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A Nation of Compromisers Meets Its Match in a Goodluck Jonathan? By Adagbo Onoja


It is all so fresh. I am referring to the memories of the 2011 electioneering campaign as we did it in Jigawa State where I was the Special Adviser on Media Affairs to the governor. The campaign was heavily involving. Daily, take-off from Dutse was between 9 and 10 O’clock and we came back around 3/4 a.m the following morning, including weekends. But it was the tension that characterised the entire campaign that was most worrisome. Sule Lamido was a crowd puller but the idea that something belonging to the North was being taken away from them by force of state power was popular with the masses even as they managed to echoe “Nigeria, sai Goodluck”. The tension between the two poles could be cut with a knife each day.

I used to wonder what I would tell God as I approached Heaven should violence break out at any point and I was one of those something fatal happened to. Nobody back home in Benue would understand what I was killed for. Some would even go ahead and say that the Muslims had killed a Christian although my problems in Jigawa were never about cultural or religious discriminations as I was accepted at all levels, to the point of an emir graciously inviting me to join him in his Golf game. So, my problems were never in the realm of discrimination but that of a power owner’s calculus.

But who would have been there to explain the death of a Christian political appointee in a predominantly Muslim Jigawa outside of conspiracy theorizing? Thank God, nobody was ever injured throughout.

The question, however, is, why did the 2011 elections become that complicated in Jigawa and across the North except in the Middle Belt areas where identity idealism favoured Jonathan? Answer: the endorsement by the 22 or so governors of the PDP, particularly by those of them from the North, that Goodluck Jonathan was the candidate of the PDP.

It will remain a big debate as to whether the governors took the best interest of the nation into consideration in their decision but, by that decision, the governors firmly put Nigeria on notice that they had arrived as the most decisive power syndicate in the country. It didn’t take long before voices could be heard from other stakeholders in Nigerian power politics that the governors have constituted themselves into a college of bad boys. A discerning actor like T. Y Danjuma said so. And Professor Jubril Aminu too, describing the Nigerian Governors’ Forum as a strange instrument oppressing the Federal Government, something he said could put the country in serious trouble if it was not checked. These were very shocking interventions. I thought that it was smart for a complex country like Nigeria to invest in formal and informal safeguards such as the governors’ forum given the twists and turns of Nigerian politics.

From protest voices, it has now come to where we are breaking up the forum. It’s like Nigeria must break everything for Jonathan’s sake, from rotation of power principle to the governors’ forum, without a thought for the fact that Nigeria is a nation of compromisers. Of course we are, that being why rotation of power was not defended even though, after the June 12 crisis, it was clear Nigeria badly needed a formula to remove quadrennial threat to stability arising from succession unpredictability in a deeply divided society where it is very difficult for individuals to break cultural and tendency barriers and be easily electable nationwide.

But instead of defending a principle, we had all manner of dangerous equivocations and opportunistic argumentation posed by even senior citizens on the issue between June and December of 2010 when the debate raged. Only Adamu Ciroma, Olu Falae, Atiku Abubakar, Iyorchia Ayu and Shehu Sani are the exceptions to this in the newspapers that I spent time reading so far on the debate. This, I believe, created a vacuum which the governors moved up to fill.

But that’s by the way. More interesting is this anti-climax in which governors who took great risks like the Jigawa case mentioned above are now at war with the PDP, with potentials for the common ruin of both protagonists and antagonists. That war raises the all important question: Hasn’t a nation of compromisers met its match in a Goodluck Jonathan?

On a sadistic note, I wish GEJ can overwhelm the country in 2015 as an unforgettable penalty for the culture of compromising to survive. But can he?

…Niyi Osundare and Jerry Gana’s Pro-Chancellorship of UNILAG

On July 26th, 2005, Professor Niyi Osundare delivered a valedictory lecture at the University of Ibadan. It was titled, The Universe in the University: A Scholar-Poet’s Look from Inside Out. As a human effort, Osundare’s text is not and cannot be a perfect text. But it is still of the stature of a canonical text as far as the crisis in academia in Nigeria is concerned. The genius of Osundare’s intervention is the way he spoke to power as well as to powerlessness. In other words, he didn’t just hit at the Federal Government for all its crimes against the university cum educational system in the country, he also reckoned with the fact that ‘the leaf-eating grub lives among the leaves’. That is one of the reasons why his lecture is important for anyone intent on re-inventing the universities in Nigeria.

