Friday, December 26, 2014 9:52 pm
By Nwike Ojukwu
A recent SaharaReporter’s article authored by M. K. Hassan inspired this essay. In the article, Hassan responded to PDP’s claim that Muhammadu Buhari was semi-illiterate. While I do not intend to join issue with the PDP or the APC, Mr. Hassan’s response deserves serious consideration. No head of the government of Nigeria has received such disapprobation, denigration, or derision like President Jonathan, and for good reasons. The manner he conducts his presidency, not to mention the interference of his wife, Patience, in state affairs leaves much to be desired. For the first time in living memory, I heard what is referred to as the Office of the First Lady. While I am yet to blank out his disastrous interview with Christiane Amanpour among his other poor outings that challenge his intellect or credentials, my preoccupation here is to appraise the ramification of Jonathan’s potential loss to Muhammadu Buhari.
Throughout Nigeria’s history, political intercourse at the federal level has been an adventure in the struggle for political power by the three major ethnic groups, Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, and Igbo. The civil war permanently vanquished the “Igbo domination” propaganda. The closest an Igbo candidate ever got to the presidency was Alex Ekwueme, the vice president of former President Shehu Shagari. Muhammadu Buhari’s coup d’ Etat of December 31st, 1983 effectively aborted his chances of taking a shot at the office of the president of Nigeria because an Igbo was undeserving of aspiring to be president, let alone actually occupying the office. In reality, the president of Nigerian has alternated between the Yoruba and the Hausa/Fulani ethnic groups. When the military government of Abdulsalami Abubakar returned his constituency to the barracks, I thought that at last an Igbo man, Alex Ekwueme, would win the nomination on the platform of the PDP to contest for the coveted office having fought hard to ease off the military from power. However, he was outwitted by the northern kingmakers. They preferred an ex convict, Olusegun Obasanjo.
The social organization of Nigeria and the arrangement of its politics make no room for any other human being outside the major ethnic groups to be president. This style of operation makes mockery of our democracy. Obasanjo hand-picked and transferred power to Yar’Adua and again hand-picked Jonathan to serve with him. At Yar’Adua’s mortality, Jonathan became president. His being president was by default or an exception to an entrenched design by our founders that provided for a disproportional representation of the regions or ethnic groups at the federal government. Much of the attacks and impertinence that Jonathan’s government has received could be attributable to the fact that he hailed from a minority ethnic group and that informs my essay.
No Nigerian should be president by default, neither should the office be the preserve of any group. This is why I am ambivalent in the alternative that the PDP and the APC presented to us. A part of me wishes Buhari to win because my gut-feeling tells me that he will make a good president. My other character desires to retain Jonathan even in the face of his demonstrated incompetence to register my dissent against the deliberate sabotaging of the contributions of the minorities to the continuing Nigerian narrative.
“While Jonathan was elected president of Nigeria, he gravitated toward his ethnic Ijaw. He turned the other direction when a low life and school dropout like Asari Dokubo disrespected every respectable Nigerian with his fiery rhetoric. Jonathan empowered him as well as Tompolo with contracts and money from the federal purse. Our president forgot that in a few years, he would call on Nigerians to support his second term in office”
When Jonathan became president, one thought that his major schema would be to dismantle the structure that had hitherto prevented any individual outside the major ethnic groups from access to the office of the president of Nigeria. His administration carried the weight of the minorities in Nigeria in terms of performance, aspirations, and access to power. I do not see an individual from any of the minority ethnic groups being the president of Nigeria in the near future unless we adjust the present structure that favors the major groups especially the north. That is one reason I am pissed with Jonathan’s performance as president. His administration has been a colossal failure. Jonathan’s apologists have inundated my ears with excuses to the effect that his failure to perform is due to the activities of a section of the polity that promised to make the country ungovernable for him. What a wonderful excuse for slothfulness. I recall how the Uba brothers connived with former President Obasanjo to render former Governor Chris Ngige near ineffective in the execution of his obligations as governor of Anambra state. Any fair and dispassionate Anambrarian will testify that Ngige set a new record of what government’s responsibility to its citizens feels like even at great risk to his life. His constituency handsomely rewarded his performance with a seat in the senate of the federal republic. If Jonathan had done well, Buhari would not present a threat to his second coming.
