I'M in London at the moment; and London is awash with chatty, feisty Nigerian guys who drive cabs (taxis) and don't hesitate to share their opinions with passengers who turn out to be compatriots.
Their favourite type of passenger is one who spends a lot of time in the mother country and is well-informed about recent developments.
And even when I say nothing to identify myself as a journalist, they always cleverly sense that I am in a position to chat knowledgeably about social, political and economic happenings back home. And twice this week, I have been the captive audience of British-Naija cabbies who are absolutely furious about the fact that the incumbent, Buhari, and his strongest challenger, Atiku, are the only presidential candidates who seem to stand a chance of winning.
One of my disgruntled drivers was a youngish man from Delta State - let's call him John - who told me he was 36 and complained bitterly about the fact that Atiku/Buhari are in their 70s and "too old". The second disgruntled driver - let's call him Tunde - was a mature fiftysomething Yoruba gent who wasn't bothered about the age factor but felt that Buhari and Atiku have "tarnished" reputations.
Meanwhile, Tunde and John both firmly believe that the candidates of minority parties - Donald Duke, Kingsley Moghalu, Oby Ezekwesili, Omoyele Sowore, etc - are all more principled, more accomplished, more dynamic and better for Nigeria's international image. In other words, John and Tunde are both, for different as well as the same reasons, completely underwhelmed by Buhari and Atiku.
They passionately condemned Buhari and Atiku's weaknesses and mistakes (some real, some imagined, some unproven!). They yearn for "fresh blood" and assured me that almost every fellow Nigerian they know in the UK is sick and tired of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressives Congress, APC... and totally uninterested in the flagbearers of these dominant parties.
Long story short: John, Tunde and their Nigerian friends, relatives, workmates and acquaintances in the UK can't understand why non-mainstream candidates aren't being taken more seriously.
John accused me and most of my media colleagues of being unduly wedded to the idea that only Buhari or Atiku can win the election. Tunde pointed out that Trump and Macron won in America and France, despite widespread scepticism about their chances as "outsiders" and (in Trump's case) almost no support from journalists.
My lively conversations with Tunde and John have given me a lot of food for thought; and I've concluded that at least some of these "outsiders" are very well-qualified to run Nigeria; but I also suspect that they have not adequately planned their presidential bids. Take Donald Duke, for example: As a former Governor (of Cross River State), he has high-level governance experience. He's also very likeable, charismatic, intelligent and good at generating great ideas.
Take Oby Ezekwesili, for example: As a former Minister (of Education and Solid Minerals), former Due Process guru and ongoing good governance activist, Oby is certainly leadership material.
As for Kingsley Moghalu, an ex-CBN executive, whenever I read his comments in newspapers or bump into him and listen to him outline his agenda, I am deeply impressed by his smartness and passion. But reaching the lofty heights of the presidency is not just about possessing an admirable character or professional track record. It's also about meticulously planning big daring moves in advance and about having or acquiring the ability to persuade movers and shakers - and ANYONE who is potentially useful - to fund you and follow you.
I've known two of the non-mainstream candidates for a couple of decades and regard them as pals; but they've never bothered to call me to tell me about their presidential ambitions or agendas. I hear about their campaigns via newsflashes like everyone else.I'm not saying that I am important or that keeping me informed will make a difference to the electoral fortunes of any candidate. Or that I will support every candidate who seeks my support.
But journalists can sometimes be immensely useful to candidates; and candidates who have their heads fully screwed on should at least try to gain the support of the journalists they know. Journalists are not the issue per se. They are only one of the MANY groups that candidates need to lobby. But I put it to you that if candidates can't even be bothered to engage in the most basic of political communication chores - as in calling every single journalist in their address books - is it not very possible that these same candidates have also neglected other potentially useful individuals?
At any rate, I would love to hear from Vanguard readers who prefer non-mainstream candidates and why. I'd also like to know whether Vanguard readers feel that non-mainstream candidates have made enough effort to attract support.
BY THE WAY
It has just struck me that I've NEVER encountered a Northern Nigerian cab driver in the UK! I just called Tunde and John and they told me that they don't know any Northern cab driver.
Why?! Has anyone noticed the physical similarity between Diezani Allison-Madueke and Diane Rwigara, the recently freed Rwandan activist who was jailed by Rwandan President Kagame? Has anyone noticed the physical similarity between President Kagame and President Buhari, who would love to jail Diezani?
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