Ex-super Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Ahmed Joda has, among other propositions on the way out of the current social impasse in Nigeria, advised President Jonathan to renounce contesting the 2015 presidential election, (if we are still a country capable of still holding elections by then). The logic of the advice is that such would enable the incumbent to facilitate a new constitution and credible elections. Jonathan renouncing 2015 is among about 7 other propositions in Joda’s package.
There is not much to object to in Joda’s package except his undue attention to a Sovereign National Conference, (SNC) via a constitution re-making assembly and his surprising advocacy for repudiation of rotational presidency. But the SNC is not an answer to what is happening to the country and the elder statesman will only be too disappointed by the outcome of what he is proposing if the totality of the debates in the National Assembly, in the media and in the civil society so far is anything to go by.
We can never tire in referring to the fact that the British never had a written constitution, yet the British bourgeoisie once ruled the world and Britain is still a force to reckon with. It is not necessary that everything is put in the constitution. Attitude and leadership are also required to make even the best constitution to work. The problem is not in our stars but in ourselves. Nigeria is not in crisis because it has a lousy or inadequate constitution but because its power elite are not committed to it. Without such a group leadership to make the state manifest in the lives of the people, the state itself has become totally illegitimate and it is about to wither away but too violently to be accepted.
As Joda correctly pointed out, the majority of both the elite and of the ordinary Nigerians have nothing against the country. The trouble with Nigeria, however, is the quality of its post colonial power elite. It is a spoilt power elite as far as belief that we have a state is concerned. Once a nation lacks an elite which believes in it, nothing else will work.
The latest evidence of elite rascality (not reducible to Obasanjo who was himself successfully denied 3rd term when it suited the elite) is putting in power a member of that elite whose statecraft was bound to become a part of the crisis. Jonathan power was elite rascality because Jonathan is a leader recruited at the top without the advantage of growing up within the party and being in a position to appreciate the country in the required depth. His emergence is comparable to giving a 19 year old son a Boeing 747 to pilot just because his father was a Captain. What does anybody expect him to do when the plane gets into extreme turbulence? And who can blame him or why should he accept any blame for incompetence from anybody when very senior citizens were telling us that his presidency was a divine construction. So, Nigeria should thank her stars if it does not crash under the weight of incumbency. It serves us right and it makes some of us absolutely happy.
In other countries where access to power is well lubricated, the option of getting him out in the next election would be the solution if he still cannot fulfil basic leadership requirements by then. The French have just tossed out Nicolas Sarkozy when they found he was dancing to a different drumbeat from the one that De Gaulle and other founders of the French state would have approved of. Here, it is a different ball game. The incumbent is a god himself, superior to the party or any other institutions.
This leaves a large room for external actors in the politics of regime change in Nigeria and it won’t change drastically in 2015. Jonathan will certainly not contest if the Americans, for example, tell him not to. That would be something similar to the pressure Jimmy Carter piled on Kenneth Kaunda or George Bush on IBB, compelling him to conduct the 1993 elections in spite of the contrary position of a section of the military. If that scenario plays out, Jonathan will hand over to whomever he is told to, as obediently as African leaders comply. But the Americans will not be doing that based on romantic calculations. Their action will depend on their own assessment of the Jonathan persona and presidency vis-à-vis their own agenda, who else is talking to them from Nigeria and saying what and how all these fit or do not fit into the grand strategy of the American empire. So, all in all, it has never been this complicated for Nigeria.
There is no explicit evidence that the United States would like Nigeria to break-up. All her circuitous maneuvers in GWOT, AFRICOM and militaristic power projections are not strategies directed specifically at Nigeria but of global domination. The complication, however, is that Nigeria is a Hegemon and the US is a member of the alliance trying to break- up Hegemons around the world because Hegemons, like Nigeria, have the population and land size to repeat a variant of what China has done. Nigeria may not expect to be left off the hook without a leadership or a party skillfully negotiating concessions for it like the Indians and, to a great extent, the Indonesians have done. And leadership is what Nigeria hasn’t got, for quite sometime now, both at the individual and collective leadership levels.
Within this context, the various prophecies of doomsday, of violent break-up as well as the movements for disintegration should never be dismissed or under rated even as we say that majority of Nigerians do not want the country to break-up. For, it is not the nobility of the majority but the wickedness of the few that is at issue in this matter.
With presidential statecraft lacking in the dexterity that can undermine and neutralize forces incrementally implementing a break-up agenda, consciously and unconsciously, we might be in a state of no return. More so that even the non-state sector is equally in ideological and political disarray, from the intelligentsia to the politicians to the business elite, the clergy and the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. It is only the armed forces and the intelligence community that one cannot make any categorical statement regarding their collective clarity about Nigeria’s descent into Somalia. But even if the armed forces remain aggregately clear headed relative to the larger society, can it alone save a nation from disintegration whose leading elite do not believe in it?
It is against this background that one sees a great deal of merit in what OBJ and IBB have started, irrespective of our moral detestation of them, especially if they replace the grass roots approach they suggested with reconciliation within the PDP. The Nigerian crisis at the moment is, essentially, a PDP crisis, that being where the elite of power are most concentrated. The elite fragmentation in the PDP is, therefore, an even greater threat to the nation than the insurgency movements across the country. To the extent that the defeat of the PDP is neither a foregone conclusion in 2015 nor its defeat a guarantee of anything radically different, internal healing within the party is automatically a priority for all of us. This is why what OBJ, IBB, Joda, Asiodu and others like them have started should be directed at healing the PDP, first and foremost.
One has, in a different write-up from this, drawn attention to Sule Lamido, the Jigawa State governor’s articulation of the case for internal healing in the PDP in an interview in Sunday Trust on September 13th, 2010. Within the context of the Political sociology of organisation thinking, I haven’t found a better articulation of the justification elsewhere and it bears quoting again and again. He said “the PDP, no matter what, must unite, must reconcile because the consequences could be very dire if we are divided. It will not help the country. If we do things wrongly, we could win and plunge the government into crisis. No matter what, we will win, but we should win with a party at peace with itself; fully reconciled and united; working on the basis of the rules of the party to achieve the objectives of a peaceful, prosperous and stable country. We could create tension in the country, creating division along North and South and religious divides. We will win, but we will be confronted with crisis after we win the election. We have to decide, whether to lead Nigeria into prosperity or the win only to manage crisis”.
No Nigerian who lived through the nightmare of June 12, the Abacha nightmare and the conflicts that characterised Obasanjo’s terminal years in power would wish for the return of anything similar to those again. The only way to avoid that as it is today and yet preserve democracy is returning the PDP to 1998/99, not to another constitution making assembly. It is only an internally healed PDP that can restore the rotational succession formula as an article of faith and a national security framework aimed at keeping the struggle for power within the limits of control so that it doesn’t threaten the survival of the country itself. In a country where the quest for access to oil rents paid to the Nigerian State is the only reason people seek for power, there can be nothing more revolutionary than rotational presidency. Otherwise, whoever gets there would like to remain there for its own sake. And this is why Jonathan will not listen to Joda in relation to renouncing 2015 even as he is manifestly not forceful enough to do what needs to be done immediately to restore state legitimacy. It is, therefore, surprising for Joda to suggest standing down rotational presidency just like that.