Candidates That Nigeria Needs In 2007
Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Speech at Pat Utomi 2007 "Diaspora 2"
1515 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and in particular my good friend and
presidential aspirant Prof. Pat Utomi of the Patito Gang fame, for who
we are gathered here! I also fully acknowledge Prof. Sylvester Ugoh,
the chairman of this occasion, a family friend and father's university
colleague of yesteryears, who I got to meet again by happenstance just
over two months ago, after about 40 years of not seeing him! As former
Central Bank Governor of Biafra, and Vice-President to Bashir Tofa of
the June 12 fame, Prof. Ugoh has gone through a lot since I last saw
Well, my name is Bolaji Aluko, and I have been listed on this occasion
to be the "Chief Host." When I first saw that role listed in the
program sent to me via email, I quickly asked my other friend and
campaign coordinator Pat Okigbo whether that meant that I had to see my
bank manager to get a loan. After a negative answer, my heartbeat
calmed and I consented. So I am here.
These are still early days in Nigeria's presidential and electoral
campaign season, and so one has to be very careful what one says on an
occasion like this. However, of all the aspirants that have declared so
far of his genre, Pat Utomi is such heads-and-shoulders high above them
in almost all departments that it is trite even to say so. It is not
because he is a professor even though it would be nice to have a
graduate once atop our leadership totem-pole in Nigeria. It is not
because he is handsome even though that too would be nice after an
eight-year "alternative" period. It is also not because he is young
even though a generational shift is long overdue. Finally, it is not
because he is either of Igbo stock or from the SS that double-whammy
desideratum. Rather, you will however have to wait for the
reasons later on in my speech, when I talk about "The Candidates that
Nigeria Needs in 2007" which is really what I have been asked to talk
But before I do that, there is a matter of urgent national importance
that I am hoping that I can get you all, and particularly the aspirant,
to commit to: that is getting INEC to change the April 14, April 21
2007 election dates for next years state and federal elections
respectively. Those elections are so too close to the May 29 handover
dates that my tealeaves tell me that we may be headed for an electoral
crisis as a result of it.
Let us take a look at the ongoing Mexico presidential election crisis.
Mexico is about 107 million people in population (Nigeria is about 120
million) and twice the size of Nigeria. It has been an independent
country since 1810, and had a constitution since 1917. That country held
its presidential elections on July 2 with five candidates and 41million
voter-turnout (59% of the registered voters). Yet the president is not
expected to come on board until December 1 a full five months later!
Mexican law required that quick preliminary results be declared within 2
days by one electoral body PREP which it did on July 4; that a first
round of manually counted votes should be declared within a week by
another electoral body the IFE which it did, on July 6 in favor of
Felipe Calderon (of the incumbent party) over four other candidates, in
a razor-thin majority vote victory in which Lopez Obrador the strongest
challenger would not concede. After a month of demonstrations, the
electoral tribunal FET ruled that a partial recount be commenced, which
started on August 9 and ended August 13. Finally, Felipe Calderon was
declared winner yet again over Lopez Obrador just earlier today
September 6 - the FINAL result of the presidential elections decided yet
again. Obrador is still threatening to run a parallel government
because he feels that the election was stolen. The problem in Mexico
too, is that unlike Nigeria, there is no second round, otherwise these
two candidates, separated by 0.58% [with Calderon winning only 35.8% of
the vote] would have gone for that second round, and maybe created some
airspace between themselves.
The whole moral of the above quick story is that Mexico has a lot of
wiggle room to try and resolve her crisis BEFORE the winner is
eventually installed on December 1. On the other hand, Nigeria's INEC
with 46 parties (and possibly at least 10 presidential contestants) and
possibly 60 million voters and a maximum of the possibility of two run
offs is insisting that it can use ONLY one month and some change to do
the same thing.
Yes, we are harm-strung in many ways by our 1999 Constitution but not
fatally. In fact, Section 132(2) of the Constitution is so badly
written that it states that:
(2) An election to the said office shall be held on a date not
earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the
expiration of the term of office of the LAST holder of that office.
It is significant to note that it reads "last holder" rather than the
CURRENT holder. The Last holder of the title "president" in Nigeria is
General Babangida (an unelected military ruler) or better yet, President
Shehu Shagari, who was elected in 1979, re-elected in 1983 but couped
within three months in December 1983!
What that means is that if the political and judicial classes in Nigeria
can insist and agree that nothing is being violated by ignoring this
Section 132(2), then the nation through INEC can buy one to two more
months to give our electoral process next year more breathing space.
thought that this is important enough for me to open my remarks with,
and I hope that not only Pat and other key "stakeholders" will push this
issue, but the newly-installed NBA under the leadership of Olisa
Agbakoba will also take a leadership role in this interpretation.
