By Donu Kogbara
IT is customary for columists to be especially reflective about the past, present and future at this significant annual turning point when old years are about to give way to new years. And I thought that it would be interesting to look back at some of the observations I made at the tail ends of 2010 and 2011…with a view to discovering whether anything has changed for the better or worse.
On 29 December 2010, I said: Dr Goodluck Jonathan has hit the headlines on countless occasions – and for a plethora of different reasons – in 2010. In addition to being one of the stars of the Wikileaks drama and the focus of a huge geopolitical quarrel within his ruling Party and the first-ever Niger Deltan President of Nigeria, Jonathan has acquired a kind of iconic status because both indigenes and foreigners are fascinated by the fact that his first name reflects the extraordinary good luck that he has enjoyed as a quiet man who never planned to be Head of State but has – almost accidentally – wound up at the pinnacle of public life.
However, 2010 has, for many of Jonathan’s brethren and fans, been a major disappointment. Someone once said that heroes often have feet of clay. And I am sorry to have to say this because I wish Jonathan well, but SO MANY South-Southerners from his own backyard have approached me with bitter complaints about the indignities they have endured from the Jonathan Camp… …and the ideological problems they have with him; and I have learned one very important lesson from those who are upset with Jonathan: Supporting someone purely because he comes from your part of the country is a massive mistake.
Things have gone from bad to worse on Jonathan’s home front. The complaints about his performance are getting louder and louder. Many adoring former fans from his zone are now scathing critics who don’t want him to run again in 2015. Gloomy expressions of disappointment are increasingly becoming enraged yelps of frustration and contempt. And he’s attracting similar tongue-lashings from natives of other regions, which is a great pity, given that he’s not a nasty piece of work.
I still wish him well. But he really needs to get his act together; and fast. We are all human and all let ourselves – and others – down from time to time. But positive change is always possible and it is not too late for Mr President to make his people proud and prove that his flounderings are temporary and that a Niger Deltan is capable of delivering the best governance that this country has ever experienced.
On December 28, 2011, I said:
Several commentators of all nationalities have concluded that the Man of The Year award should, without a shadow of doubt, go to Mohamed Bouazizi, the 26 year-old Tunisian street vendor and fruit seller whose desperation-driven self-immolation sparked off widespread riots and led to the Arab Spring.
Having said more than once on this page that it is preferable (in my opinion) to die on your feet than to live on your knees, I totally agree with pundits who say that Bouazizi is a hero and major catalyst who deserves maximum recognition. So, yes, it is tragic that the young man killed himself. And I really wish that he hadn’t, given that his religion regards suicide as a sin AND that most clouds have silver linings, even if these silver linings aren’t immediately visible.
It is entirely possible that Bouazizi’s existence would have greatly improved over time if he had gritted his teeth and soldiered on. But there is no use crying over spilled milk, especially since his action has had such a positive impact. Bouazizi was emotionally disorientated by the trials and tribulations he had endured and could not see any light at the end of the tunnel; and despair is extremely hard to shake off and the bottom line is that his decision to dramatically exit from circumstances he found intolerable has not been in vain.
By dying, he gave life with a capital L to a movement that will go down in history as epoch-changing. Thanks to Bouazizi, the dormant fury of millions of oppressed North African and Middle Eastern citizens was awakened. Thanks to him, 3 dictators were unceremoniously thrown out of their presidential palaces…We will never forget his name.
The Arab Spring has turned out to be a mixed blessing. Libya, Tunisia and Egypt have not become havens of peace and prosperity. Islamic extremism is on the rise in that part of the world. But the brave rebels of Syria are still being inspired by the spirit of Bouazizi; and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Bashar Al-Assad, the disgusting, disgraceful child-killer of Damascus, Homs and Aleppo, gets his come-uppance in 2013.