Jonathan and the Yoruba By Sam Omatseye

De-risking Africa: Goodluck Ebele JonathanThere is an eerie rendezvous between love and politics. And we have seen this in the past few months, especially in the past two weeks.  They woo, they enact rites of affection and play chivalry. They cajole, beg, spend, date, hate the rivals. They exaggerate their own graces and reify their own sacrifices and extol even their generosities.

The one with the big bulbous nose remoulds himself as the Adonis, sculpted with the delicacy of divine patience. The short man is actually taller than he seems, and the limping fellow is nothing but a hunk of swagger. Yes, like the world of romance, the bride is supreme. Even when her cooking is awful, you ask for more.

In a sense, other ethnic groups in Nigeria must envy the Yoruba. They have become the bride of the season. But this is not new wisdom. The Yoruba have always illumined the path for the nation. When they do well, so does the nation. They are our conscience. In the First Republic, the collapse of the Western Region foreshadowed our descent into the dark scythe of war. Not long after the prophecies of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Second Republic fell. June 12 was a theatre of the Southwest.

In this republic, are we surprised that the same region holds the ace? In development, Awo patented many firsts envied by other regions.

Hence President Goodluck Jonathan has been playing the suitor-in-chief among the Yoruba. For the Yoruba he became a Christian, playing the roving evangelist from church to church. He also became an Ifaadherent, bowing for prayer with obas. He became a dollar merchant, bedecking politicians, obas and all sorts of hustlers. He turned a tourist, visiting different parts of Lagos, so much so that over 2,000 policemen were deployed for his service. He opened the city to criminals and robbers had a field day at Lekki. So, his visit had its toll in blood as the robbers lapped up some dear lives.

He was also a tribalist. While courting the Yoruba vote, he incited the non-Yoruba against them. He said INEC was discriminating against non-indigenes on PVCs, as though he had the statistic. Even if he did, it was not the way leaders of unity spoke. But he didn’t have the statistic, and the INEC REC had shown the claim to be apocryphal.

This same President wants the Yoruba to forget easily that he deployed soldiers to menace the inhabitants of the city in the cauldron of the subsidy showdown. He encouraged his kinsmen and followers to abuse Lagos as a citadel of spoilt brats. He neglected the city and even the region without a major landmark achievement in six years. He used condescending language at Ife a few months ago with a raft of Yoruba renegades who hosted him. He said, “ I will take care of the Yoruba.” What does that mean?

Did Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, not ask him to confer a special status on Lagos? Did he not sneer at what the governor of example said with an outlandish parable about his uncle who spends his money in Lagos? Can we forget that?

This is romance, Southwest zone. Jonathan has turned the Yoruba into his bride. This is cynical romance. He knew that if the election took place in February he would have been trounced dizzy. So, he decided to dollarise the campaign, to buy love. He “pieticised” the hustings, making himself an evangelist of all religions, and a faithful of none. For Islam, he rather asked the leaders to come to him at Aso Rock. But his men are parading phony Muslim leaders in the Southwest, too, as endorsement of Jonathan. Who else championed this than the whitlow of the West, the Mimic Mimiko of Ondo State. And Vice President Sambo, in the name of votes, described the PDP as the Muslim party after he and his Presidency with such foul mouths as Fani-Kayode had said APC was the Muslim party. Sambo listed all the major positions in the party and said the PDP is more Muslim than APC. Have we ever in our history had a more divisive era than that of Jonathan? He wants tribes and tongues to differ and the brotherhood of faiths to stumble.

When bad leaders are emboldened, it is often the fault of the people. It is particularly true of President Jonathan. If he can go to his very home and say I have not done much for you, and he is hailed, our democracy must wail. The people see how tons of naira has gone unaccounted for and his immiserated people say, he is our son, so let him do it. The currency has tanked. For the first time in a generation, many states cannot pay civil servants salary, including states of his region. He rolls out antediluvian trains as a 21st century marvel. He claims he rebased the economy, believing the illusion that he gave us Nollywood and other areas of the economy. They were only now recognised. They were always there. He commissioned a power plant and darkness still overwhelms the people of Lagos. He should compare that with Governor Fashola’s fulfillment of the Oyingbo market dream. He promised it and he fulfilled it. Oyingbo is not just a market; it is history, it is a monument in the people’s imagination and a mainstay of folklore. Ebenezer Obey sang it into eternity: “Oja Oyingbo omo pe enikan o wa o…

Bad leaders like Jonathan try to abolish the people by killing their dreams. According to a Reuter’s report, a poor woman from Otuoke says this man has done nothing for her except a big university that is far away. He has established universities without a sense of economics. All the money in those new universities would have been used to expand the existing ones, and admit more students and recruit more staff and research centres. He sets up an almajiri school and his wife mocks them in public.

Bad leaders abolish dreams by turning the people into their own image. Hence playwright Bertolt Brecht in a famous poem asserted that the leaders had lost confidence in the people. So they would dissolve the people and elect another people. Some thinkers say that good leaders make good people, bad leaders make bad people.

But it is not so simple. The people have a way of emboldening the tyranny and imbecility of bad leaders. They do so by encouraging them when they misbehave. When a leader encourages contracts to militants and the same government says theft is on the increase, we wonder. If he approves of violence in Rivers State and says nothing when an OPC runs riot in Lagos, we agree that he is a despot cloaking as democrat. It means that when he says he loves the Southwest, he is a suitor without love. He is encouraged by the uncritical support among the Ijaw and the Igbo to think that if he does not perform, the Yoruba will also support him. Love does not define us but we define it.

In his play, the Iceman Cometh, Nobel laureate Eugene Oneil’s main character kills his wife because she continues to forgive him. The woman is dreaming of a perfect husband and hopes that someday her forgiveness will pay off and he will be the man of his dreams. He kills his wife and kills the dream. Both the killer and victim cannot pursue the dream. The people commit suicide when they don’t give leaders standards, and the leaders kill the people’s dreams.

If a Jonathan who promised Enugu-PH road, second Niger Bridge, et al, gets support for unfulfilled promises, why would he not renege if he is voted in? It is that logic that has made him think he can bribe his way into victory in the Southwest.

If he can kill the Igbo and the Ijaw dream, why not the Yoruba, so he can stay in office. That is romance, Jonathan style. It is fatal romance, a kiss of death to the Nigerian dream.

NATION