What Does Goodluck Jonathan want for the Southwest? By Pius Adesanmi
As we approach 2015, Goodluck Jonathan’s only problem does not lie with the gang of born-to-rule northern elders who are deploying every dirty trick in the book – blackmail, intimidation, making Nigeria ungovernable through violence – to get him out of Aso Rock Villa. More than the threat posed by passé northern elders, how Goodluck Jonathan plays his cards in the southwest will play a significant role in determining his fate in 2015.
There are two gubernatorial elections coming up in Ekiti and Osun states in the next couple of months. Never mind submissions to the contrary from Aso Rock, the Villa pokes her nose into every gubernatorial election in the country, trying to deploy the massive powers of the Presidency in the service of outcomes designed to produce puppets for the Abuja puppeteers. Sometimes, this intervention is overt and brazen as was the case of the imposition of Seriake Dickson as Governor in Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa; sometimes the intervention is outright warfare as evidenced in the case of the President Jonathan’s and President Mrs.
Jonathan’s high-handed intervention in the politics of Rivers state, the game plan being to impeach Rotimi Amaechi and impose the Villa’s quisling, Evans Bipi, as Governor. Amaechi survived the Abuja buccaneers narrowly but I am sure he is still sleeping with only one eye, distracted, constantly looking over his shoulders, unable to provide the sort of governance the people of Rivers state deserve.
In essence, at no time has the Villa ever been a respecter of democratic norms; at no time has she ever been a distanced, objective observer of electoral power play in the states, providing a level playing field for all and allowing the electorate of a given state to determine her own destiny. Where the Presidency cannot use imposition (Bayelsa) or warfare (Rivers) to intervene in the political destiny of states, she has had a much more sordid history, resorting to outright theft as was the case in the southwest during the Obasanjo years. Before you could say Oduduwa, Lawrence Anini Obasanjo had swooped through the entire southwest and stolen every Governorship seat for the PDP in broad daylight. For daring to survive and resist the most brazen political robbery in the history of the southwest, the people of Lagos state paid a heavy price.
Outside of Lagos, the Yoruba became a dazed, conquered, disoriented people, subject to the whims of garrison commanders who became direct supervisors of the public till. The looting was massive. The reverses suffered by the region in the arena of development were colossal. But looting and arrested development were the least of the problems of the Yoruba during the locust years of the PDP. There were much more terrible consequences in the arena of values. So complete was Obasanjo’s psychological routing of the people, so holistic was his social engineering that in this very educated, very sophisticated region, the word of Tokyo began to carry more weight than the word of Wole Soyinka. Liberation came through the doggedness of Bola Tinubu – you can’t take that away from him but more on him later.
Although considerable progress has been recorded all over the southwest since liberation, the Yoruba cannot be said to have fully recovered psychologically and materially from the trauma of presidential heist and intervention in the electoral politics of their region. Remember, they lost one of their brightest stars, Chief Bola Ige, to PDP politics of that era. The scars are deep. You only need to scratch beneath the surface of all the development you now see in the region to encounter this persistent trauma. Recovery from the tragedy of the PDP years has been a slow, hard slog in Yoruba land. But healing is going on slowly and steadily.
This overview has been necessary to remind the President of the context he is stepping into in Ekiti and Osun states. Let me reiterate a point: we do not need to deceive ourselves that the Presidency will not intervene in these elections. She will. She always does. The concession I am prepared to make is that Jonathan’s intervention here will not be anything close to his formula in Bayelsa and Rivers states for the simple reason that the southwest is not his neck of the woods and it would be suicidal for him to be seen openly with his hand in the cookie jar in the southwest. So, the interventions here will be totally invisible, carefully calibrated, with full deniability in the case of a backlash.
