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Is Okonjo-Iweala as Ribadu’s running mate a game-changer?

As we approach the April timeline of the national election, the frenzy is palpable. As national elections go, this is one election in which most Nigerians repose a lot of hope: hope that the rottenness characterising past elections will be a thing of the past at least in scale if not in totality; hope for a possible real “change of guard” from the old order to the new; hope that, perhaps, the country can start getting it right after so long in the wilderness.

Many things bring up such hope: President Goodluck Jonathan (GEJ) doesn’t cut the picture of our old dyed-in-the-wool, do-or-die, politician — even if his innocence is more apparent than real and his unsure-footedness raises its own concern; GEJ, at 53, appears the youngest civilian president Nigeria has had — only appears! Tafawa Balewa was 48 when in 1960 he became our Prime Minister, Shehu Shagari was 54 in 1979, Obasanjo was (claimed to be) a mere 62 in 1999, and Umaru Shehu Yar’Adua was 56 in 2007; GEJ is the first Nigerian to become president without being elected and the first to seek election for the post after barely a year as incumbent.

Other things raise our hope: GEJ follows his predecessor, Yar’Adua, in being pioneer university graduate presidents the country has ever had, even though that hasn’t counted for much value to the country so far either during the tepid cut-short tenure of Yar’Adua or the woolly stand-in time of GEJ so far; GEJ has, nevertheless, been saying the right things (I think) about wanting to ensure the 2011 elections become a benchmark in freeness and fairness – please, don’t remind me Yar’Adua condemned the election that made him president and promised a new leaf only to preside over the debacle of election re-runs in Ekiti State and some others; Attahiru Jega’s appointment as INEC chairman lends some credibility to GEJ’s promise regardless of Jega’s faulty starts; and, not the least, the Courts newfound courage and wisdom to upturn fraudulent elections and sack impostor governments.

There is excitement in the air, more excitement than worry, in spite of the unpleasant and baffling rise of mayhem in some (especially northern) parts of the country – Jos, Bauchi, Abuja, Borno, etc. Nigerians still hang on to the belief that this coming elections will mark a departure (for good) from the calamity of the past. Perhaps the fact that (other than the recurring General Buhari) the field seems to be full of young, new, even neophyte, faces accounts for the optimism, but we are excited. Well, I am.

And nothing adds more to my excitement at this point than the “rumour” that ACN presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, may have as his running mate (that is, vice-presidential candidate) Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. If that happens, then Jega can count my vote in their box.

Okonjo-Iweala is remembered as that beauty-and-brain, no-nonsense, Minister of Finance and Economy and Head of the much acclaimed Presidential Economic team between 2003 and 2006 in the Obasanjo years and, briefly in 2006, was Minister of Foreign Affairs. Harvard-educated, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has a PhD in Regional Economics and Development from MIT and is presently a Managing Director of the World Bank.

It’s the best news that can come at this time when the campaigns are to start and tough issues on the economy need to be asked and answered, not by parroting what hired “experts” say but from the depth of knowledge and conviction of the candidates themselves.

We want to hear intelligent people talk intelligently. We want to hear our would-be president, even if woken up from sleep, talk with confidence, assuredness, and learning on his vision for Nigeria and the way forward.

Yes, corruption and security are key issues that would also have to be convincingly analysed beyond browbeating with banal and blanket stock, but the economy and the vision for the country’s regeneration are critical. We want to hear the views of our would-be-president on the fundamental problems with the structure of our polity and the solution to the continuing restiveness in many parts of the country.

When the campaign starts, we hope to grill and drill the candidates (and their running mates) and observe many things about them: their elocution, their brilliance and presence of mind, their composure under heat, their temperament, and many more.

Nuhu Ribadu teaming up with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala gives me joy and raises hope. Both are young, brilliant and confident. Both are incorruptible anti-corruption crusaders. They complement each other and fulfil the gender and ethnic balancing formulae.

If it happens, I will rejoice and dance. If it doesn’t, I will lament yet a missed prospect.

And the plea for Buhari

The first call I got over my last week’s column on the prospect of the flogged alliance between Gen. Buhari’s CPC and Nuhu Ribadu’s ACN was from Lawson Omokhodion (OmoLaw), economist and former top banker. He first sent in a text and followed up with a call to terminate my Sunday morning repose.

“No, no, no, I disagree with you, o,” OmoLaw broke in, “you have to reverse yourself in this, I beg. Buhari is the man we need at this time, not Ribadu.”

OmoLaw is an old aburo and friend who I hold in high esteem. I cannot recall when he last called me to express his views so vehemently, and his objection to mine so strongly. But that’s not good enough reason to get persuaded. And so I pressed my case as best as I could.

And when my good friend saw that I was unyielding, he tried the “blackmail” trick: “This is a hatchet job for Tinubu.”

That was hitting me below the belt. How could I at 60-something lend myself to a “hatchet job” for anyone for that matter? Haba!

“Tinu-what?” I laughed. “I haven’t even seen or heard from him in years. Besides, who says Ribadu is Tinubu’s choice?” I countered.

Truth is, as I told Omokhodion, Buhari hasn’t got sufficient credentials, beyond the fact that he was once a stern military despot and an arguably unsullied PTF boss under the despised and demised Gen. Abacha, to persuade me he is what we need as civilian president at this or any other time.

We know about the discipline of Buhari’s mind but we know nothing about the brilliance of the man’s mind. Who and what are the calibres of people he can surround himself with and what are evidences of this in his past, either as military ruler or as PTF boss? Who were in his economic team? Who were in his media team?

Ten years of wanting to be president, where are the sharp minds, the Lawson Omokhodions across ethnic divides, that this man, Buhari, has assembled to prepare quality materials on major national issues in the manner that, say, an Atiku or a Tinubu has done over the years? Or in the manner an Obasanjo brought out a Nuhu Ribadu, a Nasir el-Rufai, an Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, etc.

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Posted by on Feb 5 2011. Filed under Action Congress of Nigeria, General Politics, Party Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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