May 6, 2010

Yar’adua’s Death: Jonathan and 2011

Condolences to the First Family
The news last night was about the not so surprising announcement (from the National TV network) of the passing of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria President Umaru Yar’adua. This was not so surprising because there was no real expectation that he will return and did not feature in many calculations for the future of the 2011 elections. Nevertheless, The President was a good man and deserves all the credit he will get and his family should be condoled for the loss.
Mr. Jonathan and 2011 
That brings the country to a remarkable time in its democratic history and now is the time for true leadership especially from the Ag. President.
A number of options are now wide open for the Ag. President Goodluck Jonathan. He can decide to go with the seeming euphoria which seems to be affirmatively positive for him to run in 2011 or he can choose not to. A decision to run is not without precedence. The politics in Nigeria has a way of making devils out of otherwise harmless situations. But it all starts with a little favouritism to the milkmen of power. When certain politicians, businessmen or officials find that they are or have been in a position where they have benefited from the serving administration and its principals they quickly ochestrate a move to sustain the status quo. This is what happened to IBB, Abacha and even Obasanjo. Praise singers soon convinced these men that what they were doing was the best things to happen to the country and that there was no one else that can deliver the country other than them. This is of course a great lie. A pathetic one at that especially in the case of Obasanjo because unlike IBB and Abacha he was democratically elected and did indeed achieve some measure of progress in delivering real economic value to the country. Ag. President Jonathan must beware of such tendencies. There are millions of capable leaders whether from the North, South, East or West capable of leading the country credibly. Its all about systems, character and commitment of leaders rather than of individuals. That is why Nigeria needs a free and fair election. The leaders must be chosen by the people and must be accountable to the electorate. If that is achieved on a regular basis, over time the leaders would most probably stop stuffing their pockets and attend to the National Interest. This is why the posters flying in Abuja of Acting President Jonathan’s 2011 aspiration is a bad omen. It may represent the milkmen of power in action and that means first of all that there are milkmen.
Mr. Jonathan: “Who knows if thou art come into the kingdom for such a time as this”
There are at least 150million Nigerians who would like to be in the position that Ag. President Jonathan is in now. And many well respected statesmen and politicians who have tried very hard to be Commander-in-chief even for a day, through all the channels available to them and failed. The position the Ag. President occupies now is an achievement in itself he needs not to make himself appear to be what he is not. Soon he will be sworn in as President but the work that needs to be done in the country is such that even he (President Jonathan) cannot achieve it after eight years in office. But his actions now, his aspiration to the office of President and how he attains it may substantially damage the prospects of achieving a sustained economic development and the vital national trust in government (of the PDP) and overall leadership in the country. And may drive back the gains achieved in the past few democratic years in the country. There’s no more loftier position than the position he finds himself in right now. If Mr. Jonathan is interested in 2011 as well as in conducting free and fair election in 2011 he must first separate the two responsibilities. The authority of appointing electoral officials is a higher responsibility and must not be done with the eye of (or with deference to) any potential contestant not even an incumbent. The Ag. President must work through his party structures to legally set aside the party zoning conventions in a way that does not leave the party laws bruised and does not alienate people or the electorate. It is possible to argue for an exception in his case because of the contingencies of this time. And this would be understandable. However if the acting President is interested in 2011 the path of honour would be to unselfishly appoint the election officials and sign into law the proposed amendments in the electoral laws; then and only then may he begin to explore the possibilities of running for 2011. Organizing a free and visibly fair election by 2011 and doing his best in administering the country right now is the part of honour. Here is the call of leadership.
The North
There is fear in the north that a southern candidacy would start an era of marginalization for the north and its Muslim majority. The Ag. President must understand this and deal with it in a professional way. Northerners have been in power since Tafawa Belewa and yet the north continues to have the greatest mix of stark illiterates and highly educated elites, the greatest gap in poverty and economic deprivation in the midst of extravagant opulence gained from the public treasury and the most fanatical adherence and allegiance to other countries (especially Saudi Arabia) and ideologies and placing them above Nigeria’s national interest and corporate existence. Any southern president must endeavor to carry the north along without abusing the south. Mr Goodluck Jonathan must also deal with this if he intends to contest in 2011.
Free election 2011: The issues
It has been argued by observers and political analysts that if the Ag President is interested in 2011 then that is an end to the hope of a free and fair election for 2011. But this needs not be the case. The Ag. President needs to only appoint an independent minded, unbiased and tested administrator with strong commitment and visibly outstanding character as INEC chair and give him all the support he needs publicly and in private to run the 2011 election. Then he can carry on with the politics of PDP and try to secure a nomination without subjecting INEC to his wimps. The Nigerian public is a very vocal, and politically aware public. If the election is free and fair it will be seen by all. Nigerians have seen free elections before, they would judge for themselves at the end of the day.
If Mr Jonathan is involved subtly or indirectly with the Abuja poster campaign then that represents a possible muddling of the two issues at the heart of 2011 in the mind of Ag. President Jonathan’s or at least in the minds of his associates, the milkmen. In Nigerian history no incumbent has ever lost a Presidential poll and most elections are won even before the polling began. If this Abuja election poster campaign is without the subtle involvement of the Ag President then he must condemn it in strong terms and sue the publishers. Merely denying involvement is not enough. Is it lawful for someone to publish private details about my person without my consent. This Abuja posters are effectively a blackmail. The campaign is at odds with his party decision and is therefore an insubordination of party protocol and leadership. The fact is that directly or indirectly the poster campaign is not the first time we are seeing campaign posters preempting election run by an incumbent official. The two issues relevant to the free conduct of 2011 elections - the electoral laws/independent INEC officials and the probability of a run by the Ag. President. These two are not necessarily mutually exclusive but they must be executed with utmost separation. Their must be no link, no provision (subtly, politically or otherwise) between the two. It is only complicated by the fact that one man is a key player in the two (i.e. the Ag President). The path of honour is to do the right thing first and let the rest take its course.
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I agree with most of your article, the only area I have issues with is your concern using the past precedence to tie the president in trying to perpetuate himself in office.
I have 2 questions for you, Don't you think the ordinary people and the minority people for that matter, has suffered enough in Nigeria?. Don’t you think president Goodluck need some time to make Nigeria work,
Look, I will support him on 2 permutations,
1.If he makes happen the lingering power shortage in Nigeria within the next 5 months.
2.With the assumption that he comes from the minority part of the country, he will make the wrongs right pertaining to the way things are done in Nigeria.
Finally, I saw his emergence as a divine intervention, and I hope himself and other Nigerians sees it as such and make good use of it.

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