By Etim Etim
Happy New Year, Your Excellencies! Let me begin by acknowledging that your public statements and political activities in the last few months have enraptured national attention and kept us in suspense. The formation of the G5 Governors is one of the biggest political events of 2022. The fact that the five of you collectively govern no fewer than 35 million Nigerians and some 12 million registered voters makes you the single most powerful political bloc in this election season. When G5 speaks, the nation listens and the PDP shivers! Your leader, Governor Nyesom Wike, has been particularly inspiring and audacious. His achievements in Rivers State and personal charm have excited many and put off many others as well.
Among the agenda of the G5 Governors, the push to have the next president of Nigeria come from the southern part of the country, excites me. Our polity and democracy would be further strengthened if our union is more inclusive and embracing of the nation’s diversity. The Southern Governors Forum had met in Asaba in May last year and unanimously canvassed for the presidency to shift to the South after eight years of the Buhari administration. Your Excellencies, history will vindicate you for the principled position you have taken to insist on the presidency coming to the South. It would be a travesty of our multiplicity as a federation to have two presidents of Fulani origin back-to-back in a pluralistic country of over 250 ethnic nationalities.
As I write, the G5 Governors are meeting in London to take a final decision on which of the Presidential candidates they would endorse, and there are speculations that their choice would be announced early in the new year, presumably on Thursday, January 5. Of the four main candidates, two are Southerners, and that means the choice before the G5 is between Peter Obi and Bola Tinubu. I wish to respectfully call on the G5 governors to support Peter Obi for President. I have my reasons. Obi is the only one of the main contenders who has never been associated with any case of corruption and theft of public funds; and in a country where graft is a major problem, this is significant. As we all know, corruption erodes the trust we have in the public sector and drains away the resources that would have been used to build a better society and enhance the quality of living. Development economists have over the years established a nexus between corruption and underdevelopment, insecurity, poverty and unemployment. Peter Obi and his running mate, Senator Datti Yusuf Baba-Ahmed, stand out as the cleanest pair in this presidential race and they hold out trust, confidence and hope for millions of our people.
The health and physical stamina of the candidates is another important criterion that the G5 governors should pay a particular attention to in making their choice. In our recent history, we have seen cases of Nigerian Presidents whose performance in office has been hampered by ill health. President Yara’Adua died in office; and even before that, he was clearly not a healthy man. President Buhari battled ill health soon after he took office and was hospitalized for seven months only two years after he was sworn in. The costs of taking care of a sick president are enormous, both in direct expenses on the treasury and in the frauds, abuse of office and national paralysis that transpire in his absence. The polity goes into some kind of palsy when the president goes abroad on a medical trip, and speculations, intrigues and rumors that play out daily in the corridors of power suck the energy out of the administration. Obi and Baba-Ahmed are the youngest and the fittest pair in this race; they are educated and possess the energy level that is required to tackle our huge problems. In addition, the Obi candidacy has inspired and drawn a lot of youthful Nigerians into politics this season – over 40 million new voters, mostly those aged 30 and below, have registered to vote. For them, Obi offers an alternative to the old, corrupt, incompetent and decrepit order that has held the nation down for 60 years.
Your Excellencies, I am usually not persuaded by ethnic bias in most of our national issues, but I believe in the strong need to strengthen our bond of unity as a federation and respect our diversity as a complex and pluralistic country. But I don’t ever want competence to be compromised on the platter of inclusiveness. I am a proud Ibibio man, but I will never choose an incompetent Ibibio fellow over a more competent and capable compatriot from another ethnic group. In this race, I believe that Peter Obi is as competent and capable as the other contenders, if not better, and at the same time, his ethnicity makes a compelling case for his election. It is time to have a competent, capable and well-prepared President from the South East for all the right reasons. The fabric of our nationhood would be further strengthened.
In 1999, this nation bent over backwards and chose a President from the South West, just to assuage the anxiety, apprehensions and tensions of those days. It is now time to act to prove that no part of this country is less important than others. If I were not convinced that Obi was a knowledgeable and capable Igbo man, believe you me, I wouldn’t support him. If Obi had been as little as accused of corruption in the past; suspected of engaging in illegal bunkering or theft of our crude oil; or accused of dealing in narcotics or any illegal or immoral activities, I would never support him, and would never recommend him to the G5. He is one of the most decent politicians in this country, and one of the few former governors who have never been accused or convicted of any crime. Peter Obi is not a saint, and I am actually not looking for one. But compared to the others in the race, he looks like an angel. Even his opponents have not found anything to tar him with. I therefore appeal to the G5 Governors to endorse Peter Obi for President and together, we shall fight to restore the glory of our country.
Etim is a Journalist and Political Analyst, lives in Abuja