Baptism For Jonathan

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The fear of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is the beginning of wisdom for the 2011  elections, especially for presidential aspirants. This phobia has forced some presidential  aspirants to regroup and renegotiate to consolidate their base to clinch victory against  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-hearted  can withstand the vitriolic onslaught. But Milton admonishes us to have the “courage never  to submit or yield to fear and intimidation”. And President Goodluck Jonathan seems to have  a pedigree of humble equanimity even when the environment is agitated and in turbulence. The  Governor Alamieyeseigha and President Umaru Yar’Adua cases bear testimony to such  antecedents.

The North has threatened fire and brimstone; they have thrown the kitchen sink and all they  can muster at Jonathan but the President seems unruffled. The Arewa Consultative Forum, the  Northern Union, the Northern Political Leaders’ Forum have all united to frustrate the  ambition of the South-South to produce its first President in Nigeria, come 2011.

Banners like “its zoning or nothing”, “Northern President or noting”, “North will disgrace  Jonathan”, “North moves against Jonathan”, “ACF may compel Northerners to quit Jonathan’s  Govt”, “Northern leaders read riot act”, “North plans strategy to frustrate Jonathan”,  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 will  voluntarily or otherwise quit the Nigerian Nation if Jonathan wins in 2011 in spite of all  their plots and schemes to the contrary. In spite of all these babbling from the madding  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 the  governance of this country. Some Northern elite believe that the North will be the first to  groan if the North and South part ways especially with the demise of the groundnut pyramids  in Kano in the 70s.

However, the North is desperately exploring for oil to call the bluff of the Niger-Delta  region, but these efforts have not yielded dividends yet. Northern Nigeria has ruled Nigeria  for 38 years while the South has ruled for a paltry 12 years. This unjustifiable and unfair  travesty seems to have emboldened the North and further entrenched the born-to-rule  mentality which has now become a cultural heritage of the North, even among Federal Civil  Servants. If you have worked in a Federal Government establishment, you will understand the  arrogance of the few Northern graduates who become Directors-General under 7 years while  their Southern counterparts get to that exalted position after about 25 years of meritorious  service. Northern dominance has largely become a cultural and conceptual creation of  adherents of the bogus “North must rule” mentality.

The North must realise that all Federating units of a Federation are regarded as politically  equal to one another and no unit of the Federation must be marginalised or impoverished as  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 states  is non-negotiable. That is why Montenegro, one of the states from the old Yugoslavia with a  population of less than 700,000 can be admitted to the United Nations on an equal footing  with the United States of America with a population of about 307 million people or with  China with a population of about 1.4 billion people.

The North by its overbearing attitude over Southern Nigeria is sowing the seeds of  destruction which will implode with the emergence of two or more nations  if caution is  thrown to the wind.

Who are the Northern candidates? General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar,  Mohammed Gusau, General Mohammadu Buhari, Gov. Bukola Saraki, Mrs. Sarah Jubril to mention  those who have declared interest.

Babangida is the least qualified of all the aforementioned. In a civilised and highly  democratised country, Babangida should by now be cooling off in a maximum prison facility  for his multinational crimes against his fatherland. Babangida’s crimes are beyond pardon.  He introduced the structural adjustment programme in the 1980s that destroyed the lives of  millions of Nigerians. Babangida devalued the naira and officially introduced corruption and  perfected the “settlement” culture at a time when Buhari and Idiagbon were trying to set  standards and inculcate discipline and values in Nigerians.

But Babangida’s greatest undoing was the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election  which was won convincingly by Chief MKO Abiola. The election was cancelled on the grounds  that Abiola was a security risk and that some top military officers did not fancy Abiola  becoming President in Nigeria.

Nigerians have not also forgotten the military crackdown in the wake of the protests against  the annulment of the June 12, 1993 prseidential election during which hundreds of Nigerian  protesters were mowed down in Lagos alone under the tyranny of our blood thirsty but sweet  talking general.

