By Dele Sobowale
“It is not enjoyable to trample hope.”
Dr Kent A Sepkowitz, in SUNDAY PUNCH, May 15, 2011, p 67.
This column could easily have been titled I dey laugh too O! And, it would still have been apt. In fact, if all the reasons for my post-election laughter were to be written and analysed, it would require a whole booklet to do justice to it all. Since this piece is being read today, Sunday, May 29, 2011, the day President Goodluck Jonathan is being sworn in as the substantive Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Incorporated, it is perhaps the best day to recap a few issues which others have either habitually or inadvertently or deliberately forgotten.
This exercise is not designed to make anyone who falls into any of the categories comfortable. Because all these happened in our recent past, they again demonstrate our collective national disdain for history and the lessons it teaches us. Nationwide amnesia occurs not only in Nigeria, it is a continent-wide phenomenon in Africa; partially explaining our perpetual under-development.
To start with, “Rope a dope” is not original to me. Boxing fans, with a sense of history, will recollect that it was “the Greatest”, legendary Mohammed Ali, who coined the term to explain the strategy he intended to use against fearsome George Foreman, who had destroyed everyone in his path to the top of the Heavyweight class in the contest the same Ali called “Rumble in the Jungle” because it took place in Kinshasa, Congo. Knowing Foreman’s penchant for wading into his opponent from the first round, Ali planned to stay on the ropes and defend himself until Foreman got tired before unleashing a counter-attack. History would record that Foreman fell for the trap and lost his title. By the way, a dope in American slang means a fool. Another American, P.T. Barnum, 1810-1891, the circus master had earlier said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. He made millions from circus shows entertaining suckers all over the world; especially America. Again sucker means fool. If that happens in God’s own country, one can only imagine how many suckers are born in Nigeria every second.
In one election, after another, in 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections, PDP had raised the “Rope a dope” strategy to the level of an art with which any group which transiently holds the Presidency can generally get the majority of Nigerians to vote against their own interests on election day, despite loud complaints for four years before the elections, only for the complaints to start, virtually, the day after. Like sleep walkers, Nigerians wake up after the elections, wondering what they have done to themselves.
Today, President Jonathan will start his inaugural address by saying “My Fellow Countrymen or Fellow Citizens” or words to that effect. One irreverent English writer, whose name now escapes my memory, once asked, “How many fools make My Fellow Countrymen?” He had his reasons; even in England fools abound. And, Nigeria, especially in 2011, presents the perfect example for that remark. Because instances are too numerous to cite, permit me to limit myself to four issues which had significant bearing on how people voted in the Presidential election. To avoid losing some of my readers, immediately, I want to start from one issue on which there should be no dispute – power supply.
Among all the reasons people who wrote or called or sent messages, adopted to persuade me to re-consider my opposition to President Jonathan was the “improvement” in power supply. “Light is now constant in my area, thanks to Jonathan” was the general message. And, it was a message which the Jonathan Campaign Committee drummed into every head; every head, that is, except those who remembered our recent history. The history is as recent as 2003 and 2007.
Back in 2003, when “my brother”, Olusegun Obasanjo, was seeking re-election, approximately, two and a half years after his first Minister of Power and Steel, another brother, Chief Bola Ige, promised and failed “to make power failure a thing of the past by December (1999)”, the government “magically” managed to ensure improved power supply for about two months before the 2003 elections. Nigerians were told that the government had put in place all the necessary requirements to increase power supply permanently.
Approximately three weeks after the election, the lengthy power failures were back until three months before the election of 2007; when the “rope a dope” trick was repeated. Incidentally, for readers old and un-forgetful enough, elections in 1979, 1993 and 1999 were not characterized by somebody “monkeying” with power supply a few weeks to election because the Heads of State, Obasanjo, IBB and Abubakar were not candidates or active members of any of the political parties in those years.
So, when several people, who could not remember yesterday, tried to persuade me that power supply had “improved since Jonathan took over”, I laughed. One of them was my friend, PDP die-hard, with whom I went to vote on election day. Another, a hotelier, pro-Jonathan, who was happy about “the increase in power supply”. I told them to wait until after the elections and repeat the same statement. This piece was written on May 15, 2011.
My friend’s house has experienced power outage for more than six days and the hotelier has been buying diesel at N170/litre for more than a week. I dey laugh O! Nigerian politicians have perfected the “Rope a dope” strategy; they fail us on power for years; then trick the unwary with “improved power supply” just before the elections and the “dopes” applaud. It is quite possible the swindle will work again in 2015 because politicians are not addressing themselves to a standing army but a moving parade. Life is a conveyor belt bringing new suckers as voters. Suckers go; suckers come, that is life.
ZONING AND THE SOUTH-EAST
“Politics without principles..
Ghandi, 1869-1948, founder of modern India.(VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 245).
One of Ghandi’s lasting legacies left us with was a series of things he thought would destroy any society. Without exception, I am a subscriber to those codes of behaviour; especially the one about practising politics with principles. As the Americans say, “if you don’t believe in something, you’ll fall for anything”. When President Jonathan announced his bid for the presidency, I recollect how the issue was debated on this page.
The most vocal opponents of zoning, apart from the people of Niger Delta, who stood to gain, and have gained by its temporary repudiation, were readers from the South-East and South-West in that order. Zoning, according to them, is unconstitutional and enthrones mediocrity. I knew they were insincere and time, very short time, will soon expose the hypocrisy underlying the arguments.
Interestingly, while delegates from every state, repudiating zoning went to Abuja to vote for Jonathan, back at home there was a fierce argument in support of zoning in every state.
Apparently, zoning is only unconstitutional when applied to presidential candidates; not Governors, Ministers, Senators etc. Now the South-East is shouting bloody murder because PDP had abandoned zoning in selecting NASS top officials! The zone was given a mere SGF. I dey laugh O!.