PENDULUM BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, as I was saying last week, my latest foray into the Presidential race on the platform of PDP was a monumental move for me. I was under no illusion that it was going to be easy but the journey of a thousand miles, according to a popular saying, begins with the first step. And this was my second step, in a manner of speaking. Too many leaders in history have tried a countless number of times as well, for many decades too, before winning eventually or, in most cases, crashing out totally.
For me, this was a race like no other. For starters, Nigeria is Africa’s biggest country on account of population. Two, Nigeria is made up of numerous ethnic nationalities and a thousand tongues. Three, our country is divided along very deep religious lines, into mainly diverse Christians and Moslem sects. Four, most of our politicians don’t believe in how brilliant you or your policies are, but in how bulky your pockets are. Five, even many of the citizens who daily cry about wanting a positive change are the same people who swarm around the most negative candidates, just because they believe he is richer or different. It seems they do not care about why he is different and as such do not subject the person to the necessary strict and vigorous analysis demanded of the position that they seek to occupy.
Since it was politically expedient and obvious that I had to join either of the two mainstream political parties, namely APC or PDP, if I was to make any realistic progress in the realisation of my quest, I settled for the main opposition party PDP. I will try to avoid the controversy surrounding the existence of a third force which ironically many people believe is the Labour Party, simply because of the candidature of Peter Obi, whilst they studiously ignore APGA that has an already strong political presence in the South East, and indeed commands the membership of a serving Governor, Professor Charles Soludo. Until Peter Obi joined the Labour Party, it was virtually sunk in the innermost recesses of Nigeria’s political wilderness and in fact had two factions fighting for its leadership. There is the unfortunate misconception that because of its nomenclature, it would automatically attract the attention and support of the major Nigerian labour unions, forgetting that these unions already have firm and unshakeable political dalliances with the two major Parties. It is true that the youths of Nigeria are presently being galvanised to obtain their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and thus turn themselves into a movement, but I do not believe that those restive youths are ready yet to seize the momentum and take over the decision-making process as to who will lead them into the next few decades.
I digressed. Enough said about third or fourth forces!
Having made up my mind that the PDP was the only suitable Party for me to actualise my mission and vision, my strategy was to quickly visit all the six geo-political regions, starting from my paternal home-base of Edo State to my maternal roots in Osun State, as a child of diversity. From Osun and Oyo, we moved to Enugu State before dashing off to Kaduna, Maiduguri, Kwara, Plateau, Kano and Sokoto. We visited many of the traditional rulers, old, erstwhile and new military and civilian strongmen, some warlords, religious leaders, media organisations, social media influencers, unionists, and others.
I even dashed off to Cotonou, in Benin Republic, to visit Chief Sunday Adeyemo, aka Igboho Oosa, who was very impressed and elated that I could undertake such an arduous journey. I also reached out to the lawyers of Mazi Nnamdi Kadu, who has been in detention since last year, in order to be able to continue communicating with this firebrand irredentist and revanchist. We had already established a good rapport which I was going to utilise to bring security and peace to that region of Nigeria. I wasn’t going to wait till I become the President before acting as the President and Commander-in-Chief.
I was extremely active on social media platforms to the extent that many jocularly labelled me the social media President. Such people wondered why I was gallivanting about instead of reaching out to our party delegates who held all aspirants mercilessly by the jugular and would make or break the ambition and heart of even the most diehard or foolhardy contestant. However, I knew I couldn’t compete with the moneybags and could only use my media power to make myself very visible, promote my global accomplishments, display my readiness to reunite our country and people speedily and hopefully, by so doing, persuade and allow the delegates to vote their consciences, if they had any. My thinking was that physically meeting with the delegates would avail them the opportunity of making futile demands of me, given the environment that we presently are, and that this would create bad blood or ill will and would not serve my cause in any way.
How then did I expect to surmount the first hurdle of the nomination was the question that dogged my every step! That rhetorical question was not enough to discourage me. I held on steadfastly to my faith in God and still hold onto my faith till this day. I am fortunate in that I had many prayer warriors of different faiths voluntarily praying for me. I had donors reaching out to me, from self-confessed paupers to well-advertised Billionaires. God knows, I appreciated every one of them and every kobo I received, which was dutifully and transparently deployed towards this mission, in addition to my own personal funds. I believe I’m a truly blessed child of God.
I must note that despite the enthusiasm of most people I hardly knew, about 80 percent of my friends showed no interest whatsoever, talk less of contributing or donating their widows’ mite in cash and kind, including media traction and space. Had I been in their shoes, I definitely would have done much better by at least fulfilling all righteousness, even if by just offering kind words and prayers, and they know it. I was surprised that not even the hundreds of young mentees we had touched in the past decades could stand up boldly to acknowledge my humble contributions as a way of letting the world know and appreciate my antecedents and trajectory. Everyone knows how I’m always eternally grateful to my kindest benefactors, and I continue to do so especially in respect of the odyssey that I embarked upon. God could not have come down from heaven to help except through the uncommon grace of some great men and women who know themselves and who I give a standing ovation and offer blessings to, today and forever. Anyway. Let’s move forward.
