By Jide Ajani
First, just imagine:Abubakar Shekau, Kabiru Sokoto and Abu Qaqa stepping out of Aso Rock Presidential Villa after conferring with the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria. Mind you, these are leaders of the Jama’ atu Ahl-Sunnati Lil Da’awati Wal Jihad, also known as Boko Haram. They have just met with Nigeria’s President of northern extraction. This is year 2020. Then imagine Qaqa, just a couple of weeks after meeting with Mr. President, coming out to threaten the country with chaos should that northern President not win a second term of office. Yet, that President carries on as if nothing is wrong; or nothing has happened.
Fast track to present day Nigeria!
Pessimists are still at a loss as to the type of legacy that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan wishes to bequeath to the Nigerian people. Yet, optimists in his administration (read sycophants) tell the president that he remains the best thing that has ever happened to this country of over 150 million people. For added effect, they tell him he is infallible – indeed, that he is omnipotent and omnipresent and omniscient.
The real danger in all of this is that politicians never learn.
You would think they do but they don’t.
Especially in Nigeria!
Take, for instance, the man known as Matthew Okikiolakan Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo. He was alive during the June 12 imbroglio. He is a living witness to what has become of another individual, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Whereas some may argue, the facts on ground support a claim that but for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Babangida may have been honored as the one who gave Nigerians, Africa and indeed the black race a pure democratic culture. But he lost the opportunity with just one act.
For Obasanjo, he ought to have learnt from that but he didn’t.
He pressed his own self-destruct button tagged Third Term Agenda.
He wanted another term of office which the Nigerian Constitution did not permit. What to do? Amend the constitution to dig his fancy. He lost.
Now, perhaps the luckiest public office holder in Nigeria, President Jonathan, is already stockpiling wood for his own eventual bonfire. Ignore the opposition’s propaganda that Jonathan has not achieved anything. He is being slow and steady. But for how long can Nigerians suffer a slow and steady leader who creates the impression that a burden has been forced on him.
Two years – just two years – into a constitutionally guaranteed eight years of two four-year terms, the President is already allowing his administration to replicate what Obasanjo’s government slid into in its fourth year and for which he remains the butt of jokes as an ordinary citizen today.
The idea and approach is all too familiar: Anybody and anything that would stand in the way of political ambition should and must be quashed.
Interestingly, because this is an environment where interests clash with the speed of light, there is expected to be so much wisdom in not throwing stones while in a glass house.
Almost always, those who had tried in the past to oppose sitting presidents either on principle or on other such mundane matters, with mere phrases like “what is wrong with Mr. President”, had ended up being consumed one way or the other.
During Obasanjo’s eight years, he launched a voyage of vendetta against real and perceived opponents. The list is as impressive as it is ridiculous.
Using every possible agency of government, he dealt with Joshua Dariye where just a handful of legislators purportedly impeached the Plateau governor; in Bayelsa State, where President Jonathan hails from and where his “benefactor”, Diepriye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, was governor and he, deputy, Obasanjo used the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to hound and haunt the legislators into impeaching Alamieyeseigha; because Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State allegedly had a loose mouth, Obasanjo caused emergency rule to be imposed on the state and Fayose made an outcast; in Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja was removed from office illegally for keeping another company different from Obasanjo’s dictate; Orji Kalu of Abia State and Bola Tinubu of Lagos State were becoming loose cannons and had to be dealt with but in both cases – just as was the case in Ogun State where Gbenga Daniel held sway – Obasanjo bit the dust because he could not cause these state governors to be removed. For Boni Haruna, Atiku Abubakar’s protégé, and Chris Ngige, Obasanjo made life unbearable for the former while he unleashed the Ubas on the latter.
And because politicians do not learn, the same plot is playing out.
Timipreye Sylva, the former governor of Bayelsa State, has been having issues with Jonathan for quite a while. Even while the latter was Vice President, Sylva allegedly attempted to rub his face in the mud over a certain library project in the state. Added to this was an alleged diarrhea of the mouth suffered by Sylva, allegedly creating the impression that he made some funny statements that he had to clarify. Sylva was arrested last week while hiding in a dingy, decrepit corner of his house in Abuja – these after over a year when he was removed as governor and after about three years since Jonathan became President despite Sylva.
Mind you, James Onanefe Ibori, who thought the world was created when Umaru Musa Yar’Adua became President, is cooling his feet in a London jail; no thanks to the instrumentality of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The streak goes on.
The latest is the face-off between Jonathan’s Federal Government and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. Rivers State cannot be said to be enjoying governance as it is understood by right-thinking members of the public.
Granted that Amaechi could wear omniscience as an armour; does that excuse a Presidency that continues to carry on in a very petty manner?
Granted that some Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leaders cannot distinguish between politics and the constitution of Nigeria, that does not grant the Presidency the magna charter to needlessly dabble into the affairs of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF?
Worse still, the Presidency is watching as some ministers continue to foment trouble in their states all in their vain bid to demonstrate that they are on the side of their President in his quest for second term. Yet, a former dissident granted amnesty, after visiting the Villa some weeks ago, came out threatening that if Jonathan does not get a second term, there would be no peace in the land.
Pray, vanity upon vanity, all is vanity.
But before the essence is lost, all parties in the Rivers dispute must understand that their party, PDP, is one huge glass house where the throwing of stones is not only silly but very dangerous. Amaechi’s stone-throwing has caused the NCAA, NAMA, the Police and EFCC to turn the searchlight on him.
Obasanjo, after eight years as the main man, is today edging towards irrelevance – but he remains an irritant that can inflict pain.
What President Jonathan can learn from Obasanjo is that some of his actions today would make a hero of Governor Amaechi. Atiku Abubakar was a gentle deputy until Obasanjo started hounding him and that catapulted the former’s image. It would only take President Jonathan’s remaining two years in this first term; and another four year term for his Presidency to come to an end.
Therefore, what happens next? Stones would still be thrown during his tenure and even after. In that same PDP, there are elders with good sense from whom the party and the Presidency can draw wisdom. They can stem this tide. And it is not that Nigeria may not be better off doing away with the party in the estimation of the opposition. Individuals, a party and the Presidency that engage a paradigm of acrimony stands to suffer the consequences of the whirlwind that would follow. The people of Rivers State deserve better than this gradual slide into chaos and anarchy.
Read our special report: Danger Signals: Stockpiling wood for bonfire in Rivers