It has been a while ago, my first year in college. It happened that I came across, while I was staying with a cousin at Enugu, a Tv program that featured Prof. Pat Utomi and his band of critical thinkers.
I was instantly, as a fresh philosophy student, drawn to the surgically precise intellectual discuss of issues affecting Nigeria and the Nigerian people as was anchored on the program which was then called Patios Gang. It was full of vibrant ideas about the fundamental principles of change in the nation, which meant the comprehensive overhaul of the stagnant socio-political and economic life of the Nigeria people. I became more and more connected in every topic of their discussion that I often felt I was part of the interactive forum. This was the first time I came to learn about Pat Utomi.
Ever since, I have stalked every of his intellectual movement. Not in a manner of obsessive psychosis, but in order to truly understand who this man is as against what he says he is. Undeniably, Pat Utomi is a very brilliant man. He is well read and highly versed in global events. He is also likable by a scion of the Nigerian population, the literate class. And we shall come to this later.
When in the 2007, he buckled up courage to run to the presidential office, I became more curious and more interested in trying to define him. It is an established fact, that people who â€˜wantâ€™ to lead others, especially those who want to be presidents, often run on giant egos, no matter how humble their externalities might try to convince us of the opposite. I would conjecture, with some degree of certitude, that Utomi too run on giant ego. Why does he want to be the president of Nigeria? I mused within myself. This actually is something that had troubled my mind for a very long time. Utomi once held a lucrative function in Shehu Shagariâ€™s government, a government that was ranked among the most corrupt in Nigeria history. Could it be that he had tested the fiscal cookies which circulated in those confused days of Shagari that he (Utomi) wants to go back to power. Perhaps in his own convenient time, he might make a public statement or write a book explaining what actually was his role as a â€™special adviserâ€™ during Shagariâ€™s corrupt civilian government. This is all part of questioning, without saving faces, our public officers, or rather would be public officers, accountable for their immediate associations deals and actions for a better Nigeria.
Progressively, I followed the professorâ€™s writings and speeches and comments, probing them with microscopic discipline. Finally, I came to one prime conclusion. Pat speaks about the backwardness of the country with teary sincerity. The gentleman might be genuinely concerned about the nationâ€˜s rise from socio-political and economic quagmire. Utomi is slightly different from most of the Nigerian critiques. He does not come across as an embittered fellow. He is one of those few Nigerians who has seen the â€˜lightâ€™ of the developed world and wishes same for his country and Africa. He often sites the wonders of the global rise of South East Asian tigers in their techno-scientific and industrial ingeniousness as a thing to copy.
Through a relentless critique, the professor has successfully formed a cult of opinionated and critical dissonance against the apparent political culture in Nigeria. And it is from this critique of Nigeria that he intends to construct a staircase to his presidential ambition. The professor had as well surrounded himself with fans who might be willing to push him into contesting for president based on his public utterances and academic accolades.
This is my problem with Utomiâ€™s Nigeria critics. They often come across as loose collections of already known socio-political ills while reiterating same using a very predictable undertone. He should understand that a cure for Nigeria will never hinge on relentless criticism. If he is bold enough to vie for presidency, the Nigerian people of this epoch might then need him beyond his newspaper and internet articles.
Nigeria is a country destroyed by fear, cynicism, tribalism and corruption. The country is long overdue for positive revolutionary transformation. Not that people are not ready to change. The fact is this, we have not really seen someone who would speak to our universal sense of moral determination. No one had come out to really convince us, he or she is a patriot who is ready to commit his/her life for Nigeria to survive. Once we have this sort of personality, Nigeria would change in a swift. History would give credence that it is not just enough for a people to ripe for revolution. It also entails the courageous determination of fearless soul to take the people to the dreamed change. In America, the blacks were long overdue for a civil right revolution. Martin Luther King Jr. understood this and captured the opportunity with fearlessness. It worked. He spoke strength into the historically intimidated black consciousness. Dr. king was himself well educated. He had to let down the spotless garment of his academic pride and took on the streets and corners of America. He did not speak the language of the academia. Thus common men and women identified with and trusted him.
Again, it took the moral determination of Mahatma Ghandi, to take the Indian people for a trans-formative revolution and independence. Ghandi was well educated. But he understood that the urgency of transformation demands a practical fieldwork. He too took to the streets. Obviously, in Nigeria, everyone is afraid of the incivility of the police and the army which the statues quo often employ as a brutal mechanism to retain their hold on power. When the right person comes, fear disappears.
Pat Utomi is a very likable man, with seemingly good scruples for Nigeria. He stands the chance for the president if only the class of literate Nigerians hold the voting key . But Nigeria has millions of illiterate people who need to be incorporated too. One thing is needed to happen in Nigeria before his kind of person could be president–a change in the national consciousness. A single change of consciousness of the collective spirit of the people provides the key for the change we all crave. Without this, everything else would look like pouring water on the back of proverbial duck, a sheer waste of time. President Obama was able to win the presidency due to the fact that he was able to introduce a significant alteration of American public consciousness.
In the Nigeria pre-independence struggle, there was massive public awareness about the evil of colonial rule. Ordinary people were made to understand the need to gain freedom from colonialism. Everyone dreamed it, everyone talked about it and everyone struggled for it. This sort of freedom mania did not happen by chance. They were carefully orchestrated by the fearless and vibrant energies of people who are ready to die for a nation of people, its culture and history to survive.
The seemingly bane of Utomiâ€™s presidential ambition is based on the fact that he has not really extended his tentacles of connection to those at the lowest social strata. And this is often the problem with intellectuals and academicians when they run for public office. The professor is very famous among a handful of Nigerians. As an academic, his followers consists basically of two classes of people. On the one hand, the Diaspora Nigerians, who are often unwilling to go home and commit for a change. And on the other hand the literate Nigerians who understand the basic problem of the nation but can only write and speculate in a very theoretical standard. Nigeria has larger population than these two classes described. Majority of her citizens are illiterate and need a well mapped out campaign program to reach. And this is where the challenge lies. Nigeria is not yet an advanced society. Even in an information age as we live, information dissemination is yet to be rampart. A higher percentage of Nigerians do not have radios and televisions to obtain the needed political awareness. So where does Prof. Pat Utomi go from here in his bold campaign to change Nigeria beyond blogging and newspaper columns.