What about the $12.4bn Gulf war oil windfall which was mismanaged without any government  challenging him till date? And Babangida boasts that he is the most investigated Nigerian  alive.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was Nigeria’s Vice President for 8 years and his greatest achievement  was a Private American University in Yola which is also one of the most expensive in the  country. Where is the morality of a vice president building a private university for himself  while “serving” his fatherland.

Listen to Atiku Abubakar, “we have to work together to solve the problems facing us as a  nation and making Nigeria a prosperous country for the benefit of our people”. For the 8  years Atiku was vice president, which Nigerian problem did he solve? Instead he made life  more difficult for Nigerians by charging impossible fees for a university he built with  funds belonging to the Nigerian people. And with all the probes Atiku Abubakar “wangled”  through via the “Nigerian factor” it is unfortunate and an irony that the same Atiku  Abubakar wants to ask for the people’s mandate again- may be to build more universities to  exploit the people.

Mrs. Sarah Jubril has been eyeing the presidency since 1979. She does not bother not having  secured a party’s ticket. For her it’s a quadrennial ritual.

Muhammadu Buhari is the only honest candidate among the pack. He means well for Nigeria. But  his religious bigotry which cost him a lot in previous elections has to be addressed if he  genuinely wants to lead a diversely cosmopolitan country like Nigeria.

Mohammed Gusau is the erstwhile National Security Adviser who attended a meeting with the  Northern Political Leaders in Abuja to contest the 2011 Presidential ticket with his boss  without resigning first. He is not a serious candidate.

Governor Bukola Saraki is on his father’s errand and has no clout beyond his father’s  kingdom – Kwara State.

For 8 years both IBB and Atiku Abubakar were president and vice-president respectively, of  this great country Nigeria. What did they do to reduce the culture of begging in Nigeria  especially in the North? Our youths are encouraged to waste their talents and God-endowed  human resources because it is to their advantage for the beggars to remain poor and  dependent on the wealthy class who daily provide fish for the beggars without teaching them  how to fish for themselves. These poor beggars are always at the beck and call of these rich  politicians to do their bidding. These beggars become very active during electoral or other  forms of political violence protecting the interests of their sponsors.

There is massive unemployment in the North as a result of cultural inhibitions especially  for some of the women who are not allowed to work in open government or private offices.  Even for the men the motivating drive for entrepreneurship is lacking thereby reducing  artisanship and encouraging begging and spontaneous violence. Man is creative everywhere but  traditional and cultural drawbacks have to a large degree defined man’s entrepreneurial  freedom and drive.

But by far the greatest negligence of the Northern leaders, nay all Nigerian leaders, is in  the field of education. Nigerian presidents have strategically played down the critical  importance of education for selfish and personal reasons. Many Nigerian leaders have reduced  funding for secondary and tertiary education to “kill” education in Nigeria while building  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.  Education is the only lifeline you can throw at a drowning man. According to Henry Peter  Broughman “Education makes people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but  impossible to enslave”.

Nigerian leaders know that the moment they embark on a massive education for the people of  this country that same moment they will lose the vicegrip they have on its hapless citizens.

Babangida’s desparation also forebodes danger for this country especially with his  Machiavellian strategies and policies and also because of his friendship with the military  top brass. Babangida and Atiku should forget about governing Nigeria and even thank God that  they are not in jail but walking around as free men. Is it possible for President Barack  Obama to build the most expensive private university in Chicago while in office and be  indicted by every probe and yet expect Americans to vote him into the White House for a  second time? He will not even be allowed to pick nomination forms for the Democratic Party  primaries.

Babangida is a great war strategist and tested scholar of Sun Tzu and Karl Von Clausewitz.  The 2011 electoral battle will be won on strategy. The candidate with the better strategy  will carry the day.

While Babangida is spoiling for outright war as a General with propaganda, deceit and wild  promises and winning a few journalists and the Igbo over, President Goodluck Jonathan is  using dialogue to win strategic personalities over to his side. By now Babangida should have  known that the greatest general is the one who wins the war without firing a shot. At the  end of the day, whoever wins the election must ensure that Nigeria’s core strategic interest  must remain without blemish.

—Ben Nanaghan writes from Lagos.  E-mail: [email protected]