Why I’m Stopping My Column, By Sam Nda-Isaiah
The stakes are quite high and getting higher by the day. Nigeria appears to be a sinking nation, even though many prefer to live in denial. The APC presidential primary takes place in a couple of weeks and I have declared an interest. Winning a presidential primary anywhere in the world is not a walk in the park. And, since I intend to win, I need to face the hard work that will be necessary for winning, and with absolute focus. This will require not just travelling all over the place but talking to people who are going to be involved, directly or indirectly, in the choice of the standard bearer of the party. It will possibly take speaking to and engaging the more than 300,000 people – elected officers of the party from the ward level up – that shall be voting during the presidential primary. I am doing this because I know how important this is for the future of our progeny and our country.
I have said it severally on this page that Nigeria cannot survive four more years of Jonathan’s incompetence and attitude towards corruption; these assertions get confirmed every single day. Even the most optimistic of people and those who doubt some of the grim prognoses I have been offering on this page must have been shocked by the events of the past weeks, especially the way Boko Haram has been taking territories from the Nigerian state. And nobody should deceive himself or herself that, if Jonathan remains in Aso Rock, Boko Haram will not take over several states of the nation. Only the most foolish person will fall for the falsehood that Nigeria’s security problem is a north-east problem only.
The president has no idea of how to secure Nigeria, whether the threat is from Boko Haram, kidnappers or whosoever just wants to become a criminal. Murderers are not apprehended and his government just watches helplessly as Nigerians, including little boys and girls, are kidnapped, raped and murdered on a daily basis. Rumours that the president’s own family had to pay a ransom to kidnappers for the release of a senior family member in Bayelsa State not long ago persist; those who should know even quote figures of the ransom paid. Oil theft reached an industrial scale long ago and nobody in government discusses that issue. And not a single person has been arrested so far for oil theft, and that is very curious. The greater issue of crude oil becoming a less sought-after commodity of international trade that would affect the funding of the nation’s operations within the decade, as a result of the shale resources in North America, Europe and Asia, has received absolutely no emergency attention from President Jonathan. Monthly allocations to states have fallen by about 50 per cent since Jonathan became president. And this is supposed to be a crime that is clearly an impeachable offence, but nobody – not even the two houses of the National Assembly – has as much as discussed it.
All these and many more strange things happen because of the level of corruption – the type that this country has never seen – of the Jonathan government. Our president has a funny, inexplicable attitude to corruption. He once went to great lengths to create a difference between stealing and corruption, and one wonders for what end. When his Central Bank governor raised the alarm of extreme theft in his government, the first thing that came to his mind was not to arrest anyone or even commence an investigation to determine the level of damage, but to suspend the governor. That shocked the world and embarrassed our country. It is this attitude that has encouraged the kind of stealing that has virtually grounded the operations of the nation to the extent that everything, including the security of life and property and the provision of basic amenities to the people, has collapsed. There is no money to buy arms and bullets are now being rationed in the fight against criminals. Not long ago, a commander in one of the battle units told me that 200 guns were sent to 400 soldiers fighting against Boko Haram. So why then should we be surprised that soldiers’ wives are protesting that their husbands should not be sent to battle fronts without arms and Boko Haram have been capturing Nigerian territories and hoisting their flags, and our soldiers fled from Boko Haram’s fire to Cameroun where they were promptly and ignominiously disarmed by Camerounian soldiers? Is this the same military that salvaged Sierra Leone, Liberia and Chad all at our expense? Is this the same army and police that were once thought to be among the best in the world during the days they took part in peacekeeping missions all over the world? Is this the same army of generals Murtala Muhammed, Muhammad Shuwa, Benjamin Adekunle, TY Danjuma and other gallant, courageous and fearless soldiers we used to hear of? Something has gone seriously wrong somewhere and we need to quickly bring back our country out of this huge disgrace.
