By Josef Omorotionmwan
WE live in a world of oddities where one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. The best time to decide whether to climb up or not is when one is yet on the ground, not after one has climbed half way. In essence, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should by now be deciding if it is honestly prepared to conduct the 2015 general elections. We think INEC is unprepared.
How else does one explain a situation where INEC would issue a time-table for the 2015 events, in which it clearly states that political parties must not engage in campaigns until a particular date; but barely a day after that pronouncement, the big elephant party breaks that rule and INEC is looking the other way? In breaking the rule, the elephantine party, perhaps in active connivance with the supposed umpire, changes the language of engagement from campaign to sensitisation. At first, we thought that the line that separates campaign from sensitisation was, at best, very fuzzy.
Meanwhile, a favoured group had gathered at one end of Rivers State on a particular day for sensitisation; and another group gathered at another end of the same Rivers State but theirs was quickly dubbed a campaign. While the former was tightly protected by the powers-that-be, the latter was dispersed with tear gas plus rubber and live bullets; but not before some of its members had been killed or maimed.
This is the type of duplicity that has characterised the actions of the political parties since then, with President Goodluck Jonathan and his party leadership gallivanting the entire country, sensitising but not campaigning. If only for the records, INEC cannot even point the erring party to order for breaking its rules and yet we are under the illusion that INEC is ready to take us to the Promise Land!
How do we categorise the circus that gathered at the Onitsha bridgehead the penultimate week? We shall set it out in the form of multiple choices: (a) Campaign; (b) Sensitisation; (c) Political gimmick; and (d) All of the above. The correct answer is (d) – all of the above. They were in a familiar terrain. Since 1999, the revelry over the Niger in the name of a Second Niger Bridge has become the cheapest weapon of the PDP in trying to con and deceive Ndigbo into getting their block votes. In 2003, then President Olusegun Obasanjo mounted a monstrous carnival in the name of flagging off the Second Niger Bridge. That was the first time that the vain ceremony closed down Onitsha market and in the end, the carnival paid off handsomely – PDP collected all the votes!
This is where the Obalende free women are smarter than even the smartest politicians. The moment they recognised Chucks for his over-size hammer head, none of them ever opened her door to him a second time. For Ndigbo, the same dirty tricks of the Obasanjo years have worked perfectly for President Jonathan. All they needed was to keep expanding the vain promises and Ndigbo kept falling for them.
By 2011, Jonathan’s list had grown to include the Second Niger Bridge, superlative autobahns in the South East, refineries, industries, an additional state, redressing their marginalisation and so on. Without a formal name change, Jonathan re-christened himself Azikiwe– pretending to be one of them. He then vowed that if the Second Niger Bridge was not provided by 2015, he would go on exile. He, however, did not promise that another flag off exercise was in the offing. All the promises have since ended in smoke!
Recently, it took the Obi of Onitsha to remind Jonathan of his 2011 election promises. That Onitsha bridgehead show had to be hurriedly put together.
At the sensitisation level, a lot is required to inform Ndigbo of what their so-called leaders are taking them through. They should know that the Onitsha bridgehead show was a total sell-out. What is so significant about providing a one and half kilometre bridge for a race that had been handed the short end of the stick in a nation that prides itself of being oil rich? Without the necessity for all these futile flag off ceremonies, General Ibrahim Babangida built a 12-kilometre dual carriage bridge across the Lagos Lagoon and yet, our Ndigbo brothers are being regularly insulted to roll out the drums in celebration of endless flag offs!
A lot of sensitisation is required to locate the timing of the Onitsha show of shame. It is coming at time when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is cutting all the red tapes, commissioning real, meaningful projects all over Rivers State and by contrast, all that our dear Ndigbo have is Jonathan commissioning shadow, empty ground breaking ceremonies for projects that may never commence.
As we speak, contractors are working 24/7 to ensure that the solid four-kilometre Unity Bridge connecting Khana and Andoni local government areas of Rivers State is ready for commissioning in the next few months. Governor Chibuike Amaechi was not fixated at any flag off level. Governor Raji Fashola did not do any flag off for the close to two kilometres suspended bridge he provided in Lagos in less than two years.
Again, why are Ndigbo so excited at the likely prospect of a bridge for which they are going to pay through the nose? This is going to be the first FG-owned toll bridge in Nigeria, which means that those who pass through it will pay its cost. Ndigbo must think twice if they cannot even get free passage to go and bring the votes!
It cannot be said that the Patani-Adugbabiri and the Yenagoa-Amasoma bridges are any less important to the Ijaws than the so-called Second Niger Bridge is to Ndigbo. Yet, the former were provided from the common purse while Ndigbo must be made to pay for their own bridge. This is most unfair!
Jonathan knows his people. Ndigbo must now shine their eyes well-well. Their portion must be in the commissioning of completed projects, not on vain promises.