You are here:  Home  >  Articles  >  Current Article


By   /  February 2, 2015  /  No Comments

    Print       Email

For the first time since this column’s debut in 2006, I will not install a new article. Rather I am re-printing the column I wrote on April 18, 2011, a few days after Goodluck Jonathan won the presidential election. I confessed my worries about the man’s victory and its implications for Nigeria. The column’s prophetic insights do not make me gloat, but are a cautionary tale to fellow Nigerians to look before they leap as we enter another election cycle. While apparently making me a seer, the prophecies do not make me a special prophet. In his novel Blindness, Nobel Prize-winner Jose Saramago says it is not blindness but refusal to see that ails our civilisation. I saw the wreck of the Jonathan presidency coming because I decided to see. The following article, titled: “No excuse,” is re-published whole. Read on and reflect.

No Excuse

The system worked, and we can say that Attahiru Jega has so far overthrown the fears of sceptics and ululations of cynics. After his initial bumbling, he is gradually becoming Nigeria’s model of an electoral mastermind, acquitting himself with aplomb, grace and calculation. He still has a few acts to pull off, and I have to wait to deliver the final and definitive verdict at the end of the election cycle.

So, as the tallies came in yesterday, it was clear Goodluck Jonathan would emerge the winner in the election for Nigeria’s top post. Even though I voted differently, I must hand him my congratulations. But the congratulations come not from my belief in the wisdom of the majority but in the majesty of the democratic process. Democracy is the voice of the people, and although the people have not always voted wisely or understood the import of their votes, no superior system topples it as the pulse of the people.

Let us not make any mistake about this, Nigerians did not vote for Jonathan because he has any plans to redeem the nation from its protracted woes. Jonathan has never staked himself out as a transformational leader. Few of those who voted for him think of him as a man of vision, as a man of competence, or as a president of executive gallantry. They think of him only in sentimental terms.

So when in the next few years, things don’t get better, no one has a right to blame Jonathan. Most of us did not vote for him to tackle the epileptic malaise of the power sector. We did not vote for him to tackle the dangerous slide in education. Our universities are some of the worst in the world from competing with some of the best. Many of our young do not know the rudiments of math and basics of syntax. If they remain so, and even get worse, we don’t have to blame the man at the top. He was not voted in to sow the seeds for the wise men and women of the future.

If our cousins or sons or fathers cannot find healing in our hospitals, we should not pour woe on the poor and ineffectual health care system. We let it be so with our own hands. If we read of huge sums of money in the centre going into waste pipe projects and dud dreams and a lack of accountability for billions of our money and patrimony, we should rather shout hallelujah.

Today we spend about 90 percent of our money on recurrent expenditure, which means only about ten percent will go to the construction of roads, the establishment of first-class hospitals and schools for the minds of the future. This has implications for the value of the naira against major world currencies. So if in a few years the naira slides to N250 to a dollar, and the cost of akara rises from N10 to about N100, we don’t have to blame the president. He earned our votes for a different reason.

There are four reasons I point out for Jonathan’s victory. One, the profusion of cash. Two, a class issue. Three, retreat to the rampart of tribe and primordial loyalties. Four, faith.

No one can doubt the sheer amount of cash that went into the Jonathan campaign. Billions of naira followed billions. Across the country, it was not a matter of whether you believed in Jonathan. It was whether you were a good contractor who could deliver. Whether it was politicians, cultural icons or business moguls, you were in on it if you could make a case for Jonathan. In the media, you could not miss out on the barrage of adverts, on radio, television, newspapers and magazines. It was sheer volcano, ripping apart the budgets and presences of the opposition. It was clearly an unequal contest. One needs to know where the money came from.

Was it NNPC, was it the money we could have spent on schools or hospitals or roads that got diverted? What of all the money reeled out by the Jonathan administration recently for some capital projects? Where are those billions? This is not a Jonathan problem alone? It is malaise of our politics. It is an undue advantage of incumbency in our politics, and it is not restricted to presidents.

Yet, as spending goes, I don’t think we have ever witnessed this extravagance in our history or anywhere else. The campaign did not deny the charge of spending N100 million per campaign stop across the country. And for the election proper, N3 billion was deployed per state. By some estimates, the Jonathan campaign may have spent at least N250 billion. How many roads can that construct, or how many people can that take out of poverty? How many schools would become world class?

The other issue is class. The imperative to get the Jonathan appeal across the country compelled the campaign to work with so-called leaders of thought, traditional leaders and business persons. They have one thing in common: the yen for power, privilege and pots of cash. So we had people who came to the Jonathan camp not because they loved him but because he flattered them with money to become part of the “new power circle”. It helped because Buhari and Ribadu were perceived as opposing the concept of governance as racket.

The other issue was ethnic and primordial ties. Those in the South voted him because he is one of them. Those in the North also voted for Buhari. In all the country, Osun State seems the exception voting for Ribadu. Majorities elsewhere voted their ethnic position. In a radio programme on Saturday, somebody called in to say he voted for change. What change, asked the anchor? The person said the first time he would vote in a person who is not a northerner.

The fourth reason is faith. Many said Jonathan is a Christian and that was enough for many. Bakare is also. But he is a maverick, a deviant manifestation of belief in Jesus. Bakare was not better or worse than his Pentecostal co-travellers who, by winks and nods and coded sermons, asked their flock to vote for a man of their faith.

So there. None of these had to do with whether Jonathan wanted to make Nigeria a 21st century nation. It was about his humility, his willingness to tout his shoeless origins, kneel before a pastor, flesh out the smile of the meek.

We just voted in a “nice” man, and that is good for Nigeria. If things don’t get better, they should not complain. The people can vote for their elevation and diminution. Jonathan can help their cause by transforming Nigeria. But can he? Can he free himself from all the hawks who made him president and who have entrapped him this past year?

He can prove his critics wrong. Will he? Does he have the fire in his belly? But we just have to wait.

    Print       Email

Remember to Comment

You might also like...

In Touch Awards concluded

Read More →