By Ayodeji Ajayi
As I was gradually settling down in my closet to finally put this piece together, the difficult question that continuously kept agitating my mind as the crucial and decisive Saturday, February 16, 2019 presidential election in Nigeria is fast approaching was: Is Obiageli Ezekwesili set to make history? It is no longer secret that the indomitable, bold, dynamic, brilliant and assertive co-founder of Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili had since formally thrown her political hat into the ring to contest the forthcoming presidential election.
From all indications, she is fully determined with unwavering commitment and unswerving dedication to finally break the age-long jinx that has been militating against actualisation of Nigerian women’s dreams for one of them to become president of the most populous country in black Africa. All things being equal, if the presidential election is free, fair and credible, especially if votes of the electorate are allowed to count, the former Minister of Solid Minerals, Minister of Education, as well as Vice-President of World Bank, may emerge winner to become Nigeria’s first-ever female president. Many still remember with profound pride her impressive achievements as minister when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was president. She was a force to reckon with as usual through her outstanding performance at the reputable world-class financial institution – World Bank.
Recently in Lagos, Ezekwesili – an accomplished technocrat – unveiled her policy and programme for Nigeria as she prepares to slug it out with other presidential candidates in an election that promises to be the most energy-sapping, the most expensive, the most intriguing, the most decisive, the most controversial and the most competitive in the history of presidential elections in Nigeria since 1999. At the press conference, the presidential candidate of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), in her policy speech titled, “From Poverty Central To Prosperity: How the ‘Oby’ Ezekwesili Presidency Will Lift 80+ Million Nigerians Out Of Poverty”, promised if elected, her administration would be different positively, from those of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) since 1999. She assured Nigerians that under her leadership, government would bring more than 80 million of the pauperized out of abject impoverishment and provide sustainable opportunities for millions of Nigerians, irrespective of political, religious, ethnic or occupational affiliations, to be prosperous, happy and gainfully employed in order to reduce, drastically, the current rising levels of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, inequality, distrust and criminality across the country.
This aspect is very important, especially at this moment in the history of Nigeria when citizens are deeply divided along ethnic, religious or political lines, while the country has not only assumed the unenviable and ridiculous position as poverty capital of the world, but many citizens are increasingly hopeless, hungry and angry. Also, suicide rate is rising due to avoidable problems caused largely by poor leadership and bad governance at various levels across the country. Ezekwesili’s thought-provoking seven-point roadmap, compared with those of her competitors, is unique, impressive and not deceitful.
However, will the warped monetised political and electoral processes, culture of do-or-die politics, as well as largely unenlightened and illiterate electorate allow her win the election in order to finally bring an entirely new lease of life, as well as refreshing mutually beneficial air into the wheels of governance in Nigeria? Unlike others, including those representing the two major parties, she has unambiguously and explicitly explained how she intends to tackle Extreme poverty and inequality; Insecurity and conflicts; Nigeria’s low real Gross Domestic Product of $375.77 billion; Too much illiteracy since 13.5 million children are out of school; Health and well-being challenges; infrastructural deficit, as well as structural defaults. Judging by her rich job experience, intimidating educational qualifications and global career exposure at the World Bank, amongst others, her description of Nigeria’s “low real GDP of $375.77 billion after 58 years of independence compared with its size and potentials as underwhelming”, cannot be faulted.
This was why she said Nigeria urgently requires a bold economic vision to define a pathway of double digit inclusive economic vision to growth over the next 10 years. This specialised area is her familiar turf and it is strongly believed she will bring her invaluable experience to bear on purposeful handling of the tottering economy if elected president. Since 1999, none of the past presidents had knowledge of the economy. Not even President Muhammadu Buhari, under whose administration, the economy, due to poor handling by seemingly confused and overwhelmed economic management team, is virtually comatose.
If the economy remains in this catastrophic shape, living standards of millions of Nigerians will continue to deteriorate while there would be increase in crime rate and level of unemployment. Ezekwesili is in vantage position to provide the much-desired leadership and motivate others to go in the right direction of finding sustainable solution to age-long challenges troubling Nigeria’s economy. If holistic measures accorded the economy are extended to other critical areas such as education, power, health, solid minerals, agriculture, tourism, industrialisation and rural development, millions of poverty-stricken Nigerians will heave a sigh of relief.
Nigeria is presently at the crossroads. Since 1999, everything seems to have fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold. This is because every four years, since the past 19 years, have virtually been wasted by members of the corruption-ridden political class due to unfulfilled promises, poor leadership and insensitivity to plight of the pauperised citizenry by those in authority. These symptoms are indications of wasted Nigerian generation.
This deplorable situation should not be allowed to persist so that ordinary citizens can enjoy dividends of democracy. It is time Nigerians stop dying in silence, docility, ignorance, gullibility and stupidity. Nigeria, in spite of its vast God-given resources, has become a laughing stock before the global community. This, unfortunately, is because those that have rigged themselves into elective offices hope of getting positively different results yet never bothered to stop doing things the same way. It is now time to say bye to cluelessness, colourlessness and incompetence in governance. If 2019-2023 is ever to be beneficial to the poor and downtrodden in Nigeria, Ezekwesili 2019 should not be misconstrued as gender-based because the candidate is a woman.
It is a Nigerian project piloted with intense tenacity by a passionate and strong-willed personality that is determined to succeed where men have failed to take Nigeria to its rightful place among the comity of advanced nations. If elected, Ezekwesili’s administration, according to her, would cater for all Nigerians.
For meaningful change or departure from the ugly past and to create an upset in 2019, incorruptible votes of Nigerian men; youths; as well as women who alone account for over 50 million of the population of 196 million could bring unforeseen developments and lead to the emergence of Ezekwesili as Nigeria’s first female president. If it could happen in Liberia, Britain, Germany, Brazil, Georgia and Pakistan, amongst others, Nigeria cannot be an exception.