It’s that time again Nigeria… Political season is in full bloom and we’re off to the races. Aspirants are declaring intent and allegiance, promising, and stomping for the right to ‘represent ‘we the people. So far there’s nothing new about this season’s aspirants as we have incumbents seeking re-election, old faces seeking new portfolios and hangers on stepping up for a piece of the pie. And let’s not forget about the entitled, those that believe with every fiber of their being they deserve power (and the people’s money). At first glance there’s nothing to indicate that things are going to be any different in 2023. Which must be alarming, should be cause for concern to all of us since there are no new themes, just the same problems with no immediate solutions. In our governance ecosystem politicians enter the race, campaign, play the game and remain politicians when elected. Forgetting to become the champions and servant leaders of the people with both the mandate and responsibility to serve the people, the constituents that voted for them. If politics and governing in Nigeria were a television show, then we’ve had almost 62 years/seasons of the same starring cast, same writers, same storylines, with no new story arcs. I mean the road that I travel to my hometown of Arochukwu in Abia state is worse off today than it was in 1983. That has to say something when NEPA is the most vulgar four-letter word in our lives. Our latest catastrophe is the year to date, 2022, with fuel prices heading sky high beyond the reach of the everyday man, opportunities shrinking by the minute, while people are starving and hope increasingly becomes another empty word…don’t we deserve something different? A different way to work through things beyond survival. Being that survival is that double edged sword that keeps us going day to day, but never truly solves our problems.
So, Nigeria I ask you what will it take to get us to better? Let’s start at the top with leadership since every ship requires a captain. We need, not want, a selfless soul, embedded with the people; taking the time to listen, to learn the needs of the people, understanding at this point is overrated, which means we must get people willing to delve deep into the heart of said needs and feel the pain from decades of negligence. We need servant leaders with the requisite amount of ego (very little) to fight for us while always remaining selfless, with passion and a drive to give everything to their people. I look at Governor Soludo with some degree of hope, miss Governor’s Obi & Fashola to name a few, while praying for the new school of leaders we deserve.
This is not to say that there are no candidates in the race that have every intention of steering the ship in the right direction, they may be far and few, but they do exist. One example being Ibe Okwara Osonwa, currently seeking the to represent Abia North’s Arochukwu/Ohafia in the Federal House of Representatives. I’ve took time to question and challenge why this father of three, economist and husband of year with an extremely good life in North London would leave the comfort and safety of what he has built for himself to jump into the fray, at the risk to his own life. Last election season he was sabotaged, confronted at gun point, a victim of fraud and far from home. Why? I asked him and he told me. He talked about people not being able to get easy access to healthcare, people not being able to consistently trade because the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist. Acknowledged there are plenty of billionaires that have sacrificed business opportunities in favor elected office. But nothings really changed. Which is why I make the case for the new school, using Ibe Okwara as the prototype.
Before even deciding he had to run for office, he invested his money in healthcare. Not just spending money on medication, resources, and equipment, but spending money to divide Abia North into catchment areas and to capture key medical needs and building those needs into his strategic map to provide sustainable healthcare. In addition to his personal investment, he fostered long term partnerships with NGOs to provide much needed resources to his initiative. I happened to be part of this program, witnessing first-hand the suffering citizens of an oil rich country must endure. We both wept as we dealt with people in dire straits, that are no longer with us today, due to terminal conditions left untreated. Do you know how many children in rural areas are inflicted with conditions that are treatable, but terminal due to lack of care? Victims of a failed system. I witnessed passion with no ego, drive as he leveraged connections old and new from across the globe to build partnerships to bring in sustainable energy, clean water projects and opportunity driven development programs for Abia state. Projects ready to begin execution, should he get elected. Projects that can be executed even if he isn’t elected, that is if the elected officials are willing to partner. He checks the right number of boxes required at a time like this. He brings in new ideas, new ways to work and the strategic partners with deep pockets and no strings attached, since our government is apparently broke.
On October 18th, 2020, during the end SARS protests at the Lekki toll gate while Millennials and Gen Z’s spoke up loud enough for the world to pay attention, just when I thought Generation X was again going to sit by the sidelines, Ibe Okwara Osonwa took the stage. He spoke truth to power, with no fear of man or consequences. He spoke with fire and with passion putting the need to end the ridiculous violence. How many candidates or elected officials spoke up?
I make the case for fearless, non-conformist (to our status quo), selfless leaders. I make the case for the new school, the new class that will continuously execute, serving the needs of the people, leaving politics when the season is over at the end of the elections. I’m making the case for Ibe Okwara Osonwa because looking in through my expat eyes I see what I truly believe Nigeria needs to move forward. I’m also making the case for other candidates like Ibe, less politics, and more servant leaders ready to put the people first, above self.
Nigeria is owed another chapter and it needs to come now with the choices we make this political season. We don’t have enough resilience or good will left to prevent us from free falling past the point of no return. We have the power to turn the tide so let’s choose wisely this time. Sacrifice the tried and failed for something new.