I found myself staying up till around 3am on Monday, listening to the BBC as interviews were held discussing the Nigeria n elections. As I listened, the general consensus appeared to be that the incumbent President Jonathan was coasting to victory, but what I really found encouraging about BBC’s coverage was the fact that they focused almost entirely on what the expectations of Nigerians and indeed the rest of Africa will be of the next elected President of the Republic.

Former President Kuffour of Ghana likened the relationship between Nigeria and Ghana to a human sleeping next to an elephant, and just a twitch from the elephant moves the ground under the human. He (Kuffour) talked about the promise Nigeria holds for the sub-region in particular and the continent in general.

By 9am, I was airborne with my boss heading to Detroit, MI for a meeting. The effect of having only slept for about 3 hours finally became manifest and I wanted to catch some sleep on this 48 minute flight from Chicago to Detroit. However, as much as I tried, I could not. My mind drifted back and forth about the presidential elections and what it means for my dear country. Is this the moment we have been waiting for? If indeed GEJ wins the election, would he have learnt the lesson of the almost total rejection of the PDP in the parliamentary elections the week before and see his victory as an opportunity to make the much desired difference? Will the President-elect continue the tradition of Nigerian leaders’ aversion to being heroes? IBB had the opportunity in 1993, but for whatever reason that appears not to make sense to anybody, he lost the opportunity by annulling the best election ever organized in Nigeria. OBJ had his opportunity from 1999-2007. What did he do? He used the opportunity to perpetuate the biggest looting of our commonwealth ever witnessed since independence.

Setting up an illegal Excess Crude Account, spending over $10b in about 6 years to develop the electricity infrastructure without a single kilowatt added to the national grid, he even attempted to turn Nigeria into a one-party state and become President for life! What a waste of opportunity, especially for a second-timer. These were the thoughts that raged through my mind until I drifted to sleep.

For starters, I have through the years developed a love relationship with my country, Nigeria. Though, I have had to make the painful decision of fleeing from her to a foreign land. So, when I see politicians rob the people everyday, for me, it is never abstract, it is always real. I see Nigeria in every citizen. I see it in the boys and girls who toil everyday in traffic to sell their wares. I see it in the unlucky few who get crushed and killed everyday chasing after moving vehicles, just to be able to feed themselves, and a lot of times, their extended families. I see it in the university graduate who after 8 years of graduation could only get a job as a contract security officer at a financial institution. Three months later, he is killed when a gang of daredevil armed robbers attacked the bank he was guarding. I see it in the unfortunate loss of one of the few consultant radiologists in Nigeria. Last year, he was killed in a generator explosion in Calabar. I see it in the policeman who has to resort to bribery to supplement his or her meager salary.

This is why this election was so important and I don’t really care who wins. All I, like most other Nigerians are asking for, is for each and everyone of us to be able to live a life of dignity and equal opportunity, for us all to be the best we can. As I asked myself if this is the opportunity over 10 million Nigerians scattered all over the globe  have been waiting for, to return to their motherland, my mind went back to that October day eleven years ago. It was the day I gave up and decided that for me to be the person I aspire to be in life, I had to leave my country for a foreign land. I sat down at the departure lounge, deep in thought that I almost missed my flight. Earlier in the evening, going through security, the immigration guy who attended to me had wished me good luck, instead of a safe journey. It was as if he knew that I was not coming back, at least, not in the nearest future. I shed a tear that day. While those around me at the airport may have thought that it was a tear of joy, I knew deep down in me that it was tears of sorrow. Sorrow about leaving behind everything I had known and taking a leap of faith, not knowing exactly what was on the other side. The truth about the greatest exodus to have hit this country is that most of us did it for economic reasons. We were only exercising our right to seek happiness for ourselves and our families, wherever in the world that may be. Unfortunately, Nigeria has not and still does not provide that opportunity. Nigeria has taken away that right from its people. Our collective will has been trampled upon for so long by usurpers in power. Political leaders have declared war on their own people, and their biggest weapons are poverty, deprivation and lack of opportunity.

To President-elect Jonathan, four years is just around the corner.

Nigerians have decided to give you the mandate to LEAD, NOT TO PLUNDER. Nigerians have overwhelmingly put their faith in you. Do you know why? It is because they see themselves in you. They can relate with your story.

Now, the choice before you is whether you are going to go down in history as the greatest thing to ever happen to Nigeria or you are going to be like Lamidi Adesina, who completely forgot where he came from once he was elected Governor of Oyo State.

President-elect, this is your time to shine. Now, I understand you cannot do it all alone, but be wary of your advisers. A lot of them are products of the past. These people cannot be part of the process of making a NEW Nigeria, because they don’t know any other way. They thrive in a situation of confusion. They manufacture one where it is absent. Yoruba people call them “Arije ni di madaru”. You will have to be long on listening. Forge a new relationship with the National Assembly. Be sure to have all the politicians you have made deals with before the elections hold their end of the bargain. You must encourage Bola Tinubu to relinquish his stranglehold on the finances of Lagos State before his EFCC files are destroyed or before you make Yemi Osibanjo your Attorney General. President-elect, anyone who does not understand that politics is a game of compromise and deals, is either been disingenuous or just plain ignorant. So, Nigerians understand that you had to make deals with people to ensure your success at the polls. Now, you must use those deals as leverage to bring about the change Nigerians are yawning for. It is time for you to LEAD, provide direction and put the right people in the right places. Give those people the marching orders and hold them accountable for the outcomes.

To Nigerians both at home and in diaspora, this is the time to come together and be vigilant. The mandate that was given the new president must not be misused. We all have to make sure of that. This is not the time to be complacent. We must keep organizing. Ideas must continue to flow to government on how best to achieve our national development goals. We can’t leave everything to the government. I call this a NEW AGE OF ENGAGEMENT.

There must be continuous engagement between the people, civil society organizations and the government. I will do my part by starting a column next week to be called “SOLUTIONS FOR NIGERIA”. It is nothing more than a platform to communicate new and emerging ideas in governance to the people in government.

Mr President-elect, our country is not as complicated as some may want you to believe. All we want is transparent and inspirational leadership. It is time to put Nigeria in its rightful place in the world, and the time to make that happen is now. Remember 2015 is just around the corner.

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