By Femi Aribisala
THEYorubas have a proverb. They say: “A witch cried out yesterday and a child died today. Who does not know that it was the witch who killed the child?” Some people have gone to great lengths to declare that if President Jonathan dares to run for re-election, they would make Nigeria ungovernable. Some, like Murtala Nyako, have even gone as far as threatening a civil-war. It is, therefore, not far-fetched to conclude that with the election only a stone-throw away, much of the turmoil we are witnessing in Nigeria today is the handiwork of the anti-Jonathan brigade.
Goodluck Jonathan must be the most vilified president in the history of Nigeria. He is abused and bad-mouthed with ferocious intensity. This really has nothing to do with his record in office. He is by no means the worst president Nigeria has ever seen. As a matter of fact, he is one of the better ones. True; he has not been able to address the age-old problem of corruption. Nevertheless, Nigeria has been making giant strides under his administration. The Nigerian government did not fool the world into having the WEF (World Economic Forum) in Abuja. It took place here because Nigeria is by all accounts an emerging frontier market in the world economy.
President Jonathan did not bribe U.S. President Obama to proclaim Nigeria as “the world’s next economic giant” in 2012. Obama’s Nigeria is coming of age under Jonathan. The United Sates rebases its economy every two years. The United Nations recommends every country should rebase every five years. Under this administration, Nigeria rebased its economy after 23 years, and yet some Jonathan traducers accuse the government of 419 for doing so.
That rebasing has now shown that the much-maligned Nigeria is by far the largest economy in Africa. This should not come as a surprise. Under Jonathan, the Nigerian economy has been growing consistently by nearly 7% per annum. That is one of the highest growth-rates in the world. For the past two years, Nigeria has become the number one destination for foreign investments in Africa, according to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. A Nigerian industrialist, Aliko Dangote, is now the 23rd richest man in the world and, by far, the richest African.
Jonathan has so transformed Nigerian agriculture that the minister, Akinwunmi Adesina, was named Forbes Magazine’s African of the Year 2013. Today, poor Nigerian farmers not only have access to fertilizer, they have cell-phones so they can access the government for seeds, implements and vital information. The administration is engaged in extensive rehabilitation of rail and road networks nationwide. Travel by air today and you will discover that most Nigerian airports have been transformed. The foundation has finally been laid for addressing the problem of electricity. A long-anticipated National Conference is currently underway.
Jonathan is not the object of so much attack because he is incompetent, but because he comes from the minority South-South. Moreover, a Northern cabal that has been out of power for 15 years is desperate to return. The next president will have the prerogative of allocating a new round of juicy oil-blocks. For example, the oil-block Sani Abacha allocated to Alhaji Mai Daribe of Borno in 1996 had over 500 million barrels of oil which translates to over $50 billion dollars at current prices. That is the kind of largesse available to just one well-placed Nigerian in our winner-takes-all political-economy.
Accordingly, the determination is that power must be wrested from Jonathan by hook or crook. Some are issuing threats: others are talking up impeachment in the legislature. These people are not averse to economic sabotage. Therefore, gas pipelines keep getting vandalized in order to impede power-generation. Let us call a spade a spade. There are well-placed Nigerians, especially in the North, sponsoring, aiding and abetting terrorism for the sake of political gain.
Bombs were placed in a motor-park in Abuja on the eve of the WEF. Instead of cooperating with the government to fight the insurgency, many leading Northerners have been accusing the government of using Boko Haram as an excuse for killing Northerners. The government has been placed in a catch-22 situation. If it moves strongly against the insurgents, some Northerners cry genocide, threatening to take the matter to the International Court of Justice. If it pulls punches, the same Northerners accuse the government of incompetence in dealing with Boko Haram insurgency.
This is tantamount to cutting off your nose to spite your face. Those who gave impetus to the Northern insurgency out of disaffection with a South-South presidency now sleep with one eye open. What they promoted has gone out of their control. It is not the people of the South-South that are now being shot, bombed and kidnapped indiscriminately; it is the people of the North. Those who feel that by creating instability they will provide a catalyst for Jonathan’s defeat have simply hardened the case for retaining him in power.
