Following the streaming avalanche of media commentary on the submissions of Hon. Kingsley Kuku, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman, Presidential Amnesty Programme, in Washington DC, U.S.A during his recent meeting with ranking American government officials, it has become clear to discerning observers that Nigerians must be wary of the ‘integrity’ and ‘genuineness’ of rooftop critics.
We need a questioning populace who would be on their toes to see through their criticism. We need citizens who would go back to the Socratic ethos, which taught the ancient Athenians that when a critic came to you asking you to condemn and desecrate your essence in the name of ‘progress’ or change you should question him. The great Greek philosopher taught man to have a probing mind although not to the point of pushing for a state of anarchy as critics of Kuku’s presentation have done.
Hon. Kuku had gone to Washington as part of a series of bilateral engagements between Nigeria and the U.S. as a result of the relative peace in the Niger Delta made possible by the amnesty initiative. The Americans themselves, through a high-level delegation led by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Cynthia Akuetteh, were in Nigeria last year on the heels of the success of the amnesty scheme under the aegis of the 2012 Bi-National Commission (BNC). The leader of the U.S. team said among other things: “We (the United States) are committed to help Nigeria maintain the momentum of the 2009 amnesty (proclamation) in order to ensure lasting peace in the Delta… the United States can help the region fulfill its potential.”
So, in April 2013, the presidential adviser undertook a follow-up trip to Washington where the administration of President Barack Obama availed him the rare opportunity of meeting with very senior officials led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau of African Affairs) Ambassador Donald Teitelbaum.
He told the Americans this global truth: Peace in the Niger Delta, the basis on which the Americans and other Western nations want to bring massive investment into Nigeria, rests on a programme and situation driven by a personality, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. It is in the interest therefore of the world (and, of course, Nigerians) to support his administration and his policies since the peace in the region we are talking about was sealed by his redemptive involvement and his being at the helm. Be careful you don’t upturn the boat through a rash distraction and truncation of the process of amnesty the President and his team have handled quite adroitly!
But since he made the comment, there has been a rain of criticism upon Kuku. Only hours after his meeting with the American government officials, a radio station in Lagos mounted an early morning interactive session where the guest analyst, Jimi Disu, lambasted him for his comments and charged him with blackmail. Days later Garba Shehu, the ….spokesman for former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, who lost to Jonathan in the Peoples Democratic Party presidential primaries for the party’s ticket in 2011, would write that Kuku cannot sway the U.S. with ‘cheap blackmail.’
He added that what the PAP boss did was to launch a ‘third term’ campaign for Jonathan. Whatever that means! But many were not amused because they could decipher who the piper was.
More was to come from the band of attack dogs, who can barely mask their disdain for the Jonathan administration. This time it was the Vanguard columnist, Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, who on April 25 raised the salient point that Jonathan’s stay or re-election depends on his performance and the ‘democratic process.’ But alas, he aborts himself when he says it is the Niger Delta political elite (which are) ‘currently running Nigeria.’
Read perceptively, these censures emanate from familiar backgrounds. The analyst on radio, long used to carrying a luggage of criticism without a constructive spirit, cannot see any good in a government representative’s patriotic submission to a foreign government. In the case of Garba Shehu, he must be pitied for seeking to denigrate anything Jonathan stands for, the easier to make him cede space for Atiku, his principal, even when there is yet no space to vacate! With regard to Kawu, who descended to the abyss of warmongering for the North, he forgot that Nigeria has gone past the era of hoisting the flag of one monolithic North.
The point must be made that beyond the narrow-minded prism of these naysayers, Kuku was influenced by a higher faculty to seek support for his motherland through presenting her in a good light. What he did in projecting Jonathan as a rallying and unifying character is not different from what was done when Nigeria had to face the events that threw up Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in the heady days that followed the death of the winner of the 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O Abiola. The mantra that saved the nation was: present Nigeria another Yoruba man as President to halt our fast-paced drift towards the cliff overhanging a bottomless pit.
Although history is a record of momentous happenings, it is also greatly driven by personalities. We cannot deny this. To be sure, Kuku was also not insisting that without Jonathan as a personality in the drama of Nigeria’s politics, the country would fall apart.
What he did in Washington was that he showed the ultimate patriot in him by taking a philosophical look, as it were, at a glass of water. His realistic interpretation if asked about the level of the content would be this: the cup is half full (a positive and encouraging perspective), not half empty (a negative and destructive disposition)!
What Kuku’s critics also fail to realize is that the desire of the Niger Delta people for President Jonathan to complete an eight-year tenure is not a threat to the United States but rather an aspiration of a people that needed to be respected. This is completely different from the born-to-rule attitude that some persons and their foot soldiers, even in the media, poke in the faces of other Nigerians. If Nigeria is to grow into an egalitarian society, then the principles of fairness, equity and justice must be respected and upheld. Put differently, this is what Kuku’s comments represented. So, he does not deserve the kind of criticism that his presentation attracted.
Shehu’s reference to a specious one-term agreement between the President and some northern states governors is equally ridiculous. Is it not amusing that since the Presidency challenged those who made the claim to prove it they seem to have run into their shell like a guilty dog?
What those who relish firing dubious potshots at President Jonathan (just for cheap political gain) do not seem to realize is that Nigerians can no longer be taken for a ride. As the days go by, lies, half-truth and untruth spread through the worst form of propaganda will be laid bare. No matter how far and how fast lies run, truth will always catch up with it. It is just a matter of time!
• Alabrah ([email protected]) writes from Abuja