By Pini Jason
DO you know why what goes for Nigerian politics is such a huge joke? We like to be taken for a ride; in fact, we crave to be duped. We dread asking hard questions or putting the politicians to task to substantiate what they tell us.
So, people just wake up, make outlandish claims and throw the nation into a needless debate that oftentimes heats up the polity. We gobble at the debate, everybody trying to out-shout the other while the vendor of the frivolous claim scurries away to wait for the next opportunity to make another wild claim. With time, his nuisance acquires for him some high political profile.
Before the President’s courageous, some say belated, trip to Borno and Yobe states last week, the nation was debating what sensation mongers called bombshell unleashed on the polity by the motor-mouth of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu. The self-styled Chief Servant of NigerState had claimed that President Goodluck Jonathan signed an agreement with some governors committing him to a single term in office.
The Presidency tackled Dr. Aliyu rather tentatively. I say tentatively because the Presidency should simply have challenged Dr Aliyu to provide concrete evidence by publishing the so-called agreement to rest the matter.
And the Governor has so far not substantiated his claim by publishing the agreement for Nigerians to see! So far the matter remains a mere conjecture!
Although we forget ever so easily, this is not the first time those looking for a shortcut to power would tell us about “signed” agreements. When in 2002/2003, former Vice President Abubakar Atiku (and the G4) wanted to stop President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term bid, Nasir El-Rufai told the nation that he and his group of Northern power hotheads walked up to Obasanjo’s (Transcorp) Hilton hotel room (546?) with an agreement for him to sign away his right to second term.
His story sounded like how Don Vito Corleone and Luca Brasi, his hitman, got a band leader, Les Halley, to release his godson Johnny Fontane from an enslaving contract at $10,000 instead of $20,000 he was first offered! How? Luca Brasi put a gun on Halley’s head and “persuaded” him: “It is either your signature or your brain on this paper”.
Elsewhere, we have heard of governors swearing oaths at shrines or signing undated resignation letters! Of course, Obasanjo flatly denied signing any agreement, although he admitted that “they” brought him a piece of paper to sign and that he tore it up.
Curiously El-Rufai never produced any shred of evidence to contradict Obasanjo. In his recently published 627 page book, The Accidental Public Servant, there was no mention of such agreement except that a Camerounian marambout had predicted that Obasanjo would not serve out his first term!
The nearest to any agreement was that Northern leaders had reasoned that they had agreed in 1998 to support a Southern president; and that since the Constitution guaranteed Obasanjo two terms, it would be dishonourable to challenge him in 2003 unless Obasanjo decided not to contest. El-Rufai published as appendices all manner of documents, including the lists of members of National Assembly who applied for allocation of houses for themselves and their cronies, yet he did not publish any agreement signed by Obasanjo.
We all know that Nigerian politics thrives on falsehood and false promises. If you are someone who says one thing at dawn and another at dusk or changes your mind as often as you find someone dumb enough to swap with you, you are often hailed: “Nna, ibukwa politician o!” (Man! You are a hell of a politician!) And this is said as a form of compliment! However, any President or Governor who signs any agreement for one term when the Constitution guarantees him two terms should know he is lying. And anybody or group who buys into that should know they are swallowing lies, hoping they can enforce an obviously bad and unenforceable agreement.
Can President Jonathan sign an agreement to take his own life or to stop breathing? As Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa, the Presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention in 1993, rightly said recently: “If the law allows him [Jonathan] to contest the election, then it is up to the PDP to decide whether he should or not” (Thisday, Thursday, 7 March 2013).
Having scaled the legal hurdle, at least for now, the only body that can give or deny Jonathan a ticket for 2015 is the PDP. That is the only body that can extract an agreement from him to serve only a term. Once Jonathan contested in 2011, after all the heat about zoning, the PDP should have assumed that he would contest for a second term.
There was no point always stampeding an incumbent out of the contest and creating unnecessary controversy simply because a few elite feel they would die before power gets to them! An agreement with a group of governors cannot be the basis to ask Jonathan not to contest for the PDP ticket in 2015. The mandate to serve a second term comes from the popular votes of Nigerians, not from any agreement with governors.
All this noise about agreement and one term for Jonathan are orchestrated by the elite who try to tie the nation’s political life to their life span. I do not believe that the North or the South East will disappear before Jonathan completes a second term, if he decides to avail himself of his constitutional right.
The fortunes of the ordinary people in the North or South East, or even South-South, may not be improved just because the elite from these zones capture power, using the people as cannon fodder. As Segun Ayobolu asked (The Nation Saturday March 9, 2013), in reaction to the current rather ridiculous revanchist frenzy called ‘Yoruba marginalization’: “A Yoruba man occupied the most important office in the land between 1999 and 2007.
Did that improve the fortunes of Yoruba land? Did it reduce the level of poverty in the region? Did it help in upgrading infrastructure?” People ask similar questions about the past years of Northern rule that left the North worse than it was at independence. And I have said it that the worst thing that would happen to the South-South would be that Jonathan’s eight years in office many not turn the region into paradise!
When the elite want power they create all sorts of shortcuts, including religion, region, zoning and phantom agreements. It is for them alone and has nothing to do with ordinary people of the zones, regions or religions they invoke their names. In this Jonathan’s case, we should invoke the same wisdom the Northern leaders applied to dissuade Atiku from stopping Obasanjo in 2003. Let Jonathan be the one to decide to call up his constitutional right, let the PDP be the one to field him or not and let the Nigerian people be the ones to give or deny him their mandate for a second term!