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2023: Much Ado About Manifesto By Kassim Afegbua

Atiku’s Azonto Dance In Jonathan's Parlour By Kassim Afegbua

This is the season of manifesto, expectedly so, as the 2023 elections draw nearer. I have read a couple of manifestos of the front line candidates promising what they will do and how they intend to do them to advance the cause of Nigeria’s over 200m people. Morning, afternoon and evening, it is all talk about manifesto. But I do not bother about manifesto. The manifesto that I cherish so much is the manifesto of honesty, transparency and accountability. The manifesto that speaks to honesty of purpose and experience. The manifesto that speaks to previous experience and fulfilled promises. We have Atiku, Obi and Tinubu as the serious contenders. The three of them have come out with their manifesto and have dissected them to the smallest whole number for Nigerians to understand. Tinubu’s approach has been most strategic. He met with the government people at the unveiling, highlighted the meat of his manifesto and synthesised it for the ordinary folks to understand. He also went a step further to meet with the Organised Private Sector to present the manifesto, took questions from the audience and allowed a robust exchange and interaction at the event. Atiku Abubakar presented his own too and also launched a book to kick-start his own agenda. Peter Obi has reportedly presented one, which he reportedly denied, but which has found its way to the manifesto market for purchase.

From experience, the 2023 elections would not be won by the beauty of manifesto. The Majority of the real voting public do not have time to read bulky manifesto except those snippets of information that are handed to them by spokesmen of the various political parties. Again, manifestos are not cast in iron and steel, they are at best statement of intentions on how to confront existential challenges in Nigeria. In serious clime, manifesto makes meaning. In Nigeria, they appear like a piece of document that hardly appears as a convenant or mandate with the people. In Nigeria, there have been many failed promises. There have been heightened hope and mouth watering expectations captured in their manifestos, but hardly ever get implemented when the opportunity presents itself. In 1999, the PDP had a manifesto to address a couple of post-military era Nigeria. Having won election, former President Obasanjo discarded the document and opted for his own brand of manifesto. At times, his dreams at night became his thought-process and during the day, he translated to reality. Obasanjo exhibited so much energy but was derailed midstream by his deliberate effort to checkmate the vaulting ambition of his Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who wanted to pull the rug off his feet. It was the reason why Obasanjo asked for an extension of time in the name of third term.

He suddenly discovered that time was up having spent so much ample time to put Atiku Abubakar where he rightly belongs. President Obasanjo was the type of energy the country needed at that period to checkmate the military and relaunch the country on the superhighway of democracy and good governance. The Yar’adua administration came up with five point agenda, Chief of which was rule of law. Before his death, he left a mark with his knack for due process and rule of law. All the previous court verdicts that were held down by nebulous stay of execution, were demobilised. Court verdicts were being implemented without encumbrances. President Jonathan came up with his own manifesto which was an extension of his party’s manifesto. His government was characterised by loose control that made governance a free fall. There was hunger in the midst of plenty. There were too many powerful women in the life of that administration which made control difficult. Rather than manage the country, President Jonathan was busy managing these powerful women; Allison Dieziani, Stella Oduah, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mama Patience. There was struggle for control, each one showing muscle on specific governance issue. In the process, too much profligacy and reckless allocation of resources to private pockets. Added to this were the insults that President Jonathan’s Spokesman, Reuben Abati was hurling at the critics of his boss. Rather than build friends, he was busy making enemies for his boss. The result became manifest in 2015 when they were shown the exit door from the Aso Villa.

When President Buhari came, the expectations were fever pitch. The APC manifesto was a document of so many laudable items chief of which Restructuring of the country as its number one item. Those who had championed the idea of Restructuring saw the promise by APC as the surest way to Restructuring the country and devolve power to the components for effective administration. By the time it became obvious that the promised Restructuring was not forthcoming, the party set up a committee headed by the Kaduna state Governor, Mallam Nasir El’rufai. The committee produced a document that signposted the shape the Restructuring will take. When it was submitted to the president for consideration, I learnt he frowned at it because he had a different understanding of the whole concept. From the grapevine, I was told he had asked Mallam Rufai rhetorically; ” you are the one to dismember the country under my tenure abi? That report is gathering dust on the shelves inside Aso Villa. The promised Restructuring was deadlocked. No movement, no action. The other promises of president Buhari namely; to fight corruption, insecurity, and rule of law have been poorly executed, reason why there’s been so much flak against the APC across the country.

So, when Asiwaju Tinubu came up with his Renewed Hope manifesto, it received some bashing from the opposition. Unlike in the past, Tinubu has subjected his ActionPlan to serious interrogation by his public presentations. He has thrown the challenge to the public to ask the relevant questions while waiting to provide further elucidation on the items captured in the document. He has also given a roadmap on how to contend with the implementation  of the promises. More importantly for me is the readiness of Asiwaju Tinubu to take certain risks in trying to get a foothold. A double-digit GDP growth rate is ambitious but very achievable, he contended. What makes the difference in any governmental policy is the political will of the individual leader to take some hard, difficult decisions that would lead to a desired destination and not shying away from responsibility in the name of political convenience. Like what he did in Lagos by charting a developmental plan that has has endured succeeding administration, Tinubu’s ActionPlan might just be the ultimate elixir to get the country out of the woods. What is most compelling in it is his determination to take hard-core decisions. That, to me, is the real manifesto, the real action plan. A leader must be convinced by the choices he makes to drive through the process. What I am seeing in the process is not Tinubu’s ActionPlan, but the capacity of the man himself.

That capacity will be reflected by the quality of his team and cabinet, the utility nature of his team, and the drive they bring to the job in hitting the ground running if the opportunity comes. While Peter Obi has not been able to synthesise his manifesto for all to see, Tinubu has gone to town to promote townhall discourse to further break down the document for all to absorb. It is not just about Tinubu’s ActionPlan, it is more about his resilience, perseverance and activism in achieving set goals and objectives, using uncommon strategy and articulation to sail through. Manifestos by their very nature are not cast in iron and stones, they are flexible documents that form the basis of campaigns, but the realities of the office, when the individual gets into office, at times, contradicts the specifics. The challenge in Nigeria presently is centred on insecurity, gloomy economy, and anti-corruption. On these broad subject matters, every individual must have an idea of what to do in trying to contend with them. There are no determinate road-map to deal with economic crises. Ask 10 economists to proffer solutions to any economic crisis, you will get 10 clear headed positions with divergent views and footnotes. What an ActionPlan should do in a given economic situation is to try to endure the process with strong political will and determination. Tinubu has already promised to turn the situation around to forestall further deepening of our negative indices. With a quality, vibrant and result-driven team set up to manage the different aspects of governance, Tinubu will be good to sail through our present murky waters. As it is often said, only good leaders know where they want to take their people, not where their people want to take the leader.

Gatekeepers News is not liable for opinions expressed in this article, they’re strictly the writer’s

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