By Dele Momodu
Your Excellency, I write to you today with a heavy heart. The reason should be obvious. I was one of those latter day converts to Buharism, a political philosophy that believes in the reincarnation of former leaders in the days of tribulation. You were never the first man to resurrect from retirement and near political oblivion. General Olusegun Obasanjo bounced back from prison to Aso Rock Villa. In nearby Benin Republic, former military dictator and strongman, Mathieu Kerekou who had served as maximum ruler for about 17 incredible years, came back to defeat incumbent President , Nicephore Soglo in a 1990 election. He led his country for another ten years and almost got another five-year term but for the age barrier that disqualified him.
It is normal for Africans to run towards the wise elders of the village when trouble comes knocking. That is one of the major reasons Nigerians in their millions voted with their feet and thumbs to elect you President. Many of those who supported you did so for several other reasons and you must understand that they were mainly not members of your political party, APC. So, apart from your age, they backed you because they believed in your impeccable pedigree as an incorruptible and honourable man, a strict disciplinarian, a Scrooge who would not fritter away our meagre resources, a scourge of rogues and prodigal sons, a metamorphosed tyrant now a born-again democrat, and so on and so forth. Nigerians ardently placed their hopes in you and fervently prayed you won’t disappoint them. This is the principal reason I have decided to send you this desperate memo today before some despicable politicians tarnish your hard-earned reputation and truncate this beautiful chance again.
Sir, let me say right away that the goodwill garnered during your campaigns and the jubilation that heralded your recent victory are fast fading and you need to, as a matter of urgency, convince the people of Nigeria that you’re now ready to hit the ground running. They are not going to listen to excuses since you had 30 years after quitting the high office to onerously prepare for the job again. For them it is immaterial that you met an empty treasury or that you are mostly surrounded by selfish, corruptive influences and impostors. As I mentioned in my earlier epistles to you, Nigerians have become totally impatient and what they expect of you is tantamount to performing the miracle of turning water into wine or raising Lazarus from the dead. You cannot afford to waste any second before displaying the sterner stuff you’re reputed to be made of.
I had encouraged you not to be afraid of taking charge of the Party that brought you to power or tackling the politicians that claimed to have helped you in the process. I had imagined that you know the ways of our politicians by now and thought you knew how to handle them. I had told you matter-of-factly that you may have to step on some powerful toes in order to achieve anything tangible. The worst that may likely happen is for people to say and accuse you of dictatorial proclivity which won’t be new in your lexicon or to be threatened with impeachment and all-what-not. But trust me, no evil shall befall you for as long as you carry the people along in your crusade and do not pander to the whims and caprices of members of the privilegentsia.
There is no doubt that the present imbroglio in your Party is as a result of your lukewarm attitude to Party issues thinking you could merely concentrate on nation-building while others deal with political intrigues. However, it is not always as simple as that. As you can now see, you don’t seem to be on the same page with your Party. While you were busy agonising over the myriad of problems besetting Nigeria, many of your presumed disciples were busy fighting over positions and control of power the way babies squabble over lollipops. They have studiously forgotten the change mantra and the huge expectations that made the electorate to troop out in droves and cast their votes for you and the Party.
The moment you became the President-elect, you should have readied your manacles for all would-be trouble makers. You should have sent out a powerful message to those politicians who may wish to act above the law. But the moment you appeared ready to abdicate some of your leadership responsibilities to them, the obvious lacuna gave them the needed impetus to take charge and cut you adrift. Your political advisers, if any, should have prepared you for the offensive. There is no way you are going to fight and survive the battle ahead if the political class see you as a man they can easily bully. You cannot sit on the fence. Whilst your decision not to interfere in the affairs of another arm of Government, the legislature, is commendable and indeed your constitutional duty, you must make it clear to your Party that the same non-interference must apply to them.
Our people may have voted for your Party but they also voted for the individuals that the Party entrusted its mandate to including you. Just as there is a limit to how the Party can control you in the exercise of your executive functions and those you choose to assist you in the fulfilment of those functions, so also must you tell the Party chieftains that there is a limit as to how much the leadership structure and duties of the legislative arm can be controlled. If you are ambiguous about this, then you are inviting your Party leadership to write a letter to you categorically stating not only those you must appoint as your Ministers and Special Advisers but also those that you must not work with under any guise. I am sure you would not tolerate that. In the same vein you must not tolerate Party interference in the legislature. Change has come, please imbibe it!
In essence it is incumbent on you to deal with the issues arising from tensions created by party supremacy, parliamentary democracy and above all constitutionality. There is a delicate balance to be struck between these competing interests though constitutionality must eventually prevail. However, even constitutionality is subordinated to national interest, because that is the most important interest of all.
