Fellow Nigerians, barely one month and some days to the start of our 2015 general elections, things are already falling apart. There was never a doubt in my mind that politicians would naturally heat up the polity to a boiling point before God rescues us as always from some wondrously amazing people. The two leading parties of PDP and APC would do our country a great favour if they can eschew violence and stick to the basic tenets of Democracy. Their foot-soldiers in particular must be warned specifically about the inherent danger associated with deliberately causing mayhem aimlessly in one’s own country. Most times, it is the poor who would be used as political canon-fodder while the children of the rich would be far away from the theatre of war.
The one man I expected to rise above the petty squabbles of electioneering campaigns is the President and Commander-in-Chief. Indeed, at the inauguration of his Presidential Campaign Team on Tuesday President Jonathan urged his campaign team and Party faithful to be decorous in their language, focusing on issue and not personalities. However, barely two days later he was doing the exact opposite of what he had preached. It is unfortunate that the President chose to go back on his words as he joined the fray two days later as he practically exploded in public during the flagging off of his re-election bid as President. The tone and tempo of his speech was stylishly vituperative. It could easily have been described as spitting fire and shooting from the hips. He appeared to me like a man who was under intensive pressure and didn’t really know how to off-load the heavy burden on his chest.
I should have suspected that something unpleasant was about to happen after I read the news that the Presidency had responded in kind to the myriad of attacks and salvos fired at Dr Goodluck Jonathan by former President, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who has since become a loose cannon in the PDP. The former President has arguably become a one man riot squad against the second coming of President, was savagely and mercilessly described as a “motor park tout.”
For me, this was the climax of a long-drawn battle between father and his godson. We’ve witnessed such bitter altercations and mutual insults in the past but this recent one took the cake. It is sad that this are the canapés we are being served before the main dishes of sloganeering begin. The global community must be wondering what manner of country ours is where elders throw decorum to the wind in the presence of infants and toddlers. What examples are we setting for the youths we all claim to love so much when we can’t tolerate ourselves in the political arena?
All eyes are on Nigeria and in particular the President who is at present the father of the nation. This position is the highest in the land and it was apparently freely handed to him by the good people of Nigeria in 2011. Even before then, the same people had shown him immense love at a time he was being harassed by the proverbial cabal. At that time, no one complained that we hated the North just because we rallied round a man from the Niger Delta. Most of those claiming ownership of Mr President today were nowhere to be seen then. It is strange how success instantly catapults a man into a different level and planet. All manner of claimants would suddenly surface from nowhere and chase everyone away. It is the tragedy of power in our clime where the man on the throne has to go through this terrible, and self-immolating, process of deification. This is why most leaders often fail in office because they are usually far removed from reality.
This trait became very obvious as I watched the President deliver his speech in Lagos days ago at the start of his 2015 Presidential campaign. His party leaders were not in short supply. Everyone came to pay homage to the man with the power to turn water into wine over 2,000 years after such a miracle was performed in Galilee. One speaker after the other eulogised the President in superlatives. They raved about his transformation agenda which in their dream or reality must have transfigured Nigeria into a Paradise on earth. Listening to those incredible guys one would have thought they were describing some far-flung places and a true reincarnation of Lee Kuan Yew or a Chairman Mao leading the industrial revolution in Nigeria.
The President himself did not waste this moment, he was visibly pleased with the adulations which in reality were not meant by many of the speakers who had mastered the art and science of lying to anyone in government. I had waited patiently for the President’s speech. I was certain he was going to take a very subtle and conciliatory approach but I was very wrong. The moment he took the microphone till he finished, the President was on the offensive. It was certainly not a charm offensive but one laced with pent up frustration and anger. He came on like a Heavyweight boxer chasing the World Heavyweight title. The President did not pretend about his intention which was to jab at his challenger using mostly unlawful blows and pummel him to a corner for a possible knockout.
President Jonathan sounded angry and agitated. He made generous use of the literary style of rhetorical questions. He threw many of such posers to his jubilant crowd who must have wondered at the physical transformation of their candidate. If the President was known to be gentle and somehow taciturn in the past, he was the exact opposite on Thursday, January 8, 2015. He was clearly in an upbeat mood and it reflected in his grandstanding.
Let’s now go to the meat of his speech and try to examine the merits of the self-glorification, whether vain or otherwise. The summary can be put simply thus: Mr President blames his predecessors for all the woes that have bedeviled Nigeria. I wonder if he forgot that as at the last count, his political party has been in power for 16 years and he has been the only Nigerian permanently in power since our return to democratic rule in 1999 as Deputy Governor, Acting Governor, Governor, Vice President, Acting President and President. 16 years is a very long time in the life of a nation. Nigeria must have spent more money in those 16 years than all the different Republics and regimes put together but sadly without commensurate results. Moreover, he also appears to have selectively forgotten that most of the predecessors that he is lambasting like Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, are card carrying members of his Party, the PDP, and thus their failings are the failings of his Party and by extension himself.