People like me never supported Jonathan until we saw the virulent conspiracy against him. We never cared for the mischievous PDP until we discovered that Jonathan’s opponents are so desperate for power, they are even prepared to destroy the nation in the process. They are so determined to seize power; they are threatening to “soak the dog and the baboon in blood” if they don’t get their wish. Therefore, the deafening answer to them must be: “Thy will shall not be done.”
These malcontents were having a good time of it until someone came up with a “brilliant” idea: “Let us kidnap 300 innocent school-girls in Chibok in one fell swoop.” This scheme had curious pieces of detail. The head of WAEC National Office, Charles Eguridu, maintains they warned the Borno State government that Chibok was unsafe and that the exams should be moved to more secure locations. But the state government refused. The few soldiers guarding the school were suspiciously re-deployed a few hours before the kidnapping.
It is therefore not surprising that the Northern Nigeria Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), noting that the Chibok girls are mainly Christians, maintains that the kidnapping is a grand conspiracy involving the state governor, the school principal and others. Our First Lady alluded to the same matter by declaring: “There is God o!”
The Chibok kidnapping has become the biggest blunder of the Boko Haram. As a result, they are no longer just fighting against the Nigerian army. The whole world is now ranged against them. The Americans, the British, the French, the Japanese, the Israelis, the Chinese; everyone is now lining up behind the Jonathan administration, offering assistance for dealing with the insurgents.
Jonathan’s Northern opponents who have hitherto been sympathetic to the insurgents are now caught in a bind. Accordingly, they have started singing a different tune. Murtala Nyako said Boko Haram is a “phantom” devised by Southern Jonathan to conduct genocide against the North. Now, the Northern Governors’ Forum of which he is a member welcomes the assistance of the international community to fight Boko Haram “phantoms.” The chairman, Governor Babangida Aliyu, says: “The current challenges facing our country demonstrate the importance of working together across geo-political zones, political party lines, and ethnic-religious affinities to defeat our common enemies.”
Muhammadu Buhari declared at Kano Government House that the Boko Haram was a “strategic plan” by Jonathan’s government “to destroy the North.” He insinuated that by declaring a state of emergency in the North-east, the president was waging war on Northerners. Listen to the same Buhari today: “Now is not the time to play politics. Now is also not the time to trade blames and amplify our ideological differences. The unity of Nigeria is not negotiable and nothing should divide us as a people.”
Was Jonathan even planning to run for another term? Your guess is as good as mine. However, what the Northern blackmail has succeeded in doing is to ensure that Jonathan no longer has a choice: he has to contest. To back out now would be tantamount to succumbing to blackmail. The threats, sabotage and insurgency also mean Jonathan cannot afford to lose the election. Again, to lose the election is to succumb to blackmail.
The use of extra-constitutional means to fight Jonathan gives the lie to the posturing of his opponents. It shows they don’t believe in elections. Worst of all, they don’t have the interest of Nigeria at heart. They are even prepared to sacrifice Nigeria on the altar of their selfish, sectarian and regional interests. For these reason, they must be resisted by anyone who loves this country and believes in a united Nigeria.
In short, the issue is no longer about Jonathan. It is now about Nigeria. By a strange twist of fate, it is Jonathan of the discreditable PDP who now represents united Nigeria. To defeat Jonathan is to defeat Nigeria. To defeat Jonathan by a Northern APC presidential candidate is to hand over victory to the Northern insurgency. To accede to the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan by a Northern cabal is to promote the interests of the Boko Haram. If the APC understand the signs of the times, they would field a Southern presidential candidate to challenge Goodluck Jonathan.
For this reason, the new Jonathan coalition created by the Chibok kidnapping cannot just include the international community. It must also include the rank-and-file Nigerians: Southerners and Northerners; Christians and Muslims. This is a time of national emergency. We must forget our differences and join hands to ensure that Jonathan prevails in spite of all the stumbling blocks and minefields put in his way.
So doing, we would be able to make effective demands on the president. He would have to listen to us. With the added pressure from the international community, we will insist that the corruption that has gone through the roof under his administration must finally come to an end. The time is long overdue: some malefactors must be arrested, prosecuted and jailed. No more pussy-footing. Nigerians require a transparent government; and we require this “yesterday.”