In 1860, a mostly self educated prairie lawyer from Springfield, Ill got a chance at the Republican nomination for the presidency.
His lucky break had come a few months earlier when his friend Norman Judd had been put in charge of selecting the venue for the newly formed Republican party’s first convention.
Judd slyly chose Chicago to be the venue to aid Abraham Lincoln’s cause.
Abraham Lincoln went on to defeat the hugely popular Sentaor from New York, William Seward, who was by far the favourite to win.
Lincoln’s whole tactic was to be the second choice of all the delegations to the convention such that if Seward didnt manage to win at the first ballot, he would pick up votes.
‘Give offence to no one..we shall leave them in a mood to come to us, lest they be compelled to give up their first love’ was what he told his campaign managers.
After he won, he offered Seward the Secretary of State position in his cabinet.
In 2004, an unknown young lawyer and state Senator from Illinois got a lucky break.
The Democratic nominee for President in that year, John F Kerry was suffering in the polls with African Americans.
He therefore decided to get a black speaker to give the keynote speech on one of the convention nights.
Somehow Barack Obama was chosen for this task and boy did he take his chance!
A political career was launched and eventually in 2008, he defeated a senator from New York, Hillary Clinton who had been the favourite to win.
After he won, he offered Clinton the Secretary of State position in his cabinet.
One strong similarity between both men is the very ordinary beginnings they started their lives out in.
The one thing and perhaps the most important thing Lincoln had going for him was his formidable intellect….he had an intelligence that was second to none in his time.
Similarly, Barack Obama’s law lecturer at Harvard Law School recently remarked that in his 30 years as a lecturer, he had never come across a student as intelligent as Obama.
Why does God allow history to repeat itself?
Answering this question is above my paygrade but I do know that God never runs out of ideas.
Perhaps the reason is to serve as a reminder to us that greatness is achievable in any generation and even when it appears as if His glory has departed from a despondent looking situation….Ichabod like…, it can yet descend again.
Like everyone else, I will be proudly watching this once in a lifetime inauguration and marvelling at how an outsider succesfuully broke through the establishment to ascend to the leadership of the free world.
Being of Nigerian extraction, I cannot help but think of my own country at this time.
What we need more than anything else at this point in time is someone to break through the system from the ‘outside’ and change the way government works.
Unlike a lot of people, I stubbornly refuse to give up the hope that in my time and generation, God will move again as he so often does and wake the nation up from what has become an extended nightmare.
The job of turning Nigeria around is not as difficult as it appears to be.
But when a nation is in the grip of intellectual homunculi such as we have been for years, everything seems infinitely harder.
On July 29, 1975 a young Army Officer by the name of General Murtala Mohammed became the Nigerian Head of State after a putsch while Gen Gowon [the previous president] was away attedning an OAU meeting.
In just under 7 months he managed to achieve what seemed almost impossible under the lethargy of the Gowon administration.
The result is that his likeness adorns the Nigerian N20 note till tomorrow.
What he had gpoing for him was the same ‘outsider’ mentality….the courage to shake things up and a strong moral compass.
Without mentioning names, by way of compariosn, we have had men who have had two shots at the Presidency and the only debate left after is which one was worse.
It can be done….the trick can be repeated.
The challenge now will be to do it democratically.
Nigerians are quick to call for a revolution to wipe the slate clean and breath fresh life on the nation.
Aside from the obvious shortage of revolution fighters among Nigerians I know, there surely must be a better way to go about things other than violence.
The current system we have in place to choose a leader is fraught with so much corruption that it cannot produce anything other than a severely compromised leader when he/she manages to come out at the other end.
To break this gridlock as it were, someone has to ascend to the leadership of that nation from the outside.
Someone must be seen to buck the system and ascend to leadership on the back of popular support not the patronage of political godfathers and vested interests who then proceed to hold the nation ransom.
Why would God create 140 million Nigerians just so they can underachieve in perpetuity?
The idea of a cynical God makes no sense to me so I hope, still, that our time in the sun will come again.
So as you watch Barack take his oath of office tomorrow, spare a thought for your own country.
Perhaps you know a remarkable Nigerian who will make a fine Governor or Senator or President….you have a duty to encourage such people.
Do remember that greatness usually begins in the most ordinary of circumstances.
When you see him swear on the Lincoln Bible to serve and to defend the constitution of the United States, know that it is not impossible for your own country to one day have a president who actually sees the office as bigger than himself.
If you lose hope, you might as well give up your green passport.
Si se puede
It can and will happen…..Soon come…..