By Dele Sobowale
â€œMen of ordinary physique and discretion cannot be Presidents and live, if the strains be not somehow relieved. We shall be obliged always to be picking our chief magistrates [presidents] from among wise and prudent athletes â€“ a small classâ€.
President Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government in the United States, New York: Columbia University Press, 1908, pp 79-80.
President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s time is over. Even if, as rumoured last Friday, he shows up in the Central Mosque or in his office at Aso Rock, he will turn out to an object of curiousity rather than effective leader. And, most certainly, nobody in his right senses will consider him for a second term.
The post-Yarâ€™Adua era in Nigerian politics has started â€“perhaps a full year and two months ahead of schedule. The most critical question facing Nigeria at this point is: who comes next? Jonathan, too, is not coming back and any attempt in that direction will result in personal humiliation and possible national disaster. All things considered, the future points to a new president in 2011. Who will it be?
If we accept the prescription of Richard Neustadt, quoted above, and in light of our current experience with a physical weakling as president, we now have a collective responsibility to begin the search for appropriate people for the presidency. Without waiting for others, I started this journey last year, shortly after writing my â€œOPEN LETTER TO TURAIâ€ because I was convinced even then that Yarâ€™Adua would not last the distance. But, before proceeding, let me make two declarations; one for mature readers of this page, and two for those blockheads, who cannot simply say â€œI disagreeâ€ but must accuse the columnist of â€œsettlementâ€. I have met and dealt directly with only one of the people who will be featured here in my entire life. Obviously, it is impossible for one to be settled by total strangers.
Furthermore, I have tried to accommodate both those who believe in the principle of rotation and those who reject it. My own views on the matter are irrelevant at the moment. At any rate, they should not detract from what is an attempt to take a dispassionate view of a vital national issue. In my trips throughout the country in the last 15 months, I have conducted interviews aimed at discovering the issues that are most important to Nigerians and to rank them. There are 11 in all. Expectedly, different zones of Nigeria assign different priorities to each on the top 11 and who can best tackle them.
For instance, only in the South West is eradication of corruption placed as the number one priority. In the North East and South East, it is way down the list. Surprisingly, only one issue, undisclosed for now, attracts high priority in all the zones of Nigeria. In fact, any candidate for President, Senate or Federal House of Representatives who makes this his central platform is guaranteed enthusiastic audience anytime and anywhere.
The 2011 election also promises to be the most open â€“even within PDP. The â€œGarrison Commandersâ€ are no longer influential and nobody, certainly not Ogbuluafor and the political weaklings making up the National Working Committee, NWC, have the clout to impose anybody unilaterally. Therefore, votersâ€™ perception of candidates, from the primaries to the final election, will be vital to the success of candidates. And, the internecine warfare within the PDP has improved the opportunity for other parties and independent candidates who can package their campaigns properly.
For now, incomplete results indicate that the following people have received favourable responses nationwide. For those insisting on rotation, the list of acceptable candidates includes the following: Governors Bukola Saraki, Danjuma Goje, Aliyu Babangida, Bunu Sherrif, Shekarau, Senator and ex-Governor Makarfi and Major-General Buhari (rtd) â€“ not necessarily in order of preference.
For those who would have the race thrown wide open, the list would include these people: Acting President Jonathan (who I donâ€™t think will run), ex-Governor Donald Duke, ex-Governor Victor Attah and, would you believe, by popular demand, Governor Babatunde Fashola. It is remarkable that apart from Jonathan, Duke, Attah and Fashola, no other person from the SouthWest is considered good enough and none from the South East. But, the study continuesâ€¦.
COST EFFECTIVE LESSON FOR ALL CANDIDATES â€”1
â€œWaste not; want notâ€.
What follows is directed at all candidates â€“irrespective of party affiliation. As an economist, I know too well that waste by one individual translates to national waste when several people indulge in it at the same time. For instance, the billions which PDP presidential hopefuls threw down the drain in 2007, when indeed, Baba Iyabo had decided to impose a candidate, represented a colossal loss â€“not only to the individuals themselves but to the country as a whole. One candidate, alone, reportedly spent over N2 billion. That was enough money to give N100,000 scholarships to 20,000 students in his state or interest free loan to the same number of small scale farmers. Nobody needs to be told the utility value of both the scholarship and the increased food production that would have accrued to the nation. He was not alone. At least N300 billion went down the drains altogether in the 2007 elections on account of all the contested positions.
While I claim no expertise on how campaign expenditure might be made more effective in other areas, it is my conviction that my knowledge of waste in two areas could help candidates in 2010-11 reduce wasteful spending. The two areas are: print media selection and campaign itineraries. Of the N300 billion spent in 2007, close to N50 billion went into print media adverts and another N40 billion to travel and accommodation, by the candidates themselves or their supporters. At least 40% was wrongly spent and the impact on the candidatesâ€™ result was often marginal and sometimes even marginal.