How not to run (down) a government Zainab Suleiman Okino

It is less than a year now since President Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as a democratically elected president. The year proceeding May 29, 2011, was characterised by high-wire politicking in a tension-soaked, electioneering campaign. No election, not even the bitter-rivalry between Awolowo and Shagari in the 1979 and 1983 elections, had ever witnessed such bad blood and name calling. As the drama unfolded, the ship of state was sinking: state matters were left unattended, the unusual insecurity crept in and poverty became more pervasive, although a few elite chanced into money overnight due to their proximity to the levers of power. The president had so many distractions, most of which were self-inflicted and couldn’t care less about good governance.

If the pre-May 2011 was for politics and politricks, I thought the succeeding year(s) should be exploited for the good of Nigerians—try to meet their expectation, by providing their basic necessities in a paternalist way, as a father would to his children. One year after those high-pitch activities were put behind us, and more than three years into the next democratic milestone, interest groups working for or against the president are already having a brain-wave about 2015 and why it has to be Jonathan again. It is already two years of waste and you want to spend the next three years again on political intrigues and manoeuvres.

The rabble-rousing was led by the fiery old Ijaw leader, Edwin Clark and the National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi, Asari Dokubo, Kinsley Kuku among others. They felt the nation’s pulse when they declared or called on Jonathan to run for the presidency in 2015. In a Leadership report last week, the South-South group spoke on the ‘dangers of conceding’ the ‘top political post’ to another region, as if it’s somebody’s birth right.

One of the members of the group, Joshua Fumudoh, a former president of Ijaw National Congress, who was also at the meeting, said they had to persuade the president, because his (president) desire to serve only one term as he proclaimed before, did not take into consideration what would happen to the remaining four years that would have been Jonathan’s second tenure. I’m amazed at this sort of reasoning. Has this same man ever pondered over what happened to the North, whose tenure of eight years was cut short by more than half due to Yar’Adua’s death? Yet, they deployed all the means in their arsenal to make Jonathan president.

Going by Chief Clark’s antecedents, at least in recent times, the kingmaker’s only pre-occupation is to crown Jonathan president again and again. I do not begrudge his choice of vocation, even if the old man does not care about the consequences of his utterances and actions. But we should however, worry about the timing of his message, the meddling and the less than serious attention allotted state matters as against frivolities that the campaign will entail. Unfortunately, and ever since Clerk’s Lagos meeting came into the open,  the presidency, which should be concerned about the dangers of being drawn into the damaging trend now, has kept mute over the kite-flying. I expected the president or his handlers to shut Clark and company up, but it didn’t happen. I wanted to hear homily such as ‘I won’t be distracted ’, ‘I have a more serious work to ensure the ship of state is not adrift’, ‘It’s too early to talk about 2015’, etc, being attributed to the president. Alas! I didn’t see any of such messages.

Instead, the president appears to be dancing to the deadly beats of heating up the polity and fanning the embers of disaffection, in spite of the fact that so many worrisome issues of poverty and hunger, unemployment and youth restiveness and Boko Haram are stoking and stalking the nation. Nevertheless, this is not about the propriety of Jonathan’s 2015 ambition. I can almost guess what his minders would say: Oh “she’s anti-Jonathan, or she doesn’t like him”. Far from it. It is just astounding, how a president who has such a big task to fix a shattered nation and reinvent the wheel could keep quite over such an untimely proposition.

Some people have made allusion to Jonathan’s Washington assurance in Obama’s presence that he would not contest in 2015. So what! Could the volte-face be bigger than going against his party’s written constitution on zoning or his denial that he was ever part of a Villa meeting where zoning was reaffirmed and his signature appended on that document, as the Bayelsa acting governor? Or what do you expect Jonathan to tell his audience in America; when he’s in their midst, he plays the ball according to their tricks. That is political correctness.

Meanwhile, it is revealing to read Senator Kanti Bello’s remark in the Vanguard at the weekend that the North never extracted any commitment of handover to it in 2015. His was also a frank reaction to whether Jonathan promised not to run in 2015. Kanti Bello said: “He (Jonathan) has redefined zoning. So, once he picked the ticket, I had no alternative than to support him, within my limits because I knew my people were not in support. So, in order to take something to our people, I asked the president, “can we have his words that in 2015, he will not run?” To be fair to Jonathan, he did not answer the question. But I can remember some people went ahead and issued a communiqué that President Jonathan was going to do only one term. But the president did not say so. They issued the communiqué as if they had discussed with him, deceiving our people. Now, there is a strong indication coming out that Jonathan will contest in 2015…he has never said he is not interested…”

Now, who do you blame for the lapse if any? Is it the beneficiary (Jonathan/South)  or the likely victim (North) whose political elite sold their opportunity for peanut, a long  time ago, starting from Obasanjo’s emergence, to the time he (Obasanjo) single handedly  foisted a terminally ill Yar’Adua (as the North’s choice) on the country.

The country has been totally run down by incompetence and lack of foresight. Focusing on an election that is three years away can bring the country to its knees. Jonathan is advised to rather use his time productively, than concentrate on 2015 now.

Zainab Suleiman Okino ,an editor and columnist with Blueprint newspaper (published this piece April 18,2012)


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