When an analyst trying to play funny, joked with the expression that Nigeria moves one step forward and several steps backward, the dramatization of such forward and backward movements made people laugh so much that the points were deliberately lost or ignored or we simply did not express the intelligence to be scared enough to want change from moving forward and running backwards. There was a time in history when Nigeria tried to ban the importation of rice and some commodities so that the local productions of rice could be encouraged. We eliminated that policy and never returned to it. By the time Nigeria policy makers noticed, we had made farmers in Thailand multi-millionaires over our dependence on their rice products and Korean’s noodles. The present dependency is worse than when we first ban the importations. Now the national assembly is legislating over the ban. This kind of attitudes pervades in most of our social and economic lives.
When Chief Obafemi Awolowo was alive, in different publications and public fora, he tried to warn Nigerians that the ship of Nigeria had moved from where the British berth it and she was sailing without thoroughbred captain and crew, without a direction, without motivations and without a course. And that Nigerians needed to wake up quickly and re-direct the wind-propelled boat around for its own sake. When he made these prophetic analysis, his peers, his adversaries and even some of his loyalists thought the man was drunken on too many books and too high intellectuals, that the problems of Nigeria was not lack of money, but lack of knowledge of how and where to spend it (Gowon). Consequently, no one took Awolowo seriously. Like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, people continued to wine and dine, only this time around, individuals started to steal from the national storehouse and loot the economy so badly that each past leader left a trail of his leadership weakness and collective greed behind as legacies for generations to read and write about and or (as someone once declared about Nigeria that, “Nigeria has short memories”) forget and move on (like in the case of the first republic when politicians i.e Festus Okotiebo sucked the country dry. No one bother to find out what happened to our monies in that period we just moved on). The followings examples are some of the landmarks that characterised the “visionary” leaderships that Nigeria had been having since the late 1970s
Alhaji Shehu Shagari: it was under his watch that the Vice President declared that until Nigerians were seen eating from dustbins, he would not consider Nigeria to be poor! It was under his watch, Umaru Dikko and many politician drained the national economy with grants to import rice which never happened;
General Ibrahim Babangida: His 9 years reign was said to be the most melancholic and mischievous reign in the Nigerian history. He even referred to himself as the “evil genius” as his acts and behaviour were that of a “Maradona” the dribbler. He wasted resources, wasted time and threw Nigeria into an abyss. IBB’s time in government was said to have institutionalised corruptions.
General Sani Abacha: Unlike the period of IBB, Abacha’s reign was the most vicious and the deadliest reign in the Nigerian history. He introduced the “million man match” as demonstration of public supports for his mischiefs. It was Abacha whose loots, many years after he had died, remained uncountable and unrecoverable. He had so many accounts, stole so much that Nigeria is now considering begging his family to help locate some and return the stolen wealth so that we can use it locally;
Abdul Salam Abubakar: under whose watch, several billions of dollars meant for revitalising NEPA had been lost and unaccounted for. Till date, no one is bold enough to ask him to spit his game for the sake of Nigeria, so he continue to “chop” alone;
General O. Obasanjo: Who was reported to have spent so much bribing legis-looters to promote his third term agenda.
Yaradua: who was too sickly, everyone around him stole without caution and even signed appropriation bills faking his signatures so that the looting can continue while he languished on the death bed.
GEJ: the man who said he did not have shoes to wear to school when he was young, presided over the greatest looting of the economy that the nations had ever witnessed. It was under him 40billion dollars (or 20billion) was unremitted into the treasury, and his government paid propagandists to say, this didn’t happened. He even did the unprecedented in the Nigerian history by sacking the governor of central bank who exposed this high level of corruptions (“…the government who hires can suspend (fire)”- Reuben Abati spokesman for GEJ). It was under him that a minister of petroleum was so unruly and indiscipline with spending that what she paid for renting a private jet for a season was more than what Nigeria would have paid to buy the jet and be Nigerian owned. It was under him that the minister of petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke would tell senators conducting public inquiries about her and her reckless spending that she was answerable only to the president and she got away un-reprimanded. It was under this government that situations got so radical and impunity so high that everyone who knew anyone in Aso Villa (the presidential house) was an instant multi- millionaire. You didn’t have to do anything or deliver on any contract, just know someone who knows someone (or a friend of someone like … elder states man who called GEJ “my son” and soon denied him after GEJ lost elections) and you are ready to go the central bank or NNPC and collect your loot.
The political administration of GEJ produced so many underserved millionaires who ordinarily would have been struggling through life with meagre salaries. Those who even had much more than salaries suddenly became terribly richer and judging by the sizes of their loots, several generations after them would never have to worry about any lack. These “authority stealing” (FELA), became so rampant and conspicuous that international organisations and business partners began to ask Nigerians to clean up its corruption mess before further dealings could be engaged. GEJ then declare that, his friends, friends of his friends, friend of the friends of his friends, his political alleys, his political fathers, all those who were evidentially getting rich at the detriments of the rest of Nigeria were not corrupt, they were just mere (petty) thieves.
