By Richard Odu
For those who are worried about the vituperations flying across party lines in this season of politics in Nigeria, the fact that needs to be established is that political campaigns are like wars all over the world. In the struggle for political power, opposing camps see each other as foes rather than friends knowing that their interests differ sharply. Although their might not be eternal friends or foes, interests usually remain permanent. Very essentially, everyone in the contest is out to win, having invested personal funds and other resources into the exercise.
One should, therefore, not be surprised at the caustic words they haul at each other as they struggle to smear their opponents in a bid to dissuade the electorate from casting their votes in the favour of those in the other camp.
True political maturity, however, lies in the ability to limit discussions to issues concerning the well-being of the people at the receiving end of a government that would eventually emerge. And like in a football match, the one that does too much rough play gets the red card, although there might be pockets of Maradona’s “hand of God” incidences.
If Nigerians are serious about curtailing tempestuous moments in their politics, which is aggravated by the comments of politicians as they engage in war of words, they should find a way to make public offices less attractive in material terms. At the moment, victory in our political contests is only a call to the banquet table and not a call to serve. And when the stakes are high, the fight is fiercer.
Comments insinuating that a worst adherent of one religion is better than the best infidel (whatever that means) should have no place in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society such as ours. They are inflammatory and are, at best, used to perpetually subjugate an undiscerning section of the people. At best, those who bandy such views only aim at stopping their audience from knowing the truth that could save them from slavery. They thrive only in hegemonic societies.
In the current campaigns for the general elections coming up just weeks away, one presidential candidate so much tackled in the field of play is the Labour Party’s Peter Obi. A robust user of statistics and data in his speeches, there have been cases where he would quote a figure as 1,000 and someone somewhere would challenge him, only to say that the correct figure should be 999!
While the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu prefers to call him warehouse economist, Reno Omokri who is in the Abubakar Atiku camp in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) continues to emphasize that Obi is a trader and that traders are incapable of governing a nation.
The latest of the politicians to be misled by the Obi trader metaphor is Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) who spoke at the Chatham House London recently, like the other frontline presidential candidates, albeit, amidst criticisms that the Chatham House exercise was a re-colonisation of Nigeria. When the issue of his failed coalition talks with Obi cropped up, Kwankwaso puffed in the world glare, practically telling those present that, with his PhD and service in the ministry and government, he could not have been a subordinate to a mere trader such as Obi.
Of course, Obi had variously referred to himself as a trader and so has no justification to take umbrage if his colleagues in the contest use it against him. However, right thinking members of this society see it as naivety to take Obi literally on the trader issue.
A quick study of the Obi persona would reveal his overt humble nature which he has always carried about, even in his days as governor of Anambra State, a state that he worked tirelessly to bring up to a top class model of a state in Nigeria. When he was rigged out of the 2003 gubernatorial election in Anambra in which Chris Ngige of the PDP was declared winner, Obi, a candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), did not resort to thuggery and violence. He humbly went through three years of a legal battle that ended in his favour.
Obi was impeached barely eight months of his swearing-in and that forced him into another legal tussle that reinstated him in 2007. He did not lose his cool, nor did he call thugs out in the streets as he suffered the series of political humiliations as governor. What else can prove his humility?
That he refers to himself as a trader is part of his usual exercise in humility, which is the number one virtue Nigeria needs in its leadership to put a stop to impunity and top class brigandage without scruples.
A saying in Igbo goes thus, atuora omara, omara, atuora ofeke, ofenye isi n’ohia , which simply means that a fool gets lost when proverbs are spoken. Obi is not a trader like the ones at Balogun market in Lagos, or Ariaria in Aba. He went through the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and thereafter attended courses in various business schools such as Harvard, Columbia and Lagos business schools. That special breed of a trader has presided over boards of top banks and financial institutions in Nigeria and abroad and can be classified as a successful businessman. Yet, among the presidential contestants, he is the only one not given to spewing abuses and verbiage at campaign grounds.
After Kwankwaso’s display of arrogance in London, Nigerians are left to choose between humility and haughtiness. The many years of impunity has led Nigeria to the present mess where the most blessed African nation has degenerated to the world headquarters of poverty. In the midst of plenty and in possession of oil which is the most priced commodity in the globe, a majority of Nigerians still cannot afford a balanced meal for the day. Healthcare and education remains the exclusive reserve of the super rich. Rather than be among the creditor nations, the country has continued to sink deeper into debts and its currency is weightless in the global market.
Indeed, instead of allowing braggadocio to reign supreme while the country remains a painted sepulchre, Nigerians need a lesson in the frugality and discipline of common traders, many of whom would not buy sachet water to drink unless they had made an honest earning for the day to afford that luxury. On a vandid note, let’s listen to that trader, the one they call stingy.
Dr. Odu can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org