IN his words of wisdom, John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850) said: ”The very essence of a free government consists in considering offices as public trusts, bestowed for the good of the country, and not for the benefit of an individual or a party.” Describing one of the invaluable attributes of a great leader, America’s foremost activist President, Theodore Roosevelt, believed that: ”The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men [and women] to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Since independence, Nigeria has been a great nation without great leaders leading the way. And in such absence of foresighted and patriotic leaders, the return of democracy in 1999 hasn’t brought to an end the culture of political somersaults, especially given how one party, the Peoples Democratic Party of Nigeria, dominating the political landscape, with little or no opposition, rather than owing allegiance to the people, political officeholders seem to have their political ‘godfathers’ allegiance.
With the monopoly of an extra-large Peoples Democratic Party being broken, the historical reality is witnessing an earthquake along with all sorts of political confusions which, thanks to the country’s emerging two-party democracy, ethnic or religious dominance is being rolled back from the country’s political scene. In other words, resembling America’s two-party system known to be responsible for the transformation of that country into a great democracy and economy, as the power to decide who gets to power is fully in the people’s hands, we too will soon be on our way becoming an economic and political powerhouse.
With a two-party democracy fully given birth along with minority having the chance to be elected and re-elected as Nigerian President, certainly the rise of fierce checks and balances, politics of best ideas and right policies, will soon replace the brute politics of do-or-die, caustic politics of zero sum game driven by mud-throwing. And to disappear as a result is politics of godfatherism, which since the return of democracy has made our politicians to impress those who imposed them on the people rather than the people who elected them to promote our common good.
Or shouldn’t the fiercest political battle about which of the two parties gets the people’s mandate, and to keep it, party in power does everything to please the people, while party in opposition on its part launches a full-brown battle to seize power from party in power, be the best news ever to happen to this great country of ours, especially when their zero-sum game is purely based on pursuing and propagating the people’s interests rather than godfathers’ and Western interests?
That is why we should do everything humanly possible not to allow the return of the tyranny of majority, which we destroyed and buried in 2011, the year we elected Jonathan the president from one of the country’s ethnic minorities, which took America over 200 years of democracy to elect Barack Obama, an African American as that country’s first minority president of the United States. Re-electing Jonathan with a landslide victory in 2015 is the only way we should be proving to the world — just like America did when it re-elected Obama with Obama’s landslide victory in 2012 — that Nigeria has finally overgrown its politics of ethnicity and religion.
That is why rather than just endlessly attacking Mr. President, APC leaders should spend more of their time strategizing how to develop better people-oriented policies, designed to outshine those of the ruling party. Otherwise, they will be surprised how difficult to unseat an incumbent president.
The growing barrage of caricature and mud-throwing at the President from the likes of el-Rufai, Fani-Kayode, Tinubu, Obasanjo, and Amaechi has forced most Nigerians to become the President’s army of sympathisers.
But more damaging is opposition’s calling of Jonathan’s head simply because he comes from the South-South, a geo-political region composed of ethnic minorities. We all remember the battle we all fought against those who denied MKO Abiola his right to become Nigeria’s president. Or is it not fair to argue that what is good for North West, North Central and South West should equally be good for the South-South and South East.
If it is on the basis of the management of the economy, then one wonders how Jonathan’s government should be penalised for being better than its predecessors since the return of democracy?
Those saying that Jonathan would be going for a third term in 2015, should know that their argument hardly holds water because of the difficulty defining what constitutes a third term, especially if the United States, the country whose federal system of government we adopted, is taken into consideration.
Take the case of Lyndon B. Johnson who had to complete John F. Kennedy’s first term in office when Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Not only did Johnson complete Kennedy’s term, but Johnson also went ahead to win his own first term in office in November 1964, as well as went further to seek second term in office. On March 31, 1968, he voluntarily withdrew from the race on the ground of ill-health as a result of several strokes (even though it could be attributed to the overwhelming damage of the Vietnam War to administration).
Why America limited the presidential office to two terms was because Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office as a four-term US President (1933-1945). Preventing such a long stay in power from repeating itself, came the 22nd Amendment of the US Constitution, which sets two terms as the maximum period someone should be elected into the office of President of the United States.
So, if Lyndon Johnson could only voluntarily withdraw from seeking second term, why should President Jonathan’s second term in office be called a third term? In other words, if Section 1 of the US 22nd Amendment of 1947 stipulates that no president by default shall serve ”…more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President,” given that Jonathan spent only one year reminder of Yar’Adua tenure before seeking his own first term as president, why should be argued that should Jonathan run in 2015, he should be seeking a third term?
What the present ambiguities have thrown up is that we too need to either amend the constitution to fully define what constitutes first, second, and third terms, or we demand the Supreme Court to clear the lacuna.
Before ending, let me say this; if north really wants the presidency, it should be patient so that when power eventually returns to north, the rest of the country would be willing to allow a northern holder of that office to do also two terms. This is my personal appeal to our northern brothers and sisters.
Finally, for those of us who wouldn’t want to see the Niger Delta become battle theater, which could make today’s Boko Haram a child’s play, my sincere advice is let equity, peace, and justice reign. If the wise are peacemakers, obviously the wise should know that Jonathan is today like that elephant in a china shop.
Mr. BASIL ENWEGBARA, a deveopment economist, wrote from Abuja.