BY SUFUYAN OJEIFO
The battle for presidency of Nigeria has always approximated the struggle for the soul of the nation. This is understandable given the fact that Nigeria’s presidency is a superintending allocator of values. The consistent and burgeoning groundswell of public desires, yearnings and aspirations for the elusive and illusive good governance has continued to heighten the dialectics of socio-political and economic interactions between the government and the governed.
The question of lack of fidelity to the social contract remains, very largely, unanswered, thus underscoring the bane of leadership failure. This, notwithstanding, the Nigerian nation remains work in progress. The pursuit of nation-building is a leadership task. Truth is, Nigeria has been unlucky in her quest, over the years, for transformational leaders that can maximally optimise her development potentialities.
Since independence in 1960, the processes that had thrown up successive military heads of state and, presently, “democratically-elected” presidents have been manipulated by some cabals in furtherance of their narrowly-defined interests. The problem of intellectual incapability about contemporary governance issues has discounted the march to technological breakthrough and economic greatness. The faculties to harness diverse latent capacities for economic growth have been shallow.
It is in this context that there is demonstrated commitment by a new generation of young, not-too-young but certainly not-too-old Nigerians to inspire a revolutionary process of changing the old leadership guard and helping to entrench a new way of putting governance in the hands of a new leadership guard, imbued with the essential capacities to drive and sustain purposeful development administration by deploying, transparently and accountably, the instrument of public finance.
In the race for the 2019 presidency in Nigeria, there will be significant changes in the approach to and process of leadership selection. Those changes will be forced on the system by a determined army of enlightened and educated young Nigerians who have already broken away from the past indulgence of political servility. With the bulwark of their intellectual capacitation, they exemplify the hope of our nation’s redemption.
The new leaders in the wings are, therefore, necessarily aggregative of technological and economic ideas upon which to roll the wheel of national development. It is significant that they have strategically positioned themselves in parties other than the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
And to discount the strength and electoral fortunes of the two dominant parties which are sure-footed in presenting members of the old leadership guard as their presidential candidates, there is the possibility for the alignment of forces by political parties that custody the philosophical essence of a new Nigeria in the hands of the young and not-too-young but certainly not-too-old Nigerians to morph into a critical third force.
It is that third force that will provide the Nigerian electorate with a weighing scale to measure the worth and either accept or reject the ramifications of predetermined presidential candidates hoisted on the dominant parties by some egocentric power elite. Beyond the political platform on which to launch their revolutionary stake in presidential power struggle is the magnitude of the character and disposition of the expected consensus candidate.
If, at the end of the day, the effort to go into the 2019 presidential election on a common platform that will turn the political enterprise into a three-party race falls through, that would still not prevent the emergence of a third party that would benefit from the political correctness of the profile, credentials and antecedents of the candidate. This is the intersection where presidential aspirants like Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, Professor Kingsley Moghalu, Mr. Fela Durotoye, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, et al, whose intellectual rigour is a matter of fact, come in.
These aspirants are not only young and energetic; they are also fecund and successful in their chosen careers and businesses, and therefore very prepared for the task of governance. I am excited that any of them, who squares up with the candidates of the APC and the PDP in any presidential debate or at a colloquium for national conversation, will not disappoint. This is one of the changes I expect to see in the forthcoming presidential contest.
No presidential candidate should shun debates. Nigerians should take advantage of the platform of debates to interrogate the intellectual capacities and governance ideas of each candidate. Olawepo-Hashim, who was in 1988 elected as a member of the executive of the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) while in the University of Lagos where he studied Mass Communication, is an engaging interrogator of national and global issues, which obviously bolstered his sumna cum laude academic performance in Buckingham University, United Kingdom, where he obtained a Masters Degree in Global Affairs.
Professor Moghalu, who was one-time deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is also a passionate speaker. His credentials are quite intimidating. Fela Durotoye, acclaimed motivational speaker, and Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters, by their sheer brilliance, can hold their own in the burgeoning contestation for the nation’s topmost job. But beyond the intellectual capacity or battle for Nigeria’s presidency is the imperativeness to match the old leadership guards in their clever game of political brinkmanship.
The new generation of leaders jostling for presidential power would appear determined not to acquiesce to any form of cajoling to discount their weight and suck them into any alliance that would be counterproductive to the philosophy of Nigeria’s renaissance. They have the critical mass of youths whose buy-in is capable of upstaging, for example, the applecart of the incumbent president in terms of figures in the presidential election. Enlightenment and mobilisation become critical here and these require mega bucks.
It is in that context, and beyond intellectualism and grandstanding, that the presidential candidate of the third party must not only be financially solid but also meet the requirement of nationwide acceptance and connection. This is where Olawepo-Hashim, who was born by a Yoruba mother to a Hausa father in Kebbi, is ahead of others in terms of connection to the north and south of Nigeria. His political antecedents in the fourth republic as one-time deputy national publicity secretary of the PDP, following his election at the national convention in 1999, have been salutary in building critical political networks.
Again, beyond intellectual capacity, Olawepo-Hashim has the wherewithal to prosecute the presidential battle without any fear of investigation or interdiction for malfeasance in public office, having not held any public office in Nigeria. But he has been a successful businessman both nationally and internationally. Samplers: he is the chairman of Oilworld Limited, operator of OPL 241 in the continental shelf of Nigeria; he is chairman of Transnational Energy Limited and also chairman of Bresson A.S. Limited, owners of the 90mw Magboro Independent Power Producing (IPP) project, among others.
Indeed, like Moghalu, Durotoye and Sowore, Olawepo-Hashim is principled and courageous as attested to in different quarters and at different intersections. At a reception in 2005, former minister of foreign affairs, the late Chief Ojo Madueke spoke of his courage, deep patriotism and selflessness thus: “the lives of people like Gbenga should inspire us to speak well of ourselves. Gbenga is an inner driven person, not afraid to stand alone, not afraid to be unpopular, not afraid to hold a view. A man, who is inner driven, listens to the voice of his heart.”
It is on the bases of these essential characters that Olawepo-Hashim has taken up the gauntlet on the platform of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) to seek for and deploy the position of president to take Nigeria to higher heights. The presidential race has begun in earnest.