As we approach the 2019 general elections, it is pertinent to interrogate the capacity of Nigeria to understand and grapple with the emerging realities in the world in order to influence policy decisions. Abuja appears unperturbed about the troubling ascendancy of the far-right in Europe and the gradual triumph of nationalism over globalism in the West. The leadership is aloof, betraying ignorance and this is inexplicable. The West is becoming unsettled and may gradually be turning into an unsafe haven for migrants, asylum seekers and even those running away from the worsening economic situation on the African continent. Increasingly, there are signs that the centre is giving way, due to the growing influence of the far-right in Europe.
Globally, more people are getting moved by the issue of identity over ideology: from Brexitism to Trumpism; and, only recently, in Italy, populism trumped the far-left. The far-right is also gaining grounds in France and Germany. The biggest blow is still the victory and emergence of the populist and ideologically amorphous Five Star Movement and the far-right League party – two parties that share extreme nationalist views – which have vowed to carry out a rapid mass expulsion of migrants from Italy. The implications of this delicate turn of event in the West is very huge for Nigeria and the African continent, except knowledgeable leadership is enthroned on the continent.
The forthcoming 2019 elections in Nigeria will certainly be about so many things; but the concern is that Nigeria may not be able to put under the radar the likely draw back of what is happening in the West and around the world? Added to this, is the inability of successive governmens to answer the basic questions at home. The truth is: there can be no reprieve for any Third World nation that is unable to enthrone the right-thinking leadership to address problems. But there is a piece of information from the grapevine that gladdens my heart and that is the return of the Iroko Movement, under the leadership of former Ondo state governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, to mainstream Nigerian politics.
The Movement had given much hope about the country when its social democracy development trajectory helped to priortise human capital development as the cornerstone of good governance. Like the mythical phoenix bird that reinvented itself and emerged from the ashes, Mimiko, who is widely known in the Nigerian politics as Iroko, has arisen from the flames as a winner, beating all life’s challenges and defeating hard times.
Only a few men and movements have been lucky to have survived the murky waters of Nigerian politics, and still have their integrity intact and relevance sustained. Certainly, political tribulations are not in short supply. Mimiko has been able to weather the storm to reinvent the Movement for the urgency of a new order. But then, Iroko, without sounding immodest, is more than just a person; it is an idea whose time has come.
To my knowledge, the decision by Mimiko to return to the Labour Party, where his orange revolution once triggered unparalleled optimism and passion for service, has been designed to advance three major things: to bring together exceptional young Nigerians who can use the ideological base of the party-social democracy- as a profound school of thoughts to advance a new thinking about project Nigeria; to mainstream restructuring as an inevitable option if Nigeria must survive the current state of hopelessness and retrogression; and, to substantially agitate the minds of Nigerians that our capacity to excel is limitless.
As we approach the critical stage of the pre-election phase, it is almost certain that there is not going to be a hidden place for pretenders, lazy and uninformed characters, fair-weather politicians who would want to, as usual, indulge in the conspiracy of politics only for the sake of power. Many Nigerians do not want a repeat of 2015 when fury took over substance, propaganda trumped truth and the desperation for power only for the sake of power beclouded our sense of judgement. I certainly believe that the Iroko Movement has a role to play.
Intrestingly, no Nigerian leader has, in a most outstanding manner, engaged the youths of the country and other Nigerians of different shades in convincing, interpersonal and cluster engagements on how to find a common solution to the surmountable problems besetting the country like Mimiko has done in the last 10 years. While in the saddle as governor, Mimiko did not shy away from pouring his heart out to the youths at every opportunity. His quality of engagement is unrivalled. You can simply connect his globally-acknowledged exploits in Ondo state with his audacity of courage to do exceptional things.
Away from the contrived arrangement to rewrite the June 12 history as an elixir for a fading administration, the Nigerian political landscape is presently in a turmoil. The reconstruction of our political formations is inevitable. The Iroko Movement must take the lead in this reconstruction order; and, with my little insight into an idea that started from the days of student activism to the Ondo study group, before metamorphosing into real politics of development, I believe Mimiko can give a worthwhile direction. We must listen to him in the days ahead.
Except there is a new order, a new thinking and a new approach to doing things, Nigeria may not prosper beyond the limitations and trappings of its own system. The inherent encumbrances in the system have become so burdensome that solutions, progress and prosperity must be deliberate through our leadership recruitment process. The Iroko Movement, with its profound and evidence-tested ideology of social democracy, must never shy away from playing a more central role in 2019. Nigerians are still not enthused by the quality of ongoing debates about the coming elections.
Time has come to challenge knowledge and the ingenuity of ideas in solving problems and addressing fundamental issues. The earth has been given to man to conquer, but if Nigeria cannot overcome its own challenges, it will be because we did not emplace the right leadership. But I am hopeful that Mimiko would now use the platform of Labour Party to deepen his conversation with Nigeria. He is a great diagnostician as a political leader and as professional in his chosen field of medicine. Our nation has not been served better and is almost on the brink of uncertainties. But the situation is certainly not irreversible.
For all it is worth, I challenge all of us who share in the philosophical viewpoint and trajectory of Iroko’s leadership to let us continue with the meeting of minds. It is not over for Nigeria. We can still pull this nation back from the precipice. We have a leader in Mimiko who is untiring in his resolve to give his all to Nigeria. The urgency of a new order is with us. We certainly need a new political formation that works and holds great promises for now and the future. More than the Far-right in Europe, Labour Party has a brighter future in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Iroko is ba