The Jonathan Disaster: Hard Facts vs. Sentiments By Frisky Larr
In several articles, in which I addressed the weaknesses of the Jonathan Presidency within the past few months, I have always highlighted two crucial messages. First, I emphasized the risk of the roof collapsing on the president’s head; the roof of an edifice that he was grossly mismanaging in a manner that was too glaring for all to see. Then I interpreted the body language and unspoken words of the President to be signaling the desire to “scatter everything” if he does not get his way to a second term in the Presidency.
Today, this is happening in a manner that even a sleeper would capture in his deepest state of dreaming adventures. The attendant elements in the media reflecting the unfolding scenario now shows a camp of intellectual – often professional analysts and a flock of non-professional mass commentators singing discordant tunes from the depth of passionate instincts. It is a divide reflecting facts and the call of sentiments.
The first group is today laying emphasis on a gentleman’s agreement that preceded the support of potential and inherent adversaries for the bona fide electoral installation of Goodluck Jonathan as President of Nigeria. It rekindles memory of the run-up to 2011 when a teeming majority of Nigerians stood up and detested the born-to-rule attitude of a conspicuous section of Nigeria that formed a cabal to trample as well as spit on constitutional requirements in wanton disdain. It rekindles memories of the instrumental role played by Olusegun Obasanjo in the intended or unintended consequence of a Southern Vice President having to take the reins of power from a handpicked ailing President, who died prematurely. There was a wide coalition that rose and fought for justice against the oppressive designs of a self-styled mafia while the nation hung on a silk thread dangling on the precipice.
Stakeholders mustered forces, threw in their weights and brokered compromises. Recriminations were buried including one that accused President Jonathan of denying knowledge of a zoning arrangement. Another agreement was therefore brokered. Stakeholders announced publicly and in gratifying tones the wisdom of Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to a single term as President. Then Acting President Goodluck Jonathan did not deny these claims on his behalf. One person that staked a lot in the project of installing Jonathan was Olusegun Obasanjo who inadvertently became the target of northern stakeholders. Stakeholders that sought to eliminate him as a protecting shield in front of Goodluck Jonathan. The astute old man had formed a complex political network through several years of frontline politics to underscore his commitment to the Nigerian project. With him spreading this network to shield off Goodluck Jonathan from the reach of northern power brokers, President Jonathan’s vulnerability was strongly limited.
I elaborated this quite vividly in an article titled “Why is Babangida so angry?” But shockingly things began to fall apart. The new President began to be led and guided by characters who saw themselves overnight as powerful players in the Nigerian political equation. They impressed upon the new President not to overestimate the importance of Olusegun Obasanjo. The President then launched a delicate balancing act of first covertly and progressively annoying Obasanjo with the appointment of protégés of northern stakeholders to sensitive positions – precisely the stakeholders that saw in him the holder of an office that did not belong to him. Then BANG came the bombshell. Obasanjo began to criticize his political foster son publicly and the President would come out and report that he only saw dead bodies when he visited Odi after Obasanjo’s use of the military to quell a deadly unrest. What followed was even more distressing. The President made Obasanjo a fair game for his aides and Doyin Okupe and Reuben Abati openly began abusing the former President in public submissions. Jonathan relished the delusive comfort of having successfully appeased important powers in the north. After all, Atiku had been silenced with lucrative contracts as unproven rumors contend and Babangida satisfied with key appointments of his favored lieutenants. Buhari had no significant role in the northern equation aside emotional followership. Major emirs here and there had been reached out to. In all of these, performance in governance was simply confined to propaganda paperwork and cosmetic projects like the reactivation of the rail industry to the steam age of the wild west. Boko Haram insurgency escalated but the President was sure that his appeased northern friends would take care of that sooner than later and proceeded to dare his folks who had just elected him a few months ago in a war of attrition by removing fuel subsidy in the adamant stance of a Harakiri fighter.
