President Jonathan’s investiture, full of typical pomp and show and promise, has perhaps satisfied a world dreaming and eager for Nigeria and Africa’s “success” but determinedly unwilling to address the real causes of endemic and predictable failure. Jonathan himself believes in what he has promised to deliver, but must be naïve to assume that any of that will actually happen.
The peoples living a life of misery in Nigeria must be even more naïve if they expect Jonathan to deliver, when neither party is willing to face the reality of the situation—the real anti-success environment—and do anything about it.
Let’s jog everyone’s memory about the “things” that have been glossed over in the immediate picture at hand. Barely a score of months ago, the Northern Nigerian establishment tried to pressure Jonathan into resigning as the then Vice President of Nigeria, for the mere fact that their man, then president of Nigeria, Yar’Adua, was incapacitated, and they wanted to make sure that the presidency was preserved for the North—regardless of Nigeria’s constitution on succession. In the ensuing conflict, a Northern clique ran the presidency for the year, or at least the 6 months that Yar’Adua was functionally dead. They forged Yar’Adua’s signature on significant state documents including procurement and provisioning orders, ran the government with the exclusion of Vice President Jonathan, prevented entire Nigeria from knowing the whereabouts and status of president Yar’Adua, deceived everyone—with utmost impunity—with fake calls and appearances which they falsely claimed were Yar’Adua’s. When Yar’Adua’s lifeless body (we have to assume) was spirited back into Nigeria, a contingent of Nigeria’s Military took over the relevant airspace and airport of Nigeria—without the knowledge or order of the Commander-in-Chief, Jonathan.
Even the Nigerian National Assembly did not help; rather than follow their own constitution by which they were sworn in and to which they were sworn, they invoked the so-called “Doctrine of Necessity” for a straightforward constitutional matter, resulting in tepid and partial support for “acting President Jonathan” who was a mere figurehead while those in the circle of dead Yar’Adua actually ran the government of Nigeria, even with public spite and disdain for the constitution, for the peoples of Nigeria and for Jonathan. In fact, after “official” Yar’Adua’s death and ascension of Jonathan to the Presidency to complete the former’s term, this clique still brazenly ran a shadow government and President Jonathan was forced to negotiate with them, and was forced to place their members in Jonathan’s key cabinet offices.
Typically, Nigerians want to, and are in a hurry to just “move on,” leaving crucial and critical matters unaddressed and unattended. So it was that Nigerians moved on without demanding accountability for those who had actually performed a “palace coup” right under the nose of the “nation” in modern times. If there was ever a case of Treason, here was it. But, typically, Nigerians kept quiet; Jonathan managed to hang on then, complete Yar’Adua’s presidency, and has been voted in now in his own right and on his own merit, sealed by his inauguration on May 29 2011. But, all those forces and the players are still there, not disarmed or defanged, not indicted, not even remorseful, and protected by a system which has granted them immunity and impunity. They are still plotting and scheming. And, that’s the context in which Jonathan is to serve Nigeria as the President, and fulfill the promises he made on inauguration day?
What about a National Assembly that played an enabling roll in all this, allowing a dead man to rule Nigeria for one year or so? Nigerians may respond by saying that they elected many new faces this time around. Well, there is nowhere on record where any of the newly elected had campaigned on this subject matter; for that matter, they were all clueless about the implications of what had happened, as if lacking in sophistication and discernment—just like the voters themselves. Some of the “new faces” may actually belong with the aforementioned culprit-clique. In any case, like the biblical “new wine in an old wine-casket,” that they will make no positive difference is applicable here. It is the structure of the National Assembly, rather than the membership, that is responsible for this type of permissive environment, acts and actions. And, it is the same structure that President Jonathan is stuck with, and has to work with and in. Are you getting the point?
Which brings to mind Metapolitics—“the politics of politics”—in Nigeria. What can Jonathan, a PDP leader, achieve when Obasanjo is still the Chairman and President of PDP and its board, and is in fact their unofficial “Moral Leader”? Can you imagine belonging to anything that Obasanjo is the leader of, let alone, “moral leader” of? Does anyone in his or her right mind expect anything good out of PDP? This is the hand that Jonathan has been dealt; how does he expect to ever play a winning game? It just has no way of happening; Obasanjo is not retiring, PDP is not going to change its spots. Jonathan is immediately handicapped.
For that matter, how can Jonathan correct the (electric) Power supply situation when he will not get the constitutional obstacle changed—remember Second Schedule, Legislative Powers, PART II, Concurrent Legislative List items 13 and 14 of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution, which places the monopoly of laws controlling electric power generation, supply and management in the entire country in the hands of non-performing and non-knowledgeable legislators, making it impossible for communities, private individuals and groups, or states to source for adequate and necessary power? Speaking of the Constitution, will Jonathan convene a constitutional conference to replace the 1999 co-called constitution which started with a fraudulent claim-phrase, “We the people…” It is public knowledge that the “we the people” never participated in the formulation of that constitution; which is a shame, for how can you begin the ultimate legal document with a fraud? Of course, only in Nigeria. What about the worse-than-colonial Land Use Decree by Obasanjo from 1978, written into this flawed 1999 Constitution, responsible for robbing the people of the natural ownership of their own ancestral lands, something that impacts on the Niger Delta and the Southeast so heavily and drives them batty? Can Jonathan pursue the Yar’Adua initiated constitutional amendment striking this obnoxious Act out and nullifying it entirely? It is doubtful that any of these questions will get an affirmative answer.
