Before You Run (1)

Dear Aspirant,

My people say when you see someone running, it is either something is pursuing him or she is pursuing something. The younger generation have now upgraded that proverb to include another possibility: the person may also be exercising. ‎Whatever the case, a sane person must have a purpose for running.

We all know the election season in here again in Nigeria. And as usual, many like you have put in their hats to the race. It’s not too late for you, the runners, and us the voters to ask these pertinent questions: Why are you running? What are you running from or towards? Who are you running for? What do you have to deliver? Where do you want to take us to, or where are you running to? How do you hope to get us there? ‎And how prepared are you to get us there?

The current ruling party, for example, promised change; and our dear President announced that he is for everybody and for nobody. Beautiful hopeful words they were. The jury is still out on how much change and sense of collective belonging we now have after four years. That assessment is not the focus of this article. Rather, it is to warn you, the aspirant, and we the voters, about things to consider as you run and we vote.

As you may have observed, almost all our elections have been crisis-or near crisis seasons. ‎Many times we have voted ‘against’ and not ‘for’. Majority of the winners at all electoral levels have been accidental leaders not having prepared for the position. Most had little or no plans before they got there. And few can be said to have run for the public good rather than for personal ambition, power and allure of the positions, and other sectarian interests.

It is common to blame the past administration for the present ills and express surprise at the level of ‘rot’ they have left behind. Our politicians willfully forget that they fought tooth and nail to inherit that ‘rot’.‎ Please be on notice that the present administration at all levels should be the last to come in and give us such bladerdash about the previous administration. What did they suppose they were coming in to govern? A paradise? Is that not what they campaigned to come and clean? If Nigeria or that state or and local government was being run well, why do they think their predecessors and their respective parties were wished away?

Please sir and ma, we need to do things better. That may sound like a naive plea in the political jungle we have turned our country into. Yet it is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools (Eccl 7:5). That is the essence of this article and of others forthcoming in this series. Whatever political level you have laced up to run for: presidential, governorship, senatorial, house, local government, or ward, before you run, hear now what you are coming in to run or govern.

The entity you are vigorously contesting to run is currently a mess‎; a ‘shithole’, as one person graciously calls it. You would agree with me that whoever is coming to manage a shithole should not come in and start complaining about the smell of the mess. Please, if you still decide to run, begin to assemble your personal protective equipment and other tools that will help you survive and to clean up the mess. Let it be very clear to you now that we would not tolerate complaints and murmuring about how tough the job is, nor aspersions towards the past administrations.

You are contesting to come and clear the mess. But if you are running to come and make it messier, or to become part of the mess: or to do nothing about it while you go about your personal and parochial interests, having no workable ideas on how to clear the mess, there is still time for you to reconsider. This is the time to drop out of the race, however strange that sounds. It will soon not be business as usual.

Nigeria is getting hotter and it’s issues more complex. The room for lacklustre leadership is getting smaller fast. There are external and internal forces beyond our easy control, which you may be blind to, working hard to ensure the space for incompetence, cluelessness and abuse of political position narrows down. And like my people say, it is the thief that daylight meets at work that is really the thief. ‎I say again, it will not be business as usual in Nigeria anymore, not even in the political landscape. So if you are running as usual, for personal or parochial interests, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise 2019 and beyond. The discerning will know that power is surreptitiously changing hands. Others will ignore that at their own peril.

When I was in university over two decades ago. We had bright young military officers that were part of our program. Some had aspirations of becoming military administrators and even the head of state. It was in the days of military rule, and there was no end in sight to the reign of the brass hats. People joined the forces in hope of rising to political leadership. But then, unexpectedly in 1998/99, the day dawned; and their aspirations suddenly perished. A new class of political elite emerged, and in more dimensions than one, the rape of the harlot has continued. Another day is about to dawn that will make governance in Nigeria a burden and a trap for the political rapist.

Public service is and should be a sacrifice. The requirement to bring about true change requires nothing less than courage and sacrifice, especially in Nigeria. You are running to govern a people who have lost trust in government. You are aspiring to come and correct decades of injustice that have metatsticized into terror and exploded into anarchy. You are coming to lead a populace many of whom would rather have you distribute the ‎sovereign wealth than build enduring social and physical infrastructure because they have long lost trust in the system. You are coming to lead a nation that has corruption living as tenant or landlord with majority of the citizens.

If you really want to be the president or an elected official for personal or parochial reasons, you need to balance such interests with the risk of going down in history as a failure. In the worst case, the many bombshells on which many believe this country is sitting on may erupt ‎while you are busy minding your parochial interests, or in the best case you are ineffective and get booted out in ignominy after your term. Before you run, count the cost.

You will meet empty coffers or worse still, mountains of debt higher than kilimanjaro. You will be welcomed by a hungry, Ill equipped, Ill paid, owed and inefficient public service steeped in survival corruption. So please don’t plan to come in and cry about these. You and we already know now that this is the situation. And don’t plan to say you knew it was bad but not that bad. Know now that what you’ll meet is worse than you can imagine. Therefore don’t plan to waste more time and resources setting up probes and inquiries just to witchhunt predecessors. And if you are the incumbent seeking reelection, your dirges about the past administration should cease with this term.

Change your singers and songwriters if you must, but perish any plans to ressurect the ghost of the past administration in order to hang it if the economy experiences yet another recession. ‎Ethnic and sectoral agitation and clashes will continue, so don’t wish them away. You must come to 2019 armed with solutions, if you still decide to run. Dropping out of the race or resigning to allow others who think they have better ideas, or are more competent and better prepared to sacrifice, may be a more honorable path than unforgivable failure even in a country where honour is fast becoming a strange word.

So, as the campaigns gain steam and the umpire says “Ready, Set, Run”, here again are the questions you must prepare to readily answer:

  • Why am I running?
  • Do I have what it takes to run successfully and finish my course with joy?
  • What am I running for?
  • How will I get there?
  • Where am I running to, where am I taking this nation; what is my vision?

These are the basic questions ‎we the voters should demand answers to before we hand over the management of our society.

Sir/ma, may the good Lord guide you as you prepare your answers to these basic questions. ‎You have just three months at most, and your time starts now. Good luck.

Before You Run (1)
By S. M. Babalola


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Before you Run (1)

“Whatever political level you have laced up to run for: presidential, governorship, senatorial, house, local government, or ward, before you run, hear now what you are coming in to run or govern.”