By Rotimi Fasan
THE decision, a couple of weeks ago, by the APC to block passage of bills proposed by the PDP has naturally drawn diverse reactions from Nigerians. The reactions have been mostly as partisan as are reactions to the issue that led to the unprecedented decision of the APC in the first place, namely, the crisis in Rivers State that has been exacerbated by the involvement of the Commissioner of Police in the State, Mbu Joseph Mbu.
Which is not to say that all the reactions have been motivated by partisan considerations. But it is hardly possible to appear impartial in a matter of this nature and utterances made in the context of the overt partisanship of the Rivers State impasse is bound to be viewed with suspicion. Yet in what looks like an exasperated response to the complicity of the Jonathan administration in the crisis between the President, his wife and the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, the APC had instructed its legislators to block bills brought before the National Assembly by the Jonathan administration.
Their position is based on the clear evidence of the involvement of Jonathan in the muddied waters of Rivers politics.
The APC decision is both blunt and uncompromising. It also looks like an extremely partisan position that was informed by blind politics which makes it all look so odious to Nigerians familiar with the opportunism of Nigerian politicians. Others see it as an excuse by the fast growing opposition party to cripple the Jonathan administration in any way it finds expedient. This, who knows, may be so.
There might be politicians driven by the sole desire of making things difficult for President Jonathan. Some Nigerians might simply not see any reason why a Goodluck Jonathan with very obvious political shortcomings and skills should be president while they remain far from the warm embrace of power. There is no doubt that there are Nigerians like this. This should not be seen as a given though. It’s not every criticism of President Jonathan that should be viewed as sour grape proposition by people opposed to his presidency or, even worse, his person.
It is trite observation that no human being has all it takes to meet the expectations of all. We are all full of human errors in spite of our best intentions. But it helps if we come to our job or the various responsibilities with which we are saddled with some sense of preparedness. This is the very score on which President Jonathan is lacking. Not only did he come to the presidency at a dizzying speed that left him relatively inexperienced. But he doesn’t seem to be climbing fast on the experience ladder in spite of the years he has spent now in Abuja as Vice President, Acting President and finally President. All of these ought to have given him some leverage.
But he seems stuck at the kindergarten stage of governance. He relies on subordinates who feel a pressing need to exercise power they think he does not know how to use. These subordinates are in the same class as those who believe they are better qualified to lead Nigeria than the man who hired them. And the President appears perennially tentative in his ways and leans too heavily on the shoulders of misguided lieutenants. These people choose his battles for him and compound his self-inflicted wounds. Because they appear to be working for him, supporting him in the face of clear failures, the President imagines he has found his kindred spirits.
Such people including his wife initiated the Rivers crisis, fuelled and have continued to sustain it. They seem to have found an able lackey in the Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph, who is fully protected and prodded by Abuja. He has the State under his belt and without doubt enjoys the fact he shares unearned electoral power with an elected politician. He grants interviews like a film star and talks about his personal beliefs and politics- an appointed state official who ought to be seen performing his duties without the distractions of political comments. But Mbu makes comments directly aimed at the Rivers State governor fully apprised of the protective powers of Abuja politicians.
Like other members of his cabinet whom he imagines sections of the Nigerian public or, even, ethnic components hate, President Jonathan seems bent on sticking with Mbu right or wrong. He may pretend that Mbu’s fate lies in the hands of the Police Service Commission whose spokesperson has found a convenient alibi for not redeploying Mbu in a civil proceeding initiated by his critics but nobody is deceived. The Rivers crisis bears all the imprint of presidential instigation. It is one matter in which Jonathan doesn’t ‘give damn’ what Nigerians who he now sees as part of the opposition APC think. He is highly driven in his attempt to continue digging the troubled hole in which he is stuck in Rivers State in order to convince himself he is right than beat a dignified retreat. This is not the act of a courageous or wise person. It is much less so the conduct of somebody concerned about public perception. It is no wonder then that the opposition APC can blatantly instruct its legislators to block bills brought to the National Assembly by the Administration and their supporters without consideration for the merit of the bills. The quality of legislative propositions by our national legislators or their executive counterparts may be generally poor but it does not justify indiscriminate blockage of bills putatively meant for the good of the Nigerian people.
It is a question of responsibility to Nigerians. But where the President and his supporters have resolved to fight dirty and without a sense of the larger good then they forfeit the moral right to accuse the opposition. What the PDP/APC proposition puts before Nigerians is the devil-may-care-politics-is-all-that-matters attitude of Nigerian politicians. Nothing counts but their own purpose.
The PDP and the President felt they have the might to operate without regard for an elected governor in Rivers State. Now the APC feels it has what it takes to challenge the PDP might- and thank goodness it is not resorting to extra-legal options. Neither party is right here. The APC does the same thing, muscle opposition, where it thinks it is strong. What both parties should now do is to find a point of agreement. This is a simple case of tit-for-tat, tarka-and-daboh battle. What it does essentially is to tell the PDP it does not possess the sole patent to dirty politics especially on the Rivers State stalemate.