By ABBA MAHMOOD —
These are not normal times, both nationally and internationally. At the international level, there is the raging news of the assassination of a Saudi journalist, Mr Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Attempts to cover up have been unsuccessful. It was one of the greatest diplomatic blunders and yet another intelligence flop by the Saudis led by their amateur Crown Prince Mohammed bn Salman. We know that only those who did nothing made no mistakes but this is really embarrassing to Saudi friends and allies especially the US.
Yet another brewing international crisis is the trade war between US and China, which are the two current global superpowers and economic giants. This is set to really affect the global economy and even world order. Already, the old rules don’t apply any longer. Asia is in a state of confusion. Europe is in a state of crisis. Britain is finished as a world power with Brexit. I have never seen a more self-inflicted wound like Brexit. How could the British leaders have allowed such sensitive issue like its EU membership to be decided in a referendum, and even if it was to be subjected to referendum why didn’t the government make it with a stringent condition such as a two-thirds majority and not simple majority? It was UK’s biggest strategic blunder. No wonder it is in horrendous confusion.
With the Nigerian elections coming in the next few months, many established and emerging powers are planning to take advantage. China has a lot of interest because of its investments and contracts. France, which has always looked at Nigeria with envy for regional leadership, is looking with keen interest and acting accordingly. Israel has never been neutral in Nigeria’s affairs since independence, and now it is giving sanctuary to Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB fame. Iran will not be indifferent, given the significant Shia population here and the incarceration of their leader, Zakzaky, by this government. America as a major global power is very much interested in the outcome of the elections. And Europe, particularly Germany, has so much at stake here to be neutral or indifferent.
There are times in history when it is far wiser to act than to hesitate. This is one of such times and I am not sure if the leaders know what to act upon. For instance, recently, HSBC released a report on Nigeria and the economic policy of the Buhari administration. Instead of responding over the issues raised the presidency came out belligerent, making reference to a so-called HSBC connection to “Abacha loot”. A wise government would have approached it differently. For instance, government would have acknowledged the right of HSBC to be entitled to its opinion but government would have gone ahead to reel out some of its economic policies and programmes that are positive. Belligerence in this case was simply unwise and counterproductive.
The aftermath of the party primaries has left the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in serious crisis. This is the first internal party election by the APC since its victory in the 2015 general elections, and it has been hopelessly mismanaged. As party leader, the president has the moral and legal authority and even duty to call the various factions to order. This has not happened so far and I cannot see how a divided house will ensure victory. It seemed impossible to believe that those responsible for the action could not have realized the reaction that would result.
In a state like Zamfara which has never voted for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the return to civil rule in 1999, the APC is now in a state of uncertainty. It is a safe state for the APC but it appears, even to the present candidates, things are becoming difficult for the party. The choice was acting with energy or losing by default. One of the senators I respect, Kabiru Marafa of Zamfara, has been consistently struggling to ensure that the right thing is done and the democratic rights of his people of Zamfara are respected, but Governor AbdulAziz Yari has been very intransigent and impervious to reason. You really have to know Yari well in order to dislike him. His use of privileged position, if not illegal, had been decidedly inappropriate and inept. Marafa has many opponents but few enemies in Zamfara and even nationally. For his performance in the Senate was courageous, principled and outstanding. The killings in Zamfara under Yari are simply unacceptable. Even animals don’t kill themselves the way some Nigerians are now killing each other in many parts of the country.
As American Senator Robert Taft once said, “The purpose of the opposition is to oppose.” So, the APC should not expect any easy ride. After three and half years in office, the APC administration could be labelled, at best, undistinguished. The Buhari administration had no clear policy or long-range objectives. The progressives are not happy; the conservatives are critical, while middle-of-the-roaders are uncertain. Buhari is facing events only as they come. But, as America’s Harry Truman said, a president has to decide. That’s his job.
Instead of the main opposition PDP to cash in on the weakness of the APC and bring in a much better candidate and more credible team, it lost the opportunity by fielding one whose name is synonymous with all that is bad with Nigeria and its system. And I keep wondering: if he didn’t need final approving authority he was able to amass these billions and investments in all sectors of the economy, what will remain in Nigeria if he has full control of the treasury and the oil wells, among other national assets? And to make matters worse, he is surrounded by some of the worst rogues, looters and extreme ethnic jingoists. His bravado and quick decisions were a façade for an essentially insecure man filled with anxieties. His desperation for power is only matched by his insatiable greed to accumulate wealth by all means from all sources. But, as the Persian king had carved on his ring, “This, too, will pass.”
History is on the side of the oppressed.