Nigeria’s 2011 general elections promise to be interesting. The tacticians at the ruling party, the PDP, had successfully directed all attention to its intra-party politics. By successfully putting the party song, that of zoning, on every lip, we all seem to be interested in who gets the nod. The machinery for this one-party show is further lubricated by the pusillanimous opposition that is only vibrant at the electoral tribunals. Hence if the current tempo in the political arena is sustained, the much anticipated primaries of the PDP could as well be considered as the actual presidential elections. There is however one man that might turn the table around―only if he knows how to play his cards well. His name is Dele Momodu.
From what I have heard about his campaign, he is coming out as an independent candidate (thanks to the new electoral reform). Unlike his contemporary colleagues, he seems to be the most popular of the lot owing to the fact that he hangs out with the Save Nigeria Group (whose house is currently in disarray) and has spoken at several rallies, campaigns and social crusades. He has even made cameo appearances in several music videos. Apart from his celebrity candidate status, he has also in the past had it rough in the disciplined hands of past military rulers; or so he said.
According to some of his publications, articles, and Facebook status updates, he was jailed by people who saw him as a lousy journalist that put his nose into the wrong places. He boasts about having established an international brand (Ovation) from nothing, employing hundreds of Nigerians, and positively impacting hundreds of thousands of youths per hour. He also claims that he is the only candidate that is putting the youths as his major one-point ‘agenda’. This is quite impressive. However, his strong points are also his weak points, and if he fails to convincingly address them, I advise him not to bother to purchase any form from Oga Jega.
In the first instance, using incarceration to boost one’s manifesto is not a politically smart move. Permit me to digress a little.
Thanks to the late General Sanni Abacha, IBB and other dictators, Nigeria is blessed with hundreds (maybe thousands) of political prisoners. The list includes the likes of the late Gani Fawehinmi (SAM, SAN), Femi Falana, and MKO Abiola. Furthermore,our nation’s bad reputation at record keeping has made it impossible for us to have a comprehensive list of those who went to jail because of their roles in the quest for a better Nigeria. No wonder an aspiring councilor in my ward is going about parading himself as a victim of military incarceration.
Despite the long list, there are several respected elite members of the society who didn’t go to jail but are still accorded due respect. It is therefore politically incorrect, and a sign of sheer naivete for any candidate to campaign based on his (or her) jail sentence. Moreover, convicts are not allowed to contest. Hence as far as this criterion is concerned, Dele Momodu should give us another track to listen to.
His inexperience in politics, community leadership, governance, and administration creates another hurdle for the celebrity candidate. He has vast experience in the flamboyant lifestyles of the celebrities and he has made fortunes by interacting with the nouveau riche. Does this make him the right candidate? I don’t think so.
Dele Momodu is befuddled with glamour, paparazzi and flashing lights that he might not be able to relate with the darkness that has covered most parts of the nation. The glitz of showbiz could also make it impossible for him to conjure up ways of tackling the the common man’s numerous problems. And when you juxtapose these with Aso Spell―a spell that is so strong that it made a certain former prisoner to forget every lesson he learned in jail―we tend to reconsider supporting someone who is already eating the crumbs from high tables.
In terms of experience in governance, Oga Momodu is also lagging behind given the fact that he has no previously held elected public position. Though some of his supporters might mention Obama as a presidential candidate with no presidential antecedence, this is an incorrect analogy considering the fact he (Obama) used to be an elected senator of the United States of America. And in the US, the Senate is filled with intellectual minds Nigeria’s National Theater of Comedy which famously couldn’t decipher what the constitution says about a ‘missing’ president.
Nigeria needs someone who is not disconnected from the plights of the ordinary citizens. We need someone who knows what the challenges are, and is armed with ready solutions. We are also in dire need of a president who can unite the nation, and who is reliable, trustworthy, and very different from the current crop of corruption-loving leaders. This is another setback for the Dele Momodu Campaign Organization.
It’s an open secret that Dele Momodu is blessed with numerous friends in high places. Times without number, he has asserted that he is a familiar face in the household of several Nigerian leaders. To make it more interesting, he regularly prides himself as the only candidate who has publicly denounced the ruling class in recent times.
Why didn’t he write such articles, or challenge PDP stalwarts, while taking pictures of their children’s glamorous weddings? Why did he separate democratic cause from his professional course? And is his presidential ambition just another course in the advancement of his profession? Maybe he’s just trying to write a trilogy—a Cinderella story of a celebrity, social crusader and Mr. President.
His targeted demography―the youths―look smart in all ramifications. On paper, youths are larger in number and are increasingly becoming more influential than our elders. On the bright side, they can promote good leadership, and chart the new course for a better Nigeria. But on the other hand, youths are also vulnerable to being used by politicians to snatch ballot boxes and inflict harm on the opposition. It’s therefore a great idea for any candidate to target this central demography that personifies the failures of past leadership, and presents hope for the future. But what has Dele Momodu done to warrant their support?
I can remember my days at Loyola College Ibadan. During lecture-free periods, we indulged ourselves in several activities including glancing through pages of magazines. Ovation was one of them. We were often amazed at the flamboyant yet stupendous lifestyles that were captured with camera, and printed on high quality glossy papers. We vehemently complained about the lavish attitudes of the leaders whose images were published in Ovation. and at the same time, several colleagues reiterated their resolution to have their wedding published in Ovation, no matter what it takes. While some became more hardworking and enterprising, others turned to faster means of making money and several years later, we experienced a boom in the Yahoo industry. Hence Ovation is not entirely exonerated from the raging high incidence of internet scams. It’s therefore an interesting dimension to see the man who published the controversial publication on billboards campaigning for the nation’s highest position.
In all regards, Dele Momodu’s job of publicizing wealth is best known to him, and maybe his editorial crew. It however becomes a matter of national interest when he is seeking a vital, central, and sensitive post like the presidency. An ill-advised, inadequately premeditated and ego-seeking Dele Momodu Presidency could cause more trouble for the delicate demography who forever remain the leaders of tomorrow.
Dele Momodu has every right to exercise his constitutional right of voting and being voted for. I’m also entitled to such. But the line becomes blurry when the media is being used as an avenue to propagate the good gospel according to Dele Momodu, and to shield Nigerians away from the other side of the coin, and potential aftermaths if he’s successful.
For Uncle Dele to become a strong presidential contender, and an advocate for the youths, there are crucial explanations he needs to make. He has to make himself accountable for his past unavailability when he was badly needed, accept responsibility for not informing his “friends” of their wrong actions, and promise―maybe swear―not to commit such acts in the future. Till then, his campaign will only be swinging like a pendulum from newspapers from rallies to internet pages.