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Dumbing down Nigerian politics: The disservice of Jonathan’s men

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By Tabia Princewill
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way”.

This quote by Charles Dickens personifies the Nigerian story and the constant battle for our country’s soul.

FILE: JONATHAN'S LAST FEC MEETING—President Goodluck Jonathan (8th L); Vice President Namadi Sambo (7th L); with Federal Executive Council, FEC, members after the valedictory council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday. Photo: NAN.
FILE: JONATHAN’S LAST FEC MEETING—President Goodluck Jonathan (8th L); Vice President Namadi Sambo (7th L); with Federal Executive Council, FEC, members after the valedictory council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday. Photo: NAN.

The war is fought, on one hand, by feeding falsehood (based mostly on sentiment and ethnicity) to the undiscerning masses and nurturing our people’s penchant for ill-informed ideas, therefore building support for irresponsible, negligent leaders. Jonathan’s men didn’t create the system all of this is based on but they certainly helped perfect it.

And in a curious turn of events which amounts to nothing more than the dumbing down of our public discourse, whereby, as they would clearly like it, common standards of justice or personal conscience should no longer hold sway, they expect that all should be forgiven simply because they agreed to concede defeat.

If one told all the swindlers, thieves, con artists or murderers out there that all one needed to do to be pardoned, or to go free was to “admit” or “concede” defeat, the world’s prisons would surely be empty, and crime rates would assuredly sky rocket.

Conception of justice

Is this the message we want to send? That in Nigeria, no matter the evidence available, so long as one is rich and powerful, some people are continuously above the law? What an infantile, self-serving conception of justice. What blatant disdain and hatred for the common man: do the poor get justice?

The rule of law the peace committee calls for, in dealing with Jonathan’s men, which is simply code for being pampered and handled with kid gloves, does not apply for the average Nigerian. The EFCC courteously “invites” politicians in for a chat (they can refuse to come, they can even refuse to attend their own court hearing) but the poor are carted off in police trucks for petty offenses, some never to be seen again, awaiting a day in court that never comes.

I hear eminent Nigerians defend the indefensible, using childlike arguments and ideas to mask their support for incomprehensible evil. The former President’s men asking for more “respect” for their boss shows just how much politicians completely misunderstand the concept.

Respect for our leaders or rather, for the office they occupy does not make them untouchable or godlike, nor does it mean we must ignore their erring should it occur.

If Jonathan fought corruption as vigorously as it is now claimed, why did he pardon Diepreye Alamieyeseigha? Why does everyone accused of corruption claim to be misunderstood? Why did he give posthumous honours to dictators?

What favour did he need to curry, him, a President? If the PDP governed Nigeria with such virtuousness, why did it become a collection of “bad boys” running for office?

The candidates it presented under the former President in particular, had infamous rap sheets in and outside Nigeria, aka “records of arrest and prosecution sheets”. They were known for their dodgy dealings.

Some of the President’s closest allies were too. All the bad boys, the hustlers, sometimes alleged murderers whom even Obasanjo had quieted down and somewhat distanced the PDP from where seemingly let loose under Jonathan.

That he didn’t know of their activities is frightening: who then was in control? Many feel it is the untenable defense of a village boy who unexpectedly came to power and wanted to act as the “big boys” did before him, “chop and clean mouth” but without the networks, or the devilish cunning and sophistication of a Maradona to get away with it.

But that was another era. The excuse that some others before have gone free will never make murder acceptable in society so why corruption? It isn’t an ethnic based gang up, a North vs. South affair, which the dumbing down of our public discourse portrays it to be.

It’s the return of law and order, the appointment of a competent sheriff who says in his town, cowboys will no longer so much as spit on the sidewalk without a fine.

It took a Hausa man to order the clean up of Ogoniland. It’s a slap in the face of   ethnic politics, so it stunned many that Buhari should concern himself with a region which viciously and virulently attacked him, spurned on by the antiquated ethno-religious beliefs of Jonathan’s nearest and dearest.

Northern members of the PDP were uncomfortable with such a stance, as was any decent, rational Nigerian who knows a man can be good or bad no matter where he is from.Jonathan’s men polarized us based on our origins, making us talk about where people were from so we wouldn’t notice what they did or didn’t do, ushering with the help or suggestion of one Marilyn Ogar, who is happily now only a footnote of an unhappy time, state security into electoral matters, a further absurd but dangerous development.

Dangerous development

Those times of confusion and lawlessness will not be missed. Shakespeare once said: “love all, trust a few, do wrong to none”.

The PDP under Jonathan loved all (its members), trusted all (those who were part of the would-be Niger Delta cause which apparently ended up being code for the indiscriminate looting and impoverishment of all), and therefore wronged all.

How many ordinary people in the Niger Delta have benefitted from the Jonathan years? Yet, all the pipeline vandals- criminals in other climes – are now dollar millionaires while the Niger Deltans or Nigerians with day jobs suffer immensely from bad roads and poor power supply.

Federal Government appointments

WE must see the futility of appointments going to any particular person or group not based on competence, but on their tribe or state. How does one build a modern, efficient civil service or government with such unfortunate, provincial thinking?

Federal character served its purpose but in a modern Nigeria it serves only to ignite old hurts and hatred, especially in a post-Jonathan era where campaigns were ethnic based and the South-South’s loss of power creates a psychosis, a loss of contact with reality or a fixation over being left out, whereas in our nation’s history, the South-East continuously decided of its own accord, to isolate itself from the rest of Nigeria.

The psychosis might be born from real, past injustices, but today it is time to come back to the table of adult negotiation and hard work rather than hiding behind a “nobody likes us” mantra, like school children on a playground. When will the specter of Biafra cease to determine all ideas in the South-East?

At what point did the Jews decide after the Holocaust that rather than obsess about Germany and the wrongs done to them, they would work hard to bring prosperity to their land? Governors of Igbo states haven’t done particularly well in terms of social spending and generating revenue for their citizens.

That has nothing to do with Buhari. After 16 years of single party dominance Nigeria should look like Singapore after Lee Kuan Yew. But in the usual dumbing down of our politics, politicians will focus on ethnic based attacks and sentiments to hide their failures.


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