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Now that the race has started -Dele Momodu

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Fellow Nigerians, let me say exciting times are here again. You may ask what is so exciting about this period with our myriad of problems? Please, allow me to put it this way. Politicians are like students while the voters are their teachers. Every now and then the chickens come home to roost and politicians are forced to test their popularity and performance. The examiners are the voters who have waited patiently for this time to come so that they can pass or fail their representatives as they deem fit. Sometimes the electorate get things right. Oftentimes they get it wrong, as we’ve seen on many occasions. What is important is that it is payback time, for good or for bad.
 
There is no time for any long preamble today. The nitty-gritty of this epistle is dictated by two major events that occurred almost simultaneously during the week, signalling the beginning of the 2019 Presidential race. First, was the open and frontal declaration of Ekiti State Governor, Dr Peter Ayodele Fayose, a man of immense courage. Second, was the release of the electoral timetable by the electoral umpire, INEC. Prior speculations about who’s running or not will soon be affirmed or refuted. The time has finally come for the masquerades to come out of the groves and dance in the marketplace.
 
Love him or hate him, Governor Fayose’s declaration is bound to kick-start the electoral jamboree and give impetus to others who have been rather squeamish or “squirmish” about throwing their hats into the ring. Also, I love the fact that the ruling government can no longer afford to be complacent. We now have an aspirant, who for whatever he is worth will definitely keep the APC on its toes. The controversy has already started because Fayose is the quintessential hype-man. If he does not court publicity, propaganda would always trail him. He is a master of the game who understands that a bully only respects a bully. The ruling government may pretend that he is no threat, but they understand the adage that “a leper may not be able to squeeze milk but he definitely knows how to spill it…” Let no one dismiss Fayose. Remember the way some of us swore Donald Trump will never defeat Hillary Clinton in many lifetimes to come.
 
It would be a big shame if APC fails to see the urgent need to reposition and repackage itself as quickly as possible. My ideas may seem a bit radical and far-fetched but they remain my kobo advise to President Buhari and his team. If I were President Buhari, I will start grooming a successor right now. By the time he finishes his first term in 2019, he would have attained the age of 76, or thereabout. By then, he should be thankful to God for preserving his life after a rigorous battle with some near-fatal ailments. At that age and stage, Nigeria deserves some fresh leader, in body, mind and soul. The world has moved beyond the type of leadership we are currently saddled with. Buhari was a choice for a special reason and purpose. He has served and fulfilled that righteousness. I believe, with all due respect, that he should set Nigeria on the path to higher glory by getting his succession plan right. Many of his predecessors were too pre-occupied with self-adulation that they forgot the future. By the time the future inevitably arrived, it was too late to turn the hands of the clock backwards.
 
President Buhari still has over one year to prepare for the epic journey ahead.. It is certain and obvious that he would be tempted like all mortals to cling to power, and as a matter of right anyway, but may God grant him the uncommon wisdom and that spirit of selflessness to be able to resist the allure of office and power. The APC has a lot to gain from his sacrifice and he would have placed himself on a higher pedestal in global reckoning. He has many able disciples who can carry his legacy to a much higher level. The world would remember him as a leader who came at a time of serious crisis and averted the cataclysmic collapse of Nigeria, laid a solid foundation and handed over to competent builders and performers.
 
In other to avoid an acrimonious transition, the President should invite some interested and influential members of his party and allow its politburo to vote or decide amongst themselves the shape of the new government they wish to form. Their decision is more likely to be binding on the party in general. President Buhari owes it to Nigeria to kill the ethnic and religious tension in our country. He’s always been viewed as a religious bigot and ethnic jingoist but he can redeem himself gracefully by championing new causes, breaking down walls of superstition as well as exterminating those primordial sentiments that have bedevilled our country and sent us several centuries backward. Buhari should help in combing every part of Nigeria and beyond for the best brains and talents that God has kindly endeared and endowed us with. He should realise that nothing could be as fortunate as being handed a second chance on a platter of gold as has happened to him. He has nothing more to gain but plenty to lose.
 