Those who came to my rescue did so spectacularly and I promise to “retaliate” favourably whenever I’m opportune to do so. No miracle could be bigger than the divine intervention by a family friend who surfaced at the right moment when I needed to pay for my nomination form and a few other bills. I’m that quintessential child of grace and miracle baby. I received support even across party lines.
In Maiduguri, I slept in the home of my very dear friend of over two decades, Alhaji Kashim Imam Ibrahim. He actually vacated his personal bedroom for me. He left, for our ultimate use, his cars, personal aides, and everything that gave me and my team maximum comfort and protection. I reunited with so many old friends. If I ever thought Ovation International was a beautiful magazine and profitable business, it has turned out to be much more than that. It is indeed one of the greatest unifiers in Africa, for me. It has given me access to people in every part of Nigeria and the world. If I knew or even suspected how influential I was, I certainly didn’t know how wide and massive that influence was. Everywhere we went, doors opened effortlessly. There is no longer any doubt that my network is my net worth. If I gained nothing from this latest Presidential bid, I gained this revalidation of my super-brand status and I’m truly humbled.
Now, you may wish to ask the most pertinent question, how come I got not a single vote in the PDP Presidential Primary? It is not a bad question to answer. My answer remains the same: I paid for nothing and so I got nothing in a gladiatorial contest where money reigned supreme. Shikena!
I knew way back it was going to be a gambling game of the deep pockets and, of course, I won’t be able to compete against the biggest players. I also knew, according to my simple research that neither the top two contenders, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Governor Nyesom Wike, would win automatically. It was obvious some powerful forces within the PDP were working feverishly and frenetically for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and would do anything to throw the rest of us under the train. This was the reason zoning was thrown out straight away and deep into the Atlantic Ocean too, so that some foolish person would not by errant mishap find it and return it to the Party’s consciousness!
I knew, since March 2022, that Governor Wike was definitely going to join the race at some point, but I knew very certainly that this other PDP big fish was going to suffer a devastating gang-up against his audacious attempt. I actually wrote a one-of-its-kind WhatsApp message to Governor Wike and copied two of our mutual friends, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Mr Mohammed Adoke (SAN). In the mail, I told Governor Wike how he would be emasculated and eventually humbled out of the race. I’m sure he must have thought I was joking or playing pranks. Till this day, I got no response. Governor Wike is certainly the best Governor in Nigeria, in terms of infrastructure but his enemies knew his weaknesses and waited patiently to completely obliterate him and force him completely out of the race.
I believe our Party, especially the dollar drenched delegates, also overconcentrated all attention on career politicians. I guess all concerned knew where their bread would be buttered and jammed! The party paid no attention to those who could galvanise the younger voters, young men and women and those who could generate the necessary frenzy needed to win the general elections. Now that the candidates have been chosen, we are at the point of no return.
The Southern Governors were very hard nuts to crack. Only my home Governor in Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, was ready, able and willing to see me. Northern Governors were much more accessible, humble and approachable. I was not surprised when the Southern Governors were made to eat humble pie by their more politically astute Northern counterparts. Politics is a game of huge tact and compromise. It is not a game where you wear your heart on your sleeve. You do so at your peril. Lesson learnt and assimilated. I hope others have learnt this precious lesson too.
Now that our Party has already nominated two hard core politicians to be its Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidate respectively, let me offer my sincere congratulations to the two gentlemen as well as my gracious humble advice. One, they must immediately seek to form a shadow cabinet, as I have been advocating that the Party should do for a very long time. Invite young, brilliant, intelligent, self-accomplished and cosmopolitan leaders urgently to join the team and be in the vanguard of policy making. It is obvious that the APC candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is already way ahead in this respect because he is already surrounded by too many technocrats to pick this kind of team from. Two, offer ready opportunities to women.
Women are always reliable and dependable. They are also imaginative, diligent and resourceful. Three, reach out massively to Nigerians in the diaspora and tap into their huge intellect, talent, capacities, networks and resources. Four, come up with simple and achievable manifesto which puts unity, security, infrastructure, economy and education at the forefront. Five, initiate immediate dialogue with labour unions, and ASUU in particular, and find a lasting solution to the incessant strikes, even without being in government. Our Lecturers are not a bunch of egotistic and unreasonable people as they are being made out to be. They are sensitive and sensible people who only want the best for our children and educational system, especially at tertiary level. This can be achieved and will be a major gain for us and our dear beloved country.
Let me warn that it is not going to be easy to dislodge a ruling party in power. APC will not go away easily like PDP did under President Goodluck Jonathan. There was good reason why that feat was achieved, and although APC appears to have surpassed the depths plumbed by President Jonathan, it will still not be an easy task to remove the Party, particularly as it now has a formidable, developmental Presidential candidate in Bola Tinubu. Our leaders in PDP must climb down from their high horses if we must win the next set of elections in 2023.
May God help us…