When diehard supporters of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan are engaged on issues bordering on the current state of the nation, they often always base their passion on age-long issues of regional marginalisation. A problem that was deliberately left for independent Nigeria to inherit in the wake of overt liberation from the fangs of colonial incarceration!
It was in the year 1960. The fear of leaving Nigeria in the hands of the more liberally-structured Southern Nigeria that had a stronger orientation towards western education as opposed to its Northern counterpart seems to have sent a chill up the spine of the outgoing colonial power. After all, the Marxist-Leninist doctrine with the idealised dream of a political Nirvana by the name “Communism” was very much en vogue among the rising intelligentsia of third world communities in the 1960s. The Muslim faithful of Northern Nigeria was by nature, much more conservative and had a lesser quantitative dose of western education.
In the calculation of the British colonialists, as late records uncover, the new-born nation Nigeria would be better protected against communism by empowering the more conservative section of the country. We have been made to understand that crucial columns of the edifice – most notably the military – were thus left by design, under the control of the conservative Northern Nigeria. The result has been several decades of northern dominance in the political administration of Nigeria with the consequential pain of brutally sabotaging what had been a rather inspiring groundwork laid by Yakubu Gowon and the Muhammed/Obasanjo administration.
Ever since, political leadership by a Southern Nigerian at any given time simply became an unusual and rare development. The ascension of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan from a very small minority group is thus viewed within this context as a segment in a continuum of a natural course of justice. More so as his region of origin is more or less considered the proverbial “goose that lays the golden egg” for the Nigerian economy! Let us ignore the reality for once that successive governments (dominated by northern leaders) wilfully failed in diversifying the economy away from a single dominant commodity. Today, that would have robbed the selfish perpetrators of our present economic and commercial collapse one central argument to cling on to.
Be that as it may however, it is easy to understand the sentiments of Goodluck Jonathan’s supporters and empathise with the perceived pains that was forced on us by colonial administrators on the basis of “their” own fears not “ours”. So far, that is fine enough.
The ascension of President Goodluck Jonathan did not only transmit hope to the entire nation that a younger and well educated individual can also climb to the topmost job. It also sent a clear message that anyone from any tribal region no matter how small stands an equal chance of ruling the country compared with the dominance of the “Aboki” – as the Northerners are, today, abusively referred to. It was a message of hope.
While admitting as I have always done that the Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan scored a few laudable achievements such as the revitalisation of the railway line (no matter how primordial and basic) and a few other strides in bureaucratic and structural organisation, it is also unfortunately true that he has done serious and far more dispositive damages to the political and economic house called Nigeria than his supporters are willing to admit. Without going into details in this respect, it will suffice to simply point at the state of the military establishment, infrastructure in the oil, power and transport sector, general state of mind vis-á-vis patriotic commitment to the shared ideals of the nation etc. The prevalent mentality of our present day that is strongly exacerbated under Jonathan more than under any of his predecessors is that of “our time to chop”! The pride of a nation has been killed almost overnight and all prospects of advancement unwittingly, albeit involuntarily, arrested.
Now, given the circumstances of national cohesion in the fight against the Yar’Adua cabal to install Goodluck Jonathan in the Presidency and his complete lack of interest afterwards, in principally working for the benefit of the nation rather than his own re-election all through his tenure, there is a justified sense of anger and despair amongst the electorates. Yet, this does not imply that his supporters do not have a valid point or two in their own “counter”-anger standing at the other side of the aisle.
No one denies that General Muhammadu Buhari was not the best choice the opposition should have produced. Many observers have incessantly opined that General Buhari should have groomed a worthy and recognisable character to at least mimic those virtues that many Nigerians now yearn for in him. So long is the trail of mistakes and simply unacceptable attributes that General Buhari left along the way in his multiple decades of political travail. Comments such as the ones that equated attack on Boko Haram as an attack on the North in the wake of Jonathan’s foolish and half-hearted State of Emergency in some Northern states! Comments credited to him that greeted the prospect of imposing the Sharia law all over Nigeria, coupled with the simple truth that his regime as a former military leader was a reign of terror (which truthfully also served Nigeria well under the circumstances) do not all add up to make him the flag bearer of nationwide admiration.
