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A debate and two deaths

By Rotimi Fasan
FOR the very first time since his political career assumed national dimension, Goodluck Jonathan is showing he could be a determined person if the need arose. For quite a long while, the President has shown himself as someone  ready to capitulate before any determined opposition.

He had behaved as  someone who would act but only when there is no other alternative. He was suborned, practically, into the position of governor of Bayelsa even when it had become clear that his predecessor could never return to the position he had left in embarrassing circumstances.

Jonathan was more than loyal to his former boss or showed himself to be until nobody could accuse him of nursing any ambition. The same scenario played out virtually after Umar Yar’Adua took  ill for months, creating a power vacuum, and eventually passed on while  some power mongers  thought they could impose just about anyone of their choosing on the rest of Nigeria.

Jonathan sat back and appeared to be enjoying the dangerous comedy being played out on the national stage even while many Nigerians thought he should have acted to show who was actually in charge. It  would take pressure from Nigerians and what seemed like an unprecedented step by the National Assembly before Jonathan could dare do what some other people would have done immediately  it became clear that the president could no longer exercise the powers vested in him.

And many months since becoming president, Jonathan is yet to demonstrate the decisiveness of some  leaders that have ruled Nigeria. Not in the matters of the ethnic and sectarian crises in Jos or the proxy war being levied against the Nigerian State by politicians and other sponsors of terrorist groups  like the Boko Haram.

No, President Jonathan had always behaved as someone without a mind of his own. Not until question  turned to the issue of fuel ‘subsidy’ removal and the president appear determined to take on Nigerians, if need be, all alone.

Even here, though, some Nigerians believe  the president  is only acting a script prepared for him by others- the power cartel running the oil industry or international organisations like the IMF and World Bank and their spokespersons.

If the oil subsidy battle  is one imposed on Jonathan by others it is one battle the President  is determined to win in his own way despite opposition from even his constituency of politicians in the National Assembly.

The town hall debate that pitched proponents and opponents of subsidy against each other might be one of the last in the series of organised campaigns by the Jonathan administration before it plunges Nigeria  into the economic  quagmire that often follows such removal of subsidy on petroleum products.

Now that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Diezeani Allison-Madueke and Lamido Sanusi have taken on Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba and co with Adams Oshiomole appearing to be sitting on the fence and speaking from both sides of the mouth, Nigerians all might have had their say, leaving Jonathan and his  team to  have  their way.

But where that way would lead us to is what nobody could guess beyond saying things won’t be easy at all. Removing the so-called subsidy would be Jonathan’s brutal slap in the face of Nigerians who thought he was a  man that would do anything not to be seen to have a mind of his own let alone pushing an unpopular position. But the die seems cast and we can only wait to see what pain this administration’s New Year gift portends.

While Nigerians debate fuel subsidy removal or not, North Koreans mourn the passing of their leader, Kim Jong-il in a manner that is as strange as it is unbelievable.

There  have been unbelievable scenes of ordinary North Koreans weeping ever so loudly, banging their fists, throwing themselves on the floor and appearing very distraught at the death of a man that had ruled them in the last 17 years in what must pass as one of the world’s most authoritarian states.

How many are North Koreans and how many of them could have had such intimate and personal relationship with their revered leader as to justify the kind of outpouring of emotion that has followed his death?

It might look like Western propaganda when reports pour in of severe repression of a huge population starving under a regime that has nothing to show but for its chest of war arsenal under the control of the fourth largest army in the world.

But there is hardly any other way to see Pyongyang that has been under the rulership of the Kims family sinc
e the passing of Kim ii-sung in 1994. Now the country faces life under Kim Jong-un, ‘The Brilliant Comrade’, who succeeded his father to the Kim dynasty that has been imposed on the country.

Surely this can’t be democracy? Can North Koreans be so enamoured of the rulership of this family that nobody else would be willing to stand against them? What are indeed the modalities for opposition elements to stand against the Kims in circumstances like these?

The succession pattern in Pyongyang is evidence  if no other that North Korea is not a free society and that the outpouring of grief since the death of their leader is indeed stage-managed. The kind of personality cult responsible for the situation in North Korea is what led to the Arab Spring and it is what Africa does not need.

The boisterous mourning in Pyongyang contrasts with the dignified  mourning of Vaclav Havel, man of letters and former leader of the Czech Republic who passed on 18th of this month, a day after Jong-il whose death would only be known to the rest of the world three days after he died.

Havel ruled his people for 13 years, ten of which he spent as leader of the Czech Republic between 1993 and 2003. Admired and loved by his people both as an intellectual and a politician, he was one of the leaders of the Velvet Revolution, the non-violent movement that swept through Czechoslovakia in 1989.

He was the last leader of a united Czechoslovakia before the split in 1993. Even though a revered leader, Havel faced opposition and would be succeeded by one of his most vociferous opponents, Vaclav Klaus, who leads his country in mourning Havel.

Could a person like Klaus have emerged in North Korea or in many parts of Africa including Nigeria? This is a question Nigerians and the noisy mourners in Pyongyang must think about.

Do have a great 2012!


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