The first time I heard of Fela Durotoye was last week when Nigeria News ran a piece where he answered some burning questions about himself, his motivation and what he had to offer Nigerians. Cutting that piece down to its bare bones, you are left with a presidential declaration. And that was what the whole piece was all about: a statement of intent to be the president from somebody who believes he has a lot to give Nigeria.
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That revealing interview sparked a lot of debate around the country. Even a contact who I taught had little interest in politics posted a WhatsApp status about Durotoye.
Apparently, he had just ended a passionate argument with some colleagues about the likelihood of Durotoye winning the presidential elections next year.
My friend doesn’t suffer fools. His WhatsApp status was a violent blow to whatever had a different opinion from him. As far as he was concerned, ‘People who think FD would become president are delusional.’ FD, of course, stands for Fela Durotoye
In many online forums, people are letting vent their opinions about the issue. Fela Durotoye has an impressive pedigree in education, the private sector, and business. Nobody can fault his leadership qualities based what on what he has achieved in life so far. And there is nothing that indicates he won’t be a good president if elected.
His election would put Nigeria in the same league as countries like France who see youth as the direction to go for political leadership.
But this is Nigeria. Things are not so clear-cut. Even though we desperately need change, actually making it happen is a different ball game.
Recent history against him
A point many Nigerians keep making is that if the youths unite behind a single candidate, they would be able to effect the change required. That could be true to an extent.
But the recent history of youths holding top political positions doesn’t favor Fela Durotoye.
When Dimeji Bankole was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2007 at the age of 37, there was excitement in the land because of his age. Apart from his youthfulness, he was urbane and very sophisticated. At least his education pointed to that. He even spoke with the confidence of leaders who are not fazed by the trappings of power.
But we saw how it all ended. Bankole proved to be as corrupt and inefficient as the old guard; some even said his education made him a smarter thief of Nigeria’s Commonwealth.
The case of Salisu Buhari was an even more pathetic commentary on the ability of youths to take charge. He was not even up to 30 years when he became the speaker of the House in 1999. He was outed as a forger.
He had forged his birth certificate and academic credentials so he could be a candidate in the elections. However, he was brave enough to do the unNigerian thing of resigning from his post.
Those against Durotoye’s candidacy can point to those two high profile incidents as proof that youths cannot be trusted with power; especially if they are inexperienced as Durotoye in public service. You and I know those excuses are at best spurious. Age really has nothing to do with competency at any level.
Look around you, Nigeria’s political landscape is liberally sprinkled with old people who have treated it like a bull in a shop filled with expensive China. The country is in ruins largely because of them.
There is much to admire about Fela Durotoye. It is not easy to put yourself in the spotlight and have your life put under a microscope. Only professional politicians are comfortable with that kind of scrutiny. And the man is definitely not a politician.
Though he has good intentions and means well for Nigeria, the odds against him are just nightmarish. It would take something beyond a miracle to overcome just a fraction of those odds.
The fact is, politics in Nigeria is played according to rules that were in place since independence. It is an unwritten rule, but they are more sacrosanct than even the Constitution. These rules are about how power is rotated among the regions of the country. For now, there is an acceptance that it is the turn of the North to occupy Aso Rock.
The role of kingmakers in the emergence of a president cannot be understated too. You must have their blessing to succeed in politics in Nigeria. These kingmakers respect the rotation rule completely because they are beneficiaries of the system.
So, it is difficult to see how they would agree to anoint Fela Durotoye for president. Maybe a few disgruntled ones would, but the majority of them (especially those from the North) would even feel insulted by the idea.
And to cap it all, he doesn’t even belong to any of the major parties.
I started by saying the first time I heard of him was last week. Now, I’m not even your average Nigerian when it comes to knowing the important players in politics. If I never knew about him until last week, you can be sure that over 70% of people outside his immediate environment have not heard of him too.
Granted the declaration would raise his profile in the public’s consciousness, but it won’t be enough to surmount the impossible odds against him.
Like Gani Fawehinmi, Chris Okotie and a few others before him, Fela Durotoye would run and lose the election next year. That is the brutal truth.