By ‘Kunle Adebajo My edge of the social media was abuzz…
By Sodiq Omolaoye
I would like to start this piece with a brief analogy, and I would use the case of the sparrow bird to connect the dots. Also called old world sparrow, they belong to the family Passeridae. In Yoruba land, a parable about the sparrow bird is usually employed to advice or pray for someone who they think is responsible for his or her own predicament(s) – like someone who by himself destroys what he had suffered for years to build. The elders would say “A sparrow would build its house with its mouth and also destroy it with its mouth”.
I pray Omoyele Sowore’s case doesn’t turn out like the old world sparrow because his campaign rhetorics are crawling toward that of his predecessors who promised heaven, but when voted into power, gave us hell, became monsters and dream killers. He has built an empire through the use words; I hope he would not destroy it with words.
So far, Sowore has been talking like the normal Nigerian politicians who make bogus, phony, misleading and fictitious promises during political campaigns but are quick to be ineffective to turn idea concrete once they climb the seat of power.
One could liken Nigerian politicians to a man who is aware that he is feeble and impotent but brags to his lady about his potency and sexual prowess in the bedroom. When asked to come and walk the talk and he realizes that he still lacks the ability to perform, he would look dejected, dispirited and calm like someone filled with regret.
A typical Nigerian politician, however, would not regret his inability to deliver on his campaign promises; he would instead find a cunning way out. Or like the trend, he would blame the opposition party, some invincible cabal or third forces.
An X-ray into Sowore’s campaign tactics since he came back home to vie for the highest office of the land reveals that Nigerians should also be worried and at the same time, disturbed. During his visit to Oyo at a town hall meeting which held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Sowore said “I just told you that workers will be paid N100,000 as minimum wage. And I also want to add that those of you who are youth corp members will be paid N50, 000 and we should be heading very quickly to N100, 000 because youth corps members should be able to earn minimum wage as well.”
This, among other scandalous, flagrant and exaggerated campaign speech made by this presidential hopeful made me come to the conclusion that Sowore is just like the normal Nigerian politicians who during campaigns live in imaginative realm, and only come back to reality when they win elections. While some campaign promises are realistic and with a strong political will -could be easily fulfilled -some are just insane, senseless and more appropriately, pointless.
If Sowore is not just been unnecessary mischievous and dubious, then his campaign tactics and antics fit into the Green Lantern theory of the Presidency. According to the theory, coined by Brendan Nyhan, a Dartmouth Political scientist, it is “the belief that the president can achieve any political or policy objective if only he tries hard enough or uses the right tactics”.
This theory gives absolute power to the seat of the presidency in a democratic setting. It also means the president would not achieve only what he doesn’t want to achieve. Perhaps, Sowore aligns with Brendan Nyhan view of the presidency under a presidential system.
However, Sowore seems to be oblivious to the fact that the presidency doesn’t work in isolation. There are institutions that serve as checks to the executive power and in a democracy, these institutions are not docile. He may have the right tactics, the truth, however, is somethings are easier said than done.
I believe Nigerians are not suffering from collective amnesia and can separate facts from fiction. Increasing minimum wage to N100, 000 is more than a 450 percent increase. Apart from the fact that Sowore’s economic projection is unrealistic, it is not sustainable in the face of the uncertainty in the global oil price.
What of the economic implication(s)? How does he want to control inflation that may arise from such? Nigeria is currently using a larger portion of its budget for recurrent expenditure. If we are to go by Sowore’s economic decision, then a giant chunk of our budget would still go for payment of salaries and just a little left for capital expenditure.
We already know that a country that uses an enormous portion of her budget to pay salaries is already rejecting the idea of core development which is human development. Sowore really needs to be specific in his plan on how he wants to do his.
Or maybe because I am too critical, I noticed that Sowore does not attend to the security problems that have thrown the country into an unprecedented chaos for many years. Today, you cannot become the president of Nigeria without having a solid security plan. In an interview with journalists, Sowore mentioned that he developed an acronym to solve Nigeria problem out of the priorities of Nigerians which he called ‘SPICER’ – Security, Power, Infrastructure, Economy and Restructuring. Cool to know that the Sahara reporters owner identifies that security of lives and priorities is the major priority of my fellow countrymen.
But he also needs to tell Nigerians what he will do differently that will help Nigeria surmount her enormous security challenges. I think Nigerians are wiser now and the time when politicians would just make some general statements and call it a manifesto has passed. We need our politicians to tell us more about ‘how’ than ‘what’. Doing this, one could still be realistic.
We need more of a realist than an idealist to run the affairs of the nation. While being the president-elect, Buhari once told Nigerians that subsidy does not exist and it only exists in the figment of some people’s imagination who are hell-bent to use our collective patrimony for personal interests. Today, the Buhari administration is paying the same subsidy he claimed does not exist. Talk about irony.
Sowore needs lots of experts (more importantly, security and economic experts) in his team who should advise him on what to say and not say. The Green Lantern theory of the presidency is not totally applicable here in Nigeria. You may have the political will to carry out a project, implement a policy or plan, but maybe constricted by another reality on ground.
Yes, Sowore may not come from the older generations that have kept Nigerians in perpetual slavery for many years, but he has been part of the system. He may keep telling us known fact that our present crop of leaders are corrupt, clueless and have no idea of what good governance is- that is true after all. But, he must also come out with his hands clean and tell us exactly (clearly and succinctly) what he will do differently if he becomes the number one citizen and stop playing it the Nigerian way.
I am not in doubt about Sowore’s qualifications and experience to lead a diverse country such as Nigeria, in fact, I envy him. Nevertheless, what I am concerned about his the realness and of course, truthfulness in his speech. I am just tired of empty, unrealistic and fake promises.