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Jonathan's People

August 15, 2010

After a week of frantic political hocus-pocus, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has finally come up with a very definite and unambiguous position for the 2011 general elections: it is hopelessly divided and those Nigerians who lose sleep over that can go jump into the lagoon.

After a week of frantic political hocus-pocus, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has finally come up with a very definite and unambiguous position for the 2011 general elections: it is hopelessly divided and those Nigerians who lose sleep over that can go jump into the lagoon.

It is difficult to understand how supposedly matured, experienced people such as those at the top of the PDP hierarchy could be so flippant over a matter so serious. More disconcerting is that the equivocation, indecision and in some cases downright political summersaults are all motivated by personal interests only. Being a citizen of a country at the mercy of the people now leading Nigeria at various levels must be one of the greatest challenges in the world.

 It is one thing to have your only country going up in flames due to some tangible irreconcilable differences, such as what happened to the former Yugoslavia; but it is quite another to have to watch your country being deliberately pulled down by greedy, incompetent leadership.

 Last week promised so much and it started off that way. The PDP, which has held the nation captive for the past 11 years and is set to remain dominant during the next round of general elections, had scheduled three different meetings that were widely expected to resolve the thorny issue of how the party would elect its presidential candidate for the 2011 presidential elections.  The meetings, in order of importance were the Caucus, the Board of Trustees (BoT) and finally the National Executive Council (NEC).

 Everybody who is anything at all in the party belongs to one or more of these bodies and it was only fair to assume that between them these high-powered political groupings were at least capable of determining who should, by whatever means, rule the country. Unsurprisingly even that proved to be such an arduous task for leadership of the “biggest political party in Africa”. 

 One after the other each of those meetings which held on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday respectively ended without any hint that some kind of progress had been achieved; if anything the respective communiqués that each meeting produced created even greater confusion than it was supposed to solve. The only clear picture that emerged was that the PDP was either unwilling or incapable of making up its mind on the issue that has become known as the zoning controversy.

 Under normal circumstances the opposition should be celebrating this golden opportunity thrown up by a ruling party in obvious disarray.  But if there was opposition, the country wouldn’t be in the mess it is to begin with, and it is this total lack of an alternative to an incompetent and insensitive leadership that is at the core of our frustration.

 The Americans call it The “Hobson’s choice”, in reference to an infamous  American horse trader called Mr. Hobson who would put forward his weak and sick horses at the entrance of his stable and insist that buyers must first clear the horses nearest the entrance before they could go on to buy from the stronger ones farther in. It is not debatable that if Nigerians had any choice they could never have settled for an obviously unprepared leader like the late Umaru Yar’adua; and the chain of reactions that has landed us where we are would conceivably have terminated in Katsina. Now with the mounting crisis in the PDP, the indications are that the country is doomed for another round of terrible leadership that has dogged us, on and off, for the last 50 years.

 But then again it is not exactly correct to say that Nigerians had no choice, or that they settled for Yar’adua willingly; hat we have settled for, willingly, is what we have ended up with: bad leadership in return for being spared the risky business of asserting our rights to choose who we want as our leaders. It is common knowledge that if we’d  had the courage to assert our will at the local level of our political leadership choices, the central leadership would have been compelled to bend to our demands; after all the whole is only as strong as the sum of its parts. But our vision and our thinking have been so twisted that the only way we can perceive power is from the centre when in reality real power resides at the state and local government levels.

 Anyway, lamentations like these are of little or no use in solving the crisis that is a clear and present threat to the very existence of the fragile stability of the nation. It may be asking for too much to expect that within the existing confusion a miracle would happen and a strong alternative to the crisis-ridden contraption called the PDP will suddenly emerge. The best that can be done is to pile on pressure on the PDP to be more responsible; to appreciate the enormous responsibility it is toying with, responsibility not only for the 150 million people that call Nigeria home, but for another hundreds of millions that lay claim to Africa as their only home.

 In this case it is time for President Goodluck Jonathan to muster the necessary courage to meet the challenges that are threatening to overwhelm him. Nigerian leaders have developed the very dangerous habit of taking Nigeria for granted; whereas it is true that the country has weathered storm after violent storm, it has not been without consequences, often very dire ones.

 Among some of the costliest prices we have had to pay as we ploughed on from one turbulence to another was a civil war that claimed over a million lives; a loss of national identity and the present dearth of infrastructure that is at complete variance with the country’s resources. Our leaders, past and present really ought to be ashamed of themselves, and if they have any conscience at all, their preoccupation should not be who among them should be president, but how they can find the best possible combination, by whatever formula, of people that can salvage the country from its present nadir.

 After George W. Bush, the Americans knew they needed something radical to shock themselves back to sanity; they got it in a half-white young man whose citizenship is being disputed by some.

It is up to President Jonathan and his people to lead this last ditch effort for national survival—unless they wish to be the proverbial final nail in the coffin of what we call Nigeria. It is clear that baring a very few, all the president’s people have failed him; they are either deliberately misleading him or they don’t know what to tell him that would be of any use to him and to the country.

 Either way they are a danger to the country.

 Some of the president’s self-proclaimed associates have records that stink from miles away. Last week former minister of the FCT Malam Nasir el-Rufai during an interview on Channels television repeated that Jonathan Zwingina and Ibrahim Mantu did bluntly ask him for a bribe before he could be cleared a ministerial position in 2003. These same pair is now among the most vocal voices eulogizing the virtues of the president. That cannot be in President Jonathan’s interest, and certainly not in the interest of the country.

Even his favoured new party chairman does not come across as convincing. He is a far cry, for instance, from the firm, confident and believable former Chairman of the party, Audu Ogbe; or the politically transparent Chief Solomon Lar. While trying to explain his own version of what happened at the PDP NEC meeting last week, Mr. Ezekwesiele Nwodo left nobody in doubt as to the kind of leader the PDP is saddled with.  He said, in response to the zoning issue:   

“When former President Olusegun Obasanjo emerged, he chose a Northern Muslim, Atiku Abubakar, as his vice president. When the (former party) chairman resigned, he was replaced by another chairman from the South Eastern zone. Our Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker are from different zones of the country. How then can PDP be said to have abandoned zoning or rotation?

And then in the same breath Mr.Nwodo said that the party has moved on and that President Jonathan would contest for the 2011 presidential primaries of the party!”