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The week that remakes or breaks Nigeria

By Dan Abubakar As our politicians are consumed by the quest for power in this long week of primaries, hardly anyone can contest the fact…

By Dan Abubakar

As our politicians are consumed by the quest for power in this long week of primaries, hardly anyone can contest the fact that Nigeria today is a frightful mess, a nation in acute distress. Whichever way you look you find no cause for cheer.

The most basic function of a state – that of providing security for the people – is imperiled and even absent in vast swathes of the country. No one feels safe. Kidnapping, terrorism and banditry point to an almost total collapse of even basic governance. The earth of Nigeria is drenched in blood and the atmosphere reeks of death and destruction. It is such that news of killings and death – no matter the numbers – barely elicit more than a shrug these days.
Pundits often spoke of seasons of anomie. That now seems like our permanent condition. You get a sense that we are in the cusp of a major tragedy or are at the darkest part of night that could herald a new dawn.

A new dawn? That is almost impossible to imagine in our present circumstances. The behaviour of politicians and public figures cloistered in Abuja and seemingly totally oblivious of the true state of the country today can only be explained in the context of descent of total insanity.

In other climes, candidates at least of major parties offer themselves for higher office on the basis of a track record of service or the credibility of their ideas. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry with Nigeria when you take even a cursory glance at the political terrain and the cast of characters who say they want to rule us. Can anyone remember a speech or contribution to national discourse by him that elicited any interest, not to talk of stirring the imagination?
The same backward forces have included in their games characters who have borrowed Nigeria into peonage on account of highly inflated railway contracts. What morality governs their soul?
Though he is unlikely to go far even as he thinks his fadenchi ( Hausa for kow-towing) in the president’s household and Daura homestead should win him the prize, waiting for him is his home boy nemesis, the perpetually inebriated Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike. It is a sad but fitting commentary on the state of the country and its politics that Wike is today a frontrunner for the PDP’s presidential nomination. His ascendancy is not just a matter of cash which he is splurging aplenty but because he is also a political brawler who excites some by his ability to shoot from the hip or to tell it like it is, crudely. One such instance was when he took on Ekiti State governor Kayode Fayemi over his then speculated presidential ambition. Wike asked Fayemi why he should be running for president when he could not even tar a road of only a few kilometres to his state capital, Ado Ekiti. An embarrassed Fayemi tried to laugh it off but that did not stop him from declaring his ambition for the nation’s highest office.

Most of the other candidates you can easily dismiss as of little more than nuisance value or part of some petty, dark plot (like ex-President Goodluck Jonathan who is apparently still engaged in highly curious footsies with power mongers connected to the presidency) that could undermine our national unity.

That unity barely exists today. The idea of a nation, of one country united behind the pursuit of even broadly common purposes is practically buried by the sheer exhaustion that everyone suffers because of years, even decades, of disastrous and disgraceful failure of leadership.

You do not lose a country because there are problems no matter how serious. You lose a country in the minds of the people. And we are at that threshold when critical sections of the country are making up their minds on whether there is any sense in keeping it together when those running it disastrously aground continue to insist on an inane right to dominate the rest of us. In a riposte to this commentator the other day, one actor in the political terrain interjected in a discussion about keeping Nigeria together: ” but is it worth it?”

Nigeria is still worth fighting for – but on fair and equitable terms for all its peoples. It demands a leadership that recognises the imperative for a new beginning and which would respond to a grave national emergency with the spirit of sacrifice, clear-headedness, vision and ruthless ambition to drive the rest of the country, even kicking and screaming, to a desired and desirable destination.

While the main political parties have registered a mostly forgettable field of presidential candidates, there are still a few roses in the wilderness. Mention can be made of Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state who has been touting his singular achievement of setting up a national airline that is today the toast of the travelling public. Critics often say that is his only notable achievement. But what can others point to? Peter Obi with his knowledge and ascetic lifestyle shames the carpet baggers that dominate our political landscape and continues to remind us of the essence of public service.

In the crowded APC field , one man stands out: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. He has the experience, knowledge and sobriety needed to confront our hydra-headed problems. The only question is whether he in addition has the required ruthlessness. He ought to win the unequivocal endorsement of his principal and all those who recognise that the nation is too fraught to prevent a power shift or to experiment with the neophytes and adventurers in his party who are running but have nothing that recommends them as worthy to be taken seriously.

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