By Christie Oby Ndukwe
Since the airwaves began to be bombarded with top politicians in Nigeria, making their intentions to run for the highest office, I have watched with keen interest and tried to study the various speeches which in some cases received accolades and in other times were ignored by most Nigerians. The latter group has cogent reasons to do so, considering how many times we have read long speeches in the end and dashed the hopes of expectant masses.
While not trying to diminish any of the Presidential aspirants, I have taken a deep look at the Declaration speeches which are somewhat of a Road map or Blueprint of the coming manifestos and I can only conclude that only a few made sense either through practical and experiential knowledge of the issues bedeviling our nation or through well-presented facts and in some cases, fiction.
This I have categorized into two groups as my topic this week suggests. I am going to x-ray the content of two major speeches from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and probably look at the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP next week.
I was particularly interested in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, considering his famed political dexterity and leadership sagacity, having jointly led the ouster of a ruling president and his party from power. Goodluck Jonathan is recorded in history as the only civilian president to have ruled for six years of a ‘single’ tenure and has been the only incumbent president to have lost a return bid for a second term. Under him, the destiny of his party, PDP, was aborted after sixteen years of reign in power by a newly formed APC.
Back to Tinubu, there was nothing much in his speech safe for his “lifelong ambition” to become president. Rightly or wrongly, he, like Martin Luther King Jr.., has “a dream,” but I don’t know if the convictions of the two leaders can be weighed on the same scale. Luther was passionate about the African-Americans who were at the time being subjected to racial discrimination by the white folks who didn’t consider the blacks as equals.
It was a dream he never lived to see the reality. Luther set the foundation for others, and in the words of Chibuike Amaechi, “a society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they know they’ll never sit,” quoting an ancient proverb.
I see Tinubu’s lifelong ambition as the only reason he wants to be president, considering that he has seen it all.
Let me leave Tinubu for a while and dwell on the substance of the topic of the day.
I had great expectations from the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, considering his intimidating curriculum vitae. He did not also disappoint in the delivery of his speech. We all know him as a man good with words. But again, what were the contents of his Declaration?
Osinbajo did not waste time showing his loyalty to President Buhari, with whom he enjoyed a joint ticket twice in 2015 and 2019. He tagged his ambition as a Continuity of what their government had achieved in seven years and hopefully, eight years.
The VP was smart enough to attach himself to the president, who lately has shown his capacity to decide on who gets what in the party. You may describe it as a subtle attempt to woo the president to his side. Make no mistake about it, the president has said he has his preferred choice as successor but wouldn’t mention the name until the right time.
Going further, Osinbajo reeled out the areas where the present government has fared well, which include securing the country, providing infrastructure, and growing the economy. He also reeled out his assignments as Vice President, which includes sensitive high-level international engagements, visiting almost all the 774 Local Government Areas, farms, markets, schools, agricultural, mining, and oil-producing communities.
The vice president didn’t forget visits to the gallant troops and the IDP camps to feel their experience, pains, and anguish. He also visited and spoke to Musicians, Nollywood, and small and large businesses, in a bid to find out their hopes and aspirations.
Furthermore, Osinbajo highlighted his God-given insights, experiences, and opportunities to put them to use for the country and its people.
Aside from these, his speech was laden with more promises as if he is a fresher in the race. There was no attempt to own up to the challenges currently facing the nation with respect to the promises their joint ticket made to Nigerians from 2015 to date. This, to me, is an attempt to share the achievements with Buhari while allowing only the President to bear the burden in areas where there are challenges. A sincere deputy will always accept blames where there are and stoutly stand for the truth.
I am concerned about the VP’s dreams, plans, and programs where he has promised “a radical transformation of our security and intelligence architecture.”
As Vice President, could not have brought these ideas to the table to help with the fight against terror rather than wait until he is elected before he could bring out his magic wand for security and the economy?
Should we rather believe that he was and is not given the opportunity to perform wonders just like the “star boy” he is called? While I am of the view that security issues are not usually discussed in the media, the reading public would have had hopes refreshed had the VP gone ahead to mention that he once fired a serving Director-General of the Department of Security Services, Lawal Daura. Or was his sack unconnected with security breaches and mere political grandstanding? This should have been one thing in his kitty on the issue of security and intelligence.
In other sectors, including the Judiciary, Infrastructure (Roads, Power, Railway, and ICT), and Agriculture, Osinbajo continued with the message of Continuity otherwise referred to as a Next Level.
