– 2023: WHY NOT BALA MOHAMMED – THISDAY Newspapers
Taiwo Oyekola Oyerinde canvasses the candidacy of Bala Mohammed in the Presidential election
If we are looking for a nation that is in dire need of redemption, from self-imposed degeneracy, Nigeria is archetypical of such a country. For, despite the divergence of opinion in virtually every aspect of life, Nigerians agree on, at least, two fundamental facts: the first that, the country is in a huge mess which, as I alluded to in my opening sentence, is self-inflicted; the second is that, almost everyone agrees that Nigeria’s woes are a product of leadership.
The first problem did not happen upon us: though blessed with innumerable human and material resources; though protected from such grotesque natural disasters as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, wildfires of the Californian genre; though spared the anguish of a nerve-wracking decolonisation war and though blessed with peers that provided the competitive platform for national ascendancy, Nigeria has become a by-word for poverty, insecurity, strife, hopelessness and terrorism.
Could this sordid state of affairs have been averted? Why, despite the passion, patriotism and commitment of the country’s founding fathers did Nigeria unhinge from the vision of a country where though, tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood it stood? Why did empathy flee so much so that today, in marked contrast with the pledge that the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain, retired workers including ex-servicemen and women, are allowed to die in queues while waiting for their paltry pensions and gratuities? Where is the promise of a great nation that characterises every campaign promise and every party manifesto? Where is the egalitarian society that the leaders always promised the people and the hope that they could live in secure boundaries and their property, however, defined, protected?
Views differ on the panacea to the crisis of survival confronting Nigeria. From advocates of restructuring to promoters of self-determination, underlying every point of view is the undeniable rejection of a system that appears, one way or the other, to evoke an ingrained feeling of INJUSTICE, among all the constituent units of the country. It may sound anachronistic but what is not deniable is that, among every group, including those who are seen as oppressors, there is a certain feeling of INSECURITY; if the truth must be told, trust has never been a strong factor in Nigeria’s quest for nationhood. And that is at the heart of the matter.
The beauty of democracy is that every election provides a unique opportunity for the electorate to determine the direction in which it wants the country to go. That is what makes 2023 very unique. In some sense, it can be regarded as Nigeria’s appointment with destiny. Though some wonder if Nigeria could get to 2023 as one geopolitical entity, my take is that, through continuing dialogue and compromises, it is possible and eminently desirable to keep the ship of state afloat while looking for a leader with the requite qualities not only to pull the country from the brink but who could muster the courage to push a unifying agenda.
What are those qualities? Ironically, President Buhari has provided the first quality needed to shake off the political inertia that is the bugbear of national life presently. On a visit to South Africa some years ago, he lamented that he wished he had been younger; to be able to cope with the burden and challenge of leadership in Nigeria. What was he saying? Nigeria needs a young vibrant leader with the physical and mental energies to withstand the rigours of the moment.
Unquestionably, Nigeria needs an experienced organiser, someone with a track record of service, particularly in the public sector. Why the public sector? The reason is obvious: most of the governance, developmental and political issues that call for urgent remediation are domesticated in the public, not the private sector. At this critical watershed in the country’s history, it will be suicidal to entrust her leadership in the hands of a rookie. When the United States entrusted its leadership in the hands of Barack Obama, they did so, confident that given the structured nature of the society, anchored on very strong institutions, there was the assurance that nothing would go wrong. But in our case, Nigeria’s next leader, after Buhari, should be somebody with a basic knowledge of law-making, civil service experience, executive branch exposure and some political engagement.
But that is not all. Nigeria needs a leader, not a ruler, a statesman, not a politician, perhaps more of a statesman than a politician! While the ruler is ruled by vertical idiosyncrasies, the leader is ruled by horizontal passions; while the leader sees himself as the head of a team, a first among equals, the ruler, like Louis 1V of France, sees himself as the state whose word is the law. While the leader is driven by the Constitution, the ruler is often driven by his self-conceit. The leader tends to INCLUDE every stakeholder in one basket; the ruler tends to EXCLUDE perceived opponents or enemies from the collective patrimony. Therefore, as 2023 looms on the horizon, Nigerians must make a conscious effort to install a leadership whose abiding passion is to create an ownership template for all the stakeholders that constitute the Nigeria project. These stakeholders are the various ethnic groups, the religious and faith systems, the young, the old no matter the gender and other proclivities. This, I must say, is the minimum desideratum for restoring a modicum of sense of nation.
