An Agenda for Party Candidates
Analyst ANAYO AGU proposes an agenda for Enugu Governorship candidates while we wait for them to unveil their manifestos
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), reputed for its internal cohesion, national outlook and ability to resolve internal differences appears at this auspicious time unwilling or unable to put behind itself the fallouts of its presidential primary held in May 2022. While this unnecessary war of attrition is raging, His Excellency Peter Obi is causing a big stir across Nigeria and everywhere else Nigerians reside around the world. He is doing so with gutsy and unusual boldness against all odds.
Obi’s team is masterfully leveraging the “ripple effect” principle of social mobilization. We had a glimpse of the ripple effect model during the “End SARS” protests championed by Nigerian youths. It turns out that before the “Obidient Movement” hit Enugu State, the chatter in the social media had clearly shown that a number of stakeholders across political parties had adopted an attitude of “Siddon Look.” According to such people, the political process, especially the recruitment of candidates for elections had become an expensive and very intriguing conspiracy of the elite. So they had just opted to siddon look.
Siddon look (which actually means, sit down and look) is a “pidgin English “catch phrase coined by Chief Bola Ige, Nigeria’s assassinated Federal Attorney General and Minster of Justice under President Olusegun Obasanjo, and one of Nigeria’s most daring, eloquent and resourceful politicians. When the 10th Military Head of State of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, announced his decision to midwife a transition to a constitutional democracy in 1997, Chief Bola Ige was among those who smelt a rat. Like a few of his discerning contemporaries, he queried the honesty of purpose of “the maximum ruler” who had cleverly positioned himself to be unanimously nominated as the sole presidential candidate of the five political parties he had secretly bankrolled. Chief Ige declined to join the frenzy calling the five parties “five fingers of a leprous hand.” As a result, he adopted an attitude he aptly described as “Siddon Look,” an enlightened indifference to the national malaise.
The beauty of democracy is the freedom and the liberties it guarantees the citizens, and the free space it provides political aspirants to contest ideas, debate principles and interrogate prevailing practices as they seek to convince party members as well as voters that their agendas are not only superior, but also in the best interest of the electorate. When this essential tenet is lost or surrendered for whatever reason, an irreversible damage is done to the spirit of democracy. According to Albert Einstein, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
PDP has had a rare privilege of governing Enugu State since 1999. While the scorecard is substantially commendable, the party needs to renew its mindset as well as install a new operating system to seize opportunities and meet challenges under the present dispensation. There’s also the necessity to urgently figure out how to make the most of the huge trade and investment potentials the state offers, and what strategy to use to tackle rising insecurity in rural communities and farms. Otherwise the party may face an uphill task retaining “continuity” as its campaign slogan, and leveraging the goodwill it has garnered from the electorate over the past 23+ years. At a time like this, according to Charles Darwin, “it is not the strongest of the species that survive, or the most intelligent, but the one more responsive to change.”
Perhaps, I should urge the party leadership even at the risk of being misunderstood to consider comparing notes with Lagos State, which has had a similar experience of continuity since the return of democracy in 1999. It is fortuitous that the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Barrister Peter Ndubuisi Mbah has had an enviable tenure and a rewarding experience investing and doing business in Lagos State. And his slogan, “Tomorrow is Here” suggests that he is ready for a “Moon Shot.” Benchmarking is a fast-track, learning process and a world-acclaimed tool of performance improvement. Benchmarking Lagos can bring new perspectives to the essence of continuity as a political philosophy. After all, success leaves clues even in political domains. That’s why great companies as well as advanced nations of the world, friends and foes, are always keeping tabs on one another.
According to Mother Teresa, “I cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create ripples.”Permit me, please, to stand on her wisdom to make the following suggestions:
- ECONOMIC FREEDOM: entrepreneurship and business thrives where there is economic freedom, and where public institutions are galvanized toward fueling creativity and empowering innovation. Enugu State is strategically located to serve as an economic hub for the South East as well as a transit for goods heading to and coming from Northern Nigeria. The beauty of it is that our commercial environment already has all the raw ingredients required to boost the private sector, significantly reduce poverty, create employment, and give internally generated revenue a quantum leap. To do that, however, the next government must prioritize the economy by reforming and investing heavily in the critical institutions that drive private sector growth and development. For instance, the state can follow the footsteps of Lagos State that has successfully transformed its Ministry of Commerce and Industry, created and equipped functional entrepreneurial/skills development centers across the state, and mastered and effectively leverages public-private partnership. In his 2021 budget, His Excellency Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuayi recognized and cited the imperative of building a model enterprise peculiar to each of the seventeen local government areas in Enugu State. In addition, the state should remodel and equip its agric extension facilities and repurpose some of its critical commercial interests.
- TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY: Enugu State is the birthplace of Nollywood and music icons such as Flavor and Phino. It is the converging point of Igbo politicians, the intelligentsia and the business moguls. This traditional role is taking a new dimension as insecurity heightens in Igbo land. To harness the opportunities offered by its geographic location, Enugu State Government needs to complete and commission abandoned tourism and hospitality infrastructures in the state. They include the legacy Hotel Presidential and the stalked Conference Center started by the administration of His Excellency Senator Chimaroke Nnamani more than 16 years ago. Those facilities and others like them are strategic state assets currently depreciating in value every passing day. Above all, Enugu State needs to be rebranded as a destination of choice for investment, tourism, entertainment, and conferences, rather than a docile, civil-service state.
- A GAME OF WIT, STRENGTH & RESOURCEFULLNESS: The sound bites we’re already getting from different stakeholder groups across Nigeria suggest that the 2023 campaign and elections will be a game of wit, strength, and resourcefulness with a candidate’s track record, attitude, and leadership skills serving as critical mobilization factors. The ability to hold opposing ideas, to thrive in an environment of shifting variables, and to navigate through the mucky swamps of our ethno-religious labyrinths will be strategic assets. In Enugu State, the stewardship of our common wealth will be a hot campaign theme. The question of a candidate’s conscientious commitment to the “triangular equilibrium,” to justice, equity and fairness in the management of our patrimony will be tested. The premise of the triangular equilibrium is the fact that a progressive state, like a productive system cannot be built by an obsessive focus on anyone of its parts. The key to sustainable development is the adoption of system’s mindset, and a holistic approach in policy design and project implementation.
In conclusion, I think that now that we have achieved a measure of peace in the state, it’s time to renew our minds, and to seek a new model of reality to instigate some breakthroughs in the economy by prioritizing certain industry sectors such as investment, agriculture, and tourism. Bearing this agenda in mind and recognizing the complexity of our political environment, let’s go for a governorship candidate who has a clear vision of the issues at stake and a definite plan of implementation. This is a season of shepherd-entrepreneurial leadership. Hope, good intentions and rhetoric are not a winning strategy to fight the existential war staring us in the face. We need an achiever whose faith in Enugu State is a rock.