The Candidates That Nigeria Needs In 2007


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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The Candidates That Nigeria Needs In 2007


Mobolaji E. Aluko, PhD


Wednesday, September 6, 2006 


Speech at Pat Utomi 2007 "Diaspora 2" Tour Event

Doubletree Hotel

1515 Rhode Island Avenue, NW

                       Washington, DC, USA  


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 him!  

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 about.  

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.  

I 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.  

I 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 should be:

  1. 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 something good"

for those who elected him, not just power for power's sake, or because "it is the turn of my people."     A

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 responsibilities of

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.

  1. 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 other candidates.

"The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy; the best weapon of a democracy is openness" - Edward Teller

 "A 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.  

I 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 following conditions:

(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.   Others may

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 prima-facie

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 information

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 

I 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 Stoppard.

"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!


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