While Jonathan was elected president of Nigeria, he gravitated toward his ethnic Ijaw. He turned the other direction when a low life and school dropout like Asari Dokubo disrespected every respectable Nigerian with his fiery rhetoric. Jonathan empowered him as well as Tompolo with contracts and money from the federal purse. Our president forgot that in a few years, he would call on Nigerians to support his second term in office. Well, the chicken has come home to roost. The increasing popularity or acceptance of a potential Buhari presidency is closer to reality than anyone thought and the biggest party in Africa has developed insomnia. One expected the experienced Edwin Clark to call renegade Dokubo to order and to remind him that power was situational. Instead, he joined the fray in insulting his perceived political enemies under the covering of an Ijaw president.
“If Jonathan lost to Buhari, it would alter the history of the country in a significant way because it would mark the very first time an incumbent president lost an election in Nigeria. Furthermore, it will transmit a clear message that the power of incumbency or that of a ruling party is not sacrosanct”
I am sad at the turn of political events. My state gave Jonathan ninety-nine percent of its votes (though it is open to argument). My people were not mistaken in voting for him because the office that he occupies should be accessible to every Nigerian. Thus far my state benefited nothing from his presidency, neither has his government scratched at the questions of unemployment, poverty, lack of opportunities and other societal events that characterize our underdevelopment. The politics of a second bridge across the Niger River continues as if only Anambrarians use the bridge. Which smack of bad governance when you consider that the old bridge is a disaster waiting to happen and a new bridge would benefit the transportation sector and ultimately the economy.
If Jonathan lost to Buhari, it would alter the history of the country in a significant way because it would mark the very first time an incumbent president lost an election in Nigeria. Furthermore, it will transmit a clear message that the power of incumbency or that of a ruling party is not sacrosanct. For instance, even in the face of incriminating evidence against the election of Yar’Adua, the Supreme Court confirmed him as duly elected, showing the extent and scope of the clout of a ruling party to keep power. Jonathan’s loss will return the presidency to the equally irritating situation where the north and the west seem to enjoy the preserve of the office.
Do not be discombobulated into accepting that ethnicity and religion are no longer factors in Nigerian politics. All of a sudden, we live in an ethnically blind Nigeria. I heard Buhari say the other day that Nigeria was his constituency. How I wish it was true. The selection of his running mate from the western part of the country was a smart political calculation. As expected, it will position the west to take another shot at the presidency consistent with the entrenched design I referred to earlier. But, what about the rest of the country? Apparently, the southeast and south-south will continue to support Jonathan. Can Buhari become president without the support of either of the regions?
The media and some commentators have characterized Buhari as someone that could rein in on corruption in Nigeria due to his antecedent as military head of state. I agree to some extent, but recall that his accomplishments were under a dispensation that utilized coercion and brutality as an instrumentality of official expression of power behavior. Under civilian garb, he will have to contend with the overpaid legislature and corrupt-ridden judiciary. His War Against Indiscipline/Corruption (WAI/C) would probably start from holding Tinubu (his party’s CEO/CFO) accountable for his service as governor of Lagos state and his current romance with Fashola to fleece the business community with extortionate taxation. I cannot wait to see how a Buhari government will try him as well as former governors that have taken cover in the senate.
I am not enthusiastic about a Muslim president having recently buried my brothers and sisters due to the activities of Boko Haram, a fundamentalist Islamic outfit. In addition, the emergence of Pastor Yemi Osibanjo of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) as his running mate appears to be a clever move as well as a tacit admission of the influence of religion in our politics. Why RCCG pastor as his running mate? I hope Christians will not complain if an Imam or Sheik aspires to be president or vice president of Nigeria. Furthermore, since it emerged that Pastor Adeboye defrauded taxpayers to the tune of over N20b in import duty waiver during the administration of Obasanjo, I have come to view him, his Church and anybody associated with him with scorn. On the other hand, I know from experience that a vice-president is a glorified office since the office does not have any constitutional function. If the relationship of former President Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as well as the state governors and their deputies is any guide, a Christian vice president to a Muslim president does not impress me.
I have heard Nigerians carp that what the country need is a strong president. Jonathan, the complaint goes is a weak president. I disagree. Nigerians are resilient and ingenious. We do not need a strong president. We need a smart president.
In conclusion, my wish in the approaching presidential election is that it is conducted in a transparent manner. However, Jonathan has his ineptitude to blame if he lost to Buhari. But more importantly, his loss will set a precedent that is profound in Nigerian politics; that being an incumbent does not immunize a serving public officer from the electoral shock waves emanating from disenchanted electorates.
This is wishing Buhari and President Goodluck, well, good luck!
*Nwike (S) Ojukwu, Candidate for doctor of laws degree (SJD), The University of Arizona.