We are back on the starting block of another General Elections race. On Thursday last week, President Ebele Jonathan won a sole-candidate campaign to run for President next year on the platform of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Former Military Head of State General Muhammed Buhari (Rtd) fought through in a democratic primary to win the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket. Buhari’s victory over rough riding and cash studded Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Vice President in retired General Olusegun Obasanjo’s Civil Adminstration, set a stage for the Jonathan Buhari encounter next year. Buhari, a one-time military Head of State who, before then had had the fortune to be Petroleum Minister, and after being Head of State, Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), has just about one million in his bank account and only two houses, one in Kaduna, the other in Daura to his name throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria. That is an incredibly robust and clean testimonial to lead the poor and the have-nots of Nigeria.
President Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan looks like the other side of the coin, a leader of the Establishment. In 2011, this column misread his credentials in two articles titled ESTABLISHMENT EVER LOATHFUL OF THE NEW FRONTIER. At that time, the northern Establishment forbade him to run in the primaries of his party for the presidential ticket.
Nigeria then, as it is today, was in dire need of change from more than 30 years of northern misrule which left the poor and poorer under successive governments. But young people north and south saw president Jonathan as a potential new frontier leader. This column showed how the new frontiers helmsmen worldwide in all professions, and not just in politics, were harassed, even killed, by Establishment vanguard which hated change. But one reader of this column, Mr Adeniji of Shagamu, thought I got the Jonathan picture wrong. Indeed, the Jonathan Administration has turned out over six years, four of which are full-term, to be anything but a New World regime. Corruption ballooned. We experienced ruling as in the lamentable past, and not governance, which comes from planning to solve problems. The powers of the State were hurled against the well-meaning Oppositon to smash it, while corrupt elements of the Establishment were offered State protection and money-laundering criminals jailed abroad were granted State pardon back home.
The judiciary was trampled, the legislature meddled with, the military lost some bite and muscle, the economy nose dived. It will be a miracle if, from January 2015, the state governments are able to pay salaries regularly. For their shares of Federal Revenue may not be paid monthly as they fall due, the reason is not far-fetched. The economy still depends more than 95 percent on crude oil exports, 40 percent of which went to the United States. Two years ago, the United States gave a world alert that, by this year, it would become self-sufficient in crude oil provision from domestic sources. Nigeria had two long years to find alternative sources of income to fill the revenue gap due to oncoming 40 percent loss of revenue from crude oil sales, but nothing tangible happened.
Many Jonathan defenders say he shouldn’t be blamed for Nigeria’s woes under his Administration which have turned the hope invested in him for a New Frontier in 2011 into a nightmare. Many of the people who voted Jonathan in 2011 were young people who did not wish to have their lives wasted as the generation before theirs which Prof. Wole Soyinka described as “a wasted generation”. In my view, a wasted generation is a suffocated and emasculated generation. They are people full of potentials, talents and drive which their country did not allow to bloom. Imagine a gentleman of my generation who scored three A’s in “A” Levels, went to Cambridge University in the United Kingdom (UK), worked in top flight companies abroad, was encouraged to return home to help build his country but has ended up, today, living in a squalid three square meter shop in Lagos. In Europe, this gentleman would be a top flight consultant. You may say everyone is an architect of his fortune and misfortune, and you would be right in a way. But isn’t there a way or ways one’s country may, through supporting love, help one to unfold? Don’t shepherds tend their flock as farmers care for their crops? Why do Nigerians bloom abroad and not at home?
I know President Jonathan apologist have ready answers, one of which is that he inherited these challenges and should not be blamed for their persistence even in his Administration. To such an answer, I have several questions: didn’t President Jonathan see these problems and promise to solve them? Didn’t he tell us that, as a child, he had no school shoes and bag? Wasn’t that an assurance he knew where the shoes were pinching us and he would, like a diligent physician, heal our injuries? Do we, simply because he inherited these problems, say the problems should persist because he inherited them? Was our hope not that he would solve them. If he has not solved them at full-term, can we not shop for another president? In this matter, many South-South region people have behaved rather clannishly. I teased one of them who runs a small laundry business in Lagos: if you make your full-blooded brother manager of your business which you set up with a bank loan and the business was losing money and you couldn’t repay the loan, what would you do? His reply shocked me. He would fire his brother, he said. So, why can’t Nigeria have another President? He had no reply. But I could read his mind. “This is our turn”.
