When Dele Momodu announced his candidacy for the Presidency, I was one of the many who were taken quite aback. It was very hard for me to picture him as the President of Nigeria. That was because I saw him more as someone who belonged in celebrity circles, being the owner of OVATION magazine. Before that, I followed his articles in ThisDay on Saturday so I knew he had substance. Even then, I was very skeptical because he had never held any public office. In the months since, as presidential candidates began to come forward, I have had cause to re-evaluate my opinion of his campaign in light of what Nigeria needs now, and also in light of his antecedents.
To give us a better chance of achieving rapid economic growth, we the voters have to look outside the ruling party for our next president and also elect credible opposition candidates into as many positions as we can find them. Many of us actually know that the PDP are ruining us, but we don’t believe they can be defeated at the polls. It’s about time we realised that our votes give us ultimate power. Only by making better choices can we ensure better governance. If we continue to vote for candidates for sentimental reasons, things will keep going wrong. The following are the reasons why I think Dele Momodu deserves a fair hearing.
Ideology: Of all the candidates, he has the closest thing to an ideology. This goes back to his close association with MKO Abiola and the Hope ’93 campaign. Mr. Momodu leans to the left, to social welfare, just like the Social Democratic Party platform on which the late MKO ran. Many of the policies he proposes today are very similar to the ‘Farewell to Poverty’ manifesto. I think the presence of some kind of ideology is important, because in this country it’s all about grabbing for power without knowing what you’re going to do with it. The result is a nation that lurches from one policy to another, creating uncertainty in every sector. It is time we started to demand some evidence of an ideology from our candidates for political office.
Fresh Perspective: One of the biggest reasons to look beyond the PDP is that we would get a fresh pair of eyes to tackle our numerous problems. Einstein defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results’. After 12 years of one party, and 3 presidents, Nigeria is still where it is. What we have had is not progress, its mediocrity. Aside Nuhu Ribadu, Dele Momodu is the only other candidate that represents a shift from the status quo. It has been largely the same people leading us for years, with nothing to show for it. Shall we persist with this insanity?
Success in Private endeavour: The vast majority of those who seek elective office in Nigeria are professional politicians. They don’t know how to do anything else. Whatever businesses they have are sustained by government patronage, based on their constant politicking. Dele Momodu has managed to build a business, a brand, from scratch, from outside the corridors of power with a loan from his uncle. In today’s Nigeria, this is not common. Before starting the Ovation brand, he was one of the leading journalists in Nigeria as Editor of Classique aged just 30. In an era of ‘sudden wealth’, his is an outstanding example of success achieved the right way. His experience as a successful entrepreneur will be of huge benefit to this nation riddled with inefficiency at every level.
Principles: In the aftermath of June 12, Dele Momodu was a presenter on Radio Freedom (Radio Kudirat) in 1995, at the risk of his life. He was one of those imprisoned by IBB, and then he went into exile to start over. In my opinion, his role in those difficult times is not known by enough people. Many in the SDP eventually took jobs in Abacha’s government and became PDP stalwarts, but he didn’t. It would have been very easy for him to join the PDP, but he didn’t. Dele Momodu apparently understands that ultimately, evil association corrupts good manners. Even his exit from the Labour Party was based on principle, in the light of statements by the LP National Chairman that he ‘did not have the mandate to field a presidential candidate’. He has now pitched his tent with the National Conscience Party founded by the late great Gani Fawehinmi, whom he was very close to.
Resilience: When he first announced his candidacy, many people wrote him off but he has stuck to his task, trying to win voters over in spite of the odds. This is a lot more than can be said of a couple of other candidates who seemed promising but have dropped out of the race. This kind of resilience is necessary in trying to tackle this country’s numerous problems.
How can anyone clean up a system he is part of? If we agree that the PDP is the problem with Nigeria, having held power for so long and done so little with it, how does electing a PDP candidate get us out of this mess? Now is not the time for ethnic sentiments, religious sentiments, or any other kind. All it has gotten us so far is several hundred dead in Jos, kidnappings in the East, Boko Haram and bombings on Independence Day, Christmas Eve & New Year’s Eve. What other proof does the electorate need to look at alternative candidates?
The usual way of doing things have not worked for us. We still complain about the same things now that we complained about in 1999. Nothing has changed. If we go down the same path, do we really think that the outcome will be different? There is absolutely no reason not to consider Dele Momodu as a potential President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What the electorate should demand is three presidential debates where the aspirants will field the tough questions and show their grasp of the issues and the soundness of their solutions at the end of which the best man wins. It is very important to register to vote, but if we elect the wrong candidates because we don’t take the time to check what they stand for, it will be another long 4 years.