Dateline 2011: The President For These Times

by SOC Okenwa

The current political season way back home in Nigeria towards the 2011 general elections is an interesting one. Daily we are being fed with stories of declared candidates and yet-to-be-declared ones jostling for the topmost job in the land. Every election year in Nigeria is always a great season for both sychophants and political jobbers who seek new alliances and do political business with the lives of millions of disenchanted Nigerians. And next year 2011 cannot be different given the fact that a new way of doing things, a whole new order of things post-OBJ and post-Maurice Iwu appear to be in the horizon!

With the aging Prof. Jega, the beloved intellectual of the radical hue in the saddle in INEC the next presidential poll could well turn out to be a reference point in future elections in Nigeria just as the unfortunate June 12 1993 exercise showed how disciplined Nigerians were and exposed how bestially anti-democratic the military despotism led by General Ibrahim Babangida was. Just as June 12 produced a clean, free and fair election that saw the late MKO Abiola winning convincingly from North to South the next presidential poll may well meet all expectations of the average Nigerian whose vote must be made to count this time around.

Personally I am very optimistic about the conduct and outcome of the election given the groundswell of public opinion clamouring for a repeat of June 12 – devoid of its criminal abominable annulment. Indeed we need a clean break from the past when electoral robbery and thuggery were the order of the day. This time we must endeavour together to get it right!

It seems from all indications that the most important and courted ‘bride’ in Nigeria’s political firmament today is the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. With goodluck and history favourably by his side the Bayelsan gentleman is having a great time warding off unsolicited campaign elements whose motives could well be selfish and self-serving. Let me add however that he may very well be enyoying the action and the deafening calls for him to throw his ‘Ijaw hat’ into the fray. He is bound to declare his intention soon after much ‘consultations’ with the electorate. And he has said so.

Almost everyone is rooting for Jonathan with some advancing primordial ethnic or regional reasons and others playing the sychophantic game in order to belong. The other day it was a women’s pressure group threatening to withhold their sexual (conjugal) services to their husbands if Jonathan failed to take heed of a deadline for him to declare his intention to run for the office he is now occupying. The local chapter of African Women in Diaspora (AWD) gave President Goodluck Jonathan up till August 27 to indicate his interest in contesting the coming presidential election or they would deny their husbands sex for seven days! Talk of bottom power! For Jonathan abdicating power could mean sexual sanction for the menfolk! Between sex and politics in Nigeria there is an apparent harmony which goes beyond what the apolitical class could ever comprehend.

The average Nigerian politician does not learn anything from history. If it were not Jonathan that is occupying Aso Rock Villa today the same thing would still be happening; that is the run, run, run chorus, so Jonathan or no Jonathan does not make any difference in my reckoning. If an Emeka Ezeugo or the late Lawrence Anini or even a Bode George or even a Tafa Balogun were to declare interest in the presidency as an incumbent President the same motley crowd of supporters will still be there trying to outdo one another and singing their praise and painting them in bright colours.

The present pro-Jonathan mob reminds us all of decades ago when Ibrahim Babangida perfected the art of political perfidy by banning and unbanning so-called old-breed politicians whom he said would never succeed him. At a time in those giddy ‘Babangidaised’ (sorry bastardised) days when all national values were thrown overboard by the quest of one confused man for dictatorial survival Arthur Nzeribe, late Justice Bassey Ikpeme and Clement Akpamgbo made name for themselves for wrong reasons as Gen. Babangida manipulated them into throwing clogs in the wheels of democratic progress. Suddenly an association that went by the name ABN (Association for Better Nigeria) was formed to increase tension and confuse the populace further — presenting Babangida and him alone as the ‘messiah’ without whom the nation would collapse. It was a mindless period of national betrayal by few men and women consumed by power or its trappings.

And just after his hasty departure to Minna post-June 12, (having exhausted his bag of tricks) after the 3-month interregnum of Ernest Shonekan was sacked by the late ‘Khalifa’, Gen. Sani Abacha held the nation down for five horrible years in which murder, looting of the treasury and organized terrorism became the instrument of state policy. The five political parties then in a bizzare twist all adopted Abacha as the consensus presidential candidate in an elaborate transmutational venture that gulped billions of naira. The “five leprous fingers of the same hand” as the late Chief Bola Ige once described the parties were intimidated and no one ever risked challenging the maximum ruler. With YEAA (Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha) joining the fray vociferously Nigeria and Nigerians surrendered themselves to divine intervention as Abacha, the mean tyrant, digged in becoming more and more menacing. In the end it took just the services of an imported prostitute, perhaps with divine or satanic guidance, for the dictator to be put to sleep permanently. Behold a nation under God was liberated!

Today IBB wants us to vote for him as a democratically-elected President! What political amusement!! What political heresy!!! What arrogance and insult on our collective psyche! Babangida cuts the picture of a deranged bull in search of new grounds to wreack more havoc having bolted away from the control of its owners. Babangida remains a study in political masturbation, one whose negative past represents the greatest baggage of all things and times. Yet he has refused to come clean having been seeking a date with equity. Failure will most definitely be his portion if he fails to confess his many crimes against the nation for forgiveness to be true.

Like his failed presidential project in 2007 Babangida is bound to reap failure once again because of his antecedents. Something tells me he is not serious but using the ambition as a ploy to ‘buy’ relevance and escape prosecution for the fiscal heist he superintended while in power for eight long years. So noises are being made by his small band of supporters and with those he will certainly negotiate or re-negotiate his continued ‘freedom’ from the powers-that-be like he did in 2007. Give it to him: IBB is a smart crafty ‘militrician’ and he knows when to blow hot and when to ‘capitulate’ blowing all-time cold for peace to reign. In Nigeria the Pinochet scenario may not happen to him because he plays along and rocks no boat as long as his interests are guaranteed.

The President for these times cannot be Babangida for obvious reasons. But if he insists on trying out his much-vaunted money-fuelled popularity I believe he will be humbled at the polls. Ultimate electoral humiliation awaits him in the event he wants to try the benevolent gods that cracked his palm kernels for him in 1985. Something, perhaps the Abiola spirit or the Dele Giwa ghost or even the Mamman Vatsa spirit, is drawing Babangida out for a deserving disgrace. And how good that would be.

The President for these times must be a brave patriotic individual who sees no evil and hears no evil without challenging same. He must be man enough and bold enough to confront the mounting challenges facing us as a nation. He must be upright and God-fearing unlike Olusegun Obasanjo whose faith in the true God is doubtful. The President must work more for the people and celebrate less his achievements. He must inspire his compatr

iots and seek to create positive changes in the way and manner they perceive themselves and their potentially great nation. The rebranding concept must begin with him and spread across board to touch other tiers of government.

The President for these trying times may not be an Atiku Abubakar, a Muhammadu Buhari or an Ibrahim Shekarau. It may not even be a Goodluck Jonathan against popular expectations. The incumbent President displays certain traits of a dull uninspiring leader ill-prepared for the great task ahead. But I can cast my vote for him among the lot. He represents the generational shift in power we have been clamouring for for decades. He may not be charismatic and radically-inclined but in him we see faint images of a new Nigeria under construction.

In the end the Nigerian youths and civil society groups may play a decisive role in the concerted efforts toward making the paradigm shift, the generational shift in the Nigerian supreme power a reality come next year. Defeating the old order is a task that must be done for the future is now! So help us God!

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