Like most ardent Nigerian political observers, I also found myself glued to my television set on the 13th January, 2011 in order to catch the glimpse of the long awaited and much publicized presidential primaries of the PDP, held at the Eagle Square, Abuja. The exercise didn’t fail to live up to its touted bidding – it was, expectedly, a dramatization of political intrigue and, at the same time, an elegant exhibitionism of glamour and spectacle.
Just few hours before the commencement of the exercise, the popular internet-based investigative media outlet, Saharareporters, had sensationally disseminated the information of how the leading presidential aspirants, Atiku Abubakar and Goodluck Jonathan, reportedly dangled financial carrots before each of the delegates as a way of inducing them.
In the reportage, Saharareporters affirmed that each delegate had received the sum of $5,000 from Atiku Abubakar whilst also being gifted with $7,000 from Goodluck Jonathan. So, in essence, each of these delegates had, in addition to their traveling allowance and other forms of incentives, pocketed $12,000 cash. Apart from embezzling money “yanfu-yanfu” in government like most Nigerian leaders do, I doubt whether there’s any other occupation that can more financially rewarding than being a PDP delegate that night. Going home with cool $12,000 just to cast a vote after your party leaders already told you who to cast your vote for? That’s unbeatable.
Also, in the build-up to the congress, there was publicity about security measures already put in place to forestall break-down of law and order at the venue. Bearing in mind the spate of bomb blasts that has increasingly become rife in Nigeria in recent times, bomb detectives, intelligent sniffing dogs and 17,000 armed policemen as well as helicopters for aerial surveillance were hermetically deployed to provide “adequate security” for about 5,000 delegates and other chieftains of the PDP present at the Eagle Square.
As the vernacular saying goes, “nobody wan die”; and I don’t begrudge the PDP membership for “playing safe” by giving itself this first-class security. But, as my gaze remained fixated on my TV to monitor the proceedings, I could not stop wondering and being befuddled by the reason why this same security measure or its fraction has not been put in place in Jos, a place where ethno-religious conflicts have, daily, continued to murderously sweep the city and lead to truncation of lives of the people there, among whom are women and children, as well as other parts of Nigeria occasionally embroiled in violence.
Well, eventually, after some announcements by the compère and a couple of renditions by the musicians, the business of the day started. The aspirants were to be invited to address the delegates, adumbrate their visions and openly solicit for their votes.
Sarah Jubril was the first in the roll call of the aspirants to deliver her address. After a protracted chattering and boring sloganeering of “pee dee pee…power”, Mrs Sarah Jubril began reading her speech. If the art of public speaking is all about rambling and being incongruous, then Mrs Sarah Jubril, based on her speech that night, ought to be regarded as an excellent speaker. Apart from reminding the audience of Liberia where the president is a woman, the rest of her speech is best forgotten.
After the departure of Sarah Jubril from the focal point, next to address the delegates was Atiku Abubakar who swaggered to the centre stage boldly. After observing “all protocols” and recognizing the presence of his erstwhile boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, but who has now transmogrified into his arch enemy and political foe, Atiku wasted no time in getting straight to business of delivering his blunt speech.
Renowned as a very sagacious politician, and versed in the art of demagoguery, Atiku began his speech with a rhapsody of history of the PDP, his active contribution to the laying of its foundation and how the party had massively blossomed nationwide before being hijacked by certain “elements”. He also dialectically rationalized how the constitution has been the bastion of strength and equilibrium of the party, with emphasis on the principle of reciprocity of rotating juicy positions and the presidency of Nigeria among all the ethnic groups and geopolitical zones.
Atiku then lived up to his reputation as a sharp shooter and intrepid speaker by sparing no words in objurgating Jonathan and Obasanjo for mischievously spurning the edict of rotational presidency as enshrouded in the constitution of the party. He berated the duo of Obasanjo and Jonathan for cavalierly removing the rung of ladder that propelled both of them to become Nigeria’s presidents.
