Jonathan Burning Bridges


Unfortunately for President Jonathan, since the postponement of the February elections by six weeks for “security reasons”, his campaign has been skewed into a north-versus-south thing, and Dr Jonathan simply ignored the north in his calculations and has been spending so many days in especially the south-west trying to get “endorsed” by that important section of Nigeria. His wife Patience Jonathan spoke recently in pidgin English in Calabar, referring to differences in the birth rates in the south and “the other side”. What will those from the north around these people do with this obviously shameful statement from a woman who looks down upon those who are endowed by God with many children? There are many people who could accept many things, but definitely not dishonour, disrespect or disgrace. It is very obvious that, in their own desperation, they are burning the bridges of unity and understanding across the country.

This government has not told us anything about the monumental corruption going on in the country now, such that even the salaries of civil servants are hardly paid in time now. Instead of telling us what they have done in the last six or even 16 years to deserve our votes, they are busy insulting our sensibility by… [wait a minute] telling us that General Buhari is “brain-dead”. There is nothing bad they have not ascribed to Buhari — some even happened while he was in detention — but it has not changed the perception of the people now: that Buhari is the symbol and leader required to change Nigeria for the better. They have exhausted their insults; they now tell bare-faced lies when it is already too late.

They are so out of touch with reality that, last week, finance minister “Okonjo-wahala”, to whom the president has abdicated his responsibility of managing the nation’s economy, went to Chibok in Borno State to … [wait another minute] lay the foundation for a school! For about a year now, over 200 daughters of this community have been kidnapped by terrorists. The president and his wife even doubted if really there was any kidnap. What these people want at this time is the return of their daughters. And the president assured the nation recently that the girls were alive because “Boko Haram did not display bodies if they were killed!” Can you beat that! Chibok already has schools built by their state and local governments. The federal government which has the sole responsibility for security cannot guarantee the safety of their children to go to these schools. This is the issue affecting Chibok now, for goodness’ sake!

What President Jonathan and the hangers-on around him must realize is that the context is completely different and the contest is therefore different now. The PDP, his party, is not cohesive as it consists of so many aggrieved, disappointed and angry members and leaders now. Most of them are PDP in the afternoon and APC in the evening as they chart their next political life. Even the gubernatorial candidates of the PDP have been going solo since they see that aligning them with the federal government is now a huge burden electorally. If they are deceiving the president, it is our duty to tell him the truth. As Wole Olaoye wrote this week, in the Daily Trust of Monday, March 9, “it is easy to see the trajectory of how a few people – friends, family and political associates — have rebranded President Jonathan as president of an ethnic group, president of a religion, president of a minority cabal, president of a party without morality”.

The military, police and other security agencies are so partisan that a respected former chief of army staff, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, had the opportunity last week to openly advise them to be apolitical and non-partisan. They are serving Nigeria and not any regime. In these national institutions, there are many elements that make careless statements that keep embarrassing the country. The only difference between these elements and Gestapo is that this is 2015. Emboldened by this, the president even said he would never allow the opposition to “rule”! Does it mean our vote will not count, courtesy of policemen like Mbu & co?

With the help of neighbouring countries, Nigerian territories are now being liberated. The president of Chad, Idris Deby, even said he knew where Boko Haram leader Shekau was; he gave him an ultimatum to surrender or be smoked out and killed. This is good news. But, in trying to politicize and personalize serious national issues, even relief materials being given to people displaced by the insurgency have the president’s photograph printed on them. NEMA ought to know that it is about Nigeria, not Jonathan. Building a personality cult and politicizing security challenges amount to trivializing an important national issue.

I will now quote Mr Festus Eriye’s column in The Nation on Sunday newspaper, March 8, 2015: “Boko Haram have been forced out of places like Baga, Mubi, Monguno but any expectation that Jonathan and his party would not seek to make political capital out of the military gains was swiftly dispelled when, barely days after the battles, the president showed up in fatigues on the frontline, for photo opportunities. The victories quickly became PDP’s property and not a national achievement to be owned by the whole country and its people.

“However, he must understand that it is the electorate who would determine whether he deserves any credit for what the military has accomplished so far. As for me, I am sufficiently impressed with the speed with which Jonathan sewed his Nollywood General’s uniform…  But many will recall that when news first broke that Boko Haram had massacred an unprecedented 2,000 persons in the community, not a peep was heard from the presidency. Instead, Jonathan was busy sending condolence messages to the people of France over the killing of 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazines!”

Mr Eriye concluded: “If he truly loved the military he would not have waited until the election week to do what he claims his predecessors left undone. People are not fooled. They can tell that this love-in with the armed forces is election-flavoured. It is too late in the day to start to show leadership in this critical area… it is action, not a well cut uniform that makes a credible commander-in-chief… It is going to take more than the two-week military offensive in the north-east to alter perceptions about Jonathan’s performance as it concerns insecurity. Voters are going to be asking themselves: between General Buhari and ‘General’ Jonathan who will do a better job in guaranteeing national security?”

History is on the side of the oppressed.


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