 presidential election, offering us another “Paradigm Shift” option. If we miss the 2015 boat, then the 1979- 1999 abnormalty will be repeated. As mentioned earlier, there are many other viable Nigerians like Rev. Okotie, Mallams El-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu, Governors Raji Fashola and Adams Oshiomole and several captains of industry who are out there, who can take this country to unimaginable heights on the international scene. These are the kind of men we need to power Project Nigeria. The time has come for them to emerge and take the bull by the horns.
Omolegho a public affairs commentator wrote from Lagos.