By Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji
“Like the anthills of the Savanah, we stand to tell the green grasses of today about the brush fires of yesterday.” – Chinua Achebe
Chief Chekwas Okorie has conceded the 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria and congratulated the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this piece I offer my last statement as the Director General of Okorie’s COPCO.
I join Nigerians all over the world and our friends in the international community in congratulating the President-elect. The Igbo consider the number “4” to be sacred and it is noteworthy that in his fourth try at being elected the democratic president of Nigeria, success has come the way of President-elect Buhari who Rochas Okorocha has named Okechukwu.
The president-elect would probably argue that he was “successful” in past attempts too but that he was “robbed” in those instances. Nigerians have rewarded his persistence and perseverance.
I also congratulate Nigerians for the courage and commitment they showed in exercising one of the most important rights and responsibilities of their citizenship. Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and his team, also deserve our congratulations and gratitude.
In my message to our compatriots the night before the elections, I asked, on behalf of COPCO and the UPP, that folks should go out and vote their hopes, not their fears. Given the fact that General Buhari won in spite of an unprecedented avalanche of negative narratives against him, it appears Nigerians did, in fact, vote their hopes.
What are those hopes? The people hope that General Buhari will be a uniting historic figure as only the second Nigerian to become head of state twice (first as a Military officer, and now as a civilian). The people hope that the Nigerian economy will work for most of the people instead of some of the people. Nigerians hope that corruption will be relegated to a shameful, unacceptable conduct, instead of a celebrated state religion.
The people hope that never again will religion be used to divide them and to mask elite food fight. We hope that security and safety of life and property will return to our cities and villages. Nigerians hope that competence and merit will return as hallmarks of the public sector. Our people hope that hope itself returns as a legitimate and reasonable exercise in moments of despair.
During the course of the just concluded presidential campaign, I had the liberty to write several articles that were published in several media outlets in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. Three of those articles were “Let’s get beyond Buhari’s WAEC certificate,” “Call for Jega’s resignation Ill-advised,” and the one that got the most attention, “Buhari is no boogeyman,” which was published under several different headlines chosen by the editors and publishers who used the piece. None of those articles or statements would have been published if Chief Chekwas Okorie had not agreed with and approved my thoughts. Perhaps it will be helpful now to explain why those pieces were written.
First, the sentiments expressed in those articles were sincere and genuine, and were generally based on our experiences in the encounters we have had with General Buhari and Professor Attahiru Jega. Therefore, it was easy to express sentiments, even as opponents (in the case of Buhari) that were congruent with our personal convictions.
Second, we became concerned about the national danger in the vigorous opposition to and criticism of the two very prominent Northerners, coming from our part of the South. We felt that sentiments such as were expressed in my articles, coming from an operative of an independent Southern-based party, would help in establishing some needed homeostasis in the ongoing campaign, particularly in the interest of national unity. “Love and Unity,” after all, is the motto of the UPP.
Third, what we called our revolutionary agenda in COPCO, was much closer in ideology to the APC manifesto than to the PDP’s. It was therefore important to us that the progressive ideology in the country’s political space not be discredited and the progressive momentum not impeded.
Fourth, the fact was that if we did not believe that change was absolutely needed at the center, the UPP would not have fielded a candidate for president against the incumbent. While we campaigned to be that replacement for Jonathan and the PDP, we were not oblivious of the fact that the best chance of that change in 2015 was in the APC and that the man with the greatest opportunity was General Buhari. This was why Chief Chekwas Okorie rejected entreaties to step down or to join those parties that called for postponement of the elections and for Jega’s resignation.
The taste of the progressive pudding, however, is going to be in the implementation of a people-oriented set of programs and policies. President-elect Buhari now has a rare opportunity among the 170 million Nigerians to write his name, with a different narrative, in the hearts of his compatriots.
After perhaps the most contentious election in the country’s history, his first major gesture towards healing and towards a rapid response to the high hopes of our compatriots that are now invested in his historic mandate, should be a broad-based, unifying, unblemished and above all, competent government team. Let’s not sweat the small stuff! Let a new Earth rise in deed!
Finally, I am grateful to Chief Chekwas Okorie for the opportunity to participate in this national service at the prestigious level of the Director General of his presidential campaign organization. May his credible and principled type become abundant in the new Nigeria!
God bless Nigeria and Nigerians!
Dr. Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji is the Executive Director of the African Writers Endowment, Inc. and Publisher of the Sungai Books imprint. He served as the Director General of COPCO during the just concluded 2015 presidential campaign and election in Nigeria.
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