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Nigeria: Interpreting times and events

March 14, 2010

I saw a big snake coiled around itself on the side of a road. People started gathering at the spot; then, as attention was given to the snake, its head started changing into that of a feline creature. Suddenly, what I saw was a lion, and then, a tiger. The lion swallowed up the tiger. I did not see the snake anymore. Like a change in the scene of a fascinating movie, I found myself at a large gathering of pastors in Nigeria.

I saw a big snake coiled around itself on the side of a road. People started gathering at the spot; then, as attention was given to the snake, its head started changing into that of a feline creature. Suddenly, what I saw was a lion, and then, a tiger. The lion swallowed up the tiger. I did not see the snake anymore. Like a change in the scene of a fascinating movie, I found myself at a large gathering of pastors in Nigeria.
Differences between denominations did not constitute a hindrance or a serious obstacle for synergy of purpose. Clearly, the subject of the meeting was Nigeria. After I recounted this vision to my wife, she reminded me of the deceitfulness which is metaphorically associated with serpentine creatures. Things began to fall in place in my mind. I had this experience about a week before I settled down to write the article you are reading.
Nigerians, this is a season of deception in our land. Lying spirits have been released to create a make-belief. Many people shall be disappointed, who have high hopes of the present leadership in Nigeria. We must deliberately be fastidious and refuse to be moved by appearances, promises, and false starts. The same old gang is in charge. The head may bear a different superficial identity, yet the body is yet full of deceit. The most damning act of corruption in Nigeria is deceit.

“Probes” are launched into issues of national interest. But alas, they are simply deceitful games of distraction. These are lullabies, to quieten crying babies. Public projects are commissioned by public officials. Don’t mind those empty ceremonies; those projects are mere gimmicks that won’t provide the services and benefits that they are purportedly meant to. Committees are set up by government, supposedly to perform various tasks. Then, they are sabotaged and made redundant by the very public officials that had set them up. Huge amounts of money are voted for public projects in the yearly rituals called “Budgets”, but the outcomes at the end of the year negatively belie the votes. I can go and on, even as many of you, readers can. Nigeria is a nation of lies. Your praise-singers today become your back stabbers tomorrow. Many follow, not for principles; many flatter, not for conviction but selfish gain.

Mutually assured destruction of political players:

Jonathan and his collaborators may cancel themselves out. The business of governance is being badly run in Nigeria. New alliances and power blocks are being formed presently. Some are angling for 2015 while the myopic concentrate their efforts on the battle for dominance in 2011. Politicians know that once the power to vote has been restored to the Nigerian, their relevance will only be guaranteed by good governance and demonstrated vision and good judgement. But this is what I know. In the fight to hold unto enormous political power, many politicians shall mutually destroy themselves. This eventually will be to the advantage of Nigerians. Many of the political players in Nigeria will not know in time that as they fight the opponents in their usually vicious ways, they shall end up being destroyed by their schemes. Those “colonialists”, who have held us in captivity for so long shall turn against one another and consume themselves one way or another.

He is not clean; no, he is not clean:

Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is part of the grand scheme to deceive this nation. He is cunning and calculating. We cannot expect to build a solid house on a shaky foundation; neither should we put new wine in old wineskins. Between 2006 and 2007, the struggle for political dominance and supremacy between President Obasanjo and Vice-President Abubakar resulted in the sacrifice of quality for selfish convenience. The struggle now may foist on this nation something worse. But I also believe that we can avert this or subvert it. What I see is the eventual empowering of the Nigerian electorate (not the intention of the present crop of rulers, though) as Jonathan and other arms of the fading Yar’Adua era swallow up themselves. Then, we as a people shall have our field day to punish all wickedness and corruption. It will not be to the credit of any one group, whether Save Nigeria Group or Nigeria Rally Movement, or whatever. There shall be a coalition of forces in the future. But first, there shall be a purging of intents, many of which, presently, are less than noble. Just as it is impossible for iron and clay to stick together, so also will it be impossible for strange bed-fellows to forge a united front for change. But intervening events in the near future shall purge us all for the task. We take notice of one another. We shall then step out with one another; but, the purge must happen first. The Gideon Test will be useful.

