Tuesday, 11 March 2014
As 2015 Beckons – Lessons From The Blunders Of 1959, 1979 and 1999 By Tunji Ariyomo
All things being equal, it is safe to predict that 2015 is the terminal date for the set of rulers that took over the reign of governance in Nigeria since 1999.
In my self-serving ‘gra gra’, one of those things I pride myself as capable of doing effectively is to predict outcomes of Nigerian general elections. While this may amuse readers, it is not likely to amuse my close friends with whom I have had opportunities to tango over past predictions. I once informed Dr. Adesoji Adeniyi, one of the sharpest minds the nation has produced, that I would start charging fees for my predictions. In 2011, I predicted an overwhelming victory for the incumbent. As 2015 beckons, if Dr. Goodluck Jonathan continues with his ‘transformation agenda’, evident by oddities and reprobate leadership being celebrated as accomplishments in Abuja today, accounts of which daily saturate the pages of Nigerian newspapers and cyberia, he will not only be roundly defeated at the polls, but disgracefully so. Even the ‘bolekaja’ indices (undemocratic underhand tactics) that often determine who wins and who loses in Nigeria’s brand of democracy are odds that are currently stacked heavily against him.
The good news for the opposition is that leaders, especially those who allow themselves to be shielded from the masses like Jonathan, never see this reality until they are back in their ancestral homes or on exile in Europe as ex-leaders. Then they can write memoirs with fancy titles and grandstand on national issues.
This is why the ongoing merger by opposition political parties is worthy of intense assessment. Yinka Odumakin in an interview with Saharareporters on the merger of political parties warned against “a change from Abacha to Sonekan”. He stated further that it is true that “people are fed up with 14 years of PDP, but there isn't cause for excitement yet. In the past 14 years, Nigerians have cried about the outrageous allowances that Nigerian legislators collect but virtually all these parties have members in the National Assembly who have been there over the years, but not one of them has opposed the outrageous wages they are collecting while the people were suffering. We complain that PDP rigs election at the centre, most of these people also control states where the states conduct local government election in Nigeria that are worse in some cases than what the PDP does at the centre...which suggest that if they have the same space as the PDP, they will do the same thing or even worse”.
So, if a new set of leaders would take over in 2015, how can Nigerians ensure we do not jump proverbially from frying pan to fire?
The late Prof. Ayodele Awojobi, renowned engineering genius, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in literature, Prof. Chinua Achebe, iconic writer, Col. Abubarkar Umar, a military man who openly sided with the June 12 struggle in 1993, Balarabe Musa, a politician who has made consistent effort to side with the masses - all have one thing in common – they failed to defeat the ‘jegudujera’ (exploitative) forces that lined up against them when it was their turn to engage the prior incarnations of the evil ensembles that have ensured that Nigeria remain underdeveloped, poor and in perpetual crisis. At each turn, the ‘jegudujera’ forces were ahead.
Timeline – 1959/1960
In 1959, as independence beckons, the leading and most well prepared minds involved in the struggle for independence; the leader of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), the late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the leader of the Action Group (AG) and Asiwaju of the Yorubas, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo were as divided as the proverbial siblings of the African walnut. Rather than forging a united front ahead of the onerous task of building a new nation capable of surviving in a highly competitive modern world, what history recorded was bare-knuckle artifice targeted at conquering opponent’s territory and subjugating other tribes under peer domination (I have decided not to apportion blame). The inability of these well-prepared and capable minds to forge a common front, or even align with persons like the University of London trained Aminu Kano of the Northern Element Progressive Union (NEPU), is at the root of the layers of ills that have now come to define the Nigerian nation. It is a known truth that leadership of a nation requires the service of the best minds in the pursuit of common good. There is no nation that can thrive under the leadership of position-misfits who are again burdened by devotion to causes other than the common good. That is double jeopardy.
Timeline – 1979
By 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a Kaduna College trained grade II teacher was positioned to lead even though the nation had a University of London trained Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister as far back as 1960. Were merit the determining factor, it was unlikely that he would even qualify ahead of many Northern rising stars at the time. He none the less became the President and Commander in Chief of Africa’s most populous nation and for 4 years, achieved very little other than what members of his political party bandied as monumental achievements. Before the fall in oil prices in 1981, his government carried on with such profligacy while allegations of wanton corruption plagued his projects, notably the Ajaokuta Steel complex and the Steel rolling mills that made the people longed for the military days. It was obvious that he had been assigned a role far above his capacity.
