2014:Year of the Locusts

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BY BEN AGANDE, ABUJA

“If the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria insists he wants something and you say you will not allow him to have it, what do you think will happen?”

The above was the  question asked by a   former state governor  in Nigeria’s South-west. He answered the question himself:  “War”

Now, for war to be just, there is required a just cause. That is according to Thomas Aquinas.  A scholastic appreciation of Aquinas’ position, without prejudice to the pacifism that Christianity preaches, posits that it is sometimes necessary to “preserve or restore peace in the face of aggression; and there must be conditions precedent”.  Aquinas called these conditions jus ad bellum (right to war) which were different from the jus in bello (the rules of just conduct in war). For a just war to be hinged on a just cause, it must have rightful intention, authority of the sovereign and the raison d’etre.

In simple, plain language, all these relate  to the need to preserve or restore a status quo that has peace or the well-being of the state and sovereign as it’s central objective.
Now, Nigeria’s 2014 will witness some war – in a manner of speaking.
It would be a war of many sides; a war possibly of ideas, of intentions (seen and unseen), and of ego.
But it would also be a war of stupidity in which all sides would attempt to outdo one another in a show of shame.

But at the front of this war would be some actors: President Goodluck Jonathan, Bola Tinubu, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Bamangar Tukur, Senate President David Mark, Speaker Aminu Waziri  Tambuwal, Pa E K Clark, Chief Tony Anenih, PDP and APC governors and legislators, INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega. The list is endless.
It would be a war of the locusts.

For the average Nigerian who is not directly involved in this war, he could as well go to hell. Whereas the warring parties make unbridled pretense to fighting for the masses, daylight is easily brought into the pretense as the masses are almost always left for dead.

Beyond the mantra of non-performance that the opposition continues to chant is the real issue of loss of political power and control by a section of the country. This has been further accentuated by the role fate played in the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in May 2010, paving the way for President Jonathan’s emergence. Worse still for them, Jonathan contested and won a supposed four-year tenure meant for the North and is now in the process of seeking a constitutionally guaranteed second term of office.And that is where the war starts and ends.

Unfortunately for Jonathan, through a shambling mix of myopic advisers, associates, friends and family members,what ought to follow a Nigerian pattern of easily retaining power is now in danger of crumbling; it is for this same reason that some have poked fun at both Mr. President and his office. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, a sitting President is daily buffeted by confetti of insults and abuses.

There is an Arab saying that a pack of sheep led by a lion is more likely to defeat a pack of lions led by a sheep.
We have consistently written about the problem of a gentleman president. What makes it more pitiable is that even around Mr. President there are dangerous locusts.

Take, for instance, one Asari Dokubo who is allowed by the authorities to insult other Nigerians because the presidency of Nigeria has become commoditized in his view and, therefore, is a property owned by a kinsman.
Then there is the Information Minister and supervising Minister of Defense, Labaran Maku, who said publicly that government is no longer bothered about criticism because “we are used to it; Mr. President is used to it”.  That statement means Nigerians can go to hell. That is a wrong approach.

Might Maku be reminded, the selfsame thing he is today criticizing about the media was a shade of what he did and which made him hit limelight while he was a journalist. Somebody once described him as a minister who speaks before he thinks.

That may not be true and it is uncharitable.  But Maku and a few around Jonathan should strive genuinely to provide wise counsel and not the counsel of the locusts the likes of which had led past leaders nowhere because there shall be 10 kings for 10 seasons – nothing lasts forever.

Opportunities still abound.
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) made us understand that “A prudent ruler cannot and must not honour his words”.  The context of this statement fits perfectly the Olusegun Obasanjo-inspired PDP zoning arrangement of eight years South and eight years North which he tried to torpedo in 2006 with his Third Term agenda. For him to now attempt to pull wool and counsel Jonathan not to do that which is constitutionally guaranteed is not only wicked but ungodly.

