Open Letter to Prof. ‘Remi Sonaiya by Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed
Dear Prof. Sonaiya,
Five months ago, if I had written this open letter with this same caption, a deluge of questions would have poured in. Who is the addressee of this letter? Why is an open letter addressed to her? What relationship exists between the writer and her? Of what concern is the letter to us, members of the public? Just name it. Any question an inquisitive mind could elicit.
Today, by that singular audacity, you, Prof. Comfort ‘Remi Sonaiya, have saved me the stress of having to proffer answer(s) to satiate the people’s genuine curiosity. This audacity, encapsulated in your eight-word motivational statement, “Ordinary citizens like me can be President too”, resonated across the length and breadth of our nation. With that epochal electoral participation, Mrs. Sonaiya has etched her name in gold in our History books as a woman Presidential contestant in the male-dominated Nigeria political terrain.
By garnering 13,076 of the total votes cast, which were spread across the 36 states of the federation plus the FCT, the KOWA Party candidate trounced two other male contestants out of the other 13 male hopefuls in the March 28 historic Presidential election. As modest as this may appear, it is definitely no mean feat most especially for a woman and a new comer to the rocky and bumpy roads to the highest office in the land. Today, Remi Sonaiya, this name of an “ordinary” Nigerian with an “extraordinary” dream rings a bell, from the far north to the near south. From the remote east, to the proximal west. That in itself is a resounding achievement. It offers a rare springboard for a more forceful comeback and a leverage to sweep to victory in the future.
Still about the future, General Buhari’s triumph at the polls was a symbolic defeat and demystification of moneybags politics. The dedollarizaion and denairalization of our political space were a necessary rite of passage which we had to undergo as a people so as to guarantee a level playing field and ensure the enthronement of meritocracy among the political class. Never again will financial inducement of the electorates be so potent as to fetch undue advantage for unpopular and mediocre political desperadoes to lord it over the rest of us. Henceforth, it will be foolhardy and naïve to rely solely on buying votes as a means to get to power.
It was the need to ensure that paradigm shift that made a number of us to pitch our tents with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. We understood that by siding with him, we were supporting a man who possesses and depends solely on the strength of his character and willingness to serve as a means to get the people’s mandate. We understood that the former Head of State was not the best, but definitely better than those currently misruling us. We understood, like the Yoruba proverb captured it, that trees that fall on each other should be sorted out from top downward. Buhari was therefore a means to an end. And not an end in itself. He offered the tool with which the masses vented their anger and taught our present crop of (mis)leaders the lesson that never again should the people be taken for a ride.
In effect, we were, perhaps inadvertently, paving way for the emergence of “ordinary citizens” like me and you in occupying, why not, the highest office in the land. With the corrupt politicians’ buying dollars put to shame, and with massive rigging drastically checked and reduced, the coast to the Presidency is more than ever clear for the likes of Sonaiya who were hitherto shortchanged for being unable or unwilling, as a matter of personal principle, to go on dollars’ spray. I hope we will consolidate on that paradigm shift.
That is not all. The unwritten north-south power rotation pact as well as power zoning between the six geopolitical regions is another hurdle we must cross. Moreover, the level of our sociopolitical evolution and sophistication as to embrace the idea of a female President is still subject of contention and cynicism. For a patriarchal nation like ours with deeply rooted male chauvinistic tendencies, it will at best remain a tall order.
However, none of the hurdles is insurmountable. Like you rightly pointed out in one of your pre-election interviews, serving in the incoming administration may not be out of place. In my estimations, most of the personal principles and sociopolitical norms and values that you hold dear are not anathema to the President-elect. Without you cross-carpeting or compromising on the KOWA Party welfarist ideology, taking a political appointment will afford the opportunity to showcase your leadership prowess and endear you more to the electorates. That will also silence the skeptics who were cynical about your leadership credentials and experience. Hillary Clinton, Oby Ezekwesili, Late Dora Akunyili etc all offer shining examples in this regard.
Alternatively, our dear Professor of French language and Applied linguistics turned politician can focus on building KOWA Party to become stronger and by so doing deepen our democracy while serving as watchdogs and constructive critics of the ruling party. I completely agree with these lines in your post-election statement:
I am also convinced that there is a quiet majority out there who see the truth in our message that only a leader with strong values and an independent mind can give us the change we need. As such, I intend to spend the coming years working with other members to grow KOWA Party and establish it as a solid and attractive platform of excellence for politicians of character and integrity.
The road may seem long, tedious and unending. I dare to think otherwise. The most difficult was having the audacity to embark. That you have done. By mere coincidence or not, General Buhari’s twelve-year journey to Aso Rock Villa started when he was sixty years old. You are also starting at that particular age. How long yours will take still begs for answer. An answer that only Providence has a clue about. In the months and years to come, we can only wish you the best of luck and assure you of our unwavering belief and unflinching support of your noble dreams for our nation and the common man.
Isiaq ‘Deji Hammed