The Next President ,By Wole Olaoye



Jonathan-news 600Although no interest group has come out in the open to canvass the dismemberment of Nigeria as presently constituted, the drift towards that destination is all too clear for the discerning to see. There isn’t a more poignant pointer to this than the volume of helium generated in trying to launch the balloon of sectional hate in the run-up to the next presidential elections. It seems Nigeria’s fateful T-Junction is the next federal elections that will produce the next president. Will Goodluck Jonathan be the last president of Nigeria as presently constituted?

Shortly after Jonathan was declared winner of the last presidential elections I did suggest that it was reality time for those who had hitherto played the ostrich. Some elections are won in Nigeria on account of people voting AGAINST one candidate rather than voting for the eventual winner. An objective analysis would show that Jonathan benefitted from that kind of
situation especially in the Southwest of the country. If you spoke to people on the streets most of them would tell you that they opted for what appeared to them as the lesser of two evils, not necessarily that they believed that Jonathan was the knight in shining armour coming to rescue the damsel called Nigeria. In my humble opinion, that was why and how
Jonathan won. And, as I argued, there was also no sense in doubting the huge votes Buhari recorded in some zones for the simple reason that the same kind of reasoning played out in other parts of Nigeria to the advantage of the general.

No one needs a crystal ball to fathom what is behind the present tension in the country and, indeed the fractious situation in the ruling PDP where the falcon seems to have lost contact with the falconer. It is all about who becomes the next president. Most of the political players, especially those of the ethno-religious hue, don’t care a hoot about the quality of the
person or the vision of possible contenders; all they want is someone from their village or a candidate who subscribes to their religion. Although we all agree that all the zones of Nigeria and the two major religions of Christianity and Islam are well represented in the league of well-connected thieves and inept leaders in the land, some people seem to contend that it
is better to have a religious or tribal soul mate in the saddle than have a competent one from a different ethnic or religious group.
By now, we ought to be assessing prospective contenders based on time-tested values and objective parameters, but we are not doing so. Instead, as can be deduced from a content analysis of media coverage on the subject, two dangerous camps have emerged: (a) the “It-Is-Our-Turn” group and (b) the “Jonathan-for-second-term” group. Both sides insist on a
zero-some game; to them everything is black and white even as they are daily confronted with many shades of grey. The first group would not shift grounds even if Jonathan ends up being a great achiever; all they want is that one of their own becomes the next president. The second group also cannot be bothered if Jonathan winds up as an unmitigated disaster; he must have a second term simply because he is their brother from the oil-producing part of the country.

The majority of Nigerians are outside the two camps identified above. And they will have the last say. Those who have been too blindfolded by partisanship to forensically analyse the chances of their candidates will be faced with crushing electoral defeat and would not be able to comprehend the dynamics of their candidate’s rejection by the populace. There are
people who will vote for religion during any electoral contest; the future does not belong to them. There are people who will vote for tribe; their days are numbered because the political jackals they put forward will end up devouring their children and eating up their future. The beasts of ethnic nationalism have not been known to discriminate between the flesh of a brother and that of a stranger; when on rampage anything goes.

Most ordinary Nigerians that I have spoken to, in formal and informal settings are neither interested in the president’s village nor in his professed religion. All they want is a competent leader whose vision and moral rectitude will make Nigeria a better place.

There ought to be no problem if President Jonathan opts to run for a second term irrespective of whatever agreement he has had with his party members. If the constitution allows him to run and he truly wants to run, then let him throw his hat into the ring once again. In the same vein the opposition has a right to merge and provide a formidable alternative so that Nigerians can have a credible choice. If the opposition get their acts right who says
they can’t produce the next president? Well, did you say an incumbent president has never lost an election in Nigeria before? True, but when last was a ruling party so fractious and the contending intra-party forces as centrifugal as is the case with the PDP now. If Jega’s INEC lives up to its billing, we should all be able to live with our electoral choice at the end of the day. Homework for you: If the main opposition candidate does not carry ethno-religious baggage of jingoism can Jonathan win or can he not?

Agents of Division

All those beating drums of religious and ethnic jingoism had better look for some nobler undertaking. By and by they are helping to fulfil the doomsday prediction of some American analysts who project that Nigeria may self-destruct by 2015. Let them step back from the precipice – unless of course it is generally agreed that we are better off as several smaller
nations instead of one great Nigeria. Will these people ever give Nigeria a chance to breathe?
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