What the GEJ era produced for Nigeria was a gangantum mess and colossal waste. The economy was drained and there were super first class brains in the economic team who continued to tell Nigerians that everything was okay and that there were no problems with the economy. Unfortunately for them, democracy that brought them in, mandated a re-election bid and test of popularity once in 4 years.
These people got so drunken (power and liquor) that they forgot to make proper analysis of the opposition and prepare for their popularity contexts. They were the only one under a mysterious spell that because they had always won since 16 years, they would win again. And in fairness to them, the antecedents were there; histories show that no incumbent leader had been defeated in the record existence of Nigeria. Awolowo, the knowledgeable and finest politician of his time; the best president Nigeria never had (Odumegu Ojukwu), tried it in many elections after elections, he could not win against the opposition and resolved to keeping quiet about what was going on in Nigeria. The great Azikwe; the Owele of Onitsha and the Zikie of Africa did it against the incumbent, he could not win but had to ally with the ruling party to be relevant. Knowledgeable and forthright politicians had done it and it was either FEDCO rigged them out or Military junta chase them out of office. This assurance from precedence is what even made many people dare the consequences of corruptions and risk destroying their own names.
The calculations of most people was that the risk was worth it. The PDP government would continue to reign and they could continue to take as much as they would from the treasury. That is why a successful business mongos like Chief Raymon Dokpesi (recently invited by the EFCC to answer some questions pertaining to shady understandings of money meant for arms purchase) would risk his reputations for the largesse. The former security adviser to the president had been caged inside his own house by security operatives who refused to obey the court orders to vacate the premises and allow the man to go for medical treatments abroad. They knew the money involved was obscene for only one person, that he would start singing new songs of reggae. And he is already singing, Chief Bode George is NOT dancing!
If Madam Diezani Alison-Madueke should have known that it was faintly possible for the opposition to emerge and be sworn in as new political leadership in Nigeria, she would have been much more prudent in her excesses (both in financial recklessness and political flexing of muscles).
As the saying goes, when “you fight corruption, corruption fights back”. To keep the status quo, these corrupt Nigerians would have done anything, risked everything and careless whose horse was grounded in the process. They were handful (compared to the rest of us) yet, they were many enough to ensure that Nigeria burns like NET House (marina), Defence house (Onikan), Cocoa House (Ibadan) when there were threats to probe and to lose the grip from “chopping”
Nigeria had repeatedly been asked to make sacrifices and that through such sacrifices would true changes come and turn Nigeria from a wretched country, into a serious emerging economy like Honk Kong. In all the years that government actors and political apologies had pleaded with Nigeria’s understanding, industries continued to be moribund, small scale businesses continue to fail, graduate continue to be messengers and drivers, retirees and pensioners continued to grow lean because their entitlements no longer end in their pockets but in the foreign accounts of the administrators. In general, things were going bad, yet, every government statements were geared at pseudo economic encouragements for Nigerians to endure a little while longer. That things would soon turn around. Nigerians saw very few people getting richer and very many people getting poorer and middle class folks falling into lower class and the constant disappearance of upper middle class. The pains continued to be bad when one of the presidents once remarked that he did not know that kerosene, which was the commodity for the poor, cost so much at that time a sign that President Obasanjo really did not care for the masses. All these failure of the state, electoral promises, economic frustrations, total collapse of social infrastructures, and the non-functioning of the State all combined to make the Nigerians to clamour for and welcome the CHANGE mantra of the opposition.
The opposition received massive supports and moral boosts similar to those given to the khaki boys to welcome military junta (1966-1979: 1983-1999). Each of the military junta claimed to have come to rescue Nigeria from the claws of bad Nigerians and so we jubilated each time they re-surfaced! And in similar fashion, the APC received electoral votes massive enough to eliminate the ruling PDP. The opposition came in, pushed out the incumbent political party and as encouraged by the electorates, began to look into the books and ask why what figures were missing and why accounts were not balanced. In the few weeks of the new political administrations, arrests and invitations had been made to people who were said to have had direct links with the missing monies. Arrests were made both inside Nigeria and even in the UK (Diezani Alison-Madueke). The opposition is looking good, people are shouting “yeah… away with them, down with corrupt leaders”, “arrest and prosecute them all”. It is indeed, the season for the poor, the oppressed, the victims of corruptions and the citizens who were repulsed by corruptions to vent their anger and refuse to “forgive, forget and or let bygone be bygone” which had previously defined the Nigerian characteristics of collective short memories. Those who also risked their names to indulge in corruptions also banked on this well-known Nigerian characteristics. They knew sooner or later, Nigerians would forget and move on. But so far, these calculations are turning to be incorrect. Active social media is providing impetus to extend the Nigerian’s short memories. This is also why the Nigerian Senate want to shut down serious activities on the social media platforms.
