It’s 2023, and singing Veno Marioghe’s ‘Nigeria go Survive’ hits differently when one recounts that this song was sung in the ’80s.

As much as one will agree about the challenges of that period, it will be honest to admit that the situation was not as nebulous as the present. It never struck us, until now, that what Nigeria and Nigerians need is a restoration of hope which is possible if we borrow a leaf from Kola Abiola, the flag-bearer of the Peoples Redemption Party, who advised that we “stop recycling failed politicians.”

Since the inception of democracy in 1999, the battle for the soul of Nigeria has been on the cards with various sections demanding a breakaway because, to them, the Nigerian project is not working. The arguments range from corruption, marginalisation to a lack of unity. If this is not a loss of hope, then we may continue to pretend till the failed politicians bring out the ‘beast’ in the average Nigerian. What many citizens have busied their minds with are the challenges, and convinced that there is no solution in sight, they opt to ‘check out’ of the country like ‘Andrew’ in Veno Marioghe’s song. You only need to visit the airport these days and you would be shocked by the massive movement of young Nigerians jetting out of the country (an alarming situation that has been dubbed ‘japa’).

As much as we believe in the wealth of our country, the vastness of its human resources, and the many untapped potentials in the system, we will continue to have many ‘Andrews’ who have lost hope and resigned to escaping this labyrinth of stagnation if we do not vote a leader that will restore hope in the nation and the people.

Laying it bare, the leadership of the country has always been the Achilles’ heels against her economic prosperity. A fact cited by many Nigerian political analysts and intellectuals but none hammered the truth deeper like Chinua Achebe who declared, “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership”. The lack of accountability and conscientious judgment that cut across the ethnic divide to entrench national interest is the bane of our retrogression among the comity of nations.

Achebe goes further to evaluate the traits that make good leaders, which are lacking in the persons who have occupied the driving seat of the nation. “The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which are the hallmarks of true leadership”.

No truer words when we look at the virtues and values that make up a society, that’s why in 2023 the focus should be on the quality of the person, not the popularity; the value to be brought, not a hail storm of unattainable promises; their genuineness to the Nigerian cause, not personal drive or ambition; a cool, calm and collected personality, not some loud-mouthed braggart who plays the politics of treachery and acts unstatesmanlike engaging in pettiness.

In 2023, we need someone whose demeanour imbues us to talk with pride, put the light in our lives, and enjoins us to believe that our country’s glorious past is on the path of restoration.

The twin challenges of insecurity and economic stagnation should be prioritized now and given urgent attention. It is mindboggling that the present government chose to play politics with both. The current president, a former military general, canvassed for votes on the basis that he will rid Nigeria of terrorism and insecurity. It is disheartening to say, it only got worse under him. Kidnapping has become the order of the day and its dragnet keeps getting wider. People now pay ransom like villagers fetch water from the stream. Insecurity has brought us so much embarrassment that the word ‘ransom’ has become a consistent feature in our news. The fear of kidnappers is even greater than the presence of our once-dreaded military force.

So many theories have been propagated to trace its origin and blame the persecutors with lies covering up the purported solutions. One’s home should be a fortress and if that is not happening, it can best be described as exile.

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Dwelling on the many cases of insecurity and payment of ransom will be tantamount to acting the drama of the absurd, because it continues to happen before our very eyes. It is depressing that as a nation, we have leaders who do not really know much about Nigeria. They are not ‘Nigerian’ enough about our problems, they are just themselves – their names, their families and friends, their ethnic leanings, and other selfish interests that strengthen their myopia.

During the Presidential Town Hall Meeting Series organised by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) in collaboration with Arise TV, Kola Abiola expressed his displeasure over the Nigerian security architecture, which according to him, has been grossly underutilised by successive governments. According to him, “The security architecture of Nigeria has never been utilised to date. Go back to the original security setup and make it work, don’t duplicate it. We have a national security council that hasn’t sat since 1999 and that body is made up of eight people who are supposed to govern dispassionately. We have a security adviser that is totally underutilised to date.”

