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Okey Ndibe: An Annoying Distraction At A Critical Time By Justus Ighalo

March 20, 2015

In an interview with SaharaReporters last Saturday, 14 March 2015, Professor Okey Ndibe dismissed both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) parties, and established himself as Pessimist #1.

First, he called the two parties “Siamese twins… obsessed with the same idea of dispossessing Nigerian people and looting as being the essence of governance,” and that “Nigerian politics and governance [are] arranged around the idea of empowering a few individuals to steal the resources from the rest of us.” 

Of President Goodluck Jonathan, he said, “Nigerians know what to expect with Jonathan. They know to expect he is a president that doesn’t give a damn; they know he is a president whose commitment to a transformational agenda is simply lip deep. Jonathan as a president is in over his head and does not understand the principals of good governance.”

He then moved on to General Muhammadu Buhari, and quickly established himself as some sort of Pentecostal seers and vision-seer, and in the process insulted a man who has lived decently his whole life, and is pledging his service and calling on Nigerians like him for help.  

Apparently uninterested, Ndibe wrote off Buhari.  Among the things he said about the APC presidential candidate are the following:

 “If Buhari were to win…Nigerians “are going to realize very quickly that we were sold a dud.”  Dud?  He did not say how, or why.

“Buhari will bring with him a legacy of personal restraint, and an absence of interest in obscene material accumulation, but his self-restraint would not sanitize the behavior of the APC.” 

If Buhari wins there will be unsettlement of the Niger Delta, and if Jonathan wins there will be an intensification of violence in the north which may spread.” 

“I think we will waste another four years in which Nigerians are going to return to the same questions of disillusionment and disenchantment with the political process.” 

“What Nigeria needs is not a great man, or a man of great moral example, but fundamental restructuring” of its political, economic, and management systems.

The learned professor’s solution to the quandary: “The progressive elements [were] unable to coalesce around the idea of finding a viable third [party] alternative, and chose the least attractive parties in Nigeria” to lead Nigeria to El Dorado.

And so what to do now?  He urged Nigerians to “take a hard look” at candidates from parties other than the PDP and the APC.

No, he did not venture far enough to recommend any from those he had taken “a hard look” at.  Nor did he answer the obvious: candidates of other “other” parties, even if they were to lack the moral strength he had identified but would not support in Buhari, can restructure Nigeria but Buhari cannot?  

He did not answer the related two questions.  One: will Nigeria restructure itself?  Two: is it a weakling that can restructure or repair Nigeria, especially if he comes from one of those “other” parties.

Professor Ndibe is a coward.  And a hypocrite.  The best he could have done was to say, “No, Sowore, you are my friend and I do not want to come to your show because people will think I took advantage of our friendship to make an appearance.  And second, I do not want to embarrass myself on SaharaTV.”

He lacked the courage, and went on to sit with another friend of his, the amiable Rudolf Okonkwo, who did not ask him the hard questions, thereby permitting the embarrassing things that came out of the professor’s mouth.  

To begin with, no party other than the PDP or the APC is going to produce the next president if the election holds next week.  It is perhaps not the journey we might have wished, but it is the journey we have found ourselves in.  How does a hard look at the sun resolve this issue, and where was Ndibe when this advocacy might have made any kind of sense.  Which of those “other” parties is he endorsing for the quality of candidate they have?  

What makes Ndibe’s argument far more annoying is that he is not true to himself.  Progressive elements?  Who are they, and is he one of them?  If so, is he one because of the role he has played, or the role he wishes he had played?

I ask this question because in February 2013, Ndibe was one of several Nigerians who announced they were forming a new political movement they called “Kickout Siddon Look 2015” which they alleged would “mobilize Nigerians to address the country’s leadership deficit at the topmost level of decision making”.

Others who took the opportunity to advertise themselves include: Pius Adesanmi, Tunde Fagbenle, Tunji Ariyomo, Modupe Debbie Ariyo, OBE Soni Akoji, Ndubuisi Victor Ogwuda, Safiyah Musa, Kingsley Ewetuya, Anozie Ebirim and Yommi On.

They issued a pretentious press statement in which they lamented of Nigerians as follows: “With silent acquiescence, we have traded the jackboot of military despotism for the mal-governance of a faux democracy.  We have sat with folded arms and allowed a cabal of looters, united in chicanery, to divide us along ethnic and religious lines. While we kill each other over tribal and religious differences, those who induce division are laughing all the way to the bank.”

They said it was high time that Nigerians became drivers of their national progress and masters of their destiny. 

“It is time we stopped being spectators whilst hoping for pittances from the table of our politicians,” an ailment they diagnosed as “Spectocracy”.

“Therefore, we convened the “KickOut Siddon Look 2015” group as a political movement devoted to mobilizing grassroots support for a capable leader to emerge as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces in 2015. This will be a leader with the right level of Education, Experience, Exposure and Integrity, as well as a proven history of standing on the side of the people. The primary goal of repositioning the nation, by frontally addressing the core issue of leadership deficit at the topmost level of decision making in Nigeria, is the main driver for birthing this political movement.”

Beyond 2015, they promised that “KickOut Siddon Look” would continue as a mass-movement of action for the entrenchment of meritocracy in the society, and as a platform dedicated to educating, coordinating and galvanizing Nigerians towards civic actions targeted at strengthening democracy and institutionalizing a merit-based democratic process.

“The time for “siddon look” is over,” they appealed to Nigerians.  “Stand up for your love of country and let us work to make Nigeria great again.”

As I recall it, they were recruiting members online without delay.  “Fellow Nigerians, we seek compatriots who share these goals - who believe in the right of our people to take charge of their political destiny. We seek such men and women, young or old, educated or not educated…”

To be clear, I am non-APC but I am voting for Buhari.  Among other things, he fits the profile of the leader Ndibe’s group advertised just two years ago as “a capable leader…with the right level of Education, Experience, Exposure and Integrity, as well as a proven history of standing on the side of the people.”

No, he is not perfect, although I wouldn’t recognize what a perfect man looks like, or how such a man would manage to surround himself with perfect people, unless he manufactured them in his backyard.  But Buhari, I know, is saying exactly the same things “KickOut Siddon Look” was saying 25 months ago, in response to the same Nigeria “KickOut Siddon Look” was describing just 25 months ago.

Yes, Okey Ndibe is a coward and a hypocrite.  He is also an opportunist.  

Clearly, he and his group were too lazy and standoffish to put in the work required to make their group a patriotic political player, or even to think it through before they began to advertise it.  But rather than admit that failure, he makes a privileged appearance on TV to disrespect those who are actually and honestly in the trenches trying to see how to dig Nigeria out.  In the end, they did not kick at, let alone kick out anything.

In my view, Okey Ndibe owes Buhari—who has been endorsed by Wole Soyinka, a hero of his—an apology.  

Buhari does not need Ndibe’s endorsement, which he can feel free to give to Jonathan, but he can respect himself by simply getting out of the way.  

Justus Ighalo is a Nigerian Political Observer