Because he will intervene one way or the other and because he is surrounded by exceedingly obtuse advisors, we must make haste to remind President Jonathan that how he plays his hands in Ekiti and Osun will be used by the people of the southwest to determine whether he means well for them or not. I have gone into the recent history of his political party in the region to make him understand the fact that it would be absolutely suicidal for him to intervene, overtly or covertly, and try to rig the playing field in favor of the candidates of his party, the PDP. In the psyche and memory of the people of the southwest, PDP is synonymous with rape, with trauma and anybody seen to be facilitating the return of that party to power in the region cannot be deemed to mean well for the Yoruba.
To make matters worse, President Jonathan’s political party has been throwing up very interesting gubernatorial candidates in the build up to Ekiti and Osun. There are many mansions in the PDP’s father’s house. Motor park touts and failed poultry moguls are welcome. Untidy survivors of murder raps are welcome. Nobody in Yoruba land will forgive Goodluck Jonathan if it is determined that the sort of characters his political party is throwing up is what he wishes for the region and he will amply be rewarded with hostility in 2015. This, understandably, is a minefield for the president as he cannot be expected to work against the interest of his party. It is his misfortune to belong to such a leprous party. It is his misfortune that he has been an unsuccessful, uninspiring President thus far. Therefore, the best that Dr. Jonathan can do in the circumstances, the wisest course of action, is to ensure a level playing field in Ekiti and Osun and not rig the field in favour of candidates capable of arresting the ongoing healing from the abomination of desolation visited on the region by the Obasanjo-imposed Governors.
What goes for President Jonathan also goes for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who has been exacting a very heavy price for liberating the region from the PDP. I understand that a brand new private jet – his second – is the latest price that the treasuries of the states in the southwest have had to pay for this very expensive liberation. A certain lesson has not been learnt from Obafemi Awolowo. Awolowo is Awolowo for the people of that region today because his service was not delivered to them with a precondition of empire building, with a precondition of a personal fiefdom hostile to democracy, with a precondition of the surrender of the region’s treasury to his personal ambition. Awolowo did not create a sense that his people owed him anything. His was service unconditional, unalloyed.
Nobody is qualified to even pretend that they can aspire to fill his enormous and still vacant shoes if they show no capacity or willingness to understand this important dynamic. Understanding this dynamic starts with learning to respect the people’s free will and free choice. Aspiring empire builders were taught a lesson in Ondo. There will be a repeat lesson in Ekiti if they create and sustain an atmosphere of imposition. If we call on Jonathan to respect the field and the will of the people, we must advise local emperors to do likewise. My abhorrence of imposition, of disrespect for democratic ethos, is the reason why I wrote an old essay to salute the courage of Labour Party candidate, Opeyemi Bamidele, for defying Babacracy and imposition and pursuing his ambition against all odds – including threats to and attempts on his life.
Just as we blame Obasanjo for his nefarious social engineering in the region, we must draw attention to an even more pernicious social engineering at work presently in the region. Suddenly, you have supposedly educated people arguing that the surrender of their civic citizenship, the surrender of their independent peoplehood, the surrender of their very essence as sentient human beings, to the judgment, will, and desire of a single individual is a price they are prepared to pay in expression of gratitude for his having liberated them. Such is the perversion of Nigerian humanity, the perversion of civics that the sub-human slaves reasoning along these lines in the southwest do not realize that no human being deserves the custody of your right to the expression of your free, democratic will and choices. No human being should ever earn the right to impose candidates on you. Not even if his earlier selections worked as some folks are wont to argue. Above all, no human being should be able to tell you not to contest – to wait for your turn – if you so desire.
The moment you surrender these fundamental freedoms to anybody because of the misguided belief that you owe them, you are no longer human. You are a sub-human slave. You owe nothing to he who liberated you from the PDP. He owes you everything, starting with gratitude to you, the people of the southwest, for granting him the privilege, the opportunity, and the honour of serving you at that particular moment in your history. To those of you who are currently surrendering your humanity to the ongoing perversion in the name of gratitude, I say: go and relearn how to be human.