Meanwhile his inner circle feasting on the privileged position fell back on a looting relaxation that is continuing till date while the President felt comfortable enough to crush anyone who would dare challenge his dreams. After all, the northern flank had been taken care of and Obasanjo successfully marginalized. His strategies were planned by people who have no single power base of any sort but hinged their pleas on the deterrent effect of the risk of Niger Delta insurgency replacing Boko Haram. Today, the roof is collapsing on the President’s head and the intellectual analysts who emphasize the President’s gentleman’s agreement lay the blame squarely on the President’s feet. They emphasize the wanton disregard for decorum, unintelligent strategies and downright naiveté displayed by President Jonathan.
On the opposite side, the flock of hobby commentators and non-professional analysts cannot understand why staunch activists of 2010 who took to the streets to impress a Jonathan-must-rule agenda on the oppressive northern cabal are keeping quiet now and even blaming the President openly for the predicament befalling him. After all, they claim, a single term promise (if at all made) cannot supercede constitutional permission of a second term. They emphasize the northern hunger for power at the center of the lock jam and point to many northern leaders gleefully rubbing their hands in satisfaction at the pendulum swinging their way. They also highlight the backbone of the Nigerian economy and the regional disaffection that a premature northern presidency would unleash. They stress the fact that the north has ruled Nigeria long enough to allow the goose that lays the golden egg keep center stage for four more years. In a nutshell, it is the same bunch of emotional arguments that intellectuals and non-intellectuals alike subscribed to in 2010 to confront the northern cabal. This time though, it is failing to resonate across-the-board and is largely confined to non-intellectuals for obvious reasons. The protagonists are predominantly Niger Deltans – geographical siblings of the President who are proud to have one of their own at the coveted seat in a historical event.
No doubt, they too are now wondering why the rest of the south hardly seems to share in this emotional but logical consideration. After all, there has been a collective marginalization of the south by the north since independence. Yet there is a silent minority even amongst the President’s regional siblings who consider the President a disappointment to the interest of the region itself. It is not lost on keen observers how much looting a Niger Delta development project has resulted in. The sanctification and ‘untouchable’ status of militants-turn-millionaires has been observed with dismay. The uncontrolled operation of illegal refineries and stealing of crude oil by privileged powers with the President turning a blind eye is a major talk-of-the-town!
The sudden replacement of Farida Waziri at the EFCC at the time she was beginning to bite corrupt people in all boldness remains unexplained till the present moment. Her replacement Ibrahim Lamorde has mutated into a toothless bulldog serving out his term pursuing low profile cases. The President’s proclamation on CNN (Christiane Amanpour) of improved power supply turned out a laughing stock as Nigerians ask where the improvement was. Claims of megawatts are confined to paper propaganda with no light to show.
The only major and tangible achievement so far – aside a few completed road construction projects and minor unnoticeable corrections on the fringes – is the reactivation of the railway system linking Lagos with Kano. No one minds that the journey takes a few days in the burning heat of the barren land through which the steamer meanders. Northern power brokers who the President thought he had appeased to feel strong enough to ax down Olusegun Obasanjo, retained Boko Haram as a bargaining chip. Now the President is standing out naked in the political wilderness protected by a roadside barking dog called Asari Dokubo and a voluble feasting associate adopted as a makeshift godfather who has no political base whatsoever – Edwin Clark.
With such a poor and dismal achievement record and enormous resources at his disposal given the price of crude oil accompanied by uncontrolled looting, discerning minds just want someone to move Nigeria forward irrespective of geographical origin. For now many just don’t care if a northerner comes on board again as long as he (no “she” can be expected from the north) can deliver on moving the country forward. Everyone honestly believes that the north has had more than a fair share of its role at the center and should ordinarily have left governance to another region. Jonathan could have pushed this agenda as well if he had – for instance – groomed a credible Easterner as a successor had he allowed decorum to take center stage and kept his promise of just one term. But poor achievements compounded by a very bad personal image nourished by poor television outings with gaffe after gaffe has endowed President Jonathan with the image of the world’s most unintelligent President that major world leaders avoid. A sharp contrast to the days of Olusegun Obasanjo.
Now people simply want a qualified brain northerner or southerner! Loud as the drums may sound, the signs do not point to an imminent collapse of project Nigeria in any civil war of sort. After all is said and done, Jonathan will be left with no choice but to simply eat the humble pie!