by Abba Mahmood
Those criticising President Jonathan are not doing so because he is Ijaw or a southerner or a minority or all those primordial things. He is criticised because he has been the president of Nigeria for four years now and has seemingly become incapable of solving any of the problems he has inherited.
When then Captain Fredrick Dealtry Lugard, later Lord Lugard, started conquering the territory now known as Nigeria on behalf of British interests, he did not know that he was unleashing a historical phenomenon of monumental impact. Soon after conquering the Sokoto Caliphate on March 1, 1903, the first thing the British did was to start constructing railways to the hinterland from the coast. This was because they knew the resources that were to sustain the colony were found up north – agricultural products, mineral resources, etc; oil was not yet an issue internationally and was not discovered until later in 1958. To make it more viable, the British amalgamated the northern and southern protectorates to form Nigeria on January 1, 1914, the very year the First World War started.
Nigeria turned out to be the most precious jewel in the British crown colonies. It also turned out to be the largest British creation that has survived for 100 years without being broken. It turned out to be a huge anti-climax when, on January 1, 2014, a date that marked the 100 years of Nigeria as a country, there was not even a presidential broadcast to mark the historic occasion much less any march past and other ceremonies. What happened to the billions earlier budgeted and the committee set up under SGF Anyim for that?
It came as no surprise when the occasion passed virtually like any other day. Nigeria of today has been taken over by ethnic champions, religious bigots and tribal jingoists, which is really a pity. Hate speeches passing for summons are issued in some mosques while presidential policy statements are regularly issued in some churches. Politicians and political parties of deep ideological expressions have been relegated to the background while tribal organisations now do the politicking. No one speaks for Nigeria anymore.
In the north, some are talking about power “coming back to the North” as if it is a commodity. Someone was even proud to be described as a “northern star” – whatever that means. That sentiment might have flown in the 1960s but not in the 21st century. We actually want an effective Nigerian president and he or she could come from any part of Nigeria. The more they talk about the “north”, the more they irritate others and the more they alienate the rest of the country from building a national consensus around critical issues that affect the people and the nation.
Some in the south-east are clamouring for an “Igbo” president. But what we want is a Nigerian president who could come from any part of the country. The governor of Abia State even took a full-page advertorial congratulating Gen. Ihejirika, the immediate past chief of army staff, for making Abia State and “Ndigbo” proud, as if Gen. Ihejirika headed an Igbo army or was heading the Nigeria Army on behalf of the Igbo! For goodness’ sake, Ihejirika joined the Nigerian Army, rose through the ranks, became the army chief on merit and served the nation at a very critical period. Reducing him to an ethnic platform is a great disservice to him and to Nigeria.
Then, on the other hand, there is the self-appointed Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, who keeps threatening anyone who criticises President Jonathan, however good-intentioned. He even issued the blasphemous statement that criticising Jonathan is like fighting God! Jonathan is not the president of Ijaw but president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He got a pan-Nigeria mandate and swore “to do good to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill-well”. Ijaw votes can never make him president and insulting others and reducing him to an Ijaw platform is the surest way to see his downfall.
Those criticising President Jonathan are not doing so because he is Ijaw or a southerner or a minority or all those primordial things. He is criticised because he has been the president of Nigeria for four years now and has seemingly become incapable of solving any of the problems he has inherited. He has not shown any capacity to deal with corruption or corrupt officials; he has not tackled insecurity; he has not tackled unemployment; and he has not been managing the country’s economy well. These are the reasons he is being criticised and will continue to be criticised as long as he is not doing anything to address these issues. And whoever is president will be criticised if he is not doing the right thing.
Nigeria is at a crossroads. This year promises to be an exciting one. And next year will mark the last time all the old actors will ever play any role in the country’s history. Age is not on their side anymore and the country has left them behind with their fixated eyes on the 1960s Nigeria. The sectional, tribal and religious bigots will soon be out of job. Whoever is going to use that platform will have his or her supporters forming an isolated enclave in a country of split loyalties and a complicated history. Nigerians want a Nigerian president. Period.
If the opposition would stand any chance, they must create and sustain a strong, national platform built on commonality ideas, problems and challenges facing the entire nation. They must have an experienced and tested leadership that is acceptable to the entire nation. They must have a manifesto that takes into account the flaws and mismanagement currently going on. In short, they must show us the fundamental difference between the current pessimism with a future optimism and try to bridge the differences, not to deny them.
More than any potential candidates, it is the duty of President Jonathan to convince the nation about what he has done so far with the N8 trillion he has spent since he took office as president. He has to convince us that he has been fair and just to all since he took office. He has to tell us why people from the south-east have to do their weddings in Lagos or Abuja for fear of kidnappings, who are behind the oil thefts, why the manufacturing sector is collapsing and even toothpick has to be imported, and why the public schools have collapsed. These are the issues and not tribe, religion or minority/ majority things. History is on the side of the oppressed.
This post was published with permission from Abusidiqu.com
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.