By Ochereome Nnanna
AFTER what looked like a prevarication, Ohanaeze Ndigbo has finally endorsed the second term bid of President Goodluck Jonathan. This much was made known last week when its President, Chief Gary Enwo-Igariwey, led a delegation to present a document to that effect to the Governor of Abia State, Chief Theodore Orji, who is the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum.
He gave two main reasons for the Igbos deciding that Jonathan is “their main candidate”: to ward off the possibility of another insurgency, this time from the South-South should the president lose, and the need for him to complete the good work he started. He added that Igbos have decided to consolidate the bridge they built to the South-South.
I believe Ohanaeze has portrayed the correct opinion and wishes of the Igbo people by choosing Jonathan as their “main candidate”. What it means is that Jonathan is not necessarily the only one. Igbos should feel free to vote for any presidential candidates of their choice. No one will be called a “saboteur” for doing so, but the chosen candidate of the Igbo for the presidency of Nigeria from 2015 to 2019 is Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan.
Where I want to differ a bit is the talk about the need to support Jonathan to avoid another insurgency from the South-South. I don’t believe that we should succumb to such threats. This is democracy, and there is no such thing as gunpoint democracy. If you want votes you go out and ask for them. You beg and lobby for them. You sell your candidacy as a salesman goes about persuading people to part with their money to buy their goods. The vote is the sovereign power of the citizen which, in a democracy, you are seeking to enable you assume power to serve. When you threaten the country with violence unless you win, my primary instinct is to deny you the vote, and the heavens won’t fall.
When Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his Northern Leaders Political Forum (NPLF) in 2010 threatened Jonathan that “those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable”, and went on to say they would make the country ungovernable, Nigerians reacted to the threat with a resounding, landslide victory for Jonathan. Yes indeed, Boko Haram was armed to make governance difficult for Jonathan, but who suffered the bruises? Whose communities were seized and temporarily Islamised by Boko Haram? Who were being daily massacred by Boko Haram? Who are in the internally displaced camps? Whose local economies were devastated? Where is the theatre of the current war on terror?
There is abundant evidence that when a group starts an insurgency, it is the people of their locality that bear the full brunt of it. During the Niger Delta militancy crises, the entire Niger Delta creek communities were on the run both from the army and the militants, just as North Eastern communities are today. The waterways and creeks were drenched with oil spills and the ecological disasters that were created have yet to be quantified. The national economy faltered, but it was mainly the Ijaw common person that bore the pain. Threats have a very stupid place in a democracy!There is no substitute for peaceful electioneering. Whoever wins should lead with the full support of all Nigerians. That is the only way forward.
Ohanaeze was right in saying that Igbos need to complete the bridge they built in 2011. In spite of their diversity in language, they and the people of South-South belong to the same general cultural pattern, even though the Minorities have their own distinct identity and strategic interests.
In 2011, the Igbo, after assessing the political equation of the time, decided not to sponsor presidential or vice presidential candidates but to throw their weight fully behind Jonathan, based on the primordial sentiments of contiguity and consanguinity. The political equation for 2015 has not changed much. The only change that has taken place is that the Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu camps that went it alone, have now merged into one camp and received a great reinforcement from the camp of PDP deserters. The truth is that the Buhari candidacy was put together with very little Igbo input, and if he comes to power, Igbos will remain fringe elements, just as they were when Buhari was a military head of state in 1984/85. There is nothing about Buhari that suggests he has become a large-hearted nationalist who will forget about the civil war and the fact that Igbos have never looked in his direction since he started running for president.
That is exactly the problem of going back to the dark past to exhume individuals whose time has expired to come and lead contemporary Nigeria that is now the largest economy in Africa; the number one choice of investors in Africa and the biggest money-spinning environment for investors in the world. All these things did not happen by chance. They are products of the efforts of President Jonathan’s economic team led by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy. The public/private partnership model of capital development championed by the Jonathan administration has opened up the economy in a way never seen before in this country. That is why, in spite of the insurgency in the North East, the economy is thriving.
Moreover, President Jonathan’s administration has embarked on a large-scale restoration of public amenities like roads, railways, the power sector, agriculture and educational facilities, which collapsed under the military era, particularly during the regime of Muhammadu Buhari, when not a single project was initiated or completed. Jonathan’s major problem is that his government lacks the skills and strategy to communicate his programmes to the public. This made it easier for his opponents to use propaganda to make him look like a non-performer.
The president Nigeria needs at this juncture is not one who will come and stop the various national renewal programmes going on and leave this country with another junkyard of abandoned projects and revoked commitments, such as the Second Niger Bridge. For us to be able to conclusively judge Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s contributions to the development of Nigeria, he needs eight years in office like former President Obasanjo. I am convinced that the next four years will be a moment of harvest of seeds planted in the last four years which are now germinating right before our eyes. I am also convinced that the defeat of Boko Haram is in sight, and that unless the enemies of the nation open up another front, Nigeria will have a more peaceful atmosphere to build her economy from now to 2019.
If Buhari takes over power at this juncture, we are likely to experience a lot of discontinuities. In the first place, the government may take two years to resolve the internal contradictions of power tussle between a putative president Buhari and the National Leader of the APC, Alhaji Ahmed Bola Tinubu. I am not sure how far Buhari will go in sharing power with Tinubu. Tinubu will make demands that could get him rapidly put away from the regime’s centre of gravity – or worse. He will remind Buhari’s boys of his sacrifices to make him president. Then, Buhari’s boys will, in turn, show him that they have now reclaimed their power, and two captains cannot be in one boat.
If tomorrow comes, you will remember I said so. If you don’t remember I will remind you.