I would not be shocked or surprised if those currently enjoying the spoils of power dismiss my appeal to our dear beloved President as arrant nonsense. However, the truth is that Nigeria is in crisis and critical mode, deserving the most accomplished surgeons the country has, to excise the cancers and tumours ravaging her. We can no longer continue to wobble and fumble at the present snail speed. Time does not wait for anyone. And it will certainly not wait for Nigeria. APC parades many fantastic leaders but they are not able to blossom and glow in full bloom because of the overpowering aura of President Buhari. That power can be put to better use by helping APC to remain intact without experiencing the type of implosion that sentenced PDP to its shallow grave.
 
I will like to see APC retain the support and loyalty of Atiku Abubakar (who I believe should act like a true father of the party rather than desperately trying to return to power 12 years after he retired as Vice President) and Bola Ahmed Tinubu (who should continue in his now acclaimed role of kingmaker). These two titans of the party should support President Buhari in harnessing the talents and strengths of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Bukola Saraki, Dogara Yakubu, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Nasir El Rufai, Aminu Tambuwal, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rochas Okorocha, Rotimi Amaechi, Olorunnimbe Mamora, and several others who may be hovering in the wings with the hopes of becoming President or Vice President in the not too distant future. If these great assets are not well-managed and encouraged to sacrifice their personal ambitions and interests for the sake of Nigeria, history might just repeat itself because a house divided against itself will not stand.
 
Such a similar situation was mismanaged by former President Goodluck Jonathan who inadvertently lost the election the day he allowed some key members of PDP, to saunter away to join a new coalition called APC. With the benefit of hindsight, I am sure Jonathan would have eaten humble pie and stopped those aggrieved party members, by fire by force. Unfortunately, he was goaded and egged on by sycophants who probably boasted that Atiku, Saraki, Amaechi, and company were easily dispensable. They were dead wrong. Their exit led to the tsunami that swept away the Jonathan government.
 
My prediction is that if Buhari decides to stubbornly pursue his own personal ambition and agenda by not making the necessary sacrifice at this crucial moment, he may be swamped and consumed by the lava of the volcanic eruption that would definitely hit his party in a most devastating manner. Truth be told, Buhari would not have even picked the ticket of APC in the last primary election but for the herculean task and audacious effort of Tinubu, Amaechi, Saraki and others who performed the miracle of turning water into wine.
 
Believe me, nobody wins election in Nigeria based on sainthood or clean records. Elections require the ability to raise cash, tonnes and tonnes of it. In case he is oblivious to what transpired in the last election, the President should ask his campaign team what it cost to oil that blistering operation that catapulted the “invincible” Jonathan out of power. Who donated what and how were APC agents funded nationwide? It is not going to be that simple this time around. Most of those who fell for the change mantra have since changed from billionaires and millionaires to paupers. Many supported Buhari hoping they would not be hounded but permitted to henceforth do business the proper way. They were unprepared for the fury unleashed against them which has ensured they’ve not been able to do business, clean or dirty. They are just licking their wounds with equanimity and hoping that this nightmare shall soon pass away. Undoubtedly the Nigerian economy has suffered as a result.  The main beneficiaries have been shady multinationals who continue to steal us blind whilst claiming to support a failing corruption crusade.
 
Therefore, APC has to urgently re-strategize by picking one of its trusted and tested younger personages, hoping that he may reignite the much-needed passion in Nigerian youths, the business community and all those who feel short-changed and brutalised by the Buhari government. If APC lacks the courage to rejig its modus operandi, it may be forced to swallow its own phlegm sooner than later…
 
I will soon offer an analysis on what PDP needs to do to bounce back and beat the APC. My advice to all those who think PDP is dead and buried is that they should perish the thought because Lazarus may still rise. As a matter of fact, PDP is not dead. It is merely a sleeping and snoring giant. We may yet be in for a rude awakening on all counts!
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