The popular question on the lips of many citizens nowadays is, “who will rebuild Nigeria?”
The question became necessary when viewed from the current situation of the country and its abysmal rating in all departments of life.
Observers converge on the belief that Nigeria has been wrecked, needing urgent total re-engineering. Nigeria today has become a laughing stock in the comity of nations, even on the African continent where it claims to be the giant.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, while addressing journalists Wednesday on the need for total overhaul of Nigeria, said the country has been totally destroyed and has descended into a level never experienced in her history.
Nigeria seems to be in a more precarious situation now than in 2015 when a coalition of opposition parties, some prominent Nigerians and even some caucus in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party then, joined forces with others to push out of power the then president Goodluck Jonathan.
For many then, it was ‘anybody but Jonathan’. Today, they all are regretting as the acclaimed ‘messiah’ seems to be sleeping while the country keeps drifting apart from insecurity, growing poverty, economic meltdown, more corruption, nepotism, favouritism, among other ills.
A senior lecturer with a federal university, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that even some of those who shouted “hosanna” then, are singing a different tune.
“Things are getting out of hand in the country. We can see it; we can smell it. Even an unborn baby can sense that all is not well with Nigeria. Many of those who kicked out Jonathan have even openly confessed and begged him to forgive them. We all heard what Tunde Bakare said the other day about a government he helped to install. It has never been bad. So, Nigerians must ‘shine their eyes’ in 2023. Once bitten twice shy,” he said.
The terrible situation of the country was probably the reason Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), a former military head of state, made recommendations for the choice of presidential candidates come 2023.
Babangida had at a recent interview with Arise Television in his home in Minna, prescribed the quality of candidates Nigerians should be looking at.
IBB’s recommendation has been trending in the traditional and social media platforms across the country.
As expected, many Nigerians are already talking and some are tackling him from different corners.
Most people, who used to be supporters of IBB are angry that their once famed hero, is talking when he should cover his face in shame for destroying democracy in Nigeria with the annulment of June 12 election, where Moshood Abiola, won convincingly.
“I think IBB has murdered democracy and should not come close to it again, even making suggestions,” Thomas Enenche, an Abuja-based lawyer and human right activist, said.
Enenche, who was once a fan of IBB, decried that the so-called ‘IBB Boys’ are still in power and carrying on with the squandering culture of their mentor.
“No doubt, IBB is still a political godfather, even though he should be in jail for annulling June 12 election and for not accounting for the crude oil windfall during his regime, those he mentored are part of the people running the country down. You cannot give what you don’t have, IBB disrupted nascent democracy in the country and should not be listened to,” Enenche said.
Putting things in the right perspective, some keen observers of Nigerian politics, who have also blamed the poor governance and retarded development in the country since return to democracy in 1999 on the bad influence of military in the Nigerian affairs, think that the military has not left politics as retired Army generals are taking turn to become civilian president of the country, hence, any recommendation from one of them should be jettisoned.
Obafemi Oluwole, a university don and founder, African Diversity Group, a pan-African development policy, strategy and governance platform, thinks that IBB should be resting in his retirement and should made recommendations to his ‘boys’ who are desperate for power like him, to give priority to the interest and prosperity of the country than the amassing of Nigeria’s wealth and rubbing it on the faces of the poor masses.
“If Nigeria is a developed country, the likes of IBB would have served many years in jail for their actions against democratic and economic development of the country. The annulment of June 12 set the country back and we are feeling the impact till date. If IBB had respected the wishes of Nigerians then, our democracy would have grown better and there would be no need to recycle retired army generals to rule us for lack of credible candidates,” he said.
The associate professor of Political Science warned the political class to allow the masses to decide who would rule them, no matter the party, tribe, religion or geopolitical zone.
His suggestions above, according to him, should have been what IBB should recommend, but that IBB cannot make such suggestions because he has no moral standing to talk in the Nigerian democracy which he dealt the heaviest blow on.
Ebelem Kalunta, a former lawmaker in the Abia State House of Assembly, decried that IBB enshrined what he called ‘chop I chop system, where sharing of the national wealth is the common interest of office holders; whether political, public or private.
“This has been the bane of corruption in the country, which President Buhari is fighting lopsidedly today. Imagine a corrupt politician moving from PDP to APC and the court will acquit him of corruption charges. There is no difference in the military generals’ approach to leadership.
“So, not just IBB, Obasanjo, and Buhari, every other serving or retired military general should not think of politics, they should make suggestions on how to address insecurity in the country, which is their primary assignment and not politics this time. Let them stay in the barracks even in their retirement, we don’t need them,” Kalunta said.
Kalunta also thinks that the choice of the next Nigerian president will be better decided by the masses, and that the process should have started from the time the present administration gave up on terrorists and bandits, but that the opposition has continually lacked the strength to push the ruling party to make good decisions.
