2019 may very well be the last opportunity for Nigeria to turn things around and salvage what remains of this nation. That’s the thought that has haunted me for the past one year. And since I know everything rises and falls on leadership, I have more than a passing interest in the aspirants and candidates for political leadership in our nation. Without mincing words, Buhari has failed and predictably so. One can point to several indicators of his monumental failure but one positive outcome of his glaring failure is the fact that for the first time in our nation’s history, several individuals have suddenly realized that they can actually run this country better than he did. Buhari’s inefficiencies, inactions and inadequacies have so much belittled the Office of the President to such an extent that we shall witness a record number of contestants for that Office in 2019. At the last count, the following people have indicated their interest in the number one office in the country:
Donald Ike Igwegbu
Mathias Baba Tsado
Thomas Wilson Ikubese
Ibrahim Abubakar Lajada
Miss Godstime Iroabuchi Sidney
Omike Chikeluba Lewis
These are the names that have either declared their ambition or are suspected to be interested in running for the exalted seat. However, two of the aspirants seem to have given their ambitions a head start. Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters and Fela Durotoye, a business strategist and motivational expert have been doing the rounds. Both of them were in Ibadan on Friday, April 6 to engage the public.
I was present at the University of Ibadan Conference Centre where Sowore’s ‘Take It Back’ engagement took place. The venue was flooded with several campaign memorabilia and people- mostly students and activists- wearing branded T-Shirts of Omoyele Sowore. Participants were required to register and some campaign collaterals were handed out. Fela’s music blared from the speakers in the hall. The event started 45 minutes behind schedule as the students were asked to go out of the hall to welcome Sowore. I felt that was unnecessary- especially for someone who came late. If we aspire to bring a true change, punctuality must be a trait we have to imbibe.
Edmund Obilo moderated the event. Obilo was simply outstanding in the way he anchored the session. It is to Obilo’s credit that the event held with few hitches as he navigated a few disruptions smoothly. There were a few speakers before Sowore came to the podium. Kemi Olunloyo spoke eloquently about her experience at Port Harcourt Prison. When Sowore took the floor, he spoke about his interventions to save Nigeria and how Sahara Reporters was revolutionary journalism. He said he has disrupted the media space and he wants to disrupt the political space. Here are a few more things Omoyele Sowore said at the event:
1. I will love to give you manifestos but we have acres and acres of manifestos that were never implemented by men without character.
2. Now is the time to disrupt the system and take it down. It is up to them to choose where they want to be spanked. It is up to them to choose to leave peacefully.
3. I didn’t have shoes but I had self esteem, I had integrity and I had dignity.
4. I wanted to leave a legacy at the University of Lagos that I could sacrifice my life to protect others who needed a future.
5. It is too late now. I have been to the mountaintop and I have seen the promised land. What matters to me now is how you get your dignity back.
6. It has taken them 18 years to renovate Lagos-Ibadan expressway. We don’t have electricity. It is by design. This is the only country where we pay for darkness-$16b was spent to improve the darkness in Nigeria under the man in Ota who is organizing a third force. Whether there is a first force, second force or third force, all of the forces will be on the run in 2019.
7. I will put security first. After that is power.
8. Kola Aluko stole $3b. It didn’t cause inflation. When Mrs Jonathan started opening all manners of accounts, it didn’t cause inflation. But when you say that money should be given to our workers so they can send their children to school or get them medicine, we say it will cause inflation.
9. I am not making promises based on fictional figures. What we have calculated is that it will cost Nigeria just $1.3b more to pay workers N100,000 minimum wage.
10. I will pay workers N100,000 minimum wage and those of you who are youth corpers will be paid N50,000 and we will be heading very quickly to N100,000 because youth corpers should be able to earn minimum wage as well. If you’re a youth corper and anything happens to you during your youth service, your family gets paid a sum of N10m or you’re disabled.
11. We will invest the sum of N50,000 on behalf of each Nigerian student so that when you can’t pay your school fees, you’re not denied your final results.
12. I’m not in a hurry to put up my plans because you know the other side, they are thieves, content thieves, they will steal our ideas and claim it to be their own.
13. I don’t want to compare Nigeria to the UK or US but I want to compare Nigeria to Ghana.
14. I am not into labels. Nigeria is sick and needs a doctor. Whatever ideology we call that is what I am. By the time we are done with Nigeria, our own ideology will emerge and will be adopted all around the world.
15. When people were given 505 in those days, I rejected it. Why will I compromise now?
So what were my observations about Sowore’s Take It Back campaign? His campaign has a serious verve to it. The energy was evident in the room. He also has the gift of the garb apart from appearing rugged. He is an excellent communicator and has the ability to work up the crowd. However, the crowd I saw around him were mostly students and activists. Maybe that can be justified because of the venue of the event. Nevertheless, he needs to be able to widen the scope of his outreach. While not taking away anything from the presence of supporters like Kemi Olunloyo and Femi Aborisade, he needs to go beyond the human rights/activists community who seemed to dominate the meet yesterday. He also needs to break down his high-fallutin ideas. How exactly will he pay the proposed N100,000 minimum wage to workers and N50,000 to youth corpers? Under a federal system, how will states be able to cope? He waived away the issue of inflation but is this indeed practicable economics? Specifically, how will he deal with corruption and corrupt people? There were a few concerns raised by people who sat around me- is Sowore actually in this for the whole hog? How quickly can he build structures in the 36 states and the FCT? He has the advantage of owning a known media brand with extensive reach which he can leverage on for publicity and propaganda. He seems to have a slight issue with believability and perception may be because of his background as an activist.