To follow the counsel of Machiavelli comes with consequences. In being prudent, the retention and stability of sovereignty constitute the principal reason why a ruler exists. Whichever way it is achieved becomes secondary and of less or no consequence.

So, is the President prudent enough not to honor his words?
He should be prudent and, therefore, cannot and must not honor his words.
Prudence in this context relates to him using the instrumentality of the constitutionally guaranteed window to seek re-election while prudently managing the affairs of state for the masses.

That is what he has been promising. That is what he promised again during his latest broadcast. But has he delivered?
As 2014 rolls on, the locusts will invade, especially with the plethora of politico-economic activities that are likely to test the will, developments that would require prudence just so the locusts can be avoided.
Jona-top-story

  Jonathan in 2014

2013 was one year Nigerians will not forget in a hurry.  Though Nigeria recorded  positive developments in some sectors, it was also a hell of a year in so many aspects. The country performed creditably well in sports as it hauled in medals in various sporting events. It was a year that also witnessed the greatest challenge to security agencies especially in Borno and Yobe states which are the epicentre of the bloody insurgency by the Boko Haram sect.

Apart from the scores of civilians  massacred by the Islamist group, military formations and barracks were
repeatedly targeted by the insurgents, culminating late last year in the daring raids on the air force facilities in Maiduguri, where scores of fighter aircraft were reportedly destroyed, and the army barracks in Bama. Scores of military personnel were not only murdered  their family members, mostly wives and children, were also kidnapped.

It was a year that  witnessed the achievement of a giant feat: the unbundling of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria and it’s subsequent sale to private investors in a manner that was adjudged both locally and internationally as transparent.

The year 2014 is very critical not only for the political environment in Nigeria but  also in the political life of  President  Goodluck Jonathan. Apart from being the year when the presidential candidates of  the political parties in the country would  emerge, 2014 is the year  Jonathan has appointed for himself to formally declare whether or not he would be stand  election for the presidency in 2015.

Being the year preceding the generally elections, most of the decisions that would shape  the 2015 elections as well as the factors that would largely influence the decisions by Nigerians on whether or not to stake their votes for  the president  in 2015, if he decides to contest, would be taken.

Ultimately, the chain of events that would unfold this year would largely be determined by the decision of  Jonathan  on his next political moves. In an interview with a team of editors on  Presidential Media Chat, the president, while responding to a question on whether he would contest election in 2015, said it was difficult for a sitting president to open up on whether he would run for a second term or not, especially when his first tenure is still young.

‘Wait till 2014’

Four years is a very short time for someone to make an impact. Immediately you start talking about elections, you will actually be heating up the polity. Before you ask whether Mr. President will contest for a second term or not, wait till 2014. Give me some time to make sure that myself and my cabinet work to satisfy Nigerians. This is not the time to talk about whether the president will re-contest election or not. I do not want that to distract my government,” he said.

Jonathan said the danger in revealing his intention then would be that the polity would not only be over heated, but governance might be negatively affected as cabinet members may be pushed to abandon their roles to playing politics.

Even though the president has not formally declared his intention to contest or not, the political temperature has almost reached a boiling point as contending forces have already assembled their political armament to fight their various battles. From 2011 to 2013,  Jonathan could afford the luxury of keeping Nigerians guessing on whether he would contest in 2015  or not.

With the cacophony of voices that have continued to push for and against his eligibility to contest or not, the president  can no longer afford the indulgence of keeping his decision on the next political moves to his chest. Whether for or against, he must make his intention known to Nigerians, and the sooner he does that the better for not just himself but  also the country.

But even before he takes that decision on whether he will contest or not, there are several  issues that Jonathan must tackle and urgently too. Shortly before the end of last year, the president, in one fell swoop, sacked nine members of his cabinet.

