This is how NOT to choose Nigeria’s next president

The race to 2019 began in 2015, but the last lap of this marathon started in 2018, with the scheming and plotting getting thicker and thicker by every passing day. Everyone wants to be president!

Muhammadu Buhari, Bukola Saraki, Atiku Abubakar, Jonah Jang, Rabiu Kwankwanso, David Mark, Aminu Tambuwal, Donald Duke, Remi Sonaiya, Kingsley Moghalu, Omoyele Sowore, Fela Durotoye… by now, you know for a fact that to this list, there shall be no end.

New alliances with old foes, old friends becoming new foes, the All Progressives Congress (APC) promising to keep the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) away from the national treasury for as long as it takes. The PDP promising to tackle poverty and revamp the economy; olds lines on new books. Old wine in new wineskins.

Despite having over two dozens of presidential aspirants, Nigerians have little or no choice; the rock or the hard place, the devil or the deep blue sea, or in the local parlance; we have to decide if “half bread is better than buns”.

We may not know how we want to select Nigeria’s next president, but we sure know how not to. At least that is what experience has taught us. I will try to highlight a few ways not to, based on past experiences.

NEVER EVER CHOOSE BASED ON PROMISES

On February 26, 2011, in Uyo, former president Goodluck Jonathan, promised to “construct all the major roads which link Anambra with its neighbors; complete the ongoing aero-dynamic survey of gas in the Anambra River basin, which [leading to] power supply, then Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry”. He also said he would “complete the second Niger Bridge, and complete the Onitsha Inland Port,” and that “Nigerians would not be talking about generators after his four years in office”.

Who said this? “In two years, if given the opportunity, we will turn the economy of this country round, we will solve these security problems, we will bring Nigerians together.”

This sounds like Muhammadu Buhari, but this is David Mark, former senate president. Buhari made the same promises four years ago, but we all know better now. Promises by Nigerian politicians have proven to be nothing but just promises.

Voting based on promises should be a thing of the past, promises are easy to make. Anyone who promises anything in 2018 must show us a blueprint on how they intend to fulfill all the promises based on current economic realities.

NEVER ELECT A PRESIDENT WHO IGNORES DEBATE

The last time President Muhammadu Buhari had a national media chat was December 2015. Are we surprised? No. The president, like his predecessor, ignored presidential debates like a plague before they laid their hands on power. How do we expect the same to participate in any intellectual discourse seeking the country’s development?

In the Ekiti 2018 elections, Kayode Fayemi, the governor-elect, and Olusola Kolapo, the state’s deputy governor, who contested for the office of the governor also ignored the debates. Somehow, we expect these men to participate in development discourses.

Avoiding intellectual engagements with citizens is a new normal in Nigeria’s political space, and this has to stop if anything good will fall on us by 2019.

WOMEN MATTER: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND FOREVER MORE

Women make about 40 percent of voters in Nigeria today, but the offices are heavily dominated by men. In 58 years, Nigeria has never had a female president, vice president, and senate president.

Under former president Goodluck Jonathan, women in politics made some progress, running some of the most important offices in the land. Jonathan’s goal was to have 35 percent inclusion for women in his government, and to this, he made a valuable attempt.

For the Muhammadu Buhari government, the story is different. It makes no economic and political sense to exclude women in the scheme of things; no bird can fly successfully using just one of its wings.

In 2019, any aspirant that does not have concrete plans for the inclusion of women, politically and otherwise, should not be considered.

NEVER MAKE YOUR CHOICE IGNORING THE PAST

Shout out to all those who ignored the history of Nigeria from 1983 to 1985, or those who cherry-picked the good sides of 1983, 1984 and 1985 for campaign purposes. Those who remembered that General Buhari was a disciplinarian, but chose to ignore the fact that he jailed journalists. Those who recalled that he led the kick against indiscipline, but ignore the fact that he led the nation into economic recession. Today, we all know better.

When voting in 2019, remember all Saraki did as governor of Kwara state, all Atiku did as vice president, all David Mark did as senate president, and all Buhari has done as president — all NOT some.

Politicians have shown us that they don’t change, and we must not bring ourselves under the illusion that they would change. No, they would not! May the past be with you.

IN MAKING YOUR CHOICE, AGE IS NOT JUST A NUMBER

At the height of Muhammadu Buhari’s honesty in 2015, few weeks after he took office, the president said: “I wish I became Head of State when I was a Governor, just a few years as a young man. Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do”.

Buhari agrees that age is not just a number, it affects his performance. Who are we to believe otherwise. I think age is important. While the elderly can contest for the highest political offices in the land, it must be based on the experiences they have shown with age.

A 21st-century president has to be digital, intellectually sound, and above all, teachable. Anyone not willing to learn and hone skillset for the 21st-century leadership should not be considered.

What other criteria must we consider for 2019?

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