2019: How far can Agbakoba, Duke, Utomi go


It actually started from exchange of letters. Apat from the intellectual cadence of the exchanges, the subject was of gargantuan magnitude: leadership selection and succession.

Civil rights activist and former national President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba, fired the first salvo. However, it should be noted that before he directed his verbal missile to the Ebora of Ewu, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Agbakoba had agonised on the matter in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.

It was at such a time of great national unease over the prolonged stay of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in a London facility on medical travel. Obasanjo had visited his old school mate, former military President Ibrahim Babangida, where both leaders also interfaced with another former leader, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, on the state of the nation.

Being fresh on the airwaves and newspapers, Agbakoba did not fail to veer into the topic: Why must few people continue to impose leadership on the country? he pursued, lamenting that the cabal use even innocuous social gatherings to shortlist candidates for leadership.

So when recently the former NBA President, alongside former Cross River State governor, Mr. Donald Duke, the eldest son of Nigeria’s former Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Dr. Abdul-Jhalil Tafawa Balewa and Director of Pan Atlantic University, Prof. Pat Utomi, convereged in Abuja, it was to put action to the subject.

The founding of Nigeria political Summit Group, which brought the young leaders together could be their own way of saying enough is enough to the recycling of decrepit leaders. Other members of the group, including Isa Aremu, the General Secretary of National Union of Textile, Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, Dr. Elena Okengwu and Alhaji Rabiu Ishaku Rabiu, joined their voices in stressing the need to reshape Nigeria’s political system.

By the nature of their assemblage, the drivers of NPSG could be adjudged as belonging to the country’s clean and beautiful brigade. As such, their resolve to rescue Nigerians from the hands of ‘predators’ sounds ambitious.

However, aside from decrying the disturbing trend of the country’s politics, most Nigerians remain skeptical about the capacity and resilience of the intellectual pioneers to cause the political revolution.

The challenge of changing the country’s “poor level of governance” is very enormous and demands unorthodox approaches to consummate. That is where Agbakoba and his co-travelers would encounter difficulties. The so-called cabal or predators are men of evil conscience that can apply ignoble methods, including subtle and overt blackmail to preserve their entrenched positions and protect their interest.

Although the NPSG explained that their mission “is to mobilise Nigerians towards effecting real change desired by the citizenry in 2019,” it would be interesting to see how far they could go in doing that, particularly against the background of massive indifference and lackadaisical attitude of the people towards civic matters.

Said Agbakoba at the unveiling of the group: “We are concerned that they have taken Nigerians for granted. We are concerned that as we move closer to 2019, all the monies that should have been used to build up Nigeria will go down the drain, in the name of politics.

“We are concerned about the so many scandals trailing this government, such as the current Mainagate and the (interagency) fight between the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). We are concerned that if we keep sitting back in our homes and offices, nothing will change and 2019 will be Armageddon.”

Against the background of what transpired during the recent Anambra governorship poll, where political parties had to pay voters to cast their ballot, how could NPSG “assemble a group of patriotic Nigerians to work towards the process of working towards the change the people have always desired over the years,” as they resolved.

Conscientization, which the Director General of the association, Mr. Olawale Okuniyi, alluded to, could be the much the group can achieve. Because, not being a political party, unless they would gradually metamorphose into one; it would be challenging to raise that tribe of leaders without greed that they envisage.

Dead Men’s Shoes Versus Youthful Zeal
IN his responses to Agbakoba’s letter, Obasanjo noted that the problem with emerging leaders is that they are waiting for dead men’s shoes, stressing that the older generation showed determination, commitment and nationalism while shouldering responsibilities.

The former President therefore challenged the former NBA President to quit his comfort zone, dismount from his high horse and get involved. Although Obasanjo noted that leaders like him were thrust into positions of authority by circumstances not of their making, from where they recorded some degrees of success, he did not touch on the point of the shrinking of opportunity they caused through prolonged military intervention in governance.

Instead of factoring that into his argument, the former military and civilian ruler accused the younger generation of avoiding work while seeking leadership. He added: “The point to ponder is how have the successor generation positioned themselves to lead? Most members of the younger generation of Nigerians are mostly contented with waiting for dead men’s shoes and are unwilling to beat an alternative path to leadership.

“In such a situation, it is to be expected and actually it is human that those with some head start in life will not concede such advantages freely and based on their innate goodness. Some of these young people whose interest we canvass, have in the recent past been a complete disappointment and failures in their various appointed or elected positions.”

Combative nature of the former President’s arguments shows an inkling of the manner of opposition NPSG would encounter as it sets to confront entrenched political forces that show neither conscience nor commonsense in issues pertaining to statecraft.

One fact that the champions of Nigeria Political Summit Group should assimilate is that the oldies are not in a hurry to quit the scene willingly. Obasanjo alluded to this when he said: “Late Chief Awolowo and great Zik were younger than you when they threw their hats in the ring. It’s time to take the hard road. Olisa, it’s time to jump down from the fence and the siddon look corner.”

Coming one year to another general election, the NPSG, if it is going to be a clearing house for the emergence of “young and vibrant leaders” to run the political affairs of the country, has not time on its side.

But Nigerians will like to know how far the group can go to provide the “culture among the political elite to encourage inspired young people to run for political leadership, especially the presidency,” as Agbakoba informed Obasanjo.

Having correctly identified that “our country is held back by a crop of leadership that has outlived usefulness and effectiveness as a result of old age,” it is now over to NPSG to go to battle to dislodge this otiose leadership.

In this article:
Donald DukeOlisa Agbakoba
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