In Africa, histories about leaders who had decided they, and only they, could bring stability into the country are extensive. Political transitions are not quite common. With the exceptions of some States in the southern Africa, most of the African states have “permanent leaders” who are not thinking of moving any inch from the presidential palaces. And when they die in office, they are replaced by their sons (Kabila-s in DRC, Eyadema-s in Republic of Togo, Omar Bongo-s in Gabon). This writer had repeatedly asked himself what the motivation was for GEJ to relinquish the position and say farewell to Aso Rock. I begin to rock my head imagining about the last minutes before that famous telephone calls to congratulate GMB over the election victory. When he behaved like this, who or which of his political contemporaries across Africa would he say he was trying to impress. Mandela was already dead so it was not about competing for Mandela-rized trophy.
In fair analysis, GEJ would have personally been better off in a country of civil war than in a country of peace. No one ever probes the administrations that executive civil war. And it is only when you have peace that you will speak of election and re-elections. Making that call prevented an ambition; it stopped an imminent war and replaced potential anger with mass jubilations. He could have made himself a long-term sitting president while the rest of us go to either the war of attritions or war of civil strife. But he chose the path of honour.
There were hundreds of interests that could have and might have tried to dissuade president GEJ from making that significant call. Two of these people are chief. One is Madam GEJ (patience) who desperately love that role of “wife of the president” and the power she enjoyed controlling her husband, the entire Aso villa, all the political layabouts and booth leakers! Then the other was Elder Orubebe (of the famous Orubebe Bitters). Given these people, they would have preferred GEJ didn’t make that call. They were ready to go to war to ensure they continue to skim Nigeria dry.
A friend posted one picture on the facebook page, showing GEJ walking out of a store holding bags. Another picture showed him when he was in office and tens of aids were holding his bags and umbrella for him. The picture was calling for laugh and jeer and to marvel at how times change and events overtake each other. In a thanks giving service at the National Ecumenical Cathedral in Abuja, GEJ remarked that he was glad that rather than celebrating Thanks-Giving Mass for dead people as consequences of elections disputes, he was making thanks giving for leaving office, in one peace and with his honor intact.
And was that not true? Had he refuse to make that call, people would have died, elections would have been inconclusive, every region would have waged war against the other regions. And it would not be new; it has happened in many other places, what would be new, might be the numbers of people who died and dimension of cruelty in the Nigerian post elections war compared with other countries.
Every day we to read on the newspapers names of famous and highly regarded citizens who had been invited and going to be indicted for falsely enriching themselves under the GEJ administrations. These people looted so much that they even looted what was previously looted by General Abacha! ($322million from Iweala to Dasuk) “looting the looted! When the high and mighty are about to fall, one begins to wonder, where were these people when GEJ made that famous telephone call? Did none of them put a call through to assure him that public opinion was in his supports even though electoral counts were against him? Did none of them inform him that there was enough looted money saved to prosecute war and pull down any opposition to the second term in office? These ones who benefited from GEJ are real people and people who knew with GEJ out of government, there was nothing more for them. Did they not do any and everything possible to dissuade a “foolish man’s” call to affirm defeat and acknowledge failure? When one hears the boasts of Senator Akpabio, particularly when he referred to himself as the “president’s foot soldiers” one wonders if there was network failure on his phone during the collation and declarations of the election results and shortly before that presidential phone call. People knew it was impossible for PDP to win. It was never heard of in Africa, for a sitting president to congratulate the oppositions for defeating him. And so everyone went off to sleep after the long hours of Jega-rised manual counting. The following morning, jubilations and announcements that GEJ had made the call that changed the histories of our collective existence, and restores hope in the euphoria called successive elections (Democracy) as an effective tool for accountability and change.
The lizard once mocked, that if no one praises him when he falls off the wall, he praises himself with repeated victory nods. If everyone and everything around him seem to be mock him, I think the new histories of new Nigeria that had already begun will not mock GEJ for making that famous (or infamous) call. He gave us a memorial thanks giving of his departure and not of bloodshed. He thank God for the end of his term and not the end of war. He gave us what we asked for; we asked for Change (even if we are no longer too sure how this Change will come because evidently, the Change actors are still locked in the euphoria of “business as it were”. A mere look at the catastrophic National Assembly and then one wonders if there would be Change and who would bring such Changes) GEJ gave us a Nigeria that surpasses the mysterious and mischievous prophesy of doom by the year 2015. If not for him, Nigeria would have been so close to that doom.
Oga Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, even though the country is in a colossal mess and unprecedentedly broke, (all of which happened under your leadership and watch) still sir, wherever you are, like the Agama Lizard does, proudly nod your head and praise yourself, for, regarding the elections, regarding avoiding war, regarding the completion of term in peace, you did well. And we know you did.