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January 20, 2011

How is Jonathan an Agent of Transformation?

Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan has been returned by PDP delegates as the party’s Presidential candidate for the 2011 Elections. Since the news broke on the evening of Thursday 13th January 2011, political analysts and commentators have been busy discussing the obvious. How did Alhaji Atiku Abubakar lose so badly and heavily? The discussion simply drifts to a discussion of the short comings of Atiku’s campaign strategies. The fact that he made strong threatening comments even at his last speech to the delegates were he said “agreements among individuals and groups must be kept if order and peace are to reign and in order to avoid chaos and lawlessness, and the might-is-right syndrome.” This was almost like threatening the delegates themselves. But in spite of the short comings of Atiku’s approach and while all those are undoubtedly significant in handing victory to Goodluck Jonathan; of importance and equally significant is Jonathan’s own demeanour and approach.()

At the convention after the characteristic tirades from Atiku and the comical take by Mrs Sarah Jibril President Goodluck Jonathan climbed the stage and in one fell swoop cleaned out the air and rallied the country and the delegates to his side. How did he do that?. He called for a minute silence for his former boss and ex-President of the country Shehu Yar’adua.  Every delegate and the entire country in that one minute felt at peace and united. That was the killer blow. Never mind all the politics that may have played out before the convention. The President at that moment was on a higher ground than all the candidates, in his speech he rose about the petty and showed a different approach to party politics when he said “the PDP [is] the party to set the agenda for the development and transformation of the country” not the President alone as Atiku has tried to argue. That was a master stroke. He meant my agenda would be the collective agenda of the party. He simply implied that he will consult the delegates in policy decisions and not simply give directives and dictations. What better way to woe the delegates? He presented himself as “an agent of transformation” What transformation? In Nigeria transformation is from dictatorial military rule to political consultation and sensitivity to the aspiration of the majority. It should be interesting to take a poll of how many delegates turned their votes over to him after that speech. My opinion? The President won the primary more by his speech than by the so called incumbency factor.

Nigerians commonly under-estimate the depth of our shared history. Many politicians, especially in the ruling party, PDP, has lost out already in the primaries because they failed to carry their constituencies along. They lost touch with the feeling of their electorate. That is one of the lessons of this election. Democracy is about the people, always.  The people are still important. There is more that unites us as a people than we realise. Playing against the wishes and feelings of the people is a sure recipe for defeat. It was not the elites (the G8, G18 or G whatever) that won democracy for us it was the mass movements. We only need a leader that understands that and acts as the voice for those aspirations. Take a look at how the popularity of Mr Sanusi (the CBN governor) has shot up following his stand against the excesses of the lawmakers. Can the politicians learn something from that. Imagine that Sanusi is Atiku do you think he would have lost the nomination so badly? I guess not. What if he were a senator? Re-election would have been a breeze at this moment.

Nigerians as a people have a lot in common than we often realise. Many of our differences are actually created by politicians. The indication is that there is a general consensus among the people on what to do to fix the country. Perhaps this is the reason for the lack of differences, fundamentally, in ideologies among the parties and this is why it is easy for politicians to cross carpet without huge baggage or disadvantages. Carpet crossing is not merely a power grabbing event it is also an indication that the opposition is not really unique in its approach to governance. Deep down majority of the people are capitalists, liberals, progressives and free people. There are not many people who think we should become communist like the Chinese or completely fundamentalists. When the chips are down majority of Nigerians do not want a Sudan type referendum. Many Northern Muslims might dream of a rich Saudi Arabia like caliphate; a majority still want a liberal, free and progressive society patterned after the US model.This can be tested by the pollsters. The Saudi model, the monarchs in the middle east, is really under threat right now with the political disturbances in North Africa. Thanks to Tunisia. And this is due to corruption. In Nigeria it is a well accepted fact that the same would have happened. The Northern political elites who have ruled the country for years have hardly done anything good for the ordinary northerners. Jonathan has presented himself as a shift in that paradigm. By recognizing Yar’adua he immediately won the hearts of the North as a true nationalist, a transformation agent, by his own words. When analysts say he won because Atiku played by the wrong strategy they actually take the credit away from Jonathan and that is not correct.

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