Your Party has a lot to learn from the tragedy which was invited upon itself by advertence of the former ruling Party, PDP. As a mark of respect to your status and office, your Party should have adopted your instinct and temperament immediately you conceded that the elections of principal officers at the National Assembly were “somewhat constitutional.” Even if internally aggrieved, like mortals may invariably be, your Party hierarchy should not have washed their dirty linen in public knowing the full implications of the backlash that might splash and smear your collective image. APC should have done what PDP failed to do when Governor Rotimi Amaechi won the Chairmanship of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum by instantly recognising the leadership of the National Assembly while seeking ways to ameliorate the unfortunate saga. No reasonable parent would voluntarily kill a recalcitrant child. There is always another opportunity for penitence and atonement.
I expected the crisis to escalate once the warring factions stuck arrogantly to their positions and neither was ready to bulge. Had APC accepted its fate with equanimity, I’m certain this peculiar mess would have been exterminated. Had Saraki and Dogara shown magnanimity in victory some of the truculent malice expressed by certain leaders may have also been mellowed.
Say what you will, the PDP had its fair dose of political migraine and rambunctiousness but it accepted certain realities and moved on. The ones they failed to accept led to their cataclysmic fall. The mutually destructive suspicion in APC should have been nipped in the bud for your sake. The burden you currently carry is heavier than an elephant and I don’t think you need or deserve this kind of nuisance distraction. The leadership of the National Assembly should also calm down by reaching out to their angry Party chieftains. There is nothing to gain in fighting a perennial war. Once upon a time, they were all friends and members of the same family. It is never too late to embrace peace and reunite. Now that we know what the bone of contention is, no one should be victimised for belonging to whatever factions that exist.
I have read endless arguments for and against the pugilists in APC and my candid advice is that you need to appoint your cabinet and aides now. The sooner you assemble and send forth your foot-soldiers the better for our polity to begin the healing process. Right now our nation appears to be rudderless and floundering and this should not be the case. What is left for you to do is to quickly bring all the gladiators together and see how you can apply some balm on frayed nerves. The Federal Government has humongous largesse to disburse so it should not be too difficult to appease the juggernauts. When that is sorted, you should draw your own plans and let your people know your roadmap. Your job would be much easier if you surround yourself with people who can look at you straight in the eye and say the truth no matter how bitter. Most of our leaders failed because they fell victims of sweet-talking scammers.
It is very essential that your Party sees and embrace you as their father and not the other way round. Whether you like it or not, and whether others in your Party want to accept it or not, you are the de facto national leader of your Party. You are the President and Commander in Chief of our country. Yes, you ARE the capo di tutti capi. You therefore cannot be subservient to any other person. You must immediately take upon this role and assume that mantle. Please feel free to lay down the law and if occasion demands, enforce our law. That is what leaders do. Ambivalence or hesitancy will simply not do! You have the next four years minus one month and time is ticking away dutifully.
Equally important is the fact that you are more of a social crusader than a politician and your Party ought to note this fact and understand that it can’t be business as usual. Your Party leveraged on your uncommon reputation to gain POWER. Sir, you can’t afford to evaporate such stupendous equity just like that. You have demonstrated enough tolerance but the time has come to repudiate our propensity for rascality.
The task ahead is so gargantuan and it would require all hands to be on deck. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I reiterate that the first priority, apart from national security, should be how to reduce the atrocious costs of running government in Nigeria. Until you achieve that sir, the Muhammed Alis of Nigeria will never stop their boxing tournaments in parliaments and elsewhere. The fight is for cash and not for any selfless services. Many won’t bother to contest if they think it is not lucrative. I don’t know how you plan to do this but it has to be done somehow and thankfully there are many methods that you can deploy. I’m glad you hope to retrieve some of the stolen billions. You need some serious cash, Sir. The challenges ahead would dissipate if you can raise the finances needed to tackle them.
I trust that God has deliberately raised you up at this time as a veritable example to mankind that being honest is not a crime and we have a lot to learn and cheer from your miraculous victory. May God help you to carry this cross successfully.
THE TONY ELUMELU ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAMME
As I wrote last week, Nigeria needs to create thousands of new entrepreneurs in order to get out of the present economic quagmire that has made it impossible for too many Nigerians to have jobs. Thanks to Dr Tony Elumelu’s initiative, help is already on the way. 1,000 entrepreneurs from across Africa will gather at the TEEP Boot camp in Ota, Nigeria from July 10-12, 2015. These meticulously screened and carefully selected entrepreneurs are part of the 10-year commitment of $100 million to supporting entrepreneurship in Africa. Many of the lucky but bright recipients are Nigerians. For me, this is great news. The creation, development, nurturing and deployment of the entrepreurial spirit in Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, is hearty good news for a continent bedevilled by a litany of woes and deprivation.
The Tony Elumelu Foundation has already engaged the emerging entrepreneurs in a 12-week online training session after about 20,000 applications were considered and pruned down. They were drawn from 51 African countries. This is a worthy legacy that would be talked about for many generations to come. Dr Elumelu and his team deserve our commendation for putting smiles on the faces of our people and hopefully in the not too distant future, better quality food on their table.
May God continue to bless Tony Elumelu and his family.
Culled from This Day