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The Artificial Choice Before Nigerians

In this article, Tunde Odediran, urges Nigerians to look beyond the All Progressives Congress’ President Muhammadu Buhari and Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar in choosing the next Nigerian president in 2019

Flag-map of Nigeria / Photo credit: Wikimedia
Flag-map of Nigeria / Photo credit: Wikimedia

It is a catastrophe of immense proportions that at the time Nigerians need impactful change the most, all that is set before them is just an artificial choice in the 2019 presidential election.

When other nations are pulling fast away in the Formula One of national development, the two major political parties are feeding Nigerians with a choice between two dinosaurs from the same political alliance, who have no measurable ideological contrast. And sadly, most Nigerians have been too mentally battered by the challenges of life to see through the phony options.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) re-anointed their "lifeless" leader and current President, Muhammadu Buhari, who Nigerians have tried and are not well pleased with. Presented with an opportunity to show a striking contrast, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could only borrow from the APC the many-times-rejected presidential candidate and former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, who is marred in corruption controversies.

Not only is there not so much of a difference between the APC and PDP, their presidential flagbearers cannot offer a convincing vision, a practical grasp of the direction of nations or pragmatism to assemble the best and brightest to take on the daunting challenges of national development.

I have read some depressing comments from superbly intelligent Nigerians that there is no third party. One of them stated that the "the choice is between Buhari and Atiku, period," while another wrote that the presidential ambition of the former Minister of Education, Obiageli 'Oby' Ezekwesili, and the others he called the rookies, is just an illusion. They concluded that people like Ezekwesili should fold up and shut down.

Were the American people to think like my intellectual friends, the civil rights movement that shook the world would have been aborted at conception. Martin Luther King would not have been known. Rosa Parks would not have been history. But when people believe that change is possible, they can act. I am one of those who believe very strongly that it is time to reject the major parties.

Fortunately, I have a good example of change that is not only real but recent. As I write this article, Mexico has just sworn in President Andrés Manuel López Obrador - AMLO, to be short. Politically, Mexico is so much like Nigeria in that it has lived under a two-party dictatorship for more than a century. AMLO broke that chain. It took AMLO three election cycles to achieve the feat.

There were sceptics and Samballats, but filled with a strong conviction, a third party has won in Mexico by a landslide. They rejected the political establishment and picked an independent they could trust. Obrador is what the sceptics should point to. We cannot continue to sell ordinary Nigerians further into political slavery in the hands of the APC and PDP.

Were the American people to think like my intellectual friends, the civil rights movement that shook the world would have been aborted at conception. Martin Luther King would not have been known. Rosa Parks would not have been history. But when people believe that change is possible, they can act. I am one of those who believe very strongly that it is time to reject the major parties.

Having read through the list of the other presidential candidates on the pages of The Interview, I could almost conclude that any of them is better than Buhari and Atiku. They are all optimists who can dare to chart a new course.

They all have a good university education too! We need to experiment like the French did with Emmanuel Macron, when they elected a political first-timer. At 39, Macron became the youngest President of France, at a time when France was growing through a period of disillusionment. Nigeria is in a far worse a state than France was. We need to seize the moment and do something new in 2019.

One is not naïve to think this will be a walk in the park. It will take nearly a miracle to bring down the major parties; but this miracle is just the will to do away with established politics. Our intellectuals and opinion leaders need to be change agents who will help the people break away from the mentality of enslavement.

There is pervasive hopelessness in the society, the people have so little expectations, make so few demands from leadership and have so little idea of what is within their power to achieve. If not, how can they simply accept the trash continually offered by the major parties?

There was a glimmer of hope when Buhari rode to power. But the donkey of expectation has buckled under the weight of hope. The imagination that Buhari can repeat what he achieved as a military leader, when the late General Tunde Idiagbon was in control, has become an illusion.

Nearly four years of Buhari in power, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is still not completed and politicians are still robbing Nigerians blind. It is the Buhari administration which secretly promoted and reinstated the fugitive former chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina, into the civil service, while being accused of fraud.

Boko Haram is still slaughtering Nigerian soldiers. The Naira is still not convertible, and has almost gone under. Food is still a luxury item for most Nigerians, while the rich have gotten richer. President Buhari failed to transparently tell Nigerians about his medical condition, in a repeat of what the late president, Umaru Yar'Adua, did a decade ago. This lack of transparency is now fanning the disturbing news that the present Buhari could be a clone of a supposedly dead Buhari.

What are Nigerians left with? #BuhAtiku. Two versions of the same product. Different but the same. Alternatives providing the same solution. Able to promise, unable to deliver. Should Nigerians fail to reach beyond these two, they must just calm themselves down and admit that the next four to eight years will be more of the same. They could be wasted years.

Nigerians cannot expect better days even if Atiku is their choice. There is not so much that they don’t already know about how he made his money. And Atiku is not known to possess some notable political ideology, economic insight or transformative ideas that can repair the damage of corruption and lift Nigeria into prosperity.

What are Nigerians left with? #BuhAtiku. Two versions of the same product. Different but the same. Alternatives providing the same solution. Able to promise, unable to deliver. Should Nigerians fail to reach beyond these two, they must just calm themselves down and admit that the next four to eight years will be more of the same. They could be wasted years.

So, what should we do?

Nigerians should refuse to throw themselves into the hands of BuhAtiku. It is one solution and bad karma. Instead, they should search for hope, in very large numbers. Among the candidates of the other parties, there is likely a diamond in the rough. It is important to focus less on the eventual outcome of the 2019 elections and more on the need to start a new and rewarding political journey.

Let's vote for Oby Ezekwesili, Adesina Fagbenro, Omowole Sowore, Eunice Atuejide, Ahmed Buhari, Moses Shipi, Yabagi Yusuf Sani, Donald Duke, Tope Fasua, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, Kingsley Moghalu or Obadiah Mailafia in 2019.

Go out and campaign for one of them. At some point, one or two of them will break the political dam. They are not a waste of vote. They are a vote of conscience. It's time we starting voting for what is right, and not what seems practical. The world respects people who can make the right choice in the face of extreme challenges.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.

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