The Atiku-Obi ticket is the first time a pair as close to the Awolowo ideal and idea of governance would come close to being elected the president and vice.
The electoral pair of Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and Peter Obi will amount to a revolution, a quiet revolution if and when they become elected. And like all sustainable revolutions this Atiku-Obi paradigm shift will come without the firing of a bullet or shedding of blood. In fact it may come without many of us aware that we are living witnesses to a momentous change of order. In historical terms the fact of this is not strange. “Revolutions that guide the world”, a German philosopher says “come noiselessly on doves’ feet.”
In a word their coming to office will bring fresh new perspectives not just to governance but more importantly to wealth creation and human development. Historically this stems from the following facts. From Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, only one cast of Nigerians has been in power as president or prime minister. This cast of leaders, whether military dictators or elected civilians, can be characterized essentially as political workers. For them it is all about politics and power and less about wealth creation and development.
Perhaps, their very backgrounds are pointers to why and how they came to be. Balewa for instance was a salary earning teacher before he ventured into politics. But a salient point is that in those days teachers were part of the native elite. And the essential agenda of this elite was political, was about black dignity and political independence. For them, Nigerians nay Africans, just as the colonial masters were a worthy people to preside over our own affairs. And after Balewa came a coup by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu another salaried elite. And Nzeogwu’s “reign” was quickly taken over by yet another salaried elite, General Aguiyi Ironsi. This was a very difficult time of our national history, but the fact of the salaried man as a historical driver remained. And that had consequences to our development.
However, one has to sympathetically appreciate their rather unique time and calling. Theirs was a period when being a ruler was in all a political act. What was utmost to them and perhaps rightly so was their nation’s political independence. This sentiment was same all over black Africa. And Kwame Nkrumah, former Ghanaian leader put it most memorably: “Get ye first the political kingdom and all other thing will be added unto you.”
And it so happened that till today all our leaders, have been cast in the Nkurumah mould, “it is politics, stupid.” And this showed with the next helmsman, General Gowon. History thrust him upon the task and agenda of “containing” in one whole. In some sense it may be said that some economic development happened as Gowon reigned, but that was incidental, even if not as an afterthought. Perhaps, Gowon squealed the beans himself. According to him, “Nigeria’s problem is not money, it is what to do with money.”
This bizarre admission of incapacity despite literally free money points to the lack of transformational economics that came to dominate the thinking of Nigerian leaders. And this has remained so up till now. That is for this class of leaders, leadership amounted to little other than allocating resources, essentially our windfall from crude oil.
This explains the mindset of a Buhari, even today. For instance he is reported as follows: “How I wish we had fixed all those when we had money. What we earned between 1999 and 2014 is on record, but nothing was done to infrastructure. Now, we are doing a lot more, with a lot less resources.” (I wish we fixed infrastructure when we had money – Buhari)
His key and representative words are “when we had money” and “now with a lot less resources.” That is, Buhari’s economic visioning is not about wealth creation, it is about what we receive, perhaps as freebies from nature and crude oil. For him development is about allocating this freefall.
The summary is that up to Buhari our leaders have been one and all salaried men, members of the wet-nursed nationalist caste. Not one of them, Obasanjo included, came with a background of successful and sustainable wealth creation. And that is about, prospectively, to change, if the Atiku-Obi ticket wins.
For purposes of correctness of history, only one of the big name contenders, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, came to the task with appropriate pedigree. Awolowo was first a successful legal titan and businessman before he embarked on a solid career of politics. The fact of this exposure explains in part why he was so focused on wealth and economic empowerment and succeeded at the regional levels. But Nigerians disappointed themselves by failing to elect him a president when he so petitioned. Just imagine what Awolowo would have done with all the money Gowon didn’t know what to do with. And now what the Atiku-Obi pair will do. In other words, the Atiku-Obi ticket is the first time a pair as close to the Awolowo ideal and idea of governance would have come close to being elected the president and vice.
In other words, the Atiku-Obi team will bring the vision of Awolowo, that is of economics over power, of the peoples’ welfare over politicking. This is because just like the late sage they too have a flesh and blood insight into man as not just a political but more so as an economic and self dignified
being. If this happens, that will be the equivalent of putting Nigeria in the path of Singapore. And that was the dream of Awolowo all the days of his life. Now that he is gone, it is perhaps indicated we let the Atiku-Obi team accomplish this will of Awolowo for the nation.
Equally important is that the Awolowo trait of remorseless self-improvement is shared by the Atiku-Obi pair. The fact of this for obi is some well known. Obi has since he left the university gone to virtually all the premier universities of the world for one certification or another. But Atiku’s attitude to self-improvement is even more legendary. For Atiku it is a pan-family ritual. And a hint of this was given by a Vanguard report:
“Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, former Vice President , Atiku Abubakar, has been improving himself and his entire family, through annual executive education on family values, corporate governance in family businesses and related topics, it has been revealed.”
“…For 10 years or so, we have all attended this compulsory family retreat, where I’ve learned probably more than school or a classroom has been able to teach me,” Mustapha tweeted. Whilst naming Professor Gimeno, a Spanish Professor of Family Business as one of his favourites, Mustapha tweeted he was enthralled by Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), in a lecture- ture as recent as in last year’s family retreat.
So just like Awolowo all what Atiku-Obi does is to learn and never cease. The three have remained by choice lifelong pupils and hunters after knowledge, wisdom and self-improvement. In other words, if the Atiku-Obi pair came to power they will be the Awolowo in a modern incarnation. That amounts to a revolution and we perhaps should let it happen.
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Achigbu is a Lagos based entrepreneur