Jonathan, Obasanjo and Boko Haram By Sabella Abidde
History and posterity have a way of rendering pronouncements. Insofar as the Goodluck Jonathan administration goes, no one knows – with any degree of certainty – what the judgment would be. Nonetheless, one thing is certain: By 2015 or 2019, his administration would be adjudged by supporters, critics and the general public as the most maligned, criticised, scrutinised and vilified in the 54 years history of Nigeria.
Frankly, I had thought that that distinction would go to the Obasanjo’s administration – an administration I still consider to be the most wasteful and licentious and directionless of all. After the ignoble years of Babangida and Abacha, you’d think Obasanjo would right many of the wrong actions previous administrations took. He didn’t have to be perfect; all he had to do was make the proper adjustments. He did not! It wasn’t as if Obasanjo was a neophyte. He wasn’t! He had the credential and the potential and the experience to be a fine leader, to be a statesman.
Obasanjo had it all. But what did he do? He worsened an already bad situation. At the time he grudgingly left office, he was already a calamity. A monumental disaster! Every so often, you hear about the “Obasanjo’s achievements.” But really, when you consider the several billions of dollars that were budgeted, spent, mismanaged and stolen, you’d know that he achieved nothing any sane and rational observer would consider specular. A dedicated Obasanjo supporter told me that, “He brought cell phone” to Nigeria. That made me laugh.
I laughed because, in the 21st century, no one would consider that an achievement. And even if you wanted to, what is currently available is a joke. The telecommunication industry is nothing to brag about. It is expensive, unreliable and thoroughly archaic. On the other hand, it was Obasanjo who refused to strengthen our governing institutions. He failed to diversify our economy. He failed to build modern infrastructure. He didn’t even have the decency to lay the foundations for growth and development.
It was Obasanjo, not Babangida or Abacha, who made mediocrity stylish and acceptable. It was he who made the worse type of political godfatherism a part of our national culture. In essence, it was Obasanjo who brought us to where we are today. Today and in the last couple of years, when he is not giving Jonathan wahala, he is busy going from state to state dancing and amusing those who can stand his type of comedy. And every so often, you’d find him on the global stage pretending he has good global standing. He does not!
The last three-four months must have been really difficult for President Goodluck Jonathan. The criticisms against his administration, and personal attacks against his person, have been relentless. The audacity and ferocity of the Boko Haram attacks have not made things easy for him. The international press and global audience are also now turning against him. The New York Times and The Economist have been particularly harsh. And world capitals are also starting to wonder, “What’s going on in Abuja and with Jonathan?”
Really, what’s going on with Jonathan? Is it that the Nigerian landscape is such that no matter what he does, hostility will still be directed at him? Could it be that some powerhouses have doggedly lined up against him, cheering and waiting to see him fail? Are his efforts being sabotaged by the same people who work for him? Is the Peoples Democratic Party, his political party, the problem? What is it? What’s going on in Aso Rock?
And why is it that the Boko Haram palava seen unstoppable and or uncontainable? Overall, my first fear is that the Boko Haram tentacles do not spread to the southern part of the country. My second fear is that elements within certain enclaves do not use it as an excuse for extralegal takeover of government. My third fear is that groups similar to Boko Haram do not come out of the woods to engage in macabre dance.
Governance, especially within the African context, is a funny and unpredictable political game. Hence, one does not know how the Boko Haram insurgency will turn out; and one does not know how it will impact Jonathan’s reputation and government. In all of this, one thing is certain: The constant killings and attacks and the case of the missing schoolchildren in Chibok, Borno State recently must be having a taxing and excruciating impact on him physically and mentally. It must be lonely at the top.
I don’t envy Jonathan not just because it must be lonely at the top, but also because he must bear responsibility for all that is wrong with the country. And whether it is his fault or not, he must bear the burden and the blame; he carries the weight of the name on his head.
For a brief period, we thought that the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta was the most ferocious non-state actor the country would ever see. After all, this was a justice-seeking group that almost brought the Yar’Adua government to its knees. During this period (2005-2009), less than two-dozen innocent civilians lost their lives. In spite of the loss of lives, and the cost to the nation’s economy and prestige, those years now look like comic relief. You think about it and you almost want to laugh.
But however you try, you can’t laugh at Boko Haram. You can’t laugh at the death and havoc the sect members have caused. You can’t laugh at the effect of their action on the nation’s psyche and reputation. You can’t laugh at what all this is doing to our collective sense of safety and security. Every month, Boko Haram brings us gifts we did not ask for or want. Sadly, we are powerless to reject these gifts, powerless to stop them, powerless to hold anyone accountable for our pain and agony, and powerless to deter other such groups. What a country!
For those who fan the flames of hate and hostility and death, I wonder if they know the real impact of their actions on the country and its teeming population. I wonder! In what ways does it benefit them when millions of fellow citizens in the northern part of the country live in an atmosphere of fear and hostility – a situation where young and innocent children do not feel safe and secure in a learning environment? How does it benefit anyone when communities become unlivable? How?
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