By Erasmus Ikhide
“By Monday next week – to be precise – the son of canoe-carver-born former university teacher would have bitten the dust. Results of the presidential election would have humbled him. It would be the heaviest political fall from grace to grass where he was wrath primitively on the luckless nation. If he wins by default, through deceitful manipulation of the poll or announce himself as the winner of the election, he would have succeeded in manipulating Nigeria out of herself”.
That was my opening paragraph a week to the presidential election in one of the numerous pieces I wrote to X-ray President Jonathan’s six-year of ethically and morally bankrupt government which deadened its consciousness to the people’s plights while political banditry reign supreme. True to my prediction, Mr Jonathan has earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first president in Nigerian history to lose an election.
His minders who viewed the piece as ridiculous and apocalyptic are strangers to Arthur Schopenhauer exultant admonition: “Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed. In the second, it is opposed. In the third, it is regarded as self evident”. Mr Jonathan’s accidental presidential tragic ending opens the debate about the leadership question in Nigeria. As a prodding president with mediocre orientation, he finds peasant solidarity in several cartels which exploited the Nigerian state unto the bargain.
There is a possibility that the March 28 presidential election would have yielded different results if Mr Jonathan hasn’t governed with total aloofness or heeded my constant calls to step up to the endemic corruption and other vices plaguing his government. Better put, there is a possibility that he would have been re-elected if he had asserted himself rigorously to the most powerful office on the Africa continent and deployed the national resource to the growth of her economy. Rather than govern the people, and minister directly to the needs of the electorate, he concocted and convented cults, cabals, committees, religions, regions, tribes and militias.
Where are the witches and wizards who openly endorsed President Jonathan for re-election? Where are the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN who was shamming and shouting development everywhere? Where is the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN and Ayo Oritsejafor who became Jonathan’s Public Address System? Where are the members of Constitution Review Committee, CRC that became quasi-campaign organization for the president? Were are the Niger Delta militants and the Oodua People’s Congress, OPC who become states unto themselves? Was it lost on the nation that the cabals who purportedly stood unflinchingly in support of Jonathan were the actual oppressors of the masses?
Damian Zane, the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC correspondent and an ideological friend of mine gives five reasons why he thinks Mr Jonathan lost thus:
1: Harder to rig: Past elections have been marred by serious irregularities and suspicious of rigging. In 2007 observers said the presidential poll was not “credible”. In 2011 the vote was considered to be better run but observers said that rigging and fraud still took place. This time the electoral commission took more steps to prevent rigging, including new biometric voters cards. Also President Jonathan’s party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), had lost control of some key states which meant it could not control the electoral process there.
2: Boko Haram and security: The Nigerian army has made some recent gains against Boko Haram, but not enough to convince Nigerians. The election took place against the background of an Islamist insurgency in the north-east of the country. The Boko Haram militant group has killed 20,000 people and forced some three million others from their homes and President Jonathan was criticised for not getting to grips with this. The poll was delayed for six weeks to give time for the security situation to improve, but even though most areas controlled by Boko Haram were recaptured, it seems to have come too late for many people.
3: United opposition, crumbling PDP: The extra six weeks of vigorous campaigning by the PDP was not enough to halt the slide in the party’s fortunes. The PDP has been described as an election-winning machine. When it was created, it united a northern elite with leading politicians from the south, but that alliance has broken up and the party lost some key figures. Even former President Olusegun Obasanjo came out against Mr Jonathan. At the same time, the opposition managed to unite under the All Progressives Congress (APC) banner. The last six weeks of desperate and dirty campaigning, in which the APC responded in kind, was not enough to turn the tide.
4: Economy: Nigeria’s economy is growing but the wealth is not being spread around.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer and its largest economy, but many fail to feel the benefits with nearly half the population living below the poverty line. Continued corruption is seen as partly being to blame. National income is due to grow by more than 5% this year and next year, but people did not seem in the mood to thank Mr Jonathan for this.
5: Time for a change: APC supporters chanted “change” wherever they went and it seems to have caught the mood. The PDP has been in power since the end of military rule in 1999, and 2015 is the year that Nigerians decided that someone else should have a go at sorting things out. He added a proviso: President-elect Buhari now has to prove he really can change things.
The only few things to add amongst others is the deep-seated cronyism and the president’s indifference governance style. President Jonathan gave slices of the national cake largely to members of his own community, the outlawed terrorist groups like the Niger Delta militants and the OPC.
These powerful members of his government – Mujaheed Dokubo-Asari; Victor Ben Ebikabowei, aka, Boy Loaf and Government Ekpudomenowei, aka, Tompolo; Ganiyu Adams and a host of others who once wrecked havoc on the Nigerian state were handsomely rewarded with plumb pipelines protection contracts that runs into hundreds of billions of Naira.
The awards of billion of Naira pipelines protection contracts to terrorists groups in a country where there are hundreds of thousands of Soldiers, Police, Navy, Air Force, DSS and Civil Defence Corps clearly undermines previous efforts to reign in the militia groups and empower the military and para-military to an enviable standard. There is no question that the interests of the Nigerian state belong to the protection of her common wealth and the people who are not in a position to secure their political and spiritual freedom by their own efforts.
It’s puzzling to date that despite documentary evidence that the Nigerian Navy is still laying claims to the seven gunboats allegedly bought by an ex-Niger Delta militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, aka Tompolo. Nigerians were not convinced that the said gunboats actually belonged to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, as we were told by the Chief of Training and Operations of the NN, Rear Admiral Austin Oyagha.
The rowdy excesses of Mr Jonathan’s failed cabinet and government came to the fore when his blundering Minister of Petroleum Resource and pleasant-mannered quisling of a goddess began to quaff the nation’s oil resources without restriction. Rather than condemn her profligacy and others like Stella Oduah, he stoutly defended the looting gangs. The most harrowing misdeed came from the Internal Affairs Minister, Mr Abba Moro who deliberately collected N6 billion from jobless Nigerian youths in the name of non-existent Immigration jobs, gathered them across the nation’s thirty-six-state capitals and Abuja for ritual killing.
President Jonathan is at the verge of stealing the show, winning a laurel he didn’t deserve. Nigerians are wont to remember now of a president who elected or pressured to accept defeat rather than called the army and their allied to the streets to suppress possible explosive political insurrection. Which ever way – in umbrella term – history will decid his pat in nation-being or becoming.
Erasmus Ikhide, A Public Affairs Analyst writes in from Lagos, Nigeria
Follow me on twitter @Erasmus_Ikhide