TWO weeks ago, I received from a Nigerian who identified himself as Professor EJC Nwana, a letter in which he told me he was “thoroughly worried that your hatred of President Jonathan has been elevated to a dangerous level.”
“…You and your band of travelers constantly display your miserably poor understanding of this country, particularly it’s history, politics and peoples…”
He accused me of not giving “some respect” to President Jonathan, arguing that the Nigeria ruler is not the author of Nigeria’s woes and has “struggled in the midst of hate, disdain, threats to his life and intolerance by those “born to rule” including poisonous pens like yours to serve our sorry union called Nigeria.
“The bitter memories of our civil war and it’s consequences have not faded for those of us who were unfortunate victims. I am sure that you never experienced that war and so can continue to indulge in your poisonous prescriptions for many of a generation that have been denied the opportunity to know and understand their country through a deliberate policy of not teaching history in our Secondary Schools for several years because they should be kept in the dark about the origins, tribulations and in built deceptions about Nigeria.
“…I do hope you will be around to witness the resultant effect of the hatred you have been brewing in your column. By the way, go and find out how many officers, men and civilians are being lost daily in the Northeast because we were told that the country will be made ungovernable by persons who are walking the streets free.”
I have reproduced almost the entire text of the letter. I answered Nwana right away, inviting him to substantiate his allegations against me. Predictably, he retreated into hiding. On account of the fact that once in a while one receives similar write-ups from pro-Jonathan bigots of all shades, I now enter a public response.
First of all, I do not have “views”; I have one. That singular view, spanning the past 40 years, advocates strong, fair and accountable governance.
That is why I often say that in all the years God has granted me to write for public consumption, I have written only one article. That article has made various appearances in various places, but it is my only one view, one position, and it is guided by one philosophy: right or wrong, good or bad.
That is it. That is all I have written about since I was a teenager appearing in Lagos post offices to mail handwritten articles and letters to newspapers. That is all I have done since I learned touch-typing in a roadside secretarial institute in Lagos, and since I took my first job and wrote my first column and bought my first computer.
It is with that mind-set I have written about Nigeria since 1975. I have done stories involving Heads of State and presidents and dictators; governors and Ministers and commissioners; Senators and Representatives and Assemblymen; institutions and parastatals and agencies; ideas and philosophies and proclamations; plans and budgets and projects; fictions and fantasies and phantoms.
Good or bad, right or wrong.
I have never been guided by the comfort of a philosophical or material paymaster, because I have never had one; or the displeasure of anyone.
But then, there are people such as Nwana, who preceded his name with the title of professor, who—limited by poor vision, information and empathy—arrive to deploy accusations of hate. They say ‘History,’ when all they have read is a couple of newspaper articles in a 40-year span.
Hatred of Mr. Jonathan? If the opposite of hate is love, his argument is really why—like he—I do not love his candidate, Mr. Jonathan.
I use the word, candidate, deliberately. You know the issue is presidential candidature and the brewing electoral contest because they begin to spray into the air such poisonous emotions as “born to rule.” They deploy misinformation, such as Jonathan being “not the author of Nigeria’s woes” as if anyone ever said so.
Of greater significance, the issue is not Jonathan, but Nigeria. It is in the context of Nigeria that the questions are and always have been—since Murtala Mohammed in 1975 —“Right or wrong? Good or bad?” You do not place ahead of the issue mere names that are simply passers-by like everyone else. You should not give a student passing grades simply because of the name he answers or praise a leader just because of the title. Worse still, it is shameful when people who claim professorships and Ph.Ds. have no hesitation supporting dirty toilets as they do dirtier politics.
Anyone wishing to question my position on Jonathan is welcome, but focusing on Jonathan with no reference to a 40-year worldview, or even on his accomplishments, is ridiculous.
Of these 40 years, it is only in the past nine that Mr. Jonathan has appeared on my radar, introduced by his federal money-laundering indictment in 2006. I did not indict him; the government he now heads did.
Mr. Jonathan would eventually become President, a position he has now held for six years. The problem is that ‘President’ is not a chieftaincy title; it is a job. People who do a bad job are normally fired, not praised.
I have chronicled Jonathan through this period fairly closely, as have many others, a process that people like Nwana consider to be “hatred” rather than history.
My verdict is not different from that of many others who have observed as Mr. Jonathan unveiled the official and personal lapses that have thrown Nigerians into poverty, servitude and violence, and made Nigeria the butt of jokes the world over.
I know that Nwana’s daughter was not kidnapped in Chibok, his son not trampled to death in the NIS job scam or burnt to death in Buni Yadi. The Nwanas of Nigeria seem to be proud that Dipreye Alamieyeseigha was pardoned, Diezani Alison-Madueke enjoys presidential protection, and Stella Oduah was never prosecuted. For them, it is hatred for me question why the Second Niger Bridge promised for delivery in 2015 will now be completed in 2019; why a war that could not be fought in five years is now conveniently scheduled for six weeks; or why presidential electoral promises and vows are not honoured.
Finally, it is no coincidence that fiction and manipulation are often the resort of those who seek to justify President Jonathan’s failures, which they blame on the victims. Contrary to Nwana’s claim, for instance, it was Lawal Kaita—he of the PDP—who spoke about Nigeria being made ungovernable after the 2011 polls. Evidence, for the Nwana’s who claim “capacity for proper research and interrogation of the truth”: presidential spokesman Reuben Abati. After being sued by General Muhammadu Buhari for that same fiction, he settled out of court, and apologised.
It is distressing to reflect on the fact that Nigeria’s rulers are often advised by the Nwanas of this world who say those who ask for the truth are the ones paving the road to war. That is further proof that while you may buy an electoral office or even a professorship, the capacity for honour—like empathy—can neither be taught nor bought.