Nigeria: next president must speak English, pidgin and one national language

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Jun 16 13:38:52 UTC 2006

Portrait of the next president
By Robert Obioha Okere
Thursday, June 15, 2006

As politicians from the five geo-political zones of the country jostle for
the coveted oval office of Aso Rock come 2007, the powers that be and,
indeed, some stakeholders have been coming forth with the kind of
president they want in the 2007 dispensation. There is no doubt that the
hottest seat in Nigeria is the presidency.  Nigerias president is by every
standard the most powerful man in the black world for the mere reason of
presiding over the most populous black nation in the world and the sixth
oil-exporting nation.

Presently, Nigeria has over 400 tribes and languages of which Hausa, Igbo
and Yoruba are the national languages in view of their spread, development
and usage. The English Language has of necessity become a lingua franca in
Nigeria being a Language imposed by colonial expediency and which has
helped us solve the problem of choosing one of the indigenous languages as
the official language of the country. Another variant of the English
Language with some features of the national languages is the Nigerian
Pidgin English which some people call Broken English. It is corrupt
English spoken in the urban areas by people with limited education but
which is used to communicate in a mixed Nigerian audience with
preponderance of illiterate, semi-illiterate and the educated ones.  It is
better still a grassroots language understood by all and sundry.

Therefore the next president must of necessity come from one of the
aforementioned number of tribes and speak English, Pidgin in addition to
one or more of our indigenous languages. If the nations language policy is
any yardstick, the president must speak English and one national language
and perhaps another if he happens to be outside the three major linguistic
groupings. Don't ask me what has language got to do with Nigerian
politics?  A lot. The indigenous language you speak determines your state
of being or origin. The dialect of the language determines your village,
town, and clan. It also determines your political ward. That is why every
aspiring politician goes to his ward to register and declare for political
office. Baba Iyabo did it prior to 1999. IBB, Gown, Ojukwu, Buhari, Atiku,
Marwa and a host of others did likewise. Refresh your memory with Prof
Humphrey Nwosu Option A4 and open ballot system which Nigerians later, for
fear of victimization turned into open-secret ballot.

I hope Prof Maurice Iwu has learnt his lessons from Nwosu. If in doubt,
let him consult Nwosu somewhere in the South-East so that we won't have a
repeat of 1993 stalemate or what do you think? Of course, the next
Nigerian president after Obasanjo must definitely, wear a tribal mark not
necessary the deep cuts like that of ancestral egwugwu masquerade seen in
the village square during ceremonies or those ones captured in Achebes
novels. Going by the present mood of the nation, the next Nigerian
president would wear any Nigerian tribal marks except that of that
Yorubas. The reason is well understood. Though Baba Iyabo is not a Yoruba
president, he is a three- times Nigerian president of Yoruba tribe. He
drew this lesson down the ears and throats of Igbo Traditional Rulers and
politicians who visited him in Aso Rock last week to drum home the need
for a Nigerian President of Igbo tribe. I don't want to use Ojo Maduekwes
phrase extraction.

The tribe is better than extraction. Tribe shows the deeper logic of
Nigerian politics. Nigeria is having many unsolvable problems due to tribe
and the elevation of tribe above nation. The problem is never with
extraction except in the area of mineral exploitation and ruination of the
natural ecology and economy of some geo-political zones that harbour oil
and gas. Yes, my people want a Nigeria president of Igbo tribe just as the
nation has had a Nigerian president of Hausa and Yoruba tribes including
Angas, Gwari or Nupe, Kanuri etc. But before he Igbo High Chiefs could
conclude their mission, my television bombarded me of political
advertisement of the South-South people asking to be given the chance to
produce a Nigerian president of South-South tribe?

Unfortunately, there is no tribe in Nigeria called South-South. I know
that the present day South-South has Ijaw, Efik Ibibio, Edo, Igbo, Anang
and many other tribes in contention of the presidency from the zone. Which
one of them will be acceptable to all Nigerians? Already the prominent
names from the zone include but not limited to Obong Victor Attah, Donald
Duke and Peter Odili. These men if given the chance are capable of holding
the ace any day regardless of the indigenous language they speak or tribal
marks they wear. Although, the north has been making in-roads for power to
shift to it. The problem with that proposition is that the north has
monopolized power for so long that other zones like South-East and
South-South would each taste central power (Aso Rock) before another
northerner takes turn.

By the way, which zone of the north is jostling for the presidency or is
it the entire north? I don't know which geo-political zone of the north is
bidding for Aso Rock come 2007. But some question need be asked. Assuming
power is going to the north come 2007, will a Nigerian president of a
Yoruba tribal mark take over from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo? I mean those
from the Yoruba speaking areas of Kwara and Kogi States. Let somebody
provide an answer before we start accusing somebody of unnecessary fowl
play or over-heating of the polity. The same will apply to other
linguistic groups that cut across zones.  Nigerians have been speaking
recently of the qualities expected of Aso Rock number one resident. From
the current president (Obasanjo), the next Nigerian president must be a
true patriot.

He must love the nation above tribe and self and even be prepared to die
for the nation. He must not wear tribal marks. Even if he has, he should
do make-up always to cover those tribal marks. He must no speak tribal
language so that he will not be called or labelled a tribal president. He
must elongate the policies and programmes of the present regime. He must
speak Nigerian national languages, that means, he must speak Igbo, Yoruba,
Hausa and Pidgin plus English language, the mark of our colonial
experience and the greatest benefit of colonialism. Ask Achebe, Soyinka
and others who have made mincemeat of the language by twisting and bending
its rules to make name and money. Ngugi wa Thiongo was once one of them
but his nationalistic flavour has made him abandon the colonial badge to
now think and write in his native Gikuyu language. But the man still gives
lectures and interviews in English language.

When will this linguistic politics end? A Nigerian president should read
Achebes trilogy-Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God and No Longer at Ease and
Soyinkas The Man Died, Madmen and Specialists and his latest literary
offering You Must Set Forth at Down. He should read Obaro Ikimes (edited)
Groundwork of Nigerian History and The Five Majors  Why We Struck, and
Ojukwus Because I'm Involved to understand the dynamics of Naija politics.
I use he here in a generic sense. It stands for both man and woman.

Therefore, the 2007 president can be a woman or a man. But if an Igbo
woman married to Hausa man wins the presidency, will that be counted
against the South-East? The question can be further revised to either
Yoruba woman married to Hausa or Igbo or vice-versa. Who says that
Language and tribe are of no consequence to Nigerian politics, economy or
our state of being? Is Femi Fani-Kayode not being considered a minister
today based on his tribe? Is Ojo Maduekwes PDP position not because of
tribe? Atiku Abubakar has said that the Nigerian president should be one
that listens.

I add, one that listens well and use what he gathered to do something
worthwhile for the entire country. I think that irrespective of tribe or
language, Nigerians need a pan-Nigerian president who would treat the
entire country as his constituency. He should be selfless, contented,
happy and full of zest and life. He should not love money and status.

He should love the country and its people. He should have fiscal
discipline as well as moral fibre to respect laws of the land. He should
be a lover of education, diligence and accountability. I know that this is
a tall order but he must try to meet it. That is the only way this country
can be moved forward and meet the daunting challenges of 21st century

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