Nduka Nwosu poses a question: Are Nigerians ready for a positive change?

Early in October last year, a friend of mine Senator Ben Murray-Bruce and I discussed the prospects of a Southeasterner as a Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Murray-Bruce who happens to be a PDP chieftain and former Senator representing Bayelsa East hinted the Southeast may not be part of the winning formula for Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the party’s standard bearer in the 2023 Presidential election.

So much has changed since then. The state of affairs in the run up to the Presidential primaries has left the political climate hazy and to warrant that argument or conversation as politically correct. It is a foregone conclusion that Vice President Atiku is the attractive bride, the next PDP candidate for the 2023 Presidential election.

Why is Atiku making an about turn with the Southeast that massively voted for him in 2019 and has remained the backbone of the PDP in the South? Simple: The Southeast says the time has come for one of its own to fly the party’s flag for equity and fairness.

 In certain PDP quarters especially in the South South, the Southeast is seen to have exhibited an act of ingratitude after their son Peter Obi was chosen as Atiku’s running mate. The Southeast governors led by Governor Dave Umahi rejected Peter Obi as Atiku’s running mate. A meeting of top Igbo elders held in Abuja and chaired by oil mogul Arthur Eze had informed Atiku’s representative that no Southeasterner was ready to play the second fiddle of a Vice President this season.

In any case Atiku’s camp had written Obi off as a stingy man who contributed little or nothing to Atiku’s war chest, a very easy to exhibit crass ingratitude that is. All this helps to explain why Governor Nyesom Wike is working round the clock to secure the position of running mate to Atiku. He is wealthy backed by the resources of Rivers State, which he has generously spent on the PDP in ensuring its survival these past years it has been out of power. An Atiku/Wike ticket has the South South and the Northeast backing and this is a good head start going forward.

Why do some PDP members in the north subscribe to an Atiku Presidency in spite of the fact that the doctrine of equity and fairness make it a viable option for a Southeast candidate to fly the PDP Presidential flag this time around? One presumed reason is that Atiku being a northerner will garner more votes than a Southeast candidate that does not have the massive or overwhelming support of the South plus the all too familiar argument that the north under the PDP has had few years of governance at the centre. The other reason is that Atiku has a generous war chest, a deep pocket, which outspent his competitors in 2019.

However, that war chest did not make a difference in his previous attempts under different party platforms including the APC, which gave Buhari its flag leaving Atiku in the lurch, with a huge electoral deficit that made him quickly leave the APC to return to the PDP. Is an Atiku/Wike ticket more appealing to the PDP that it is in a hurry to deny the Southeast the mandate in 2023?

My response is in the negative and I buy Umahi’s thesis that any rejection of a Southeast candidate by the PDP and the APC would work against both parties with emphasis on the APC. Umahi is advocating for a northern candidate in the event the South refuses to support the quest for a Southeast candidate as a Presidential candidate of the APC.

Unfortunately, that northern candidate may be Goodluck Jonathan, who laboured to please the north at the expense of the South in his last incarnation as President. History is about to repeat itself with a Jonathan who sneaks in “reluctantly” though when the road is clear to wear the cap.

However, Nigerians recognise the evolution of a new movement or the need for one at this time. Neither Atiku’s war chest nor his assumed millions of votes locked up in the minds and hearts of a movement against the APC, would be taken for granted. The new movement goes beyond the PDP and the APC. The new movement is one of real change, a change beyond what the APC and the PDP offered the people of Nigeria in the past. The political ideology of the ‘Next Generation,’ is one of visible and positive change, that would hit the ground running from day one.

Peter Obi has averred that the politics of prebendalism and nepotism would have nothing to do with his administration. The sharing thing would hit a brick wall immediately he assumes office, which does not mean he is denying something called ‘infrastructure politics’ in the lexicon of Nigerian politics. He is saying as a leader, he would govern by example and ensure that those who work under him subscribe to an oath of integrity with minimum malfeasance punishable by law where one is detected. Obi’s record of accomplishments suggests he is in a hurry to reverse the ugly trend of governance sinking the shop of state.

Are Nigerians ready for positive change, a change that will spell temporary discomfort at all levels of our existence? The practical answer to this aside suggests something somewhat negative right from the grassroots to the top. The average Nigerian citizen over the years has come to embrace corrupt tendencies as a way of life.

But the needful must be done before we cease to exist as a country. When God destroyed Nineveh in the days of Lot, he did not need to accommodate any longer the excesses of the inhabitants to do the needful.

When he was the governor of Ebonyi State, I asked my friend Senator Sam Egwu how corrupt he was as Governor. He said he could be as corrupt as he wanted to be but for the grace of God which reminded him all actions of his were being recorded. Security vote alone, Egwu said, belonged to him and he could bleed Ebonyi State to death using security vote and without any queries. Egwu left office with his head held high.

Another friend, a Governor of Cross River State defined the difference between two governors who each got N10 million. Governor A got his 10 and pocketed nine million and worked with one million while Governor B worked with nine million and pocketed one million. What each Governor did was to make a bogus or minimum provision for stomach infrastructure. Either way, we know what it is.

Obi has been accused by those who worked with him of non-empowerment of the stomach to the ridiculous extent of asking for advertisement discounts, for the state though. Many of these aides resigned in protest. We know who benefited-Anambra State.

I have this hidden fear that because Nigerians are not matured enough for a great mind with such a great exposure, knowledge and discipline as a President Peter Obi, they may reject him at the polls, not because of the image of a towering war horse as Atiku Abubakar overshadowing him or the unwillingness’ of the Nigerian psyche accepting a Nigerian President of a Southeast extraction, but because we need a new form of education preparatory for the ‘Next Generation ’ of explorers of a Brave New World. Every effort being made by Obi right now is part of that imparting of knowledge, learning and preparation for that momentous change. As a salesman, his voyage round the country will trigger the movement for positive change as he sells his ideas of success in governance and business to the people.

 In his territory are the likes of Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, a former Presidential candidate, running mate to PMB, first civilian governor of Ebonyi State, accomplished Minister of Science and Technology and distinguished scholar; Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, czar of Corporate Nigeria; Professor Kingsley Moghalu who long ago left his name etched in the Heroes Hall of the United Nations and the CBN and,  Anyim Pius Anyim distinguished Senator and Senate President who helped to guard against the third term constitution rewrite and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. They are sufficiently Presidential in mind and body.

The Obi template is there for all to see. As he tours the country within the brief period left for the primaries, the hope is that the new knowledge he impacts on his new disciples, will quicken the understanding that will embrace the expected ‘Change,’ not ‘Changi’ under an Obi led PDP government.

Nwosu, former THISDAY New York Bureau Chief, White House Correspondent and Group Managing Director, Leadership Newspapers, writes from Lagos

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