The kind of people Jonathan is gradually surrounding himself with reminds me of 2006 when President Obasanjo was inclined to anointing and supporting whosoever would destroy the Atiku political machine. The choice of convenience shall destroy Acting President Jonathan. Foolish and nocturnal compromises shall overthrow him. Let those close to Dr. Jonathan tell him that the throne is not established by wickedness, and that wickedness shall not be found lacking where the throne is surrounded by blood-thirsty killers, drug barons, and thieves. Even King David, because of his blood-stained hands, could not build the Lord’s temple; another, must build it. Nigerians should expect nothing good from Dr. Jonathan. He has tied around his neck a yoke, which shall choke out every good intention he may have had. As for me, I have since stopped wasting my time advising this man, who would recruit dozens of Advisers and yet ask for more, all within a week. It is not lack of Advisers that is the bane of our national sorrows and crisis; rather, it is lack of heart, will, passion, and empathy for the Nigerian people by their rulers. This is my cry—God, overthrow stolid and incompetent rulers of Nigeria, and replace them with compassionate leaders who will care for them. But then, why have we had more than our fair share of politically inept rulers? We Nigerians must acknowledge failure of leadership in our homes, businesses, town meetings, religious assemblies, clans, and small groups. We have poor leadership because there is dishonesty in followership. We are flatterers and cowards, saying mainly what is politic to be said, but pouring invectives and curses behind the back of our rulers. We are easily bought. We value our privileges above our principles. And if truth must be told, we don’t know what we want, and so we fail to identify it when a good leader emerges on the scene. We cry, “Crucify him, crucify him!” For petty reasons, we call for the criminal and condemn the true one, saying, “Let us build institutions instead of glorifying men. Is he the only competent Nigerian?” Finally, we fail to see the evil deed being done insidiously, until it is too late. In other words, we are not vigilant. Well, we can pray; so, God must do for us even what he has equipped us to do for ourselves and by ourselves.

It was reported that Acting President Jonathan sent the Uwais Electoral reforms recommendations to the National Assembly “unedited.” I am not excited. Only great national heroes can plunge a dagger into their heart so that their nations will be redeemed. Nigerian lawmakers are not in this class; they will not touch the Electoral reform proposals even with an elongated pole. Electoral reform is definitely not their priority. If in more than   10 years since the Nigerian military gave us a skewed and convoluted constitution, the national assembly has failed to lead Nigerians in a process leading to a truly Nigerian-friendly constitution, can its members be relied upon to give us an electoral reform law in the form Justice Uwais committee proposed, just few months before the next general elections?  Deception has covered the land. Excuses shall be made after deafening silence why the Justice Uwais recommendations cannot be made into a law before the 2011 general elections. The lawmakers shall soon tell us how the process of constitution amendment (which is necessary for the passage of some portions of the recommendation) is too tedious to be completed before the 2011 elections. “How about waiting for the 2015 general elections?”, they will ask. “Wise” Jonathan! In 1985, after General Babangida took power, he announced and allowed a public debate on whether or not Nigeria should take an IMF loan. Oh, Nigerians fell for this, saying laudatory things about Babanginda, such as “He is a democrat in military uniform.” Looking back now, were we fooled or not? A gullible people will hardly see danger until it is too late.

To my patriots who see the beginning and end of electoral reforms to be the removal of Professor Maurice Iwu as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), let me ask some questions. Is Iwu so powerful as to defy those who appointed him, and rig elections without their insistence and directives? If another man or woman is appointed chairman of INEC under the same present laws, can we guarantee that they can do better than Iwu did? Brothers and sisters, what should be our focus is the passage of the Justice Uwais committee electoral reform recommendations (which contain provisions that will immune INEC from executive interference). If and when Professor Iwu’s tenure expires, let the laws be followed whether he should be removed or have his tenure extended. We may hate the man’ s guts. But there is a process for appointment. And there is also a process for law-making. I am tempted to believe that once Iwu is made the scapegoat, some people will abandon the clamour for electoral reform, concluding so hastily, as is usually our tradition, that the objective is reached.

The Jos crisis has further exposed us as a people, that we have lost our conscience and respect for human lives. Christians don’t kill people; I don’t know if Islam permits the killing of infidels. But I know that the Nigerian constitution guarantees right to life, and it states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government” [section 14(2) (b)]. If Dr. Jonathan does not remove and punish all security chiefs such as GOC Maina, under whose watch the pogrom happened, then he does not know what he is doing in Abuja. If Dr. Jonathan attempts to shield killers and destroyers of our nation at this point of our national angst, he shall fall in an ignominious fashion.

Nigerians, darkness and weeping shall not continue forever. I can hear the sound of abundance of rain. But the rain shall come pouring down after our oppressors have mutually destroyed themselves. If you are expectant, then make sure that you are not found wanting in your business, family life, and commitment to what is just and right. But one thing I know is this. If Dr. Jonathan’s deception will save him, it must only be such as lures in destroyers of Nigeria for the killer punch. It must be such as will guarantee that our votes count and electricity power is made available to Nigerians. I rest my case for now.

Leonard Karshima Shilgba is the President of the Nigeria rally Movement ( ) and Assistant Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria.

TEL: +234-8055024356; Email: [email protected]

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