Come next week, we will go to the polls to decide our collective destiny in the Presidential elections.

I have always believed in Nuhu RIBADU and spoke very loudly too- physically and in cyberspace- against his discrimination by the Yar’ Adua Government.
Fate has it that, has decided to vie for the post of President of our dear nation Nigeria – The only country we can call our own.

I must confess that, as at last year, shortly after Goodluck Jonathan (hereafter referred to as GEJ) was sworn in as President following the fight with the irresponsible ‘kitchen’ cabinet of our respected deceased president Yar’Adua; I was an ardent believer in the man- GEJ. I actually started drumming up support for him in every way I could. I firmly believed a Ribadu presidency could wait for another 5 years (now 4 years); GEJ was riding high on public goodwill accrued to him largely because of his persecution by the Yar’Adua clique. He also appeared humble and to be a good listener (I still think he is). He WAS a breath of fresh air; considering his PhD, his Ijaw origin and as a matter of fact from the much victimized South-South region of the country (all facts that still remain true). He was of a younger generation too. We all believed this would be a new era for Nigeria.

11 months on, I see things quite differently…

Buhari, another major contestant, to put it quite simply, has too many questions begging for answers. Should I decide to dwell on these questions, this piece would never be completed.

I could also go on and on about why I think other contestants don’t equal Ribadu but I’ll try and desist from bashing the opposition and concentrate on reminding us what we stand to gain by holding firmly on to our belief in the man (Ribadu).

Ribadu, as we know, is an anti-corruption crusader, a younger man who is determined in his stance to not only speak for a better Nigeria but to also act. Surely, I don’t have to tell you the untold damage that corruption has done to Nigeria….take a moment and let the reality of the damage caused by this malignancy wash over you.

He certainly has his critics, as every politician does. He was accused of being a arrow in Obasanjo’s (hereafter referred to as OBJ) quiver- useful for attacking perceived enemies of the Ota farmer; An accusation I find incredibly hollow and a product of intellectual laziness that has come to characterize the Nigerian political sphere.

There are a few incontrovertible arguments in his defence:

1.    He never went after innocent men…seeing that he achieved a very high conviction rate. High up this list is Tafa Balogun, his Police boss whom he brought down from grace on account of unimaginable kleptomania. Was Tafa Balogun a political enemy of OBJ? Considering OBJ’s unwavering commitment to PDP, do we think his cause was furthered by having several PDP governors disgraced by the EFCC?
3.     He demonstrated his integrity and honesty by rejecting 15 million dollars in cash from an ex-Governor as bribe; he returned that money to FG coffers. Was it OBJ that ‘ordered’ him to reject this bribe? Was he not alone when he was offered this money? Couldn’t he have pocketed this largesse quietly and carried on with his job as usual? Perhaps we now see the difference at EFCC… now we have a ‘politically neutral’ chief at the agency, are we any better off than when Ribadu was at the helm? There are many more instances of how the love of Nigeria guided his actions.

4.    Despite perceived and actual threats to his life he carried on the fight against corruption. I wonder if OBJ is persuasive enough to get Ribadu to endanger his own life just to further a political cause-especially one of such little meaningful benefit to the prospective martyr.

5.    He has joined the progressives- ACN. Whether we like it or not, this is a performing party; just look at Lagos and Edo, factor-in the relatively young ACN governments in other southwestern states too. It is easy to see where this party stands in ideological terms. Again, they have their own failings but don’t we all? Though I don’t like to resort to relativity until no option is left, I have to say that these failings are pale In comparison to those of the behemoth we call PDP. Surely, if for nothing else, very few can beat their open celebration of an ex-convict, a man who stole 100 billion naira of the people’s money. Another party, the CPC, has Abacha’s son in it; one who actively aided his father’s looting of our commonwealth. The cult following the CPC has in the North despite this is proof that we all agree there isn’t a perfect party, that every party must have some undesirable ‘elements’ (to borrow a word from GEJ’s under-utilised dictionary).