When opportunity to remove him came in 1983, perhaps in an attempt to learn from their 1959 folly, Azikiwe and Awolowo attempted to come together.
Extraneous circumstance scuttled that goal. In his well researched piece published in the Punch of February 22, 2013, Jide Akinbiyi went down memory lane stating that “in 1983, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigerian Peoples Party whose members had been in President Shehu Shagari’s NPN Federal Government since 1979 decided to team up with Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN); Waziri Ibrahim’s Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP) and Comrade Michael Imoudu’s Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) for the purpose of unseating Shagari’s government in the presidential election of that year. They came together under the banner of Progressive Parties Alliance (PPA). But they could not agree on who would be their presidential candidate. Awolowo wanted to run, so did Azikiwe and Waziri. At the same time, Shagari who was sure of his victory assured Dr. Azikiwe and his NPP that he would give them ‘juicy’ positions if he was returned to power. Being thus wooed away from the PPA, Dr. Azikiwe described himself as a beautiful bride torn between different suitors. In the end, Shagari won the election and fulfilled his promise by appointing NPP members into his cabinet.”
As history stands, what eventually unchained Nigerians from the shackles of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was a jackboot intervention by the military in 1983 - civilian strategies having failed.
Timeline – 1999
The next date with history was 1999. By then, most of the original dramatis personae had either died or retired from active politics. The Nigerian people, pushed to the wall, had engaged the military for nearly sixteen years. Suddenly and unexpectedly, some behind the scene intervention led to the death of General Sani Abacha. As revealed by Al Mustapha at the Justice Oputa Panel, the events were choreographed. Wole Soyinka, Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Balarabe Musa and several others were clear champions of this struggle against military rule. However, when opportunity to decide the next leaders arrived, these vocal and leading light rather than retreating and coalescing behind a single candidate and making a united push for the leadership of the nation, got themselves scattered over the nation’s political space with some even forming their individual political parties. There was hardly anyone of them that did not register a political party or group whether as an individual or in conjunction with others. Gani, who should have been the senatorial candidate of a leading party in his state (Ondo), aimed for the presidency while Falana who should have been a Senatorial candidate of a leading party in his Ekiti State gunned for the governorship. These ones even tried as many who were capable of contesting did not, leaving a vacuum that was successfully exploited by the ‘jegudujeras’ such that although ideologically cohesive, these leading lights weakened and diminished their political worth through their inability to unite. The established cartel of evil that has held the nation to ransom since independence quickly united behind a single candidate and even wooed more unto their sides. Predictably, they won the election and the story went back to status quo. This was in 1999.
As 2015 beckons
The Nigerian people have been pushed to the wall. The level of poverty and insecurity in the land is unprecedented despite unmatched income from crude oil and other sources. Like the previous attempts, the opposition is being united by a common enemy. The politicians in the opposition are doing what they ought to be doing – forming a united political group (via merger). The only difference this time, bar a few exceptions, is that members of the political opposition are also mostly people who have been tested and who have failed in the past. The list is endless. Many leading figures of the merger experiment were either notable stalwarts of the ruling party in the past or active contractors and hanger-on of the military while those that have been members of opposition genuinely over time have also presided over their dominions with the same high handedness with which the ruling party has ruled Nigeria. There is little doubt that many are party to the merger solely because they lost out in the PDP. Even at that, they are doing the correct thing – merging!
Those who are not playing their roles are members of the true intelligential, the real moral voices of the nation – those patriots who are not driven by personal political gains – the non professional politicians. Those are the people that are truly capable of objectively searching for and identifying capable and merit-based leaders for the Nigerian people. Those are the people that need to learn from the experiences of 1959, 1979 and 1999.
What can you do?
Professional politicians often take it for granted that theirs is the heaven-ordained right to elect (select) leaders for the rest of the country. It is a farce that thrives because the people allow it. If the mass of the people challenge this notion, they will succeed and 2015 is a good time for such an experiment.
If you are appalled by the level of decadence and leadership missteps in Nigeria, then your best choice is to commence actions at your end toward identifying the leaders you want in positions rather than merely expecting what characters politicians would throw up in 2015. Professional politicians would naturally prefer candidates that would give them high return on their investment. You however should be targeting capable people that can lead Nigeria out of this quagmire of poverty and deprivation.
Nigerians from the North, West, East and South are presently working behind the scene and would be storming the nation’s political space shortly over the choice of leaders they want in 2015. Will you join them or simply idle away thus exposing our people to more years of uncertainty under incapable leaders? The only way we will not jump from frying pan to fire in 2015 i