There are many like me and Prof. Wole Soyinka who disliked Major-General Muhammadu Buhari for several years. Today, however, I have not suddenly changed my mind and began liking General Buhari. Events on the ground have simply forced every right-thinking Nigerian to swallow the bitter pills. The state of the nation created by Jonathan is an extremely sordid institution of the laissez faire doctrine to the benefit of lawbreakers and state-sponsored indolence in its most primitive manifestation. Uncontrolled deterioration of decorum, empowerment of instinctively mean and base assailants in crucial sectors of public life and the callous disbursement of public assets for the entrenchment of a diabolic clique of darkness simply heighten the need for a complete reset of the digital button before the steam runs out.
Never in the history of Nigeria has a sitting President deliberately worked towards the dissolution of the corporate union by arming insurgency and deliberately boosting treasonable disloyalty in the name of protecting oil pipelines with a blank check to loot the nation dry.
The urgency of salvaging the nation simply calls for the renaissance of the brutal iron fist of the Buhari/Idiagbon days to whip errant miscreants back to line again and start rebuilding afresh. If he was alive, Tunde Idiagbon would have been carried on a platter of gold today to stand on the forefront even before any thought would have been wasted on General Buhari. Yet, in spite of every effort to suppress the truth, this same General Buhari is not blemished by corruption charges. He is not blemished by charges of indiscipline. On the contrary, he stands out for modesty laced with inordinate obstinacy, which Nigeria needs right now to reinvent a sense of discipline.
Jonathan loyalists accuse him of presently surrounding himself with a character as dubious as former Governor Bola Tinubu. Sad as it may sound, this is unfortunately true. Governor Bola Tinubu is not an effigy of ethical purity or an unassailable moral crusader. Yet, as Governor of Lagos State, his achievements spoke for themselves. If President Jonathan had toed the same line as Tinubu did and focused strongly on achievements for Nigeria (by building refineries and crushing the mafia of the oil sector once and for all) no one would have cared how much he has “chopped”. If he had empowered the anti-corruption agencies to keep governance clean or even make it look clean, not to mention the blind eye turned to thieves in the military command as long as they secured the seat of power, no one would have cared how much Jonathan may have misappropriated public resources. Instead, the credo was “I don’t give a damn”.
With the love of this country – the only country that we all call home – in any body’s heart, would it still matter at this juncture of apocalyptic decline, who the “Aboki” is or who the “Ph.D” holder is? Is this the time to ask who the dictator is or who the democrat is when militants call the shots and smaller neighbours come to help us pick the chestnut out of a corner-side fireplace?
The distractions of certificates, Islamic fanaticism etc. have only served to underscore a flurry of desperate activities to blindfold the discerning mind of intelligent voters. The truth, however, is that Nigerians simply expect Muhammadu Buhari to strike the reset button and take Nigeria back again to the age of sanity to enable us retrace our steps once again. In a modern world that has been transformed into a global political village surrounded by the evils of fanatical Islamic militancy with all eyes set on crucial spots of potential disorder, chances of moving a multi-religious and secular nation like Nigeria towards the singular path of Islamism will not only attract international reaction and reprisals, but will also be very difficult to sell to the hybrid team of believers in the Buhari team.
The truth however is that many Jonathan loyalists will not care about the sustainability of valid facts. Their minds are made up and they are mostly comfortable with the idea of breaking up the union. What they fail to realise though is the fact that the declaration of independence by any region in Nigeria will not automatically translate into the end of the corporate entity. At worst, it will lead to the killing of hundreds of innocent souls and the union will be re-established. How easily neighboring countries can be encouraged and equipped by stronger powers to collaborate and re-assert a status quo even against the will of Nigeria has been demonstrated by the battle to flush out Boko Haram from the self-proclaimed Caliphate. Dire times await Nigeria today and the guilty one will be none other than the one and only accidental President of multiple regrets, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Frisky Larr is a German-based Radio/Television Journalist and author of Africa’s Diabolical Entrapment.