By Ismail Idris
There may be a large army of aspirants angling for the presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), but that hardly makes the task of choosing the man or woman best-suited for the ticket any more onerous for any party that is driven by a time-honoured principle of going for someone of impeccable character. Nigerian voters have become much more politically educated, placing high premium on reputation, competence and mental application of anyone that seeks to lead the country. It would be fatal to the presidential race of the APC and indeed any other political party to think that Nigerians of the Internet age are still gullible.
One can say at no risk of grandstanding that the APC, given the last two electoral circles have evolved industry and reputation as cardinal factors in choosing who leads it into the presidential race. Those principles resonated well with the voters in 2015 and 2019, and gave the party victory as the lot fell on President Muhammadu Buhari.
As an organisation in the business of winning elections for control of political power, the party must not compromise those factors being the silver bullets in its armoury.
In matters of reputation, impeccability of character, and saleable personality portrait, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) is a collector’s item, coming only next to President Buhari in the party and next to no one in the party’s present array of 25 presidential aspirants.
Who’s that aspirant in the APC today, with public service background that would not be an easy target of the impending missiles of the PDP and the general public in matters of corruption, besides Dr. Onu?
Onu’s performances in the past seven years preceded his talks. He walked his talk and by every instrument of measurement, his STI Ministry trumped its peers in leadership outcomes.
For a sampler, Nigeria’s global competitiveness ranking in science and tech improved from 124 position out of 140 countries in 2015 to 115 in 2018.
His National Science, Technology and Innovation Roadmap, 2017-2030; his National Strategy for Competitiveness in Raw material and Product Development, the Presidential Executive Order he worked out; his Methanol Fuel Policy and Leather Products Policy saw to the improved ranking by the World Economic Forum, (WEF).
Onu’s efforts to move the country from a commodity based economy to a science knowledge based one resulted in astronomical increase in inventions with the number of patents rights moving from a dismal 16 in 2015 to 60 in 2019 in the country.
The ministry under his watch promoted commercialisation of research in the country to make science-based endeavours, profitable.
His brain child, the Executive Order No 5 was designed to transform the country into a science and technology based one.
The ministry under his watch developed of a natural medicine for testing for breast cancer in women, while his
ministry’s agency created a world record by developing a cure for epilepsy with the drug undergoing global body certification. The outcomes under Onu is a litany that requires a good devotion of time and space to capture.
Onu is not our every day politician who panders to political correctness. He calls a spade by its name, propelled by what is right and for the common good. He’s a practising scientist, cerebral and knowledgeable in all global issues, confronting humanity. Firm without being unyielding.
Who is in doubt that a man with no shade of tribalism or ethnic nationalism traceable to him either in words or action since 1990 he joined politics from the university classroom would not instil in Nigerians, a sense of belonging, enhance patriotism and unity of purpose in the Nigerian project?
Who doubts that a man of modest acquisitive stimuli, from his days as the first governor of the larger Abia State that comprised part of the present Ebonyi and Imo states through his years of chairmanship of the defunct ANPP to seven years on the saddle as minister would be after primodial personal enrichment and that of cronies? Who would rather not prefer a man with no moral baggage to his rivals who are weighed down by excesses?
Does Onu need to personally labour or hire image makers to convince voters that he’s not a thief?
Where are his contract scams that the press, netizens in social media and Nigerians in general would most certainly deploy as weapons to shutdown and humble his rivals for the party ticket if any of them emerged?
The answers to these posers should be as much important to the APC as to President Buhari. Reason: if the party and the president do not get their choice right; if they’re blackmailed to accept a golden foil for real gold, the regret would not just be quick in coming, it will endure for long, especially for President Buhari who with the four aces in his hands right now would have to watch in distraught, how he allowed whom he ought not; how he failed to be firm and show leadership in the critical moments it mattered.
There will be no such nightmare because wisdom will prevail in both the party and the President.
Granted that President Buhari knows all the aspirants up close and personal by reason of being party members and working together but how many of them besides Onu can he write a 19 years working and political history of relationship with? None!
Everyone including President Buhari rewards loyalty. Onu’s trust and confidence in the capability of President Buhari to lead this country reaches way back to 2003 when none of the remaining 24 APC presidential aspirants of today gave no hang about the president.
It is not for nothing that the President is regaled as a “Man of Truth,” “Mai Gaskiya” in Hausa tongue. Any APC delegate or party members who desires to know the unimpeachable truth about whose idea it was or who was the mastermind of the merger of AC, CPC and ANPP that crystallized in APC in 2014 should go and enquire from the President. Buhari would live up to his billing as “Man of Truth” and tell such a person that it was Dr Ogbonnaya Onu.
Those who listened to Onu address the Lagos Assembly on Governor Tinubu’s invitation in 2006 or have the text of his speech at that occasion would not forget in a hurry his clarion call for the merger of opposition parties if they were to reasonably confront the PDP behemoth.
Onu never relented either on the scene or behind in the direction for a merger until the goods were delivered in 2014. He may not have supplied the financial muscle but those who were at the table learned that indeed ideas rule the world.
Onu’s candidacy would come with much more positive multiplier effects. It would be bold statement from the President against “cash and carry” politicians and politicking. It will reinforce the fact that a good name is better than silver and gold. It will a shot at our country’s redemption from ravenous wolves.
It will assuage the high-pressure anger in Igbos, a major ethnic stock in the Nigerian union who now reasonably believe that there is a conspiracy to diminish or consign them to the fringes of nothingness in the country’s power equation and dynamics. No one is in doubt today that this feeling among the Igbos has birthed an ill wind that is blowing no one and the country, no good. It can all be halted by a single wise decision by the ruling party.
While it must be acknowledged that there are indigenous people of Igbo root and ethnicity outside the core five states of the South-east, zoning as every adult clearly understands it in our polity is done to regions and not to ethnicities or people. It is therefore a no brainer that the South-east can only see justice served when an Igbo man from the zone is supported by our listening President and the APC to get the ticket.
All well-meaning people of this good country have noted and spoken that so doing is not too much of a sacrifice for the APC and our President to make for our unity, peace and progress as one community of people.
Let it be said that no APC electioneering slogan or catch phrase will resonate better in the land, reunite and reassure the people of our onenes and rebrand the party in the eyes of all and the global community better than the one the President and the party leaders would cheerlead on campaign grounds in rallying the people of all ethnicities to support an Igbo man to lead the country. It would soothe the frayed nerves better and faster than the Balm of Gilead and again, fits perfectly into APC’s motto of Justice, Peace and Unity. Sincere advice is that APC should explore this as political solution to part of the crises bedevilling our country with the oomph and single mindedness it deserves. Whether under lock or in liberty, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu would clap and cheer at the eventual evolution of Nigeria of our dream under President Buhari. The PDP has flunked in the opportunity, the APC must not let it slip.
With no pun intended at his South-east rivals for the APC ticket, Onu is clearly the bigger and better political asset to the people of the region, the APC in the South-east and the country. He evokes peace and goodwill and commands everyone’s respect, especially for his disdain for street and bare knuckle political fights in which others regale.
Who chooses a disagreeable fellow over a man of urbanity? May be just only the Devil.
Onu represents stability and not vagaries and inconsistencies of character. He poses no risk of a loose canon to either the party or anyone.
For President Buhari and the APC, the moment to glow like a million stars and tread the path, feared by others presents itself with Onu.
The time to act from the head and not to be swayed by smooth sophism of demagogues is right here with the APC.
Onu is an achiever, a man of ideas and intellection, and a moderating influence. What more does the APC want?
Idris, a commentator on national issues writes from Abuja