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GEJ, hero of this transition

By Ochereome Nnanna

EVERY generation has its heroes and patriots”, says American songster, Paul Simon. As well as its demons and villains, may I add? Indeed every time we successfully transit from one regime to another, a number of individuals pop up as the architects of its success or failure.

In 2007 there was no hero to celebrate. Rather, we had a departing president, Olusegun Obasanjo who, without the slightest scruples, declared that for his political party, the elections were a do-or-die affair. Everything else fell into line and the world scorned us.

The great thing, though, was that we learned from that episode. This is a sign of a new Nigeria because this is a nation where leaders tell you they “have no regrets” for their wrongdoing. Because we never learn from our mistakes we repeat them over and again.

However, after the demise of President Umaru Yar’ Adua, we had a new leader who dared to be different. When on May 6, 2010 Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn-in as President of Nigeria he promised to give Nigerians a free, fair and credible general elections come 2011. Many did not believe him. After all, Nigerians were used to false promises from their leaders.

Jonathan’s success did not owe to any special act of genius. He did not invent the wheel or engaged in rocket science. He only did the simple, right things that other leaders in other parts of the world do routinely: choosing the right people for the job, giving them the funds and tools to do the job and letting them do the job without interfering in any obvious way.

That’s all it takes for one to be a hero. Just do what is right and be fair to all concerned. Apply the golden rule and you won’t need miracles. Because we in Nigeria refuse to apply the golden rule and tap into the finished work of God, we are forced to return to Him in prayers for miracles.

Jonathan simply appointed a Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the person of Professor Attahiru Jega, who many touted for his integrity. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a scathing criticism of Jega’s clearly avoidable fumbling amidst accusations of nepotism. Nigeria was subjected to national disgrace when an election was called off midway.

However, there is a wise saying: “All is well that ends well”. Jega and his team have demonstrated that the initial mistakes they made were honest ones, possibly consequent upon time constraints. Indeed, Jega has emerged on my cards as the second hero of this transition.

For the first time since 1993, the entire world, which sent monitors and observers, some of whom were former presidents and leaders to observe Jega’s elections, gave Nigeria a clean bill of health. The processes that Jega and his team put into action were as foolproof as any could be under the circumstances.

The world knows that those who are killing, burning and looting (as usual) in the Northern parts of the country are frustrated bad losers. These were premeditated acts of desperation by a drowning political force whose stock in trade is religious, ethnic and sectional political schizophrenia. But they have been defeated every step of the way by a new nationalist political movement that believes in a genuine ‘One Nigeria’. This has been a revolution in which Nigerians came together to defeat once again, as they did on June 12, 1993, the forces of sectional domination.

Even the attempt by regional forces in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to create an alliance of the Muslim North and South West against the rest of Nigeria failed woefully. When some self-serving analysts were giving that sectional gang-up a chance based on some non-existent “33 million votes”, I laughed. How could two regions where not even everybody belongs to these two political parties overwhelm the rest four regions where most people subscribed to a new nationalist compact?
GEJ’s victory went way beyond his power of incumbency. He worked harder than his competitors. He and his wife worked day and night for their victory. While their opponents called them names and demonised their political party without offering concrete alternative programme of change, the President refrained from uncouth approach, reaching the electorate through every means possible, including personally signed text messages. He never took anybody for granted.

On the other hand, General Buhari only invested in his Muslim North. How could someone who did not campaign in the South East and South-South hope to win there? How could someone whose political party played Hausa/Fulani and Muslim tunes throughout the presidential primaries of his CPC warm himself into the hearts of other Nigerians who do not belong to that section of Nigeria’s diverse cultural fashion? How could a political party that did not have an Igbo person or someone of South-South and even North Central extraction visible in his political party expect to reap where he did not sow?
It’s so sad that Buhari who many respected for his clean records of public service and integrity has gone down the way he did after these elections. He was the direct opposite of GEJ. While the President told Nigerians that no politician’s ambition was worth the blood of anyone, Buhari asked his supporters to lynch “riggers”. When he lost his followers felt he was rigged out and went killing, burning and looting. What a bad example from someone who has ruled this nation!
As for Prince Tony Momoh, the National Chairman of the CPC and an icon of our pen trade, we are waiting for him to prove his allegation of computer fraud against his party. If he does not do so convincingly he could destroy an enviable image he spent the last 40 years building.

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