Written by Uche Ezechukwu
The problem with history, according to sages, is that it always has a way of repeating itself, just as it is only a few who are able of learning from the copious lessons that it provides. American philosopher, George Santayana (1863-1952) also bemoaned that those who forget the sad lessons of history are condemned to repeat them. Nigeria, unfortunately, provides a classic example of a nation that exists in a continuous state of forgetfulness. It is even worse that our habit of historical amnesia has become such that we even tend to force ourselves to claim that certain things never happened at all or are incapable of happening.
A mere 13 years ago, a type of frenzy seized the land. It started with an orchestration of a fervent movement by an imaginary one million Nigerian young men and women who had been hired from all the four cardinal crannies of the country and ferried en-masse to Abuja where they were herded onto the mythical “One-Million-Man-March”, as part of an orchestrated programme to ‘convince’ the then-military head of state, General Sani Abacha to succeed himself in power.
The youths, according to the organizers – notably, Daniel Kanu on the surface, but in reality, greater and more powerful forces in the ranks of military and civil power brokers – had rallied from all over the country, ‘earnestly asking for Abacha’, to accept to run Nigeria for life, like a sort of a personal toy.
Not to be outdone by the youths, the more adult members of the political class, from the five political parties at the time and from numerous mushroom associations, also joined the noisy fray as all their members started adopting and endorsing Abacha as the only capable and God-given person capable of steering the ship of state. Other individuals and groups, businessmen, professionals and others, not willing to be left-out or outdone, also joined the clamour. I recall one prominent businessman and another popular musician swearing that if Abacha was not to rule Nigeria foreve r, they would go on self-exile, because Nigeria would definitely disintegrate.
In one full swoop, the entire Nigerian political class committed group suicide by giving up their right to contest and govern. That was how the ‘five fingers on a leprous hand’, as the late Bola Ige described the political parties at the time, proved that the Nigerian political class had become as ineffective as castrated bulls. At Abacha’s demise on June 8, 1998, the same members of the political class who had sworn with their wretched lives that if General Abacha did not shed his military fatigues, transmute into a civilian and succeed himself, Nigeria would go up in a whoosh of smoke, quickly got together to form political parties, one of which produced a new democratic president in Olusegun Obasanjo, a year later.
In 2010, the same scenario is repeating itself. Suddenly, individuals from all manners of political groupings and tendencies are falling over each other and endorsing President Goodluck Jonathan as the only person capable of running Nigeria as from 2011. More ominously, many of the same people who were stumping all over the country endorsing General Abacha, 13 years ago, are the same people now campaigning and endorsing President Jonathan for 2011, as if democracy has gone out of fashion. In all these, you start confirming that the Nigerian politician is the most predictable breed of anything that it pleased the Almighty to create. The new threats and counter threats that if Jonathan is not foisted or if the zoning formula is not enthroned, that Nigeria would go up in flames are again, wearing a familiar garb of a déjà vu.
When you look at the present nationwide pro-Jonathan clamours, you would notice a glorification of mediocrity, if not a celebration of idiocy, and you fear for the future of Nigeria and its people under this brand of governance masquerading as ‘democracy’. When you look at the faces and body language of the people who are leading the Jonathan endorsement band wagon, you realise that the future of the country is in danger from the hypocrisy of the people who have foisted themselves over our collective future. Most unfortunately these politicians take all the citizens for fools; otherwise they would not be so brazen in their disjointed acts.
Can you imagine that the leader of one of the main groups that is clamouring for President Jonathan is Senator Abba Aji, the man who just six months ago, was accused of having kept the nations at the edge of a precipice, having been accused of holding back the letter which was to have been transmitted by him from the ailing late president to the National Assembly, to enable President Jonathan become the acting president?
Had it not been for the patriotism and resilience of Nigerians as well as for God’s love for all of us, the alleged antics of this Abba Aji character would have plunged this country into an intractable disaster. Yet, it is people like him and other members of the so-called ‘cabal’, who only three months ago, had held the country hostage for their convoluted self-interests that are now spear-heading Jonathan’s aspirations. There are even reports of Mallam Abba Ruma spearheading the clamour through an NGO.
The most worrying aspect of these is that governance has stopped at all the levels of the State as the ‘Jonathan-for-President’ howls have overtaken the land, and the body language of the president who initially denied having anything to do with it all, seems to indicate that he is the major instigator. There are even reports that his wife, too, has started exerting influence on party functionaries and other individuals to promote his husband’s enterprise.
While I, like most other people, who are bothered by this brand of ‘election’ of a man before he has become a candidate, might have nothing personal against President Jonathan as an individual, we definitely have issues with what is going on because of the capacity of these antics to endanger democracy and our nation, ultimately. They make nonsense of democratic ideals and principles for which Nigerians had suffered and toiled or for the political due process for which many of us shouted ourselves hoarse when subterfuges were erected to stop Vice President Jonathan from assuming his constitutionally-guaranteed position during President Yar’Adua’s incapacitation.
How can our politicians be this irresponsible as not to base their choice for a future president of Nigeria on performance and track records? As indecent as their acts were in 1998, those who were ‘yearning for Abacha’ could, at least, point to some achievements that they could associate with Abacha (some of which have remained unmatched today). However, not one single one of Jonathan’s choristers has been able to point to one landmark achievement of the present government that should recommended it for a repeat act.
I have even waited to hear of any of a positive progress report on the programme of action which President Jonathan had outlined for himself. I recall that he had committed himself to the improvement of the power situation, the fight against corruption, security of life and property, infrastructural enhancement, job creation, and free-and-fair election, on assumption of office as the acting, and then substantive president. One would have expected those clamouring for him to have shown how creditably these programmes are being executed, even if any has not been perfected, as his government is still work-in-progress.
In all these, the politicians, because of their personal interests, have reduced the fate of our country to the issue of the right of this and that zone to govern and have, ipso facto, made President Jonathan an object, victim and a prisoner of their own self-interests. Not one single person today clamouring for the Jonathan candidacy has the interest of the man or the nation in consideration.
They only hope that by joining the fray, they would have something personal to gain, both on the short and the long run. While the omnipotent governors are hoping to secure their second term tickets from a party leadership that seems unilaterally committed to personalities rather than capacities, others are jostling for the crumbs that would fall from the high tables, during and after the campaigns.
But knowing the Nigerian politicians, the cookies will start to crumble, when a few favoured ones would have got into the inner chambers and shut the door on the face of others; a new scramble for other turfs will ensue, and that is when the real political game for 2011 would start. But until then, the mad race for the canonization of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan continues, with the same scripts written by the same people for General Sani Abacha, 13 years ago.
Trust the Nigerian political class for never being able to learn from history. Sani Abacha is dead; long live Sani Abacha.
Syndicated via the African Herald Express