John Otu argues that the piece, ‘2023 Political Realities that Annoy and Heal’ is unfortunate

Reading Mr. Reno Omokri’s column on any good day is usually a rewarding exercise, given the in depth and unconventional insights one easily comes away with. He comes across as profound, courageous and brilliant. However, his article of Tuesday 3 May 2022 entitled, “2023 Political Realities that Annoy and Heal” fell far short of expectations. Not because he peremptorily told off the South-East or Southern Political elite. Not even because, by his inchoate political reading of the polity, he apparently gave the trophy for victory in the 2023 elections to the Northern part of the country. What rankles is the dishonesty that characterized the position and his specious argument, which he barely stitched together by pleading to practical plans and strategies to win elections. Worse is that he makes recourse to recent history of Nigerian elections riddled with subterfuges to clinch his argument, rather than cast his nets far back to some examples of wholesome electoral practices in the country.

      To the best of my knowledge, Omokri in most of his writings and interventions has always upheld the infusion of the tenets of equity, justice and fairness in Nigerian politics. He has always been on the side of the beleaguered people of Nigeria against any oppressive system. Not a few times has he lauded the enterprising spirit of the South- easterners, showing them up as the model for Nigeria’s political cum economic emancipation. Directly or otherwise, he has always supported the principle of zoning political offices, especially the presidency in Nigeria on a rotational basis between North and South. But on this occasion, his anthem is of a different, if weak, tone, and “No party zones from the position of weakness. You only zone from a position of strength. As an opposition party, the preoccupation of the Peoples Democratic Party should be how to win. When they win, they can then zone.” Here, Omokri fights shy to tell the main opposition party to zone the presidency to the North because it is what will help them defeat its opponent- the ruling party – in 2023. By his subjective calculation, Bola Tinubu will emerge the candidate of APC and so, PDP should balance forces by zoning in a different direction.

      This in realpolitik may make sense in a do or die political battle. But Omokri is shooting past the issue at stake in Nigeria at the present times- meting out justice to the South, especially South East. Ironically, this is a vision that has preoccupied him over the recent years. Why all those protests and agitations he organized against the present government, especially President Buhari in the UK, America, France, etc., if he would return to his vomit by promoting a skewed and unworkable system in Nigeria? Not on a few occasions has he lamented the stranglehold of the Northern oligarchy on Nigeria- a system that seems to favour mediocrity over excellence: prebendalism and politics of cronyism against structured governance. It is even worrisome that by his facile logic, he is prepared to compare the incomparable, yoke strange bedfellows together, as it were. Where’s the convincing clincher to his position to wit, the Northern APC is completely for Tinubu while only perhaps Gov El Rufai of Kaduna State is for the Vice president, Osinbajo? I dare say that Omokri in that piece squandered his talent talking hogwash.

       There is something odious about one not sticking to avowed principles. All the positive antecedents will likely come unstuck and in disarray. Just imagine! In that simple moment of illogic, Omokri tars the entire people of the South, especially the South East, haranguing them for always resorting to abuse and insults on others when they should be more strategic- a position that completely negates all he previously stood for. Thus, by this infamous stroke he has jettisoned his initial robust rebuttal to such irreverent attacks against his people in the past and has now donned the toga of “an accuser of brethren.” Having delivered this punch, what other weapon does he need to arm the ‘haters’ of the south to deny the South of their well-deserved tenancy at the presidency? And he has forgotten so soon that the Southerners, the South East in particular whom he disdains for not having the required statistics to win 2023 presidential election, were the same group of people who stoutly stood by his former principal, Goodluck Jonathan, and helped him in no small measure to win the 2011 elections and supported him all the way to 2015 elections, though he lost arguably at the polls. For a retrospective character, Omokri should have done some soul –searching: This Buhari that I eulogize today for having a mammoth following in the North any day, why could he not win three previous elections in which he participated as a candidate with that magical arsenal? The reason is simple: no zone, no section of this country can go it alone. We need others as much as we need our close kin. It was only in 2015, when a group of parties united and presented Buhari as a candidate that he won the election, i.e. not undermining the role Jonathan’s ‘premature’ surrender to Buhari played in the APC victory. Regardless of the obvious dialectics and horseplay that were at play in handing victory to Buhari in that election of 2015, Omokri builds an imaginary edifice about how the formidability of the Northern political elite will help them to win the 2023 elections. In paraphrase of William Shakespeare, [Scholarship} should be made of a sterner stuff.

        Thank goodness though, Nigeria is not bereft of the presence of men of sterling character, elder statesmen indeed such as Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Prof George Obiozor among others who have insisted and stood by their convictions that it is the turn of the South to produce the president of Nigeria in the 2023 general election. They have also sounded an ominous note that the country would implode if justice is denied the South next year. You don’t need to tell the deaf that trouble looms in the horizon.

*Dr Otu, a former Commissioner for Information in Ebonyi State, is a staff of Alex Ekwueme Federal University in Ebonyi State

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