And, in pontificating the wisdom of his preference as the flag-bearer of the party, these were his words: “I’m the only one you can trust to be your president. You cannot trust a man that cannot keep his word…you cannot make a man who is inexperienced to be the president of Nigeria; I’m experienced and I have already distinguished myself as the Vice President of this country for eight years and I have sacrificed everything I have to build this party…I’ m the one mostly qualified for this job”.
Looking furtively at the direction of Goodluck Jonathan briefly and moving to the next page of his prepared speech, Atiku continued: “For the past eight months that he (referring to Goodluck) has been the president of this country, what has he achieved? Since he became Nigeria’s president, we have recorded unprecedented insecurity and spate of violence in this country…our economy is becoming worse and our foreign reserve is almost gone…our political party, the PDP, is dwindling daily and our members have been moving to other parties en masse…even one of the ministers in the president’s cabinet resigned to joined another party”.
By this time, the camera focused on Jonathan and Sambo who were sitting next to each other. Gauging their physiognomical gesture, Jonathan, in particular, was visibly tensed and contused by the verbal grenade which Atiku unequivocally hurled at their direction. At a point, Sambo smiled slyly and adjusted his position on the seat in a suggestion that he felt like vanishing from the scene to avoid the continued battery.
If Jonathan Goodluck and Sambo were already feeling chagrined by the projection of Atiku’s missiles, they needed to listen to the peroration of his speech. Atiku concluded: “We cannot allow this inexperience and incompetence to continue!”
Well, honestly, come to think of it, all of Atiku’s assertions are irrefutable. Concerning the rotational presidency, there is indeed a zoning formula in the constitution of the PDP which has, allegedly, zoned the presidency of the party to the north. Even though I am diametrically opposed to this parochial arrangement, but if Goodluck Jonathan was once its beneficiary, it is politically dishonest for him to controvert and subvert this constitution because of his own personal ambition. As the saying goes, “Agreement is agreement”!
If Goodluck Jonathan could cavalierly flout the constitution of his political party and renege on this agreement this blatantly, I doubt whether he will be miffed to do the same to the country’s constitution or betray the Nigerian people. If, indeed, he must actualize his ambition of being Nigeria’s president at all cost, the honorable thing for him would have been to resign from the PDP and contest for the election on the platform of another party.
Also, on the allegation of incompetence, though I am not his fan but Atiku was on the money. Let us be honest with ourselves: Jonathan Goodluck hasn’t achieved anything to deserve the renewal of his tenancy at Aso Rock till the yea
r 2015. Since the commencement of his stint as the supremo of the country’s presidency, the veneer of unemployment and poverty hasn’t shown any sign of dwindling while the roulette wheel of corruption has unabatedly and dangerously continued its rotation.
Nigerians roads still remain death-traps. Electricity is still epileptic. Economy is still in shambles. The health sector still remains moribund while education continues to suffer utter neglect. Unprecedented in the history of Nigeria, the act of terrorism and frequent bomb explosions everywhere seem to have come to stay.
Like his predecessors, Jonathan Goodluck has continued to fertilize and promote the culture of profligacy in Nigeria. At the time when Nigerians were gnashing their teeth in agony of abject poverty, Jonathan Goodluck had no problem mindlessly squandering N20billion on the frivolous independence celebration which even provoked a bomb detonation that led to loss of lives of innocent Nigerians. How about the absurd purchase of additional four presidential jets at the expense of the nation’s commonwealth even when the Prime Minister of the Great Britain has none? What could be more abusive to the sensibilities of Nigerians than his recent presentation of budget in which he proposed to spend close to N2million on feeding daily?
The messenger, Atiku Abubakar, may have carved a niche for himself as an unconscionable desperado and an unscrupulous politician, but Nigerians must not allow the truism of his message to escape them.
