By Muyiwa Adetiba
The man I consider the Godfather of Journalism in Nigeria had four of us for a late breakfast a couple of weeks ago – that is not counting a pioneering film producer who came, had his bite, said his piece and left shortly after. Ostensibly, the gathering was to celebrate the New Year.
But in addition, it was also to feel the pulse of people who, by virtue of their jobs, had become veterans of many elections in Nigeria. It is contextual I hope, to state that three of those four guests actively covered the Presidential election in 1979 with two of the three becoming State House and National Assembly Correspondents respectively during the Shagari Administration and one working at the Presidency during the Obasanjo Administration.
All four had become Editors at different times and had acquired extensive contacts in different fields along the way. It is however reflective of the lay-out of the political field this time that three of the four backed three different Presidential candidates. Each gave his reason and I, the fourth person, played the devil’s advocate each time.
I suspected that their long associations with a couple of the candidates had beclouded their judgements and I told them so. When it was my turn to speak, I stated that I didn’t see any silver lining in the dark sky unless the system was tinkered with. This is a system where the benefits of an elite class far outweigh what the rest of the country needs for infrastructure; a system which encourages a culture of entitlement.
For me, all the talks about tackling insecurity, poverty and unemployment were just talks. None of the frontline three, to my mind, was addressing the elephant in the room so as not to upset the applecart. And until we turn that cart over, progress will be tedious and slow. It must be stated here that none of the discussants raised his voice against the other. No one became personal. We discussed, bantered, enjoyed the food and left – together.
This was not always my experience unfortunately. Around this time, I had an experience with someone for whom I have the utmost respect. He reads my column regularly and passes comments from time to time. Most of those comments are even and balanced. Then I noticed his posts were becoming inclined towards a particular candidate with whom he has a tribal affiliation.
He says it is for justice and equity in the country. I have no issues with that although I see it as another ‘Emilokan’. Then he sent a post, apparently in reaction to another post elsewhere, that youths will determine the next election. I referred him to a program on Channels TV where a data analyst believed that new voters would not determine the next election because they were less than 10% on the register and that the percentage of youths – under 35 – had actually declined.
He demurred then posted that it was unfair to have the Presidency rotated in his words, between ‘Fulani and Yoruba’. I reminded him that only one Yoruba had been there and a certain Ebele Jonathan from the south didn’t sound Yoruba to me. His next post caught me by surprise. I should support my tribesman with his dubious past and leave him out of it he retorted. Nowhere in our exchanges did I mention my preference. Nowhere did I even insinuate it. All I did was to play the devil’s advocate – with facts as stated on Channels TV.
I mention this to show that many people have allowed their passions and emotions to take over. If it is not tribe, it is religion. I once had breakfast with a Catholic Priest who quietly stated that a Muslim/ Muslim ticket must be voted out by Christians. I also quietly asked him what would happen to the country if Christians voted one way and Muslims the other way.
How would a country polarized around ethnic and religious lines solve the myriads of problems besetting it? Recently, a Pastor posted that people should vote for whomever they would want their sons to become in future. This was picked up by a former President who forgets that he has not exactly been a model for good behavior.
It was also mentioned to me by an elder who was a boardroom guru and Human Resource expert in his younger days. I told him what I felt he should know which is that what you wish for your son will influence the character traits he eventually develops. For example, if you wish your son to be wealthy or financially successful, he will need a ruthless streak to achieve your purpose.
If you want him to be professionally successful, you will require him to have diligence and passion and be prepared to sacrifice health and wealth. If on the other hand, you want him to be politically successful you will need him to be duplicitous and cunny. But if you just want a nice son, then leave him out of high stake leadership.
Like they say, nice guys don’t win the ball game. They get muzzled out. This is not to say that character is not important. It is. A political thief not only steals the present, he steals the future of unborn generations. Unfortunately, our land is suffused with political thieves.
The Presidential election is about a month away. Many minds have been made up as to who they will vote for. That is how it should be. Unfortunately, many of those minds are made up along tribal, religious and sentimental lines. When we follow those lines, which we have done several times before, we are more in hope than expectation of competence or even equity.
Then having your tribal or religious choice in office becomes its own reward. Unfortunately, that doesn’t improve the exchange rate or put food on the table of the poor. We need a man who will have the courage to look at the warped system and the will, the network, the support and the guile to tinker with it. Need I add that it will take more than being ‘a nice man’ to achieve that. This hopefully, will be my last word on the Presidential election.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.