Expounding on the security deficit and welfare of the country’s security forces, during an interview on Politics Today with Segun Okinbaloye of Channels TV, Kola Abiola, like a great thinker and administrator, proffered solutions, saying “…making sure that we harness all the security activities and forces we have, making sure that all the welfare of these people is met and aided with technology, we have an immediate response to the threat we have today. For security, pay their salaries and make sure it is paid on time. Our military is not meant to be civilian-facing but right now they are playing the role of the police. If you notice in the past, our military bases were strictly placed based on assumed international threats, but now we have 8 divisions in this country because they are now domestically placed to deal with terrorism, banditry, and so on and so forth. That is not the case, everything should still be led by the police”.

Abiola is also of the opinion that we should go back to National Security Council and let each security unit implement its role, and, more importantly, come together to function as a formidable security unit. Beyond the rhetoric is the clarity and confidence that speaks volumes; the affection, and commitment to better the lot of the people – the underlying theme of national pride which is the restoration of hope, faith, and unity of Nigerians.

Come 2023, the average Nigerian should be audacious to vote for their future and do it without sentiments but objectivity. There is every reason for us to vote for a brutally honest patriot who says things as they are. There is a need for a restoration of hope in Nigeria for Nigerians living here and those in the Diaspora.

To achieve this, we need a man who is not driven by ambition but by purpose. A man who understands how things work and have practiced it with results. A man who has been on the scene and has painstakingly been involved and kept an eye on events with the mindset of an insider and outsider. A man whose love for the country burns like live coals. And if there is any man, who fits this description, it is none other than Kola Abiola. His motivation to throw his hat in the ring for the presidency of the country was borne out of love and commitment which drove his choice of party.

In his words, “I want to be president because I believe it is time for a complete reset of Nigeria. And I did not make any mistakes by joining PRP. I did my homework thoroughly before joining the PRP. And I joined it because it is the only party that has no baggage, no problems or legacy issues. It is the only party that can convince the younger generation to get involved in the game, and not just to elect leaders.”

Describing his commitment to the cause, Abiola waxed poetic to the amazement of any good listener when Seun Okinbaloye asked if he equates himself to his late father, the great philanthropist, politician and statesman, MKO Abiola, regarded to have won the freest and fairest election in the history of our nation. The cool, calm and collected Kola Abiola said, “I cannot equate myself to MKO Abiola. I am his son, first and foremost. He is my mentor, like my mother brought us up to believe and understand he is our god on earth. I have been the closest person to him since I was born. We work and share a lot of things in common. That said, he is slightly a different person for sure. I hold the vision of Nigeria that he holds, one is being an equal opportunity employer, he gives everybody the opportunity to strive and do something in this country. I have demonstrated that over the years in addition to many things I have done in the past. I was lucky to have him and my mom as parents that allowed us to venture out early enough to build on that, and that’s why I am here today. I am so sure that I can serve Nigeria and make Nigeria a better place.”

For a man who has travelled the length and breadth of Nigeria by road since 1979, one who understands Nigeria as he declared, “I know Nigeria. I have worked with lots of very senior people and I have learnt from them over the years, and I honestly believe I have the intuition, the patience, the credibility, and that’s very key, credibility to serve Nigeria”, isn’t it time we look beyond empty promises of a better tomorrow, which have become the stock-in-trade of most Nigerian politicians and question the intentions, capabilities, personalities and characteristics of the persons vying for the leadership offices in our nation?

It can only begin when we stop recycling old politicians and look to the new ones who are genuine, practical and unbiased. A leadership that will restore hope through practical steps and impactful decision-making to fill the irritating gaps of irresponsible leadership that have plunged our country into the labyrinths of despair. A leadership that will change our song from Veno Marioghe’s ‘Nigeria go Survive” to Eric Donaldson’s ‘This is the land of my birth’.

This kind of song is in the corner of every Nigerian’s cheek waiting for the throat to pipe it. A leadership that exudes national pride is possible with the Peoples Redemption Party and the emergence of Kola Abiola and Haro Haruna Zego as the next president and vice-president of Nigeria respectively come 2023. A leadership that oozes freshness like the words of Kola Abiola: “I represent that new beginning. I represent the freshness and the unrecycled. Many of the politicians come from the proverbial poisoned tree and their fruits cannot be edible”.