And, behold, after the conclusion of Atiku’s speech and his vacation of the stage, when it was time for the third aspirant to have been rightly called to deliver his own speech, the compère cleverly evaded offering the invitation to Jonathan speak immediately by straying to other events on the programme. One doesn’t need to be clairvoyant to know that this was done ostensibly to allow him adequate time recuperate from the psychological injury which Atiku’s verbal cudgel had fatally inflicted on him.
The guys in charge of the console didn’t help matters when they concentrated the telecast on the camera focusing on this beleaguered aspirant. Palpably thrown into confusion, Goodluck Jonathan could be seen battling with the note containing his speech and trying to make some last-minute amendments to rebut Atiku’s diatribe.
Obviously bereft of ideas and unable to receive any assistance from his wife sitting next to him – the woman who recently informed Nigerians that her husband, “Dr Goodluck Jonathan and Sambo is a good people” – he quickly turned to David Mark to juggle ideas. David Mark, too, a man that can hardly be described as a great thinker and an inspiring speaker, called Dimeji Bankole for help, and the three of them were shamefully trying to put their heads together.
And, interestingly, to make matters worse, after the departure of David Mark and Dimeji Bankole back to their respective seats, seen whispering into Goodluck’s hear was former president Obasanjo. At this stage, I almost died of laughter! I wondered what Obasanjo could be telling him.
Eventually, after due consultations with his acolytes and godfather, Jonathan was emboldened to confront Atiku and address the waiting audience. After receiving standing ovation from the delegates, welcoming him to the center stage, this speaker began reading his speech and, in an attempt to impeach Atiku’s vituperation, he recounted the achievement of his government in putting an end to the perennial fuel scarcity in Nigeria. After the advertisement of this hollow achievement and the allusion of not wanting to “join issues” with Atiku for his provocative statements, the rest of the speech was, apart from being exceptionally boring and uninspiring, a harvest of incongruity and gobbledygook. In spite of all these, he still received the salutation and applause of the delegates when he finished his speech!
Personally, it was so scary contemplating the mediocrity, intellectual sterility and oratorical deficiency of this man that’s been tipped to be at the saddle of Nigeria for the next four years in some quarters. Thankfully, I was rescued from this distressing imagination by a phone call from Professor Okey Ndibe, who cheered me up.
After gisting Okey Ndibe (who was unable to watch the congress live) of how Atiku had earlier pummeled Jonathan with his speech and how the latter was visibly shattered, we both laughed boisterously. In the middle of our conversation, Okey Ndibe remarked something consistent with reality about Goodluck Jonathan: “Well, the facts are there, the man is obviously incompetent and, instead for him to surround himself with capable hands and good people that can help his government, the guy is busy playing politics”.
By the time I resumed my seat in front of the TV to continue catching the action after my refreshing conversation with Okey Ndibe, the delegates had already started casting their votes. In the course of the voting, the compère announced the recovery of a lost brown envelop containing a substantial some of money in hard currency by one of the members of the Nigerian civil defense monitoring the poll which, he said, belonged to one the delegates from Adamawa state. I just remembered and corroborated Saharareporters’ earlier revelation that Goodluck Jonathan, as well as Atiku, had greased the palm of these delegates. I pitifully shook my head for Nigeria being accursed with corruption, switched off my television and went to bed.
By the time I woke up the following morning, the results were already out: Jonathan was said to have convincingly trounced Atiku and won in a landslide. Expectedly, his fans have continued to celebrate his emergence as the flag-bearer of the PDP and have vowed to vote for him en masse at the presidential election. Whilst I believe those people are entitled to their opinion, but, as for me, he’s certainly not getting my own vote. Not even in my worst nightmare will I cast my vote for a man that has evinced himself to be politically dishonest, morally wretched and intellectually decrepit.
And to make matters worse, Obasanjo is his godfather and chief advisor! I doubt whether the wisdom of such a man can be regarded as propitious and promising in moving Nigeria forward.