15th September, 2010
The fear of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is the beginning of wisdom for the 2011Â elections, especially for presidential aspirants. This phobia has forced some presidentialÂ aspirants to regroup and renegotiate to consolidate their base to clinch victory againstÂ Jonathan. This is the situation in the Babangida/Atiku camps.
The attack on the President from the North has been so venomous that only the brave-heartedÂ can withstand the vitriolic onslaught. But Milton admonishes us to have the â€œcourage neverÂ to submit or yield to fear and intimidationâ€. And President Goodluck Jonathan seems to haveÂ a pedigree of humble equanimity even when the environment is agitated and in turbulence. TheÂ Governor Alamieyeseigha and President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua cases bear testimony to suchÂ antecedents.
The North has threatened fire and brimstone; they have thrown the kitchen sink and all theyÂ can muster at Jonathan but the President seems unruffled. The Arewa Consultative Forum, theÂ Northern Union, the Northern Political Leadersâ€™ Forum have all united to frustrate theÂ ambition of the South-South to produce its first President in Nigeria, come 2011.
Banners like â€œits zoning or nothingâ€, â€œNorthern President or notingâ€, â€œNorth will disgraceÂ Jonathanâ€, â€œNorth moves against Jonathanâ€, â€œACF may compel Northerners to quit Jonathanâ€™sÂ Govtâ€, â€œNorthern leaders read riot actâ€, â€œNorth plans strategy to frustrate Jonathanâ€,Â evidently show that some elements in the North are against Jonathan.
The silent and unwritten clause of the foregoing war banners is that the North willÂ voluntarily or otherwise quit the Nigerian Nation if Jonathan wins in 2011 in spite of allÂ their plots and schemes to the contrary. In spite of all these babbling from the maddingÂ crowd some sane voices have been heard from the North.
Even within the North many believe that the North has been unfair to the South regarding theÂ governance of this country. Some Northern elite believe that the North will be the first toÂ groan if the North and South part ways especially with the demise of the groundnut pyramidsÂ in Kano in the 70s.
However, the North is desperately exploring for oil to call the bluff of the Niger-DeltaÂ region, but these efforts have not yielded dividends yet. Northern Nigeria has ruled NigeriaÂ for 38 years while the South has ruled for a paltry 12 years. This unjustifiable and unfairÂ travesty seems to have emboldened the North and further entrenched the born-to-ruleÂ mentality which has now become a cultural heritage of the North, even among Federal CivilÂ Servants. If you have worked in a Federal Government establishment, you will understand theÂ arrogance of the few Northern graduates who become Directors-General under 7 years whileÂ their Southern counterparts get to that exalted position after about 25 years of meritoriousÂ service. Northern dominance has largely become a cultural and conceptual creation ofÂ adherents of the bogus â€œNorth must ruleâ€ mentality.
The North must realise that all Federating units of a Federation are regarded as politicallyÂ equal to one another and no unit of the Federation must be marginalised or impoverished asÂ the people of the Niger-Delta who ironically lay the golden eggs that sustain Nigeria.
Even in the international system, the theoretical equality of Independent Sovereign statesÂ is non-negotiable. That is why Montenegro, one of the states from the old Yugoslavia with aÂ population of less than 700,000 can be admitted to the United Nations on an equal footingÂ with the United States of America with a population of about 307 million people or withÂ China with a population of about 1.4 billion people.
The North by its overbearing attitude over Southern Nigeria is sowing the seeds ofÂ destruction which will implode with the emergence of two or more nationsÂ if caution isÂ thrown to the wind.
Who are the Northern candidates? General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar,Â Mohammed Gusau, General Mohammadu Buhari, Gov. Bukola Saraki, Mrs. Sarah Jubril to mentionÂ those who have declared interest.
Babangida is the least qualified of all the aforementioned. In a civilised and highlyÂ democratised country, Babangida should by now be cooling off in a maximum prison facilityÂ for his multinational crimes against his fatherland. Babangidaâ€™s crimes are beyond pardon.Â He introduced the structural adjustment programme in the 1980s that destroyed the lives ofÂ millions of Nigerians. Babangida devalued the naira and officially introduced corruption andÂ perfected the â€œsettlementâ€ culture at a time when Buhari and Idiagbon were trying to setÂ standards and inculcate discipline and values in Nigerians.
But Babangidaâ€™s greatest undoing was the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential electionÂ which was won convincingly by Chief MKO Abiola. The election was cancelled on the groundsÂ that Abiola was a security risk and that some top military officers did not fancy AbiolaÂ becoming President in Nigeria.
Nigerians have not also forgotten the military crackdown in the wake of the protests againstÂ the annulment of the June 12, 1993 prseidential election during which hundreds of NigerianÂ protesters were mowed down in Lagos alone under the tyranny of our blood thirsty but sweetÂ talking general.