Turn – by – Turn
I believe one of the messages from the emergence of All Progressive Congress (APC) and its election of Mohammadu Buhari as its 2015 Presidential candidate is the rejection of turn-by-turn politics all over. President Jonathan had been told by the north that he couldn’t pick up the two-year credit of President Yar A dua, who died Mid-Term, not to mention a second-term ticket. The same signal that a second term isn’t automatic is going to the South-South.
The Rich and the Poor
The Jonathan/Buhari contest has polarised the Nigeria into the Rich (including the super rich) and the poor (including the underclass). I do not like a two-party system without a balancer third party.A balancer is a third party sufficiently strong enough to halt a winner party from overrunning the defeated through a coalition it can forge with the latter to truncate tyrannical use of power. I guess this was a take-away from the 1969/70 history class of Mrs Odunsi, a Briton at Igbobi College, Lagos. She taught us about how, in modern English and European history, the Tripple Alliance and, later, the Quadriple Alliance maintained peace in Europe. Political Science Professor Eme Awa, now of blessed memory, and Professor Humphrey Nwosu, his former student, taught the same principle at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), emphasising dangers of a bipolar and unipolar world. Nigeria’s First Republic probably collapsed because there was no balancer in the system. The north and the east in the NPC/NCNC Coalition sought to destroy a common enemy, the fast growing and pace-setting West of Nigeria. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the region’s leader, was jailed, his party liquidated and the West placed under a State of Emergency. But it was a temporary victory. The coalition soon collapsed, and the plotters were soon at each other’s throat. And when the despicable murder of the easterners began in the north, the west was too militarily weak to stop the rot. The coalition had so minimised the West everywhere, including in the military, that when Brigadier Ogundipe took command of the armed forces, northern army privates rejected his authority. Adelanwa, head of the navy and Ogundipe’s kinsman, had to take him away to London. The northern soldiers, who ringed the West up in garrisons at Ibadan, Lagos and Abeokuta after the exit of soldiers from the East, installed Lt. Col Yakubu Gowon as their leader. Soon, he became Nigeria’s Head of State. In place of Ogundipe. Were the West of Nigeria a healthy balancer then in Nigerian Politics, it was possible the civil war which followed would have been averted. The absence of a healthy balancer in Nigeria’s geo-polity has troubled the nation ever since. The battle for power, either for ruling or governance between the Establishment and the opposition had always been fought on two legs, without a balancing third. When it would appear the Establishment was about to lose in the struggle, its military wing or its judiciary wing would come to its rescue. That’s the history of military coups or judicial coups, including the Supreme Court’s verdict that two-thirds of 19 states is twelve and two-thirds of a state.
Remember Chief Richard Akinjide, an Establishment lawyer, argued this case successfully before an Establishment Supreme Court. Remember, also, that Supreme Court, realising how laughable its judgment was, decided as well that it shouldn’t be cited in Nigeria’s legal references. That judgement gave the Presidency to Alhaji Shehu Shagari, of the Establishment, ending the dream of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to govern Nigeria. In the oncoming Jonathan/Buhari encounter there is no strong balancer. It is possible, though, that Accord Party and Labour Party may grow into that potent force someday.
This is an unknown name in Nigeria’s politics. Actually, he is a young philosophy graduate from the University of Lagos (UNILAG). I mention him here because of his views about two years ago on a possible Establishment/Progressive line-up that would throw up President Jonathan and challenger Muhammadu Buhari for a resolution of Nigeria’s lingering problems. At that time, many people thought the North would deny Jonathan a second-term PDP ticket and that a progressive coalition was impossible. Akin Awodeyin, who has had no job since Jonathan came into power in 2011, thought otherwise. He said the Establishment would close its ranks and disarrange the poor even if they were to gang up against President Jonathan. He holds views uncomfortable for people of my age who cannot scale fences, run in the bush and carry guns to shoot and kill people we didn’t know, let alone who didn’t offend us. In simple words, the believes only a bloody revolution would cleanse the nation. But he is sober when, literally, I hold him by the hand and lead him through the Laws of Nature, explaining we can achieve the goal through gradualism and reformation. He would not tell me that is “stupid” thought in our circumstances. But he would, his peers who cannot work around his intellect and make it bow to his spirit. Thus, one fine evening at a gathering of young people in the neighbourhood, he became so angry during an argument that he called them “stupid”, and one of them smashed a bottle on his head. Only a bloody revolution, according to them, will do so.
