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Goodluck Jonathan and 51 years of our lives

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By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
I THINK one of the most defining images of recent times, was the picture of President Goodluck Jonathan on the internet, in the presence of the American Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, at the recent 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York.

Our president stooped with his hands behind his back, in an exaggerated expression of respect for the imperialist politician, as she pointed her index finger at Jonathan, almost like a headmistress to a student!

In that most telling of pictures, the dependent, supine state of contemporary Nigeria was played up to the world. In any case, the picture was only an expression of the major Nigerian international story: the report that Zionist Israel had pressured Nigeria to vote against recognition of the Palestinian application for membership of the United Nations and the recognition of the State of Palestine within 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem, as its capital.

Systematic injustice and wrong

The Israeli press in the lead to the General Assembly had effusively reported that the Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, had pressured Goodluck Jonathan to tow the Zionist line, and abandon Nigeria’s proud record of opposition to colonialism, apartheid and injustice. But with Jonathan, every record seemed ready to topple as our country is taken through one of its worst phases as an independent nation.

If anybody doubted the seriousness of the situation which faces us, please re-interpret the pre-independence speeches given by the president and the fact that they entire political elite and its security apparatus had to “run fi cover’ to celebrate Independence Day.

These are the worst of days in Nigeria’s history. But we have not arrived at this critical juncture because of faults in our stars or whatever those who indulge in metaphysical flight of fancy might adduce as reasons. In my view, there has been a systematic accumulation of injustice and wrong-headed political and economic choices, from independence, but especially, over the last three decades of our national life.

Ruling class and social responsibility

The Nigerian ruling class’ decision to build an unjust, non-inclusive form of neo-colonial capitalism, ensconced in incredible corruption, alienated the majority of the Nigerian people from the state. This is not surprising, since even nature itself is said to abhor a vacuum.

The withdrawal of the state from social responsibility opened up accesses for non-state actors to become decisive forces in the shaping of the consciousness of people, as rulers steal resources that ought to have turned around a potentially great country into a very livable space for its peoples.

Alienation of the people has not popularised a sophisticated analysis of the situation, but it has emboldened the forces of de-legitimization of Nigeria: regionalists and secessionists as well as the most crudely ethnic chauvinist. And all around the country, there is low intensity warfare.

The state is not only increasingly delegitimized; the incompetence of its various organs has become an additional danger to its very existence.

When Jonathan appointed service chiefs, the most experienced officers were retired to make way for the bumbling set overseeing the nation’s security today. The choice made was more about regime survival/interest than the overall security needs of the state. But that has been the norm for years!

Capitalism is parasitic

In one of the supreme absurdities of our ruling class approach, they then argue for a minimalist state; divestment of state enterprises into the hands of the private sector, etc. National patrimony becomes offloaded into the hands of cronies who strip these institutions of assets thus ensuring they are unable to be economic institutions pursuing capitalist development.

Capitalism is the most revolutionary mode in human history; it radicalises societal productive forces, including the creation of a working class which, as socialists, we can mobilise to overthrow capitalism. But in Nigeria, the crony capitalism is parasitic; it is not progressive and has been at the heart of the corruption which feeds the crises tearing our country apart.

Unfortunately for Nigeria, leadership recruitment has not been blessed with visionary and patriotic individuals able to galvanize the nation, re-order the ruling class from its destructive parasitism and imbue the country with feelings of hope on the basis of a nation-building programme. I think in Goodluck Jonathan the ruling class settled for the lowest common denominator, that is why despair and gloom seem to have overtaken Nigeria, just one hundred days into his regime.

What is most amazing is that the seemingly clueless and incompetent man is scheming to manipulate a constitutional amendment, which will then allow him to be in power for another seven years, after what is certainly panning out to be four years of mind-numbing incompetence. Those who think the man does not want to enjoy the amendment, if we are stupid enough to let it pass, are living in cloud cuckoo land!