What about the $12.4bn Gulf war oil windfall which was mismanaged without any governmentÂ challenging him till date? And Babangida boasts that he is the most investigated NigerianÂ alive.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was Nigeriaâ€™s Vice President for 8 years and his greatest achievementÂ was a Private American University in Yola which is also one of the most expensive in theÂ country. Where is the morality of a vice president building a private university for himselfÂ while â€œservingâ€ his fatherland.
Listen to Atiku Abubakar, â€œwe have to work together to solve the problems facing us as aÂ nation and making Nigeria a prosperous country for the benefit of our peopleâ€. For the 8Â years Atiku was vice president, which Nigerian problem did he solve? Instead he made lifeÂ more difficult for Nigerians by charging impossible fees for a university he built withÂ funds belonging to the Nigerian people. And with all the probes Atiku Abubakar â€œwangledâ€Â through via the â€œNigerian factorâ€ it is unfortunate and an irony that the same AtikuÂ Abubakar wants to ask for the peopleâ€™s mandate again- may be to build more universities toÂ exploit the people.
Mrs. Sarah Jubril has been eyeing the presidency since 1979. She does not bother not havingÂ secured a partyâ€™s ticket. For her itâ€™s a quadrennial ritual.
Muhammadu Buhari is the only honest candidate among the pack. He means well for Nigeria. ButÂ his religious bigotry which cost him a lot in previous elections has to be addressed if heÂ genuinely wants to lead a diversely cosmopolitan country like Nigeria.
Mohammed Gusau is the erstwhile National Security Adviser who attended a meeting with theÂ Northern Political Leaders in Abuja to contest the 2011 Presidential ticket with his bossÂ without resigning first. He is not a serious candidate.
Governor Bukola Saraki is on his fatherâ€™s errand and has no clout beyond his fatherâ€™sÂ kingdom â€“ Kwara State.
For 8 years both IBB and Atiku Abubakar were president and vice-president respectively, ofÂ this great country Nigeria. What did they do to reduce the culture of begging in NigeriaÂ especially in the North? Our youths are encouraged to waste their talents and God-endowedÂ human resources because it is to their advantage for the beggars to remain poor andÂ dependent on the wealthy class who daily provide fish for the beggars without teaching themÂ how to fish for themselves. These poor beggars are always at the beck and call of these richÂ politicians to do their bidding. These beggars become very active during electoral or otherÂ forms of political violence protecting the interests of their sponsors.
There is massive unemployment in the North as a result of cultural inhibitions especiallyÂ for some of the women who are not allowed to work in open government or private offices.Â Even for the men the motivating drive for entrepreneurship is lacking thereby reducingÂ artisanship and encouraging begging and spontaneous violence. Man is creative everywhere butÂ traditional and cultural drawbacks have to a large degree defined manâ€™s entrepreneurialÂ freedom and drive.
But by far the greatest negligence of the Northern leaders, nay all Nigerian leaders, is inÂ the field of education. Nigerian presidents have strategically played down the criticalÂ importance of education for selfish and personal reasons. Many Nigerian leaders have reducedÂ funding for secondary and tertiary education to â€œkillâ€ education in Nigeria while buildingÂ their own private universities for only the elite of society.
Education is the only tool that can free us from ignorance, poverty and self denigration.Â Education is the only lifeline you can throw at a drowning man. According to Henry PeterÂ Broughman â€œEducation makes people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern butÂ impossible to enslaveâ€.
Nigerian leaders know that the moment they embark on a massive education for the people ofÂ this country that same moment they will lose the vicegrip they have on its hapless citizens.
Babangidaâ€™s desparation also forebodes danger for this country especially with hisÂ Machiavellian strategies and policies and also because of his friendship with the militaryÂ top brass. Babangida and Atiku should forget about governing Nigeria and even thank God thatÂ they are not in jail but walking around as free men. Is it possible for President BarackÂ Obama to build the most expensive private university in Chicago while in office and beÂ indicted by every probe and yet expect Americans to vote him into the White House for aÂ second time? He will not even be allowed to pick nomination forms for the Democratic PartyÂ primaries.
Babangida is a great war strategist and tested scholar of Sun Tzu and Karl Von Clausewitz.Â The 2011 electoral battle will be won on strategy. The candidate with the better strategyÂ will carry the day.
While Babangida is spoiling for outright war as a General with propaganda, deceit and wildÂ promises and winning a few journalists and the Igbo over, President Goodluck Jonathan isÂ using dialogue to win strategic personalities over to his side. By now Babangida should haveÂ known that the greatest general is the one who wins the war without firing a shot. At theÂ end of the day, whoever wins the election must ensure that Nigeriaâ€™s core strategic interestÂ must remain without blemish.
â€”Ben Nanaghan writes from Lagos.Â E-mail: [email protected]