November 9, 2010

Can we have real contest here?

What difference will it make to a campaign to have an economic plan endorsed by Soludo and Okonja-Iweala”

Last week the US President faced what has been called a referendum by some observers or more appropriately a slap on the hand for his handling of the economy. It is very plausible to argue that the economy could have gone worse or even collapsed without the bailout and the overwhelming US government deficit spending. Tell that to the “Tea Party” Republicans. The opposition nonetheless were able to amass huge support against an Obama that was the darling of the voters just two years ago. This is classic opposition politics, a model. Now do not tell me that cannot work in Nigeria or elsewhere for that matter.  Two years ago when Mr Obama won the presidency he did so riding a wave of change driven by the anti-Washington sentiments (He, Obama, promised to bring change to Washington). Voters also aligned to him because of his better rating on how the economy should be handled if elected. Clinton underlined the importance of economic issues in his run for presidency “…its the economy” he quipped once when he suggested that the economy would be the singular most influential factor in the coming election that elected him president for the first time. Now turn your gaze downward towards the equator. In Nigeria in every election ever held the incumbent has been the most decisive factor influencing the outcome and this irrespective of government’s or the ruling party’s performance or lack of it. I do not mean to take anything away from President Jonathan. But I just ask; Why is there no candidate with initiative to define or redefine this election 2011? The candidates should be hiring strategists and experts and come up with alternative plans and test the voters. If anyone is to beat the incumbent he needs a lot of goodwill from the electorate close to having a mass movement of opinions. Currently no one is daring PDP from the opposition. (Add your Voice. )

Instead everyone is running after the ruling Party ticket, big businesses as well and everyone else is waiting to be taken. A lot of others are just building a ministerial bargaining chip that will eventual sale out to the winning party, by default the PDP. Can it not make more sense to challenge the incumbents based on record of achievements and their current performance? Can some candidate spill the beans on government handling of the economy especially with the degrading by credit rating agencies including Fitch, the squandering of foreign reserves etc and additional borrowing even in the face of higher oil earnings. Yes, Mr. Soludo (the recent ex-governor of CBN see Wikipedia   ) and former Finance Minister Mrs. Okonja-Iweala (Now World Bank executive, see Wikipedia on ) have raised voices but these people are not running for the office of President. What difference will it make to some campaign to have an official endorsement from either or both of these experts or some other experts for that matter. Development is a close relative of change. By that I mean a controlled challenge of status quo, a presentation of alternatives, a contest of ideas, principles and a genuine fight for the soul of the voters in a stubborn, insistent and civilized manner. That is the basis on which plural democracy is built. The success of democracy is built on that one fact that the majority will chose the best. When the majority fails to make the right decision the society collapses and no one can stop it. Where  is the opposition in this election? It appears everyone is simply watching and waiting to be defeated. (Is there any candidate that is making a difference you know of? )

Currently, everyone is running on fixing the power utility (PHCN), tackling corruption or poverty. Certainly these are real issues and everyone assumes these are the problems that has prevented the nation from making a solid start in many spheres, but we all know that much. Everyone is aware of it. That is not News. Everyone who has ran for office has promised to fix those same problems.(corruption and power utility) but till date no one has succeeded beyond the ordinary rhetoric. So obviously there is something else that is wrong. The incumbents are doing the same, promising and trying all sorts of strategies, measures and gimmicks to fix the same perennial and widely acknowledged issues - power utility and corruption. How can anyone believe that a new candidate will do better than the incumbent in these areas? Can we have an alternative? What other alternative you ask? I say, that is the test and that shows the dearth of ideas, initiative and inspiration in the current playing field. If I knew what alternatives I will be contesting as well. Take a look at how President Atta-Mills did it in Ghana next door. Take a look at how Mr Cameron did it in the UK. You can even take a look at how it is done in the corporate world. Take a look at how Microsoft clawed back in the fight for the search market against the undisputed Google. I will refresh your mind a bit. When Google invented the search algorithm and nearly monopolized the search and online advertising market a few years ago Microsoft was no where near even though it owned MSN search. When Microsoft woke up and decided to compete, it  started by reinventing its search engine by launching the Windows Live Search. That was a failure. Windows live search attempted to directly replace Google search. Lesson one for our politicians. It is more difficult to prove that you can do what the incumbent is doing better. Remember he has got the benefit of experience on-the-job and the goodwill of the more risk shy big business (who are already giving him a cover to spend more money on his re-election through fundraising events) and almost everyone else will agree “it is more difficult to trust an angel you do not know” Strange but true. Try something new. What did Microsoft do? Microsoft rebranded its search technology as Bing and adopted an alternative approach. Bing search chose a new target market  different from Google's. Bing emphasised research and shopping and were among the first to start indexing social network conversations. What was the result? Bing is right now rated as the closest if not the only competitor to Google search in the market and has a respectable share of online searches. Better than yahoo, ask, AOL search engines. Messrs Buhari, Atiku, Ribadu and all the willy-nilly opposition candidates out there; try something new. Anti-corruption, poverty alleviation and power utility (PHCN, NEPA etc.) has been ran  to rags, they are no killer punches. The electorate has switched off on those issues.


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