Let’s see…, about that Niger Delta restiveness. Jonathan believes he will bring lasting peace there. Bribing the current set of activists started by Yar’Adua seems to be working, but on-coming generations cannot be bribed enough to ignore the continuous exploitation and despoliation of their biosphere. As a matter of fact, Nigeria has no plans to keep the bribery program going: the hawks in control of Niger Delta Oil have convinced Jonathan that the Nigerian government can now maintain peace in the Niger Delta by sheer military superiority. The Nigerian government now pays heftily for Satellite Intelligence and around-the-clock monitoring of the slightest movement of man, animal and vegetation in the delta. Local intelligence has improved, thanks to hiring intelligence consultancy and personnel to do this job. Specialized training for specialized forces of the Nigerian military using specialized gear, in water, sand, air and land fighting environments; equipment and personnel provided by the same stakeholders, have completely wiped out any advantages the Nigeria Delta militants had over the JTF contingent of the Nigerian military in that area. Besides, entire village and town-razing operations and campaigns by the Nigerian military for which they have impunity and no accountability even when hundreds of civilians are killed and thousands displaced is intoxicating: there is no stopping the Nigerian government now; “peace” by Military strength and might. Ironically, a Niger Delta man is now the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Military! and that’s the “peace path” mapped out for him which he is constrained to walk.
At the other geographic end, in the North, Buhari and his supporters have not given up. These represent the Muslim of Northern Nigeria who cannot conceive of, never mind tolerate, a non-Muslim not directly anointed, approved and delegated by the Muslim leadership council to rule over them. Buhari might have been defeated in the polls. But he has not given up his dream to continue his feudal rulership of Nigeria; one way or another, Nigeria will keep hearing of him. He has yet to express remorse for the mayhem and carnage he incited while his party and followers continue to extoll his virtues and tout his innocence in this matter. Jonathan is under pressure to reach out to him, and he will bow to such a force; but, despite any lopsided concessions Jonathan may make, Buhari’s North remain undaunted, rigid in their demand and stance and unimpressed; they want what they want: no non-Muslim can rule over a Muslim, period.
A separate class, the Boko Haram, also exists in the North. While Buhari is looking for a Nigerian throne from which to impose Sharia / Islam on Nigeria and rule all—Muslim and non-Muslim alike—Boko Haram is seeking to take over control of Muslim land and Islamic nation in Northern Nigeria which will be for the Muslim alone, devoid of any vestiges of Western civilization, culture and thinking. Where Buhari is tenacious, Boko Haram is fearless, resilient and always resurgent.
And of course, there is the Muslim Hausa-Fulani versus Christian Middle Belt daily killing exchanges in the wake of recent and previous conflagrations, with the Plateau as the epicenter. This is a running bloody battle whose anti-Igbo dimension is extremely difficult to tease out, geographically extending the anti-Igbo purges from Muslim Northern Nigeria to the Middle Belt Northern Nigeria, and temporally from the mid 1940’s to the present (and foreseeable future), at the hands of Northern Muslim, in an unbroken history.
By the way, which of these groups—or is it an entirely new group—is responsible for the casualty-laden bombings at the time of this inauguration? The authorities of the government of Nigeria say they don’t know. Who are they and what might they want? What do they want?
Not armed with dangerous weapons, not out killing other people because they are of a different ethnicity or religion or region, not rampaging and destroying property and livelihoods, are different groups seeking a commonality: the restructuring of Nigeria based on Self Determination. These groups come from Western Nigeria, Midwest, Southeastern Nigeria, Southsouthern Nigeria, and North Central Nigeria—essentially from every “zone” in Nigeria. MASSOB—Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra—is one example. These groups understand what Nigerian politicians and leaders, for personal gain, want to forget: Nigeria’s problems are structural. These groups also realize what most Nigerians are in denial about: the solution to Nigeria lies in restructuring. Not in “free, fair and credible elections” if such were even possible in Nigeria. Not in preachments. Not in Obasanjo-type self- serving nationalism. Not in Atiku-Gusau conniving parasitic-type or Gowon’s unworkable one-Nigeria or “federalism.” These groups are pushing for it (restructuring) now, seeing that the dwindling of the reservoir of goodwill among the peoples in Nigeria will change the course to the fixed outcome from a non-violent and managed restructuring process to a really bloody and chaotic one, although the only outcome remains the separation of the different ethnic nations from Nigeria. It is the ideas of these groups that Jonathan has publicly stated that he is opposed to, like rejecting the proverbial stone which was to become the cornerstone / anchor of the foundation of the building, without which the edifice would certainly crumble and not even be possible.
There was another May 29: it was in the year, 1966. Jonathan should (re-)read Nigeria’s history, just in case he forgot his own experiences in Nigeria. The peoples living in Nigeria should try to remember Nigeria’s history, but failing that, should think of their own experiences—with honesty. Amid jubilation by and for a people whose forte is celebrating their own collective psychological denials, amid the delusions of Nigerians who think that all is now well, or is going to be well / better while hiding behind the lies which they are deliberately telling themselves, the facts of today still call out: how many people died because of this self-adjudged “successful, free and fair elections”? What did they die about? Has the dying stopped—will it ever stop? How much destruction? What does it all mean? When will it end? This latter challenge does not need the memory-tasking effort of history: it happened in our own times. Never forget May 29. Remember May 29.
Oguchi Nkwocha, MD
A Biafran Citizen