I left the event when there was a break for the Muslims to observe their afternoon prayer and Sowore took a step that indeed appeared to be one that may resonate well with the Muslim community by joining them in prayers. He certainly understands the art of communication.
Later in the evening, I attended Fela Durotoye’s event at NuStreams Centre, Alalubosa GRA. The event was tagged ‘Running for a new Nigeria’. The event which started promptly was underway by the time I got there. I couldn’t even get a space to park my car. Fela has a way with words. If I have described Omoyele Sowore as an excellent communicator, then Fela Durotoye is a master communicator. Just like Sowore, Durotoye also spoke extemporaneously. The difference was just in the style adopted. Fela spoke like he was addressing a business class or he was handling a consulting session. You can’t be in Fela’s session and not take down a few notes so here are a few things he said:
1. It’s impossible for compassionless leaders to deliver a great society.
2. Leaders must have 3 qualities to deliver a great society: cthey must be competent, credible and have compassion.
3. Easy has no value.
4. 2019 is not going to be an election- it will be a choice.
5. The people together are together richer than the rich people.
6. I want to have the largest cabal in Nigeria- a cabal of 190m people.
7. Fela can only be known by those who don’t know him when those who know him speak to those who don’t know him.
8. This is not a candidate campaign- it’s an ideological campaign.
9. Focus creates blindness
10. We all want to be led and not ruled.
11. We are not trying to get power. We are trying to get opportunity to serve the people.
12. People do not doubt what they desire when they see it’s possible.
13. Those who violate your values who are closest to you- how do you treat them?
14. The day I take a kobo of Nigeria’s money by way of inflating a contract, may I never wake up the next day. Anyone that gives me a kobo has only paid for my coffin. The day I steal one kobo, you guys will read my obituary the next day.
Fela showed two videos at the event- one about the visit of the late Prime Minister of Nigeria, Tafawa Balewa to the United States in 1961 and another one about a little boy who attempted to move away a tree that fell in the middle of the road under heavy rain. When others saw his efforts, one by one they joined him until so many people carried the tree so cars can have easy passage. It was truly an emotional clip that captures what a critical mass can do. Fela appears to be more believable than Sowore maybe because of some solemn invocations he made as he spoke. I think it’s a testament to his believability that someone donated the sum of One Million Naira to his campaign during that event. He pledged not to take a salary as the President and wants every Nigerian child to learn to speak Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba in schools before they learn French.
So what were my observations about Fela Durotoye’s campaign? The energy level wasn’t as high as that of Sowore’s. He is not as rugged as Sowore. The contest will not be a walk over so it demands someone who can speak the language of the street. The people around Durotoye appeared to be more sophisticated and elitist- though both Sowore and Durotoye share the same demographics and appeal to similar audience. In local parlance, I would say Fela’s audience was ‘ajebutter’ while Sowore’s audience was ‘ajepaki’. Fela communicated very effectively but as I sat in the audience, I wondered if an ‘agbero’ or market woman would understand or appreciate all he said. A significant part of his speech was done in ‘Christianese’- church language. Most sounded as if he was preaching. He needs to tone it down out of respect for the religious complexity of our nation. If I was a Muslim or belonged to another faith, I would have felt out of place at the event as it later took on the colouration of a religious event. I looked around at his team- how much of diversity did he consciously embrace as I recognized quite a few people who are pastors among them? He certainly needs to review this aspect by adopting a more global outlook. He also believes in increasing the salary of civil servants though he didn’t indicate by how much. His retort that the increase in salary will be paid from money that is no longer stolen is neither here nor there.
Fela however has a very sound structure which he shared with the audience. One can see that he leveraged on his consulting experience to draw up a strategy document upon which his campaign can be based. I nodded as he spoke about electoral intelligence, voters sensitization, membership growth and recruitment, budget and planning, research and statistics, city mapping and area grouping among others. He appeared to be more scientific in his approach than Sowore. Unfortunately, both Fela and Sowore seem to suffer from the same Achilles heels. When a lady asked the audience at Fela’s event to raise their hands if they have their PVCs, less than 20% of the members of the audience raised their hands. A friend walked up to one of those who adorned the branded Fela’s T-shirts and was obviously one of his volunteers and to our surprise, he didn’t even have his PVC. Yet, he was very vociferous during the event. I wonder how many of those LASU or UNILORIN students who attended Sowore’s event have their PVCs. Secondly, the demographics they appeal to are too elitist. They both need to dilute their messages without losing its core essence and reach out to the real people who vote during elections. Otherwise, they must do a yeoman’s job in getting a massive electoral turnout especially from first time voters.
If I had my way, I will marry the street credibility, energy and fluidity of Sowore with the strategy and stoicism of Durotoye. Apart, it is doubtful if any of them can win but together, they can take this country by storm. One thing is certain nevertheless- both of them will run this country better than Buhari.