No doubt, his eloquence captivated listeners and with one of the best Media Teams so far, the Vice President succeeded in diverting the attention of Nigerians from the substance and allowed them to wallow in the dark lines of a Promissory Note.
The next person I am going to look at in his speech is the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
It was a day set out for Thanksgiving. Amaechi, as he is widely known, may not have the eloquence of the vice president, but he sure spoke in the language of both the elites and the masses.
His decision to join the race was mainly born out of his experience in Twenty-Three years of active politics and Governance; his passion to lift the poor out of poverty through education and meaningful employment and the courage to unbundle himself through service delivery as evident in his Acts while in the Executive and Legislature.
Amaechi was once a speaker for eight years and Governor of Rivers State for eight years.
In his speech, Amaechi premised his desire to be president on two pillars experience and patriotic passion. No doubt, he was the speaker of the State House of Assembly during the difficult transition from the military to the civilian regime.
While he didn’t use the term “continuity”, the former Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organization, back-to-back, commended the efforts of President Buhari and admitted the areas of achievements while accepting that there were yet challenges. These “serious challenges,” which include insecurity, greater accountability in Governance, and the scourge of spiraling poverty, “are not peculiar to only Nigeria.
He revealed that the whole world is going through a period of common challenges, particularly with the issues of Climate Change affecting food production, population explosion which has put unusual pressure on resources and supply, Poverty, Covid pandemic which has affected the Budgets of nations, Trans-Border crisis, and insecurity occasioned by our geographical location in the Sahel region.
While admitting that these challenges are real, they are still surmountable.
According to him, there is no shortcut to the solutions since they are mostly long-term challenges.
Amaechi did not make promises that would excite Nigerians, but in his usual way of being a straight talker, he assured that the long-term challenges would definitely be dealt with.
The human side of this aspirant was revealed in his speech with evidence from his activities as a student. Amaechi showcased his tenacious spirit when he said that inadequacies do not limit him; rather, they are a springboard for him to “do” for the people. This, he said, dates back to his school days, when he strived and still strives to bring relief to those who suffer.
He touched the hearts of the masses who may not have known much of his background before his election as a lawmaker and then speaker. Coming from a humble family disposition, he alone had the privilege of having a university education, yet he went further to train his siblings up to the university level.
From his speech, it is obvious that the man whom we see as bold and strong also has a spirit of deep compassion for the poor. Amaechi believes that one of the tools of dealing with poverty is Education and that was why as Governor, one of his greatest investments was in the area of Education which the State won several Awards, National and International, and he hopes to replicate this feat if elected as President.
One major takeaway from his Declaration speech is the issue of tackling insecurity. He said, “As Governor, I fought mercantile militancy.” It was not a hidden problem when he took over the seat as governor.
The state was witnessing high-level militancy where people walked in the daytime with their hands lifted up, slept with their eyes open, and moved with a readiness to scamper to safety. The kind of insecurity is similar to the kind we are currently faced with.
A mini-Sambisa Forest was located in the creeks and forests of Okochiri in the Okrika Local Government. He laid the foundation for the peace currently being enjoyed by the people of the area and River’s people in general.
The C4i Security was and still remains the best approach to insecurity. He has walked through the fires and has experiential knowledge of how to tackle the surging insecurity in the nation. It is not mere rhetoric or mere visit to troops to “hear and feel their pains and experiences.”
Amaechi publicly acknowledged those who helped shape his political destiny. That is a sign of humility at such a time when many shy away from the truth, just to flaunt their political prowess, intelligence, and self-demagoguery.
Again, Amaechi recognized the need to listen and tolerate all shades of opinion. While revealing his plans for Nigerians in the area of Youth Employment and Empowerment, Safety for all, and Enforcement of Law and Order, the Minister of Transportation who has won the “Minister of the Decade Award” harped on why “The Voice of every Nigerian shall count” and respect for all.
While others may have spoken well, it is only Amaechi who admitted that he has the courage to lead Nigeria in spite of the myriad of challenges facing us as a people. Beyond mere words on how to make Nigerians live together in spite of our differences, Amaechi has lived and served sixteen out of his twenty-three years in politics in a state that is similar to a mini-Nigeria. It would seem his names and titles truly reflect his love for people of other tribes and tongues.
As Minister for Transportation, he has helped give this government a face. For this, he thanked President Buhari for the opportunity to help him leave a strong legacy in the Railway Revolution among others.
My submission of a careful study of the speeches is that while Osinbajo may be leading in political rhetoric, Amaechi sure lifts the trophy for a practical solution to our present realities.