Now, Professor Jerry Gana has not told anybody that he is intent on any ‘undue radicalism’. But the point is that, no matter what might have happened to him ideologically, his appointment as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council of a Nigerian university is an occasion to pose the agenda of re-invention of the universities. And this is not just for the reason that Gana was an academic but for the more important reason of what people like him represent in a country like Nigeria in spite of wild, weird conspiracy theories I have heard about Jerry Gana who is, however, too educated to get involved in such inordinate, malevolent agenda.

Although political power has ennobled Gana to the contrary of his ideological antecedent, he is, nevertheless, a reference point in social mobility based on knowledge and ability. That is another way of saying, for example, that he became a Professor of Human Geography before he was grabbed into the orbit of state power, from MAMSER to minister of this, minister of that. But even more significant is the fact that before this, he had made an iconic entry into politics by miraculously defeating a candidate of an entrenched power constellation in the North in the 1983 elections into the Senate. By that, he became a further statement in extending the prospects of radicals in electoral democracy outside Kano where radical populists have historically wrestled the aristocracy to the ground. This development sent signals to the establishment if a Sunday New Nigerian article titled, “The Nupe About -Turn” was anything to go by. Gana was in the NPP/PPA, the hub of progressivism then.

Of course, a number of people also see him today as a case study in AGIP, (Any Government In Power) which is a statement of disenchantment with his ability to fit into almost every government since 1986. That is something he has to respond to someday by probably recalling Governor Sule Lamido’s statement in 2002, describing Jerry Gana as one of the beacons with which Nigeria was recovered in 1998/9. No discursive psychologist can dismiss such a statement coming from a long time associate of Gana, from their PPA days to their ill-fated People’s Solidarity Party (PSP) and then the PDP of which Lamido and Gana were among the original dreamers.

It is on the basis of this background that the Pro-Chancellorship of a Jerry Gana must automatically be about isolating the university system in Nigeria from the social morass which has engulfed the entire society. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has courageously and relentlessly led this struggle. It is time for people from academia or strong beneficiaries from the power of knowledge like Gana to add to it. Gana would only be building on the singular contributions of establishment men like Gamaliel Onosode, Anyim Pius Anyim and Wale Babalakin. I am not ignorant of Babalakin’s on-going fight for his life but that is more a function of the tendency tit-for-tat in “Our Great Party” than a subtraction from his exemplarity as a Pro-Chancellor.

But, in the case of Professor Jerry Gana, we are not talking of a Governing Council Chairman who must chair well, we are also talking of exceptionalism in a transformative sense, that being why he needs to read Osundare’s lecture for a conceptual framework on what would constitute transformation in UNILAG today and from which the other universities can then take their bearing in terms of world class universities in Nigeria.

To that extent, Osundare’s lecture is not something to be summarized by anybody for Prof Jerry Gana but something he must read as well as ‘read’ all alone before his next trip to UNILAG.  That is the only way UNILAG might have been lucky to have an establishment man with a past that can afford the radical temperament as well in remaking the university in a way that would have a bandwagon effect throughout Nigeria. Anything short of that will be such a big disappointment because it is not only big budgets that a typical Nigerian university is starved of, it is also starved of little other things, many of which requires no more than just one person who would not accept lilliputianism and rationalization of failure. Again, most of these little things are listed in Osundare’s lecture.

It is perhaps time to, as a standard practice, spread people like Gana as Pro-Chancellor of the first generation universities, for a start. This would be for the reason that they know what these universities were then and should see what they are now. I understand that when, with the help of Alhaji M. D Yusuf, former IGP, the late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was dragged to inspect ABU, Zaria where he got his first degree, he was horrified by what he saw and hurried away in utter disappointment. It is the turn of the Jerry Ganas to see again the UIs, UNNs, UNILAGs, ABUs and OAUs.

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