Some have asked, what makes a former student union leader and democracy activist, turned journalist and world class entrepreneur - presidential material? For many new observers of Sowore’s presidential campaign, his recent debate with Kingsley Moghalu gave them a clear answer to this question, and dispelled any lingering doubts about his qualifications.
Over the years, I have observed the exploits of Omoyele Sowore with intrigue and respect. His story begins like so many others in Nigeria, as child of little means, born in a small fishing village far from the seats of privilege and the corridors of power. Yet, given his simple origins, the trajectory of Sowore’s life has been quite remarkable, and his storied path could ultimately become a catalyst for a total shift in the Nigerian political landscape come February 2019.
Like so many others, when I heard that Sowore was launching a bid for the presidency, I greeted his entry as a positive development. This was a welcome alternative to the tired fare of stale candidates and vacuous discussions that pass for Nigerian political debates.
I knew that from the moment of his announcement, Sowore would disrupt the political space in the country, and that he and his new party, the AAC (African Action Congress), would bring new and fresh ideas to the fore. This much was proven during the impromptu debate between Sowore and the YPP candidate, Kingsley Moghalu. After this defining exchange, I and a growing multitude have come to the indisputable conclusion that Sowore is ready to stir the ship of state. Yes! Sowore is ready to lead.
The program on TVC was billed not as a debate or a contest but a morning show to hear the ideas of two distinct presidential candidates.
Sowore spoke first, answering the initial barrage of questions with his trademark confidence, offering his solutions to Nigeria’s myriad number of problems. Then, Moghalu came on and he too offered his ideas. Yet, throughout the exchange, it became quite clear that only Sowore understood the opportunity that presented itself during the event. Sowore, far more than his opponent, seized the chance to compare and contrast his ideas against those of his challenger’s. The fact that this was a debate was lost on the YPP candidate whose ideas seemed neither concise nor well formulated.
Of the importance of planning and preparation before a contest, the ancient writer Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War, “Now, the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought, but the general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.” From the very beginning, Moghalu was caught off guard as his ideas were scrutinized and challenged. Sowore, on the other hand, was prepared and ready for whatever came his way.
Sowore pushed back against the worn-out solutions offered by his opponent, while proposing fresh ideas when challenged by the interviewers. His focus, his preparedness, and his willingness to challenge political and economic dogma was on full display during the debate.
On the whole, the exchange between Sowore and Moghalu was mostly centred on the management of the economy. Thus, one would have thought that Dr. Moghalu, a former CBN governor and economics professor, would have had a clear advantage over Sowore.
However, the answers offered by the YPP candidate to issues such as the pressing need for an increase in the minimum wage in the country, lacked specificity, and appeared muddled and confused. He proposed lofty goals including uniting the country and fighting a decisive war on poverty, yet, he offered no specifics about how he would achieve any of this.
Displaying a lack of forethought, Moghalu could not come up with a concrete number that he would raise the minimum wage to. Rather, he spoke about the need for more studies and ‘research’ to determine what was an appropriate minimum wage, studies which would only be conducted after he assumed office.
With the haughty air of an academic, Moghalu dismissed Sowore’s suggestion of a hundred thousand Naira a month, asserting that such an amount would lead to inflation.
Unfortunately, such abstract concerns completely negate the present welfare of the Nigerian worker and the need for a proper living wage to sustain him or herself.
Countering the claim that a hundred thousand Naira minimum wage would cause inflation, Sowore aptly pointed out that the collective amount necessary to pay Nigerian workers a living wage was a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of money stolen every year by government officials.
After Moghalu accused Sowore of not truly understanding economics, he then derided him for making economic promises with a ‘populist’ bent simply to win votes. In essence, Moghalu’s accusation implied that the masses, with whom Sowore’s economic and political vision continue to resonate, do not know or understand what is best for them. By his assertion, the YPP candidate showed that he has a preference for solutions that come from on-high, schemes conceived in ivory towers, such as his proposal to create a national ‘venture capital fund.’ As laudable as such standard economic tropes may be, they have, in the past, been shown to have little effect on the masses, and ultimately, become vehicles for corruption and fraud.
Furthermore, by making the charge of ‘populist economics’, the YPP candidate seemed to lack a fundamental understanding of the times we are living in. All around the world, from the United States, to Western and Eastern Europe, to parts of Asia and even Africa, we have seen the rise of a certain level of populism and nationalism amongst the masses in these regions. For better or for worse, this shift has occurred as a reaction to globalism and free-trade, to the proliferation of powerful technologies that are able to automate millions of jobs, and as a backlash to a sense of a loss of identity as borders erode and the world becomes a smaller place. Citizens all around the world share these same growing concerns, they are seeking solutions to problems that are particular to their sphere and region, not one-size fits all prescriptions from globalist elites. The YPP candidate failed to understand that in this new epoch, such top down approaches do not resonate among the masses and do not drive grass root support.
Finally, there was a sharp contrast between these two candidates that had little to do with the words that were spoken. It was quite apparent to myself and many others who watched the debate of the stark difference in body language between them. During the exchange, Moghalu’s professorial, languid and measured tone was contrasted with Sowore’s energetic, deliberate, and forceful demeanour.
Such notable differences further begs the question - who is best equipped to lead Nigeria, at a time when the country, rife with sectarian killings, plundered by cronies, and stifled by the stranglehold of cabals, inches ever closer to the brink? Should Nigerian citizens employ another mild mannered lecturer? Or do we need a fighter who has consistently demonstrated the courage to challenge the old order, and who possesses the charisma required to inspire a young and disillusioned populace?
For myself and the vast majority of observers, the debate between these two candidates proved once again why Sowore is undoubtedly the better man for the job.
THE ROAD AHEAD
In a country with a burgeoning youth population and 13.5 million children out of school, in a land with the threat of communal violence looming in every corner, in an era of rapid and disruptive technological change, in a time of shifting global alliances, Nigeria can ill afford another four years of stagnation. No more can we tinker around the edges of our problems. Nigeria requires radical transformational change. Our country needs and deserves a president who understands that the most populous black nation on Earth can no longer be a backwater among the community of nations.
Regarding the economy, Nigeria must move beyond a narrow minded leadership whose economic blueprints are conjured in the halls of the World Bank and the IMF. Our country needs and deserves a president who understands Nigeria’s unique context and unrivalled potential in world history.
In the fight against corruption, our country needs and deserves a president who is not beholden to elites, one who is able and willing to stand firmly against powerful interests in defense of the Nigerian people.
Now more than ever, our country needs and deserves a president who fully understands that the welfare and empowerment of the Nigerian citizen is his or her primary concern.
If we as Nigerians fully understand the nature of our problems and are ready to rise up to these challenge as a people, that president will be Omoyele Sowore come February, 2019.
Ikay Enu M.D.