But who, among our politicians, can provide such leadership? Such a person ought to possess demonstrable nationalist credentials. In recent history, I can recall one Nigerian who rose above every parochial consideration, including the prospect of a frightening political backlash, to stand with the Constitution, to insist that for the sake of equity, national unity and constitutionalism, Nigeria must do the right thing.
This takes us back to those frightening moments when, bothering on political brinksmanship of the highest order, some politicians sought ways of stopping Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, from taking over the mantle of leadership, from the sick and incapacitated President Umaru Musa Yar’Ardua. The country perched precariously on the edge of a cliff. As the dark clouds of destabilisation gathered, Senator Bala Mohammed pulled a political masterstroke when he moved the Doctrine of Necessity Motion that paved the way to the emergence of President Jonathan. The rest, as they say, is history. But the implications should not be lost on us.
If Bala Mohammed and fellow patriots had not insisted that it was wrong to deny Jonathan his constitutional right because he came from the South-South, if they had decided to roughshod the people of the Niger-Delta, who knows if there would have been a country called Nigeria today? Talk about statesmanship: the ability to be driven by a sublime vision of the country’s future as against the narrow temporal benefits anchored on personal gains or narrow ethnic interests.
In the face of the growing polarisation that has accentuated distrust, anger and tension, it is my candid view that Nigeria needs a person with the nationalist credentials of Bala Mohammed, to rescue the country and people from a catastrophic implosion.
But that alone does not qualify Bala Mohammed for the kind of leader that Nigeria needs at this point. Certainly not. But reassuringly enough, Bala Mohammed possesses many other positive credentials. Prior to his election to the Senate, he had had a sterling era of service, in the Federal Civil Service where he rose meritoriously to the directorate cadre in highly strategic ministries, and also had the distinction of serving as special assistant to three ministers. It is instructive that those exposures were to come in handy when he was appointed minister of the Federal Capital Territory by President Jonathan in 2010, a position he occupied for five years. The various infrastructural projects: roads, the railway project, opening up of satellite towns to decongest the city centre, the Usama Dam Water project that ensures that much of Abuja enjoys regular water supply, are all footprints of the Bala Mohammed era as minister of the FCT.
It was also at the FCT that Bala Mohammed demonstrated his astute diversity management skills that helped to forge a sense of belonging among the various ethnic groups; an achievement that continues to resonate with the people to date. From the south-east to the northeast, from the south-south to the north-west, from the north-central to the south-west, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, under Bala Mohammed, was indeed the epitome of national unity. Nigeria is in dire need of someone who could re-enact that. But is Bala Mohammed in a position to provide that leadership?
Bala Mohammed has been able to build bridges across the country’s ethnic divides, political classes, civil service elite, professional bodies and various other groups, the type of bridges that Nigeria’s next leader must have if he or she is to rebuild trust and reverse the present state of mutual suspicion.
If being a minister of the FCT allowed Bala Mohammed to hone his skills as a major team player, being Governor of Bauchi State has provided a canvass for people to assess his ability to lead a complex organisation. Didn’t the sages say that seeing is believing? Today, many a visitor would readily attest that, in under three years of Bala Mohammed’s leadership of Bauchi State, the hitherto civil service state is witnessing a revolutionary transformation in every facet of life. Infrastructural development, people empowerment, social transformation and astute security management; these stand Bala Mohammed out as a leader to watch.
Perhaps, among all of Senator Bala Mohammed’s qualities, the one that stands out most is his ability to manage Bauchi’s often worrisome diversity: several ethnic groups jostling for relevance and probably, ascendancy and its religious diversity which, on occasions in the past, had given cause for concern. It is not surprising therefore that he has received and continues to receive several serious endorsements, prominent among which is that of the Northern Youth Elders Forum, led by Comrade Eliot Uko.
Though not a politician, as a citizen and therefore a stakeholder in Nigeria, I identify with those endorsements and shall actively canvas for Bala Mohammed to run for President of Nigeria in 2023. In doing so, I earnestly invite like-minded Nigerians who are attached to the country, and not a political party, to seize the moment and redirect this country from the disquieting implosion that looms on the horizon. I trust that, with Bala Mohammed, we shall prevail.
Prince Oyerinde is of the Iresa-Adu Royal House, Ogbomosho