The President spoke repeatedly about the youths and referred to himself and others as being too old and half-dead. If so why is he contesting when there are many brilliant young people in his party? But it was a subliminal message to discredit General Muhammadu Buhari as being too old to rule this generation. “I do not want to address old people like me because we are spent already.”
Unfortunately, it seems the President is not in tune with the current mood of the nation and his supporters are not likely to give him the true picture. Many of us don’t care if the man coming is going to rule from a wheelchair. We all run to the elders of the house in the days of tribulations. I wish to assure Mr President that unlike in the past when the PDP propaganda was able to truncate Buhari’s mission of rescuing Nigeria from the doldrums the story has changed miraculously today. The youths have chosen to follow his crusade even if his enemies decide to change his age to over 80. They believe the younger leaders have not done any better than the gerontocrats we all love to deride as causing our failure. Therefore playing the kite of old age won’t fly this time around.
The President boasted that he has been able to conduct credible elections. I daresay that is not his doing but the action of the People of Nigeria who have resolved to protect their votes. Besides, he forgot to add that after wasting billions of naira on data capture machines they were abandoned. The Nigeria Governor’s Forum held an election of 35 people which saw a winner emerge with 19 to 16 votes yet our President recognised a loser choosing 16 above 19. He said he believes in the rule of law yet the law is being desecrated and there are too many sacred cows in PDP. I dare our security agencies to storm any PDP Secretariat and carry away their computers and staff the way they have been doing to APC. It is pitiable that a supposedly impartial State security and intelligence outfit will give one reason for carrying out such a dastardly unconstitutional act but then recant and give another wholly diametrically opposed justification for such a raid.
The President is proud that Nigeria has the biggest economy in Africa but people are asking how that has affected the lives of the people. The Agricultural revolution being trumpeted is good no doubt, but it is not yet Uhuru. The question is where is the food? What are the Prices? Where is the income that should flow from such agricultural miracle.
The President claims that he has done a lot for the security situation in the country. However, it seems that the President is fantasising about another country. At no time in Nigeria’s history has insecurity reached the level that it is now. There are regular killings, bombings, kidnappings, abductions, raping not to mention the unresolved saga of the Chibok Girls. A country whose military has received endless praise on many peace-keeping missions overseas cannot deploy the same military to effective use in finding almost 200 girls who remain missing. That is an indictment on the President which no whitewash can hide. The simple truth is that our people feel unsafe, even those few who have turned our much maligned police force and soldiers into personal ‘maiguards’!
The President claims that one of his achievements in the petroleum sector is that Nigerians no longer queue for petrol. Although that is incorrect because there are still regular intervals when there is petrol scarcity the truth is that Nigeria as an oil producing nation has never had it so bad. The price of petrol and petroleum products are the highest they have ever been. Even when the world crude oil prices have fallen by more than 100% and the Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla admits that there is no longer any subsidy on petrol, the price has remained the same. Her justification, which I referred to previously, is too puerile to repeat because it is an insult on the intelligence of Nigerians.
As Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola said in his own reaction to the President’s speech:
“I spent about an hour this afternoon listening to the President in my State and, for almost the same period, I saw a very angry President. I saw a President who was recriminating about people recriminating about people criticising his job performance and was blaming all those who ruled before him forgetting that he had been on this job for six years.
And he kept saying that, ‘They say we don’t have a plan.’ But for 25 minutes, he did not reveal a plan on power; he did not reveal a plan on security; he did not reveal a plan on corruption.
Now after six years, without being able to articulate what he is doing and what he will do, and he keeps blaming everybody, forgetting that he is the Commander-in-Chief, if the kitchen is too hot, as it is becoming of late, you must get out of the kitchen.”
I’m almost certain the President will receive more knocks from other stakeholders for this newly acquired belligerent disposition. My advice as usual is very simple. A man should never change what has worked wonders for him all his life. The President’s gentle mien had always been his secret weapon. A man who did not lift a finger to become President need not wage a war to retain it. Elections are never won by abusing potential voters but usually through the use of persuasion. Those who are misleading the President are not helping him. All they’ve succeeded in doing is to alienate the electorate and paint him as someone who is very desperate for power.
I advise the President to maintain his calm dignity instead of fighting real and imaginary enemies on all fronts. There is nothing more he wants from God. He has been very lucky but there is no need to overstretch that luck. If perchance he is defeated on FEBUHARI 14 (as some people have described the election date), the President should accept his fate graciously and return home triumphantly. Anything else may wipe out all that he has effortlessly achieved.
Mr President, there is life outside government.
PENDULUM BY DELE MOMODU, Email: [email protected]