Sometime ago, there was a rumble in Aso Rock. The two bulls in the China shop were Nigeria’s erstwhile President and vice, Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar respectively. What was the cause of the rumble? Simply, it was the vice oga angling to replace his oga as the oga. The oga then didn’t like the idea. So they started throwing mud at one another. Well, the aspiring deputy got a bloody nose in the altercations that ensued: he didn’t get to be the oga even though he jumped ship and threw stones at his oga from there.
While all of this was happening, we were complaining, and saying ‘Oh, these two should sheath their swords; oh, they’re heating the polity…’ But I thought otherwise and said so in a Daily Independent article titled Let Obasanjo and Atiku fight. For me, that was a good time for the swords and daggers to come out. I also said that Nigeria is not a place where there should be frost and snow. Nigeria is a sometimes very hot place, and therefore if there was frost in government, we needed the heat to thaw the logjam of bureaucracy, to jig the redolence of complacency and sex things up a little bit. For when that fight ensued, we gained. We gained because all sorts of things that we would not have known about started flying all over the place. And believe me, when Obasanjo and Atiku fought, they fought with bare knuckles and showed us that we never really left the military era – where generals lined up to take their turns at ruling.
And now another fight has ensued. It is between Goodluck Jonathan and his ‘brother’ Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers State governor. What is the cause of the fight? Simply and again, speculations are rife that Ameachi, once a close confidante and a member of Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet is nursing a vice presidential ambition together with a candidate from the North. If that is true, it would be a strong challenge from one ‘brother’ to another.
And so Nigerians are already calling for a truce even before enough mud or stones have been thrown. And there is mud, believe me. They are saying what they said when Obasanjo and Atiku fought. And this time as well, I don’t agree with that call. First of all before the fighting ensued, all manner of stories were making the rounds concerning governors’ ownership of private jets. While some said that governors had a right to own jets, another group opposed the idea, calling it a reckless use of the public funds that should have been spent on roads and rural infrastructure. A great part of the debate about private jets also extended to our men of God – that they were like the governors, recklessly spending church tithes and offerings on private jets. And from what we have heard so far, documentation about the said Rivers State aircraft which was impounded recently is ‘fake’ – now, we should be careful to interpret ‘fake’ especially as it is coming from one end of the spectrum supposedly out to paint the other black – and fake to mean that being in power apparently makes you get away with a lot of things that many Nigerians cannot get away with. And my dears, there could have been no way for us to know these things if the relationship between Jonathan and Amaechi is chummy. Political chumminess and brotherliness is the religion that politicians hide under to misbehave.
Tension between Jonathan and Amaechi reveals that most African leaders are intolerant. Here is one man who has a presidential ambition and who believes he can deliver the goods. On the other hand is another one man who is already president seemingly intolerant of the other’s ambition. African leaders have this sickening monarchical approach to power that rankles with what we find in other places. Let us take an example – Nigeria’s foreign policy from the Yakubu Gowonic to the Abachan era – it was supposed to be Africa as the ‘centre-piece’ – that, to mean that if there were issues around the world that affected Africa, we were supposed to be pro Africa give or take. But during the Obasanjoic years, all of that nearly changed because of the brashness of the militician in power. It changed from Africa as ‘centre-piece’ to Africa ‘when the president arrives’ – and that represented the personality of the then president who saw himself as monarch and state personified.
So in this case, many encourage Amaechi to pursue his presidential ambition. They told Jonathan the same thing when he was an underdog swimming against the tide of zoning. The point everyone tried to make then was that our country shouldn’t be a place where mundane issues like your ethnicity or your patrimony determines your political destiny. I guess that was why those who voted a shoeless person to power voted him. That is what democracy stands for: democracy is a matter of choices – and a matter of the freedom that we have, to make up our minds on so many issues that affect our lives. In a democracy, we should choose our leaders but they mostly want to choose themselves. In a democracy, people present themselves to be chosen but here, Godfathers and political parties thrust them at us. In the real world, people choose leaders on the strength of their ideas and how they stimulate debate about those ideas.
If Nigeria must grow, we should have the confidence to present a level playing field for everyone to aspire. In another write up, I likened the Nigeria of our dreams to a boiling cauldron of beans. With the heat that the political atmosphere generates, every bean actually rises to the top. That is what should be happening today.