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The Forgotten, Lonely Change-Agents ~ By Reuben Abati

Somehow, Nigerians seem to have forgotten some of the valiant men and women who sought to take over the governance of Nigeria at the highest level and who campaigned vigorously for change and progress.

The author, Reuben Abati

The 2019 general election is probably the most intense in Nigerian history, with the largest number of voters – 84 million registered voters we are told, the largest number of political parties – 91, and the largest number of Presidential candidates – 71.

It was a general election that broke the statistics on all scores including the number of recorded killings, number of persons injured, the number of inconclusive elections, vote buying, militarization, inconsistency, manipulations and violations.

The change agents expressed their intention to help save Nigeria but they were denied and ignored because they didn’t have the instruments of state and the forces of coercion under their control,

I am worried that many of these gladiators, those change agents who thought they could get involved in the game – that is what it is, to be honest- and make a difference have all been forgotten and abandoned.

To tell the truth, they have all been consigned to a lonely place in the corridors of power and history.

The Presidential race was reduced to a two-man, two-party race. A 76 –year old Muhammadu Buhari vs. a 72-year old Atiku Abubakar, PDP vs, APC, in a country that is predominantly dominated by youths, with as many as 91 registered political parties.

Nigeria’s 2019 Presidential election was a battle of the septuagenarians. And you still wonder where were the youths? They were busy collecting N10, 000 per vote, brandishing machetes, killing people in Rivers, Plateau, Bauchi and Kano.

They supported the old men. They sold their souls for cash. Some of them got killed. Many of them have survived and they hope to be compensated for their criminality.

Nigeria must spare a thought for those now forgotten and lonely young men and women who lost out because they did not have the instruments of state under their control. They failed because they could not match the masters of impunity money for money.

These change agents, many of them went round Nigeria, but they had no money to give the electorate on election day. Only people who have access to good money and licensed bullion vans win elections jn Nigeria.

Now we know that. Many of them were articulate and charismatic. But nobody wins a Presidential election in Nigeria by being articulate. They had big ideas about the future of Nigeria. Nigeria 2019 was not about ideas. It was about brawn, cash and impunity.

As we take stock of the tragedy and the disappointment that has befallen us, it is important that the triumphant crowd, staging hollow victory parties, remembers the true change agents who tried but failed.

It is important we pay tribute to those gladiators whose messages of hope and redemption remain nevertheless all-time relevant.

Please step forward Emmanuel Etim (38) of the Change Nigeria Party (CNP), Omoyele Sowore (47) of the African Action Alliance (AAC), Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim (49) of the People’s Trust (PT), Kingsley Moghalu (55) of the Young Progressives Party (YPP, Ali Soyode (55) of the Yes Electorates Solidarity (YES), Olufunmilayo Adesanya-Davies (56) of the Mass Joint Action Alliance (MAJA), Adeshina Fagbenro-Byron (59) of the KOWA Party,  Obadiah Mailafia (61) of the African Democratic Congress (ADC),  Fela Durotoye (47) of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Tope Fasua (47) of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Eunice Atuejide (40) of the National Interest Party (NIP)…

Obiageli Ezekwesili (55) of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN),  former World Bank staff and former Minister of the Federal Republic was also part of that crowd until she saw the handwriting on the wall, and announced her withdrawal from the race but of course, she was nicely remained by INEC that expression of interest in Nigerian politics is at some point, a trap from which no one can escape.

But all of these key Presidential aspirants/candidates and similar persons at the state and local levels, like Banky W in Lagos, didn’t get any chance to make the significant impact they wanted to make.

They were shut out by moneybags, Godfathers, thugs, the threat of violence, and the triumph of impunity. Many of their parties may soon be de-registered in accordance with the law.

These were men and women who probably suspected that they would not win because of the transactional and pre-bendal nature of Nigerian politics, still they went to the field and spoke their mind.

Their message, collectively is clear: they want a different Nigeria, a new Nigeria, a better Nigeria, a Nigeria that serves the interest of the people, not the interest of a cabal.

I salute their courage. The future of Nigeria belongs to those persons who take the risk to challenge the status quo. This is our only source of future strength.

As we can see –  too many activists and radicals in civil society have voted for sheer pragmatism and hope has become the most expensive item in Nigeria today.

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