“If PDP and other opposition parties are doing half of what APC did before 2015, the government would not have forced so many bad policies and inhuman actions on Nigerians. Instead of IBB, let the masses make recommendations and insist on them, let the opposition field better candidates and tackle the government as they should and we will have a good leader come 2023,” the former lawmaker concluded.
With less than two years to the 2023 presidential election, political activities appear to be picking up with realignment and re-realignment of forces.
In the last few months, some leading politicians have declared their interest in the presidential race in Nigeria.
Perhaps, the first was former, Zamfara State governor, Sanni Yerima, Kingsley Moghalu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Sam Ohuabunwa, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN).
Several other prominent politicians including Peter Obi and Rochas Okorocha, former governors of Anambra and Imo states, respectively, and Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State are also touted to be interested in contesting for the presidency in 2023.
Some other individuals have also been suggested as good materials for the job. They include, Olisa Agbakoba, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN); Kayode Fayemi, current governor of Ekiti State; Babatunde Fashola, a former governor of Lagos State and current of Works, among others
In the last few months, there has also been some scheming among regional leaders to have the presidency zoned to their region. It is also important to note that some Nigerians simply do not care which region the president comes from in 2023, their main concern is a leader who is detribalised and represents the general interest of Nigerians.
Buhari was re-elected in 2019, but there is the feeling among many Nigerians that the President has largely failed in the last six years in power.
His inability to fulfil his campaign promises; part of which was to fight graft, revamp the economy and tackle insecurity have led to general feeling of disenchantment among Nigerians.
Observers say that the President’s penchant for appointing mostly Northerners into public positions which has become controversial in recent times has further dented his administration’s popularity.
And amid the spate of insecurity, bad state of the economy and worsening standard of living among Nigerians, which has resulted in the country overtaking India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty.
Meanwhile, in view of the state of affairs, there is growing concern among stakeholders that there should be increased scrutiny of the qualities Nigerians should look-out for in their future president and where his immediate focus should be when elected into office.
Perhaps, Babangida’s recommendations opened the floor for debate last week when he prescribed that the next Nigeria’s President should be in his 60’s.
He said such individuals should also have sound knowledge of the economy with contacts across the nation and who had been traversing the geo-political zones marketing their acceptability and capacity.
“I have started visualising a good Nigerian leader. That is, a person, who travels across the country and has a friend virtually everywhere he travels to and he knows at least one person that he can communicate with.
“That is a person, who is very versed in economics and is also a good politician, who should be able to talk to Nigerians and so on. I have seen one, or two or three of such persons already in their 60’s,” Babangida had said.
In the last one week there have been mixed reactions across Nigeria on the former military ruler’s comments and what should form the yardstick for anyone to emerge Nigeria’s president in 2023.
While some agree with Babangida’s view others simply disagreed, while others criticised his sense of judgment.
Speaking in an interview with BusinessDay, Ayo Adebanjo, leader of pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, disagreed with Babangida, saying that Nigeria’s next president should be decided based on competence rather than age.
Adebanjo suggested that age could not be used to determine who can effectively rule the country, citing examples from western countries.
The Afenifere leader stressed that the younger population had not even proven that they had learned from the older ones in terms of governance.
“I don’t agree with this; that is not the situation in developing countries. Age should not be the basis for determining who rules Nigeria, I don’t believe in age. Any competent individual can rule; even the young ones appear not to have learned their lesson.
“Babangida should stop feeding us with that nonsense, he should shut up; if we have a proper system such people should be under trial by now”.
Political Analyst, Kunle Okunade said the intending president should have a clear understanding of the economy, respect the rule of law and be a nationalist who can unite the country.
According to him, “He must have a clear understanding of how to revive Nigeria’s economy. He must have a record of respecting the rule of law. He must have nationalistic tendencies in his thinking and communication.
“He must not be up to 70years old and be able to connect and communicate with the youths. He must be an exposed individual who has friends and associates across the globe. He must understand how to manage the diversity of the country and reposition the country for greatness”.
Former youth leader of the defunct Kowa Party, Mavis Abhulimen, urged Nigerians to be careful in deciding who governs the country from 2023, adding that such individual’s leadership experience and antecedent was crucial.
According to him, “Nigerians have to choose wisely. The kind of president I would want in 2023 is a person with a dynamic personality. A candidate not tainted by our past history; one who has credibility in his antecedents.
“A candidate that is in touch with the realities of today’s Nigeria. A man or woman who has been successful in managing businesses or enterprises or institutions with excellence that no one can argue about. I believe that a president that will make the difference should be within the age bracket of 50 and 65”.
Nigeria is in dire need of a deliverer. Recently, Professor Attahiru Jega, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), openly castigated the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), urging Nigerians to reject the two political parties in 2023.
But the challenge is getting the Third Force in a country where politicians are not ready to give established parties a fight.
For instance, before 2019 general election, many real and quasi-politicians bandied the Third Force concept, but they all chickened out.
They complained that the two major parties were too big to wrestle down. All of a sudden, the proponents of the 3rd force emptied themselves into the ruling party.