• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Northern politicians and Nigeria’s future

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Many leading politicians from the North have made inflammatory statements at various times concerning the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. Before the 2011 elections, some of them openly declared that they would make the country ungovernable if Goodluck Jonathan emerged as president. So, it could be said that the upsurge of Boko Haram insurgency in the North since Jonathan assumed office may not be unconnected with the threats issued by these leading Northern politicians. Unfortunately, because of their exalted political standing in the North, these politicians and their followers have succeeded in making many innocent Northerners believe that the Islamic sect Boko Haram is fighting the cause of Northern political interest. There are many Northern elements in high places who share this belief. It should therefore not be a surprise to anybody that the government of Goodluck Jonathan is having difficulties in quelling the Boko Haram insurgency.

For instance, Muhammadu Buhari, who has thrice contested and lost presidential elections in the country, sometime ago said if the 2015 election was rigged the dogs and the baboons would be soaked in blood. Recall that the mayhem that followed the announcement of the 2011 election results which led to the mass murder of innocent Nigerians including youth corps members in some parts of the North was attributed by most people to inflammatory statements made by Buhari before the election. One would therefore have expected Buhari to show a little remorse and be guarded in his subsequent utterances. This, of course, has not been the case.

Recently, Asari Dokubo, an ex-militant leader from the South-South region, said if Goodluck Jonathan was not allowed a second term as president of Nigeria, the country would not know peace. This statement has elicited reactions from the high and mighty, including the Tambuwal-led House of Representatives and some Northern governors, all calling for the arrest of Asari Dokubo – an action which has exposed the hypocrisy of Northern politicians. But before Dokubo, the chairman of PDP in Ogun State had made a similar statement, though in lighter words. According to him, Nigeria is Turn By Turn Nigeria Limited. Obasanjo from the West ruled for two terms and handed over to Yar’Adua from the North. If Yar’Auda did not die he probably would have ruled for two terms. Therefore, Jonathan should be allowed to rule for two terms so that there would be peace.

In the history of Nigeria, no president has ever been confronted with the kind of problems Goodluck Jonathan is facing. During the Nigerian Civil War, all kinds of weapons, including hunger and massive restructuring of the country in favour of the North, were used to quell the Biafran uprising. The concern of all was to keep Nigeria one. Goodluck Jonathan recently declared a state of emergency in three Northern states without tampering with political institutions in these states in order to arrest the menace of Boko Haram which was getting out of hand. Unfortunately, in spite of the overwhelming support given to the president by Nigerians, including the National Assembly, some Northern politicians are calling on Jonathan to resign. Such a call can only embolden Boko Haram and their supporters and encourage them to fight on. In addition, people from Jonathan’s region are tormenting him to transform the long abandoned, oil producing Niger Delta to look like Abuja and Lagos overnight.

Considering these daunting challenges, an objective appraisal of the two years of Jonathan’s presidency so far would be that the president is doing his best. Even his adversaries cannot deny his humility. His utterances and body language show that he is sincere about the unity and progress of this country. He has demonstrated reasonable commitment to his transformation agenda. The Nigerian rail transport system, an indispensible mode of transport for a country with a large landmass as Nigeria, which has been neglected by successive administrations, is being given serious attention. After many years the trains have started to run. Our airports which used to be objects of shame to us are all beginning to wear elegant looks.

The problems of almajiris, which no Northern president throughout their long rule of the country has been able to address, is being courageously tackled. Schools are being built all over the North for the almajiris and sensitisation has reached a level where calls are being made by people including the Senate president for the abolition of the almajiri system. There is evidence that conscientious effort is being made to solve the nation’s power supply problems. Our megawatt has shown significant improvement in the last two years and gas infrastructure is being vigorously addressed to supply gas to the independent power plants, many of which are nearing completion. The Good Governance Tour organised to expose government activities has shown that many of our roads which used to be death traps are being rehabilitated all over the country. To address electoral problems which have for a long time been a sore point in our democratic process, Jonathan for the first time appointed a Northerner, Attahiru Jega, a man with an impeccable antecedent and a strong character, to head our electoral commission. Elections conducted by INEC under Jega have shown remarkable improvements over previous elections. Can anybody honestly ignore all these and say that Goodluck Jonathan has done nothing?

The unseen leadership of Boko Haram was the first to call on Goodluck Jonathan to resign or convert to Islam for there to be peace in the country. But let it be known that the perception of many Nigerians, especially those from the South-South region where Jonathan comes from, is that Boko Haram is a political tool by Northern politicians to make the country ungovernable for Jonathan as they had earlier threatened – the goal being to rubbish, blackmail and intimidate Jonathan so that he will not have the audacity to show his face as a presidential candidate come 2015, or if he contests, to diminish his chances of winning.

Let us ask ourselves, if the North succeeds, through violence, in harrying out of office an incumbent president from the Niger Delta, which produces the bulk of this nation’s resources, for a Northerner to take over, what magic would such a Northern president perform to make the Niger Delta people allow him use the oil from their land to run his government? Our Northern brothers should stop behaving as if Jonathan is not qualified to rule Nigeria. This country has spent inestimable resources to send thousands of Niger Delta militants who embraced the amnesty programme to countries all over the world for training in various skills so that they can return to participate meaningfully in economic activities in their environment. If these boys who are now exposed are made to regroup to fight for a cause which they believe is just, then the prediction that Nigeria may be a failed state come 2015 may as well be expected to come true.

Nkpubre is a former president of Oron Union in Lagos.