Jerry Gana: Haba, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu!By Adagbo Onoja

Jerry GanaMany of us were embarrassed by the unbelievable clumsiness in managing Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State’s calamity and, by implication, condemn anybody associated with it but that is no reason for Modibbo Kawu or any columnists whosoever to then isolate a Professor Jerry Gana for tirade as Modibbo did in his column on September 6th, 2013. This is because Jerry Gana also stands for some other core values that should appeal to Modibbo and every other persons who belong to our ideological camp as progressives. But, above all, for the simple fact that he is far, far more decent and better than some of those that Comrade Modibbo patronises and advertises in his column, many of them corrupt and, in fact, horrible characters.
Jerry Gana is still that one person whose story best captures the struggle of the underclass in Nigeria – absolutely educated, becoming a professor before he came to national limelight. And when he came to national limelight, he did so as a progressive, not as a mercenary intellectual. And even after so many years in power, he is still not one of the filthy rich. If our own Modibbo cannot respect this man, then something must be wrong somewhere.
It is very interesting that my reckoning with Jerry Gana was instigated by Sule Lamido rather than Middle Belt or Christian solidarity. It happened on February 5th, 2003 when Lamido, as Foreign Affairs Minister represented then President Obasanjo at the commissioning of the first out of the 32 FM stations being built under Jerry Gana as Information Minister. At the palace of the Etsu Nupe just before the main ceremony, Lamido said, among other things that Gana was one of those being used to network Nigerian unity. Whatever one may say about Lamido, everyone would agree that he speaks his mind, not diplomatese. When, on the basis of that statement, I went to read about Gana, I found he had taken very progressive positions especially in the numerous Government House seminars under the Rimi administration in Kano in the Second Republic. I never forget one of such positions where he basically predicted June 12 in 1981. I realized that Lamido was not just talking of what he and Gana had been doing in the People’s Democratic Party but what they had done in the defunct PRP.
Since then, I have consistently said that the tragedy of the PDP, an achievement of progressive politicians in Nigeria, is that it has never been headed by any of the core elements who formed it, after the Solomon Lar tenure. People who didn’t experience the pains of its birth under Abacha have been presiding over the party, both at the level of presidential candidates and the party’s nomenclatura. The result is the situation today whereby the party is in tatters, with Alex Ekwueme, Adamu Ciroma, Sule Lamido and Jerry Gana in different camps in the elephantine family. This is a tragedy as far as the link between a strong nationalist political party and democratic consolidation in Nigeria is concerned. It is not something to be understood by a simplistic binarism of the good versus the bad but a challenge for everyone who reckons with his or herself as a progressive journalist to work for the qualitative re-union of all those members of that broad progressive family in Nigerian politics whose disintegration as a collective has robbed Nigerian politics of substance and direction.
If Modibbo’s hidden anger is that Jerry Gana is perceived to be with Jonathan, how is that different from Modibbo’s right to be against Jonathan? There are many of us who detest Jonathan’s abiding faith in localism and inelegant statecraft but that doesn’t mean we should develop hatred for those who do not see it that way. After all, we saw Adamu Ciroma and his wife being on different pages about Jonathan not too long ago. That, for me, was a big plus for the Ciroma family. It is the kind of situation one would also wish to have too – a wife or son or sister or daughter ‘educated’ enough to take and sustain an independent position. Certainly not a Jerry Gana because the notion of AGIP that Modibbo feels happy in attaching to Gana as a drawback makes no sense for a man who is still not a billionaire even after so many years in government during which he had direct access to the Heads of State or presidents he served. Not only is he not a billionaire, his children (I am not sure but he must have grown up children) are still not as showy as the children of many others in his bracket.
I am yet to interact with Jerry Gana at close range. Even when he came to visit Lamido when I was still in Jigawa, it was never beyond the initial welcome formalities but I do not need to know him beyond the public spiritedness I can observe in his life. An example of that public spiritedness is the fact that Jerry Gana has drafted the development strategy of so many state governments in Nigeria since 1985. He did this very quietly but it is a well known fact about him within the power elite. When one of it was launched at NIIA in Lagos during the early years of the IBB administration, people wondered aloud how a military governor came by such a document. Even the Jonathan government’s Transformation Agenda must either be Jerry Gana’s document or something he contributed to tremendously. The tragedy again is that it is neither he nor people with any ideological appreciation of that document that are in power to implement it.
Looking at all these, one may even say that it is good the Jerry Ganas of this country are AGIP. Who knows how far the madness of governance in Nigeria would have gone if their types were not there. So, Comrade Modibbo’s disrespectful labeling of Jerry Gana can only suggest that we are not going beyond stereotypes when dealing with individuals, core values and leadership. And that his attack on Gana might only have happened because Gana, like most Middle Belt elite, obviously has no media arsenal and is, therefore, a whipping boy on whom you can say anything and it sticks. But, in a functional society, someone, somewhere should note such unjustified attacks and challenge it irrespective of how far s/he may be from Gana because this society is paying dearly for wrong assessment of the right people.
Finally, what is this nonsense about AGIP? Would Modibbo tell me that if he were the one found to be of use by successive Nigerian presidents, he would have said no to that? There are some people like that who are called upon by presidents of all ideological shades to assist. It is not being AGIP that might be the problem but an AGIP’s value frame of reference. If it is true that Gana made in puts to GEJ’s Transformation Agenda, which is an absolutely brilliant framework being messed up by half hearted nationalists, then it means the core value of progressive politics is still there in him as in the late 1970s. And if that is the case, then we can excuse his other flaws because he too is as human as we all are. Where is the one of us who is flawless?

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