From what Akin Awodeyin and his likes are saying, the defeat of Abubakar Atiku by Mohammed Buhari and the offer of a stronger Opposition to President Jonathan would not necessarily des-establish the Establishment.
Will Buhari defeat Jonathan?
In the line-up, Gen. Buhari represents the poor, the under privileged and the underclass. The crowd is too large and segmented to easily differentiate here. But I would like to mention two groups many observers are looking at. The young voters of 2011 who stood by President Jonathan, believing the man who, as a boy, had no school shoes and bag and books would take good care of deprived people like them. They had no jobs many years after graduating from the university. Many young women among them are still too poor to fend for themselves that they have to depend on their parents not just for food and clothing but for things as basic to a woman as brassieres, under briefs and menstrual pads. They wish to be married and to have babies. But where is that young man today who is keen to marry before he is 35 or over? Where is he going to find the money to rent an apartment, furnish it, take care of his folks and himself before he adds the responsibilities of marriage, for such people, their lives have been stagnant, motionless. They are angry without knowing why. One of the reasons for the anguish is that the Law of Motion, a natural law, compels us humans, like everything which exists, to be in motion. That’s why the clouds, like the air, the waves of the sea, our lungs, hearts and blood circulation, to give a few examples, are in motions. Don’t even babies kick in the wombs? So, if our lives are stagnant, we are unhappy, especially if we had been promised some motion. Is this another “wasted generation” or would Prof Soyinka have a worse definition for them? In my “wasted generation” we had jobs, we earned fairly well. The trouble was that we weren’t fully engaged, even in old age, to actualise ourselves. This generation still has nothing going for it despite the Jonathan Promises of 2011. Some university graduates who are lucky to have menial jobs earn about N20,000 a month, a little above the minimum wage. Many young people continue to flee abroad, some through Morocco or Lybia, dying in the desert or in the sea, on their way to Spain and Europe.
President Jonathan had promised that, in his tenure, no Nigerian would go to bed without food in his or her stomach. Had this promise been kept, the youth would not have been despising their country and fleeing it.
To worsen maters, the government has admitted a major side in the economy which has warranted devaluation of the currency, effects of which will begin to materialize next year in salary cuts, job losses, inflation and psychic pain.
Under this scenario, the deprived will seek change and find a messiah. Even the Children of Israel found one in Moses who feed them from the enslavement of Egypt. They also sought one from the yoke of the Romans.
Their own, poor people cannot free themselves except through a revolution which, in many cases, worsen matters. It is from the ranks of kind-hearted members of the Establishment, the progressives among them, that a peaceful salvage comes. It is such people who have put together the political machine in what Buhari is riding today. If the machine or all the poor galvanizes underpriviledged and hold them, Buhari should win.
Will President Jonathan defeat Gen. Buhari?
People like Akin Awodeyin believe poor people are gullible. They are like soldier ants mushrooming and marching tenaciously in a long file not easily broken. Even when they are disarranged, these ants soon regroup. But they cannot stand ash. Pour ash over them, and that’s the end of the story. It is said that many factors can easily break the solidarity of the poor. Gen. Buhari would have to tackle these poisonous factors if he hopes to defeat President Jonathan. One of the factor is ethnicity. South-south people refused to join the national protest against petrol price hike imposed by President Jonathan, not because they did not feel the pinch, but because it came from a “son of the soil”. Thus, the president looks forwards to detaching South-South poor from Buhari’s train.
In the North, President Jonathan may have a hard day against propaganda that he is the actual sponsor of Boko Haram. Many people in the north have swallowed the propaganda. The propagandists say he is destablishing the North to weaken it politically against the 2015 polls.
Propagandists say he is destabilising the north to weaken it politically and physically against the 2015 polls. President Jonathan says he know the financiers, but has failed to mention them. North Claims this is an attempt to divert attention from the real promoters. This much Governor Muritala Nyako as Governor of Adamawa State, dared to venture, and it earned him his impeachment which was well enjoyed by the President.