By Dele Sobowale
“The rate of change in our time is so swift that an individual of ordinary length of life will be called on to face novel situations which have no parallel in the past. The fixed person for the fixed duties, who in the old society was such God-sent, will in the future be a public danger” – Alfred North Whitehead, 1861-1947.
Nigeria, at present, has a fixed person who we have elected for the fixed duties of security guarantee and economic prosperity, but, who has turned out to become a public danger. Permit me to apologise, once again, for being one of those who, aggressively, promoted President Buhari in 2011 and 2015. It was a blunder that I will regret for the rest of my present life – and in life after; if there is one.
At the risk of boring my regular readers, let me repeat that it took just Buhari’s first 20 appointments to convince me of my dreadful mistake. Obviously, it has taken most of the rest of My Fellow Countrymen a lot longer to realise that the man did not deserve a second term — as Professor Ango Abdullahi, Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, said recently. The attempt to downplay Abdullahi’s importance by one of Buhari’s loudspeakers who called him “General without troops” had merely revealed how totally divorced from reality the inhabitants of Aso Rock have become. The loudest call for Baba to come home is coming from Katsina State. It is the first time in Nigerian history for a Head of State to be issued the “red card” by his own people. Perhaps none of us will live long enough to witness another.
NEF is not alone. There are very few honest individuals left in the entire South who have not given up on the man re-elected in 2019. The embarrassment is now national. Consequently, despite the fact that Buhari still has almost three more years to go, he has actually become a lame duck. We all know that a man cannot just expand his mind as he would his house. Buhari cannot go beyond what we have seen in five years. That is bad news for us as the readers will soon discover from three calamities unfolding to torment us. These are the sort of disasters the next President will inherit from him in 2023. It will require somebody special.
THREE DISASTERS AND A PRESIDENT’S RESPONSE
I have recently discovered that the easiest way to bring indisputable facts about our current predicaments and future agonies to the attention of Nigerians is to render headlines from our newspapers. Journalism, we have long known, is the first rough drafts of history. This is history in progress right in front of our eyes. It is all bad news; not even a silver lining in the dark clouds. Read and despair.
‘IMF further reduces Nigeria’s 2020 growth rate to -5.4%’ – VANGUARD, June 25, 2020, p 8.
‘OUT-OF-SCHOOL: Kano leads with 1,496,736 children – UNICEF’ -VANGUARD, June 24, 2020, p 9.
‘Future Bomb: Beyond Hauwa’u Sulaiman’s 16 children’ – Tunji Adegboyega, NATION, June 21, 2020.
Early in June, the Federal Government finally admitted that Nigerians will become poorer in 2020. That will guarantee that we retain the dubious title of the poorest nation on earth. The recent announcement by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, about -5.4% decline will ensure that Nigeria will remain at the bottom of the Economic League of Nations until Buhari leaves office in 2023. He did not find us there. He got us there and will leave us there.
One of those who helped Buhari into office in the 2015 and 2019 elections was Governor Ganduje of Kano State. Together, they have watched as the population of out-of-school children grew in the state. Kano now claims 11 per cent of all kids roaming the streets in Nigeria. Next door is the very highly intelligent Governor of Kaduna State – Malam El-Rufai. Madam Hauwa Sulaiman, whose 16 children alarmed Tunji Adegboyega, gave birth to quadruplets on June 5, 2020 in Zaria, Kaduna State. Certainly, nobody has made inquiries regarding the fate of the first 12. However, one thing is sure. Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara account for close to 48 per cent of out-of-school children in Nigeria. All the governors have not reduced the number in their states. Instead, they have added to the load.
Population, as everybody who cares to find out knows, is the most important variable in determining per capita income. The other is the aggregate national income. Countries with high per capita income frequently are those who have placed population control at the top of their national agenda. Every government, irrespective of political party, never relaxes on population control. Yet, in five years, Buhari never once mentioned population. It is quite possible that the Chairman of the National Population Commission, NPC, created in 1989 by Babangida, has not met with Buhari to discuss population control. Why?
“It requires wisdom to know wisdom…” – Walter Lippmann, 1889-1974, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ.
Few people can, at 77, learnt what they have not bothered to learn at 40. Unlearning socially disruptive habits can even be more difficult. Ok, let’s skip that and conclude this segment. One of the biggest problems the next President would have to confront is one which neither Jonathan nor Buhari considered was population control. The only Head of State who had the guts to tackle it was incomparable President Ibrahim B Babangida, IBB – ably supported by the late Professor Olikoye Ransome Kuti (See IBRAHIM B BABANGIDA 1985-1992: LETTING A THOUSAND FLOWERS BLOOM). Incidentally by the time IBB clocked five years in office, he had created over 20 institutions including the NPC – many of which exist till today. We need a civilian IBB to repeat what was done in the 1980s.
