Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Can Jonathan Rise Above Himself?



Can Jonathan Rise Above Himself?
I am afraid!
The signs are ominous.
When I set out to write last week’s piece, I had actually begun by stating the fact that it was ten days to the presidential elections but I also included a caveat that that was subject to how far the determined interests and voices calling for a postponement of the exercise were ready to go. The bit did not make it to the final piece because I overwrote, so it had to be expunged.
But what I have learnt from last Saturday is to take my hunches and instincts a bit more seriously, in spite of every evident fact and logic. I make this point because I was right in the hall of the National Reconciliation Committee meeting, chaired by Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar on Monday the 2nd of February, 2015, when the security chiefs, including the Inspector General of Police, gave all assurances, as reported in newspapers, that they were set for elections, come February 14. Whatever it is that must have caused the security chiefs to review their position between Monday the 2nd and Friday the 6th, or even between Thursday the 5th at the Council of States meeting and the very next day, must have been very serious and enough to cause trepidation among Nigerians.
Of course many Nigerians are not sold to the idea that the armed forces need the six-week postponement period in order to engage the Boko Haram insurgents and to recapture lost territories. The obvious fallacy of that has been stated: you cannot claim to want to do in six weeks what you have not been able to do in five years! If you are able to do it, then, all the while, you only prevaricated for some sinister ulterior motives, against the common good. If you are not able to do it, then it is clear that the postponement was to achieve something other than the stated. Head or tail, you are in a quagmire.
Moreover, resettling displaced people back in their villages is not a one-day thing. So even if the fourteen LGAs were recaptured from the terrorists, you cannot hope to bring back these people to their homes and for them to be able to take part in the polls all within six weeks. In any case they no longer have home because these have been looted and razed down.
The argument, therefore, that the postponement is a machination of the ruling party in order to gain time to possibly garner some more momentum is plausible; for TV in Nigeria have been aggressively awash with pro Jonathan/PDP campaign ads since last Sunday. The newspapers are not left behind: columns and op-eds either selling the Jonathan candidacy or just maligning the person of Buhari are having a field day. By the time you are reading this piece, the president would have held a media chat on the national broadcast stations. Talk about putting some six weeks to good use.
When Sambo Dasuki first flew the postponement kite, a friend quipped that that was simply to stretch the purse of the opposition. It seems to make sense. Add that to the suspicion that the ruling party intends to erect rigging structures using the security corps Ekiti-style. We are watching.
My trepidation is borne out of past events, which is why I wonder if the president can rise above himself and put Nigeria first. In 2010, when MEND ushered the first of this kind of bombing in Nigeria, he was quick to point fingers elsewhere, claiming, even after they owned up to it, that he knew MEND and they were incapable of the act – it was interesting that he would turned his own narrative on its head during his campaign inauguration in Lagos this year.
After the April 16, 2011 election, riots broke out across the north. The president would not address the nation to call for calm until the Thursday after; mind you the skirmishes began on that very election Saturday in Kaduna. That would be five days after; his opponent then, as now, who had no constitutional authority, called for calm via the BBC two days ahead of him.
All the while as the insurgency was raging and gathering momentum, the president never stepped foot in the north-east even after he declared the State of Emergency there. He would go to Maiduguri in May 2013, a week after a new party, APC, went and walked the streets there. The Chibok girls were abducted and he never said a word until after about three weeks following pressure from all over the world. Interestingly also, despite the heat of the insurgency, he went to Maiduguri twice during this electioneering.
Last year too, the former CBN governor got the boot, apparently for asking the wrong questions even though some other reason was given.
All of these, including the suspected reasons for the election postponement, seem to suggest that Jonathan seems to act and determinedly get his way when his considered interest is at stake.
Another kite is airborne, that Jega will not conduct the March 28 elections. There is no telling what danger that possibility portends. Even though INEC has refuted that, my hunch warns me. I only hope that, as determined as he is, the president can rise above himself.

BLUEPRINT Newspaper, Thur Feb. 12, 2015; p3

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