Despite what might appear a gloomy reading of our country, I remain an incurable optimist about Nigeria’s tremendous capacity for change and development. The harbingers of such revolutionary change that our country urgently deserves, cannot be the bandit political elite, including the clowns who style themselves “progressives”, but have remained stuck in their narrow ethnic regionalism.

The change that will fundamentally re-order our country can only come from the working people and the poor and its patriotic intellectuals.

Moshood Olarewaju Jaji: Good Football was local

I ARRIVED in Ilorin two weeks ago, as the funeral of Alhaji Moshood Olanrewaju Jaji was being concluded. His death followed that of the President of the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), Alhaji Tunde Ojulari, who I last saw at the Ilorin airport, after the last Sallah holiday.

Their death represented a major loss to the sporting community in Kwara State. Jaji’s death was particularly painful for me, because in his dedication to football and his exertions on the field of play, during the 1970s, he defined for my very impressionable mind, as a growing young boy, the ultimate professional player. He was the captain of the Ilorin town team, and was a very elegant centre half of his period.

He had grown up in Ghana and Lagos, and in the very conservative setting of the late 1960s and early 1970s, people like him, were some of the most cosmopolitan individuals around, that a young boy could look up to, as a role model.

The Ilorin team trained every evening at the United School, which had a very generous sporting space that has now disappeared with the craze for shops in the urban centres of Nigeria! Moshood Olanrewaju Jaji was almost inevitably the centre of attraction: tall, handsome and always bantering away about the fine points of the game; recollections of the most recent games or recalling tales from life in Lagos and Ghana.

We huddled around these remarkable individuals: Jaji; Christian Ulonta the very fit main striker for Ilorin who had the hottest shot I ever saw as a growing kid; Sidiku, the defender from Tate and Lyle and his partner, Isyaku from Philip Morris, who were Ilorin’s famous wing backs; Ajala, who was Ilorin’s number six and I think played for P&T; ‘Magnet’ Agodirin, Ilorin’s goalkeeper, who was from Offa, but was so good he got the nickname “magnet”!

A few years down the line, the same football field would host the great Northern Nigerian and with the creation of states in 1967, Kwara State, coach, Usman Adenuja, who built a succession of wonderful football players who made Kwara State Academicals, one of the best in Nigeria, with many of them becoming regular fixtures in Nigeria’s Academicals: Baba Eleran; Busari Ishola; Ahmed Yahaya “Atinga”; Rasheed Gbadamosi “Baiye”; Olaiya; Salihu Ojibara, to name just a few of those wonderful sportsmen who combined sports with their education and had various levels of success into the future. In that pantheon of sporting heroes of my childhood in Ilorin, Jaji was unique.

I recall that the final of the state challenge cup, almost always pitted Ilorin against Offa, every year. Invariably, Ilorin usually won by a goal to nil, often a penalty kick, which Jaji always stepped forward to play. I can literally close my eyes as I write these lines now, to see him step forward and he ALWAYS played to the right side of the goalkeeper and always scored!

I often wondered many years later, why the goalkeeper from Offa never seemed to have studied the way Jaji played his penalties. But looking back now, those games were like a re-enactment of the old inter-city warfare that was the hallmark of the relationship between Ilorin and Offa by another, sporting means.

The passion of a “Derby” was incredible, because the Offa team paraded one of the best defenders in the old Kwara State, who happened to be from Ilorin: “Ambure” of the Offa Railways football club, from the Gegele Quarters of the city. He was the rock of the Offa team, and would thwart every effort by the Ilorin team to score. The Ilorin spectators would abuse him, heckle him, accuse him of “treachery” that he dared to play for the “old enemy”, Offa; they conveniently forgot that the goalkeeper standing between Offa and victory, “Magnet” Agodirin was from Offa.

Good football, like politics, was eminently local! I learnt very early lessons about passion, prejudice and the fair play which sports teaches. Those were remarkable years of our lives, in more ways than one. And Moshood Olanrewaju Jaji’s life was a positive expression of that period. His death, two weeks ago, was a finale of sorts, for those remarkable years. May Allah forgive his sins and grant him Al-Janna Fir’daus.


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