This is in addition to two  ministers who  earlier resigned their positions. Currently, the cabinet does not have substantive ministers for the Ministries of Defense, Education, Environment, Science and Technology, Ministers of State for Power and Agriculture, Minister of State for Health and Minister of Youth Development. As the appointing authority,  Jonathan has  the power  to fire.

But to have left several ministerial positions to be overseen by other ministers with the attendant distraction that this entails and for so long a time does not speak well of a president who is committed to transforming the nation. More poignantly, to have allowed the defense portfolio, which is overseeing the prosecution of the fight against insurgents in the north-eastern part of the country be without a substantive head, cannot  be justified for whatever reason. This is a decision that the president must tackle with all swiftness that he can muster at his command.

Liability
Even before Jonathan replaces  members of his cabinet that he sacked, some pundits believe that there are ministers or senior aides of the president that have become political liability to him. For instance, some of the ministers  have gained notoriety because of the controversy that their names evoke. Their continued stay in government is a major drawback to the president.

In this year of critical decision taking,  Jonathan cannot afford to retain them because they constituted themselves as liability and not assets as they ought to be to the president.
One of the key responsibilities of government is to guarantee peace and security of  life and  property.

In the last six years, security challenge in the country has assumed a frightening dimension so much so that insecurity appears to be the  norm rather than the exception. From the militancy in the Niger Delta region, to kidnapping in the South-east, insecurity in the country is further exacerbated by the blistering attack by the Boko Haram  group  in the north-eastern  a  states of Borno and Yobe.

Though the declaration of state of emergency by the president in May 2013 has significantly curtailed the excesses of the insurgents, a lot needs to be done to bring normalcy to the worst affected states. What  Jonathan  needs to do is to consolidate on the progress achieved by the security services by ensuring that the insurgents are routed out and the people enjoy normal lives.

The president must ensure that the security services are not only adequately trained to confront the emerging challenge but are also sufficiently equipped to face the enemy.
While the challenge posed by the Boko Haram sect has taken much attention of the public, equally menacing is the widespread incidence of kidnap for ransom that is gradually assuming notoriety in the country.

Impunity
In some parts of the country, people get kidnapped for as low as  N50,000.  As the chief security officer of the country, the president cannot continue to preside over a country where people’s freedom can be punctuated by miscreants  with impunity. Jonathan  must send a strong message to the heads of security services that such misdemeanor can no longer be accepted.

Although there was a lot of chest thumbing on the successful privatization of the unbundled Power Holding Company of Nigeria last year, this has not transferred to concrete achievements in terms of
steady power supply. What most Nigerians will use as a benchmark to determine the success or otherwise of the Jonathan administration is how well he succeeds in guaranteeing steady power supply in the country.

The onus is therefore on the president to ensure that the modest progress his administration has recorded is sustained. This will go a long way in determining whether his name
will be recorded on the debit or credit side of history when the story of power supply in Nigeria is told.

Fatal blow
While the president concentrates on tackling issues of governance in 2014, the best way for him to remain focused in doing this is to put his house in order. Since the election of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as the National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, neither the president; the party nor  Tukur has known peace.

The climax of this crisis is the defection of five governors elected under the platform of the party as well as scores of members of the state and National Assembly to the opposition All Progressive Congress. This is a fatal political blow that the president  cannot afford to dismiss with a wave of the hand.

Though the best option would have been to to prevent the degeneration of the crisis to the extent that it has  gone, what is left now for Jonathan,  is continue with the peace move he initiated last year is  to bring back some of the governors to the fold of the party. He cannot afford to go to battle when some of his key commanders are not on the same page with him.

To lose key states like Kano, Sokoto and Rivers is not only a huge blow to the PDP but a personal minus for the president. This is a time for pragmatic appraisal of the situation and not haughty dismissal of the stark reality.
For Jonathan, personal self-appraisal is not optional. It is a necessity that he must take seriously if he intends to make meaningful impact on the country and especially his own political development.
Unfortunately, he does not have the luxury of time to ponder for too long before taking such decisions.

 

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