To compound this shame, our president ran to Chad a few days ago to beg the president to help us in the battle with Boko Haram. What kind of scandalous climb-down is this? Is this the same Nigeria that used to have some responsibility for Africa? We miss the days when past Nigerian presidents used to sit in their offices in Nigeria and invite all these other presidents and they quickly obeyed. Is this not the same Chad that, during President Shehu Shagari’s days, a Brigadier Muhammadu Buhari, as GOC in the north-east, almost overran within 24hours because their soldiers had killed a few of our soldiers, and Buhari would have actually done so if the then French president had not woken up President Shagari in the middle of the night to call his soldiers to order? Well, to humiliate us further, the Ghanaian president recently promised to send us troops to help fight Boko Haram. Chai!
Those who still deny that Nigeria is a failed state that needs urgent rescuing probably do not know the definition of a failed state. Even Pakistan that has been classified as a failed state by the west has apprehended those who attempted to murder Malala two years ago. They arrested them last week. Nigeria has not apprehended a single terrorist or murderer in spite of the thousands and thousands of murders that happen every day in our country. The gruesome murder of little boys – they were burnt alive in their dormitory – at the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi in Yobe State, seems to have been forgotten. And thanks to the disingenuous Pro-Jonathan groups the best that the government has done to bring back the more than 200 missing Chibok girls after over 150 days, is to launch the counterfeit hash tag, #bringbackJonathan2015. Pity!
In spite of all these, it will still be quite legitimate to ask me why I want to be president; and I, in fact, want people to ask me. Nigerians should interrogate not just me but everybody that intends to be president to know whether they have a plan. The entire edition of this newspaper would not be adequate today if I had to list reasons why Jonathan should not continue as president, but that should not automatically translate to why I or anyone else should want to be president. Jonathan is not a bad human being and may actually be doing his best, but, as we can see, his best has actually grounded our country. Jonathan has proved totally incapable of governing Nigeria, but that also doesn’t mean just any candidate the APC presents will defeat Jonathan. A five-minute chat with an average Nigerian voter would confirm this. Even speaking to many of those who intend to vote against Jonathan will reveal that a lot of people who are going to vote against him will be doing so for the wrong reasons.
To defeat Jonathan handily in 2015, we must be able to mobilise the whole country, or at least 90 per cent of it, to be successful. No incumbent president has ever been unseated in Nigeria and it will even be more difficult with a desperate president who doesn’t obey the elementary rules of decency. For the APC to defeat Jonathan, it must think out of the box and provide Nigerians someone very new and different as its candidate.
Jonathan has no record to run on, and, if our democracy had been working at all, the PDP would not be presenting him as its candidate, because the party should actually be embarrassed, if not scandalised outright by his performance at this point. But barring any force majure, Jonathan will be PDP’s presidential candidate in 2015. And any party anywhere in the democratic world that presents a Jonathan for re-election certainly has something up its sleeves. So the only way to defeat Jonathan in 2015 is for the APC to present a candidate with the basic attributes to mobilise everyone to save the nation. The APC and Nigeria will not have a second chance to do that. Election riggers do not want to see people mobilised all over. No incumbent president has ever been defeated in Nigeria because the opposition has not been able to present a candidate that will bring out people all over the country.
Just like we in the APC are very glad that Jonathan is going to be PDP’s candidate and hope nothing disrupts that, Jonathan and his people know the kind of person they want as APC’s candidate and they are praying very hard for that kind of candidate to emerge. It is clearly a legitimate aspiration and they are not committing any wrong to wish that. They certainly do not want me or anyone with my kind of portrait or delineation to be APC’s candidate. Some of them have told me this personally. One of them closely associated with the Jonathan campaign recently told me that if I am the APC candidate, it will disrupt their plans and immediately change the game and they certainly do not pray for that. And that is precisely why I am in this race, and that is why I intend to win the APC presidential primary. I know how important it is for Jonathan not to continue as president beyond 2015. And that is why I must stop this column today to face the very hard and exacting work of mobilising to win. This is a national assignment bigger than this column. I am, therefore, inviting all those who have followed this column and believe that Nigeria can be what I have strenuously advocated every week for more than a decade to join me in this mission – a mission that remains for God and country…
Nda-Isaiah is the founder of LEADERSHIP Group, leader of Sam4Nigeria and presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress. He has been a columnist for over a decade and recently announced he is suspending his column for active politics. In this valedictory piece, he explains why he is joining the fray with his gun loaded.