But who? I know you would wonder why Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala? Here are the reasons.
TIME FOR A RADICAL CHANGE
“The reason the Lord had to create woman is because man doesn’t know his own good when he sees it – William Faulkner, 1897-1962 in ‘AS I LAY DYING’.
Some coincidences are simply incredible. As I was lying in a hospital bed waiting for my operation for cancer in three days time in March this year, I found, in my bag, a copy of Faulkner’s book which was purchased in January at a bookstore at Ikoyi. It is doubtful if anybody could have recommended it to me for reading. But, I needed something to read. At any rate I recollected Charles Frohman, 1860-1915, who, before going down with a ship, said. “Why fear death? It is the most beautiful experience in the world.” Suddenly, the statement above jumped in my face. Live or die, I still have a stake in Nigeria. And at the root of my anxiety is the leadership problem. This government is finished.
The first question was: Why not a woman for the next President of Nigeria? Suddenly, there was a news report on Channels TV about Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The next question rushed on the heels of the first one. Why not Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala? The more I turned the question on my mind, the more it seems so self-evident that the best man for our next President might actually be a woman. As usual, permit me to answer the question as best as I can. I honestly pray that she will consider it. I will certainly campaign for her with my last breathe. And, I think others will too.
“All great leaders have had one characteristic in common; it was their willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxieties of their people in their time” – Professor J.K. Galbraith, VBQ p 124.
Dr Ngozi might have taken a course at Harvard University with Galhraith, a Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, but what matters right now is the fact that one indisputable anxiety of Nigerians now, and until well beyond 2023, is the mountain of debt Buhari will certainly leave behind. There is a bit of silver lining in the dark clouds in our future. We have somebody – Okonjo-Iweala – who had got us out of the debt trap in the past. She did it once; she can do it again.
For that reason alone, the best MAN to clean up the economic mess Buhari will certainly leave behind might be a WOMAN. But, other reasons suggest Madam Ngozi as the best choice after Buhari. Permit me to mention a few.
She will solve three problems at once – ethnic, gender issues, rape and cost-effective government. Permit me to henceforth call her Ngozi. That is after all the American way – where we both attended universities and worked.
For too long the issue of Igbo President has been on the top of our national agenda. Dr Alex Ekwueme, the founding father of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was well on his way to clinching the party’s presidential ticket and would have won in 1999 if the military had not intervened to impose Olusegun Obasanjo. In my book PDP: CORRUPTION INCORPORATED, the facts are well detailed. Had the military not been short-sighted and allowed democratic processes within the PDP to select their candidate, they would have solved one problem lingering since the end of the Civil War for ever. Igbo would have been completely integrated into Nigeria and most of the wounds of the unfortunate war would have been healed. Ekwueme, the perfect gentleman and incorruptible, would also have strengthened democracy. We missed the boat in 1998/9 and we have been wandering in the wilderness ever since. Our 30 years journey to economic greatness has now become a 400 years torture under Buhari. We need a new leader with a different compass than one leading inexorably into financial abyss and oblivion. Ngozi provides us with a chance to solve the national problem once and for all.
Simultaneously, she will also put behind us the issue of gender equity. Certainly, a female President needs not be told to pack her cabinet with brilliant women who can bring a fresh approach to management of public affairs. By and large, men have failed us. It is time we give a woman a chance.
Rape was deliberately separated from the broad issues of gender justice for the simple reason. It is a national problem largely because of the male citizens of Nigeria. If our male rapists stop committing it, 99.9 per cent of rapes will disappear. The little contributed by females will hardly make headlines. I strongly believe that men in power have been treating the sexual pandemic with the levity it does not deserve. A woman as President will work more closely with the lawmakers and judges to stiffen the penalties and make punishment more certain. Rape will become a minor crime within two years of her presidency – because she has a personal stake in the outcome. Believe me.
Cost-effective government starts from the Home Front (apologies to the late Mrs Maryam Babangida). Female Presidents or Prime Ministers don’t have established Office of the First Husband – with all the waste and corruption attached to it. Start from there…..
P.S. I have read statements from people who consider Igbo presidency in 2023 impossible. My answer to them is simple: “You are not God”.
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