Let me now quickly address this issue of the candidates that Nigeria
needs. Please note that I use the plural "candidates" purposely,
because I believe that we are just too fixated with the office of the
President, and yet ignore those of local government councils, state
assemblies and national assemblies, the quality of which significantly
impact the work of the Executives that is president and governor.
list below six prima-facie qualifications for credible candidates and
four supplementary ones for winning candidates:
Prima-facie qualifications for our next set of candidates in Nigeria
success in earlier identical, similar or other endeavors. For
example, a qualified incumbent that is, one not illegally seeking
extension of term - should be able to defend his or her tenure fully and
confidently. A vice-president or governor seeking higher office must be
able to show with facts and figures what he did with the resources
available to him in the lower office. A newcomer cannot be a failure
as a businessman, a student, a civil servant and so forth, and then
expect citizens to give him their support for high office.
Beware the naked man who offers you
his shirt" - Harvey Mackay
(2) Existence of vision the
primary purpose for a candidate to seek an office is to "do
for those who elected him, not just
power for power's sake, or because "it is the turn of my people."
people-centered government should lead
to long-term, widespread improvement in the human condition of the
people. The specification/implementation
of means and strategies (legislation, policies, etc.) that will
enable the mobilization and transformation of financial, material
and human resources to provide services and products for the
satisfaction of the physical and spiritual needs of citizens is
paramount. A candidate must be able to share his
unique vision for the new office.
"Without a vision, a nation perishes" - The Bible, Proverbs 29:18.
"Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the
people." - Abraham Lincoln
"People despise the lust for power that originates from a craving for
homage and for the attributes for power" - Konstantin Ushinsky
(3) ability to verbally articulate
the vision this is in order to demonstrate originality and
personal commitment to the vision outlined, and to assure the voters
that the outlined vision is not simply a borrowed one.
(4) experience as a team player
this is in acknowledgement of the fact that these huge
governance cannot be carried out alone,
but must be in concert with others at various levels of executive,
legislative and judicial capacity, and
with which one has some governing and philosophical affinity.
(5) ability to lead a team an
elected person automatically becomes a leader of some sort in
society. Hence a candidate must have demonstrated ahead of time
some leadership qualities commensurate with the position that
he is seeking.
Transparency, integrity and openness candidate must be prepared
to anticipate and publicly answer all questions put to him or her about
his finances and other assets, past political and personal life, and on
all matters of conscience. He must be prepared to publicly DEBATE
"The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy; the best weapon of a
democracy is openness" - Edward Teller
democrat need not believe that the majority will always reach a wise
decision. He should however believe in the necessity of accepting the
decision of the majority, be it wise or unwise, until such a time that
the majority reaches another decision" - Bertrand Russell.
claim without any mental reservation that Pat Utomi fulfils all of these
conditions in flying colors.
The above qualifications however should then be supplemented by the
(7) network of contacts
essentially, these are "references" or "referees" (some of them
might be pejoratively
called "godfathers" or party/society
"bigwigs") on the candidate's character and personal integrity.
simply be financial sponsors. Voters
should however be wary of the company that candidates keep and the
self-seeking propensity and
possibilities of such contacts.
(8) party affiliation a
candidate, unless he is an independent, must be subject to party
ideology and discipline,
except on matters of conscience.
Personal manifestos of candidates must be consistent with party
manifestos, not substitutes for them, the occurrence of which is a
recipe for the personalization of power and lack of continuity of
(9) campaign strategy a
candidate will have to reach voters and then convince them that the
conditions that he has satisfied place
him above other competitors in the race.
(10) money/finances Money is
always needed for travels, security, camp media adverts, campaign
staff and "entertainment" of supporters, both actual and potential.
However, it is deliberately listed LAST here, rather than
first, in order to limit its prominence,
while acknowledging its importance in financing the efforts to get
about the candidate across to voters.
Now, all these supplementary conditions are where I believe that our
friend Pat Utomi knows that in the coming days, he has to work seriously
on to be not just a credible candidate for a successful (winning)
candidate. I am sure however, that in his participation in this murky
process, he will agree with the following sayings:
"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but
there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel
"The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open." - Gunther Grass
"Those wanting to improve democracy in their countries should not
wait for permission" - Bulent Ecevit
will say no more on those, except to mention something that should be a
campaign strategy or more like an election strategy: which involves
developing a cadre of people to SECURE the VOTE. This is where some
additional quotes are apt:
"In democracy, its your vote that counts. In feudalism, its your
Count that votes." - Morgens Jallberg
"It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting" - Tom
"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes
decide everything." (attributed to) Josef Stalin
Thank you for your attention. Please go for it, Pat Utomi, and may God
bless your ways and bless Nigeria!