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Good luck to GOODLUCK!

By Donu Kogbara

I AM not a fan of the PDP.  I think it is a lousy party. But I will root for it tomorrow because it happens to have Dr. Goodluck  Jonathan at its helm.

Sure, Jonathan possesses weaknesses, but don’t we all? Sure, Jonathan has made mistakes, but who doesn’t? Sure, he could have done a lot better since he took over the ship of state last year, but he was catapulted into the hot seat under extremely traumatic circumstances, needed time in which to settle down and cannot be blamed for not instantly fulfilling his potential.

I know that my usual critics will accuse me of sectional sentimentality and of backing Jonathan purely because he is a fellow Niger Deltan. But this allegation is only partially true! While I have no apologies to offer anyone who thinks that my geopolitical zone does not deserve to be represented at the top for at least one full four-year term after financially supporting Nigeria for five decades, my South-South loyalties are not the only reason I’m urging you to “Vote Jonathan”.

I also admire his calm, unflappable, reflective personality and sincerely believe that a nation that is full of dangerous criminal hotheads, chronic egotists who make BIG trouble when they don’t get their way and noisy, neurotic drama queens (like me, for example!) could do with a steady hand on the tiller.

Strange reluctance

AT the time of writing, some newspapers are saying that Ribadu’s ACN and Buhari’s CPC are close to a deal that will enable them to combine forces before the presidential election…while other newspapers are saying that merger talks have broken down and that the two candidates will appeal to voters separately.

Whatever the eventual outcome of these discussions turn out to be, one wonders why these opposition parties have found it so difficult to form a solid alliance against the PDP. Even if the ACN and CPC finally decide to join hands this week, why have they left it so late and shilly-shallied for so long?

Is it that they have serious ideological differences? Nope! There isn’t much to choose between the agendas of various Nigerian parties. They all focus on basics like sorting out the electricity problem and improving infrastructure. And I don’t recall Ribadu or Buhari saying anything original or expressing vastly conflicting views when they outlined their agendas during the NN24 debate.

Is it that the main protagonists can’t stand each other? Nope! Ribadu is  known to respect Buhari and both men have anti-corruption crusading instincts in common.  As for the guys around them, I’ve not heard any stories about verbal aggro or physical fights dominating meetings when they get together to chat!

So why the foot-dragging? Given that they claim to want to beat a formidable enemy – a huge, well-funded political machine that straddles the entire nation and has been in power for ages – I find their reluctance to bond very strange.

A sour taste

FOR reasons that are too complicated and too sensitive to explain here,I didn’t – despite loudly urging Vanguard readers to make sure they voted! – make it home to my village for last Saturday’s National Assembly elections. So I cannot claim to have personally witnessed any electoral activities.

But I’ve received a barrage of outraged complaints from seemingly credible individuals, including quite a few PDP members, who swear that some of the declared results in my Ogoniland constituency cannot be trusted. And I’m hearing similar gripes from normally honest friends who live in other regions.

I am so sad and so angry. Why must every Nigerian election be bogged down in malpractice allegations? Some of these allegations are, of course, false. But many turn out to be true. And what I want to know is this:

If candidates have failed to win hearts and minds because they belong to unpopular parties or are lazy or selfish or stupid or greedy or corrupt or thuggish or incompetent or unfortunately misunderstood, why must they so ruthlessly insist on rigging themselves into elected positions?

Folks who “win” legislative elections fraudulently and wind up inflicting themselves on unwilling populations are, as a general rule, able to get away with it because they are close cronies of the Big Boys who control their areas. But why can’t their mentors – who may have good reasons for liking them – give them other rewards like juicy contracts or appointments? Why must they go through the charade of pretending to have been chosen by their people via polls?

National Assembly members are meant to be REPRESENTATIVES of their people. And people have a right to be represented by legislators they don’t hate!

Advertising advantages

HOWEVER, my sense of fair play compels me to regret the fact that opposition parties are getting so little airtime. Jonathan’s TV adverts are numerous, while his rivals barely get a look-in. It is obvious who has the deepest pockets.

Serving presidents and ruling parties enjoy a lot of advantages, not least the fact that they are more likely to receive generous donations. And there is, in my opinion, something depressingly undemocratic and grossly unjust about one candidate having a much larger kitty than the candidates he is running against.

A candidate’s ability to reach out to the electorate should not be so dependent on how rich he and his supporters or his party are. Being able to spectacularly out-spend everyone and buy tons of publicity does not make you a superior option.

Many talented folks who could add a lot of value to our public life shy away from political contests because they know that they won’t be able to match their opponents financially and feel they won’t have much impact as a result.

Meanwhile, many hooligans, thieves and half-wits emerge victorious from polls simply because they have millions of (often ill-gotten) naira at their disposal.

So let’s do what the British do and put a cap on campaign expenditure, so that almost anyone can afford to participate in elections and so that impecunious candidates are not pitched against candidates who have massive bank balances.

One of Jonathan’s adverts reminds us that he had no shoes as a child but still managed to succeed. And I totally welcome this inspirational message because it will encourage many youngsters who are suffering to bear the deprivations they are going through with fortitude and to work hard and aspire to greatness.

But I am sure that Mr President knows that part of his success boils down to the good luck after which he was named…and that most shoeless children CAN’T succeed because they never got a lucky break, never got a chance to go to school, never met anyone who would help them and so on. Some even die before they reach adulthood because their parents cannot afford medical treatment.

A man who understands how painful it can be to walk on an un-level playing field when you have no shoes will also, I hope, understand the point I am making.

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