6.    He is a ‘de-tribalised’ Nigerian for a change. A virtue none of his co-contestants (at least the front liners) can nearly boast of. This for me is a major plus for the man.

7.    He is young and very much in touch with the requirements of a modern society. He has chosen Fola Adeola, a well-seasoned player in the financial sector, as his vice; demonstrating that he knows what he lacks in financial and economic experience will be buffered by his vice. Adeola is also a man of proven ability. As you may have known, he owns Guaranty trust bank- A bank that stands out clearly in terms of professionalism and corporate honesty; amongst many other virtues. He rejected an offer to be finance minister to OBJ on ideological grounds. He wanted to have nothing to do with a government that he differed with on several fronts (as it seemed at the time).
It is clear that Ribadu, rather than choose a running mate on tribal and religious premises, has gone for a man that complements him in virtue and intellectual standing. He hasn’t picked a pastor with no other known virtues (administrative nor intellectual) straight from the church- for example, insulting our sensibilities in the process; neither has he, as a Northern Muslim, gone for the nearest Southern Christian he could find. He’s chosen the best available.

8.    He has no unholy interest that we know of. We may point to several issues-  many not far removed from his alliance with Tinubu, a man he once hunted with Corruption charges; a man that evokes mixed feelings all over the country.
I believe that, to win an election in Nigeria, a candidate must join a party with balance i.e. a party with both ideological and realistic value. One must find a party that has noble aspirations and also having a realistic chance at electoral victory; on this ground I exonerate Ribadu. There isn’t a party in the world that is devoid of men with questionable character. He lacks the financial muscle to start a party of his own and at the same time stand a chance of winning a presidential election on that platform.

9.    He is highly respected in the international community for his stance against corruption. Surely this will do wonders for the image of this country; perhaps it will provide a deviation from the usual litany of woe that is associated with the mention of the name ‘Nigeria’.
I will let you reflect on the above-listed points.

There are several reasons why the PDP continues to hold on to political power with a strangulating grip. The reasons are legion but the ones that really bother me include:

•    The Nigerian mentality of voting for whom we think will win rather than the one we believe in. I think this sentiment negates the very essence of democracy. Of course the PDP remains a favourite in all elections for reasons well known to us. So, do we then continue submit ourselves to this leviathan for eternity? Isn’t that what a revolution in a democratic era entails? Surely, if this were the right sentiment PDP would poll 100% votes in all elections. Not?
•    Our collective refusal to put our minds to task. We have entrusted the past 12 years of our lives to these people in the PDP; what have they done for us? What have we gotten in return for this trust? Have they done anything remotely deserving of an extension of stay in power? Is this the Nigeria we and our children deserve? How long shall we remain content with so little? Surely we can change this- simply vote them out. This is a task that requires neither guns nor money; qualifications nor clout; belief in God nor the lack of it… just a vote at the right spot. How hard can this be?

•    It will be one-sided of me to ignore the inability of the opposition to form a united front as a reason for this prolonged malaise too. This is a matter for another day.
Nuhu Ribadu certainly has his flaws. Again, don’t we all? In the current state we find ourselves, I believe that if we remove all religious and tribal concerns and X-ray these candidates on the basis of virtue and ideology, Ribadu will emerge the best on offer. Not with glowing marks certainly; but the best nonetheless. There may be other virtuous candidates whom we’ve never seen. Trouble is we’ve never seen them.

At this point, we should decide to let go off our blighted past and indeed everyone who has had a hand in it. We should be talking of forging a new future for Nigeria, one devoid of the ills of the past and not recycling men who have failed us, not men without moral stance.

We may not be so far away from the change we desire; the change we deserve. We only need to put the country first in our thoughts and act rightly.
The hour draws ever so near…

God Bless Nigeria…the ONLY home we have.

Emmanuel Aja Oga
Abuja, Nigeria
[email protected]

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