By Donu Kogbara

ACCORDING to a recent report in ThisDay newspaper, Alhaji Mukhtari Shehu Shagari, the Deputy Governor of Sokoto State and former Minister of Water Resources, has advised his fellow Northerners to stop emphasising the zoning issue, acknowledge the support they have received from the South-South for the past 50 years and accept his view that President Jonathan can deliver impressive results and has every right to contest for the presidency next year.

Responding to those of his brethren who feel that the North would have ruled the roost until 2015 if Yar’Adua had not died prematurely – and are therefore insisting that Jonathan restrict himself to a temporary caretaker role and hand the top job back to the North in 2011 – Shagari made the following comments:

“It is time for people in the North to reward the South-South for its loyalty…because I cannot remember at any time in the history of the country when the South-South did not go along with the North…

“We should reciprocate the gesture; and if, at the end of the day, the PDP decides to field Jonathan…it is the duty of the North, especially the North West, to support him because one good turn deserves another. We should not make this thing look as if it is tribal, ethnic or regional…”.

Shagari went on to express the opinion that having a South-South man in power is like having a brother in power; and I think that his declarations are touching and fair-minded, but several members of my social circle beg to differ.

Some folks have concluded that Shagari was being annoyingly condescending. As a Bayelsan pal of mine bitterly put it, “Who the hell does he think he is to talk down to us as if we are little slaves who have served our big masters well…or as if we’re kids who have earned a pat on the back for pleasing our parents?!”

Meanwhile, a Yoruba girlfriend has issued the following complaint: “Shagari arrogantly implied that power belongs to the North…and that the North is doing the rest of us a favour whenever it agrees to ‘loan’ us ‘its’ power for a while”.

I resigned from an influential oil/gas committee last year because I wasn’t happy about the way that my kith, kin and I were being treated by the then Northern leadership of the Petroleum Ministry. I am also the daughter of an Ogoni stalwart who was the Biafra’s UK Representative during the civil war.

So – trust me, ladies and gentlemen! – I totally understand the mutual suspicions, arcane complexities and lacerating tensions that frequently poison the relationship between North and South. But I’ve also benefitted from the immense kindness that many jolly decent Northerners have bestowed on me; and I’m convinced that Shagari’s mindset has been misunderstood.

My view is that Shagari’s attitude is fundamentally fraternal, NOT patronizingly paternalistic. As far as I’m concerned, even though his wording may not have been ideal, he is a sincere advocate of Justice whose heart is in the right place.

And I want to seize this opportunity to thank him for being objective and for urging recalcitrant Northerners to assist Dr Jonathan IF he decides to run.

Nonsense and rubblish!

SUMMIT newspaper is a publication I had never heard of until someone drew my attention to a hostile article that was published on its pages last Wednesday.

Some excerpts: “ President Goodluck Jonathan is yet to purge himself of sectarian affiliations…and has organised a lavish [83rd] birthday party for the Ijaw leader, Edwin Clark. The party, which was thrown inside the presidential villa, consumed millions of naira of Nigerian taxpayers’ money…

“…Edwin Clark is known to be the godfather of President Jonathan and is now spearheading the campaign for the President to disregard the rotational agreement of the PDP by insisting on running for the presidency next year…

“…Food and assorted drinks were said to have been imported…Leaders from other geopolitical zones are questioning the rationale behind the President’s use of public funds on a sectional head’s birthday celebration…”.

I sometimes feel ashamed of my fellow journalists. Journalists are trained to be honest, but some choose to become purveyors of outright lies and half-truths.

I was at the above get-together and can assure anyone who is interested in details that it was a fairly small dinner rather than a party and far from lavish.
The food was not imported. Pricey posh drinks were not available. Most guests drank water or juice and ate down-to-earth local dishes like rice and stew.

Furthermore, the dinner was attended by individuals from all four corners of the nation. Solomon Lar and Hajiya Nenadi Usman – who can hardly be described as Ijaw nationalists – made speeches about Clark’s detribalised approach and commitment to Nigerian unity.

Prominent Igbos and Yorubas were also present.
It is also worth noting that Clark doesn’t even try to manipulate Dr Goodluck Jonathan…and that Jonathan has always had a stubborn mind of his own and cannot be pushed into kow-towing to any interest group or aspiring godfather. So the idea that Clark can force him to disregard PDP decisions is laughable.

I, for one, do not see why Jonathan shouldn’t enthusiastically honour Clark – who stood by him like a firm oak tree when he was in a very precarious position.

And, by the way, who says that Jonathan won’t foot the party bill personally?

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