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Re: IBB’s ‘historic’ endorsement of Jonathan: A reply to Godwin Nzeakah

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refer to Godwin Nzeakah’s article in The Guardian (January 6, 2015, p. 17) regarding IBB’s endorsement of Jonathan. I believe the article was riddled with mischievous propaganda.

In the article, the writer indicated that “IBB is telling the North that although like the Chinese, all politicians look alike, there is something in a name; President Goodluck Jonathan is to Nigeria what his name depicts: he has distinguished himself as a gem of a leader – a doer, a patriot par excellence, a great achiever and performer”.

The writer further said, “IBB by that endorsement is indirectly telling all those nursing misplaced grievances, especially in the North, to sheathe their daggers for, as they say, a patient waiter is no loser. It is better to lose the saddle for a while than the horse.” At best, I think that assessment is diversionary.

Just the way the writer took the liberty to tell us what IBB is supposedly “telling the North” in giving his support to Jonathan, I would like to also take the liberty to tell the writer and everyone else who cares what I think IBB is really telling us (Nigerians and not just the North).

To start with, I don’t see anything historic about IBB supporting Jonathan. That is a no-brainer. You only need to scratch the surface to know why. IBB’s support for Jonathan is not about Jonathan; it is about Buhari. IBB will always, and forever, support anybody against Buhari. It is that simple. The issue at stake is not even about the possibility of Buhari arresting IBB (if elected); I don’t even think that (arresting IBB) will happen as Buhari promised not to dig up the past. It is about what would be left of IBB’s image and place in the story of Nigeria.

Most Nigerians believe that the biggest problem facing the country today is corruption which is the genesis and also directly or indirectly behind all the challenges facing Nigeria today. No matter how you want to look at the problems, corruption would always top the list of the reasons for the state of the nation.

Again, most Nigerians, at least those that are old enough to know and those that care to research objectively, believe that when the Buhari/Idiagbon regime came to power, not only did they fight corruption, they did that with an unrivalled and needed sincerity. Despite whatever mistakes they might have made, Nigerians would readily forgive them today because the sincerity in the fight against corruption was real and society was making a huge progress, especially in the area of discipline. You can imagine how far ahead the country would have been if that change in attitude was maintained. It is like a journey: no matter how slowly you are moving, the progress would be significant once the right direction is sustained.

However, the 1985 IBB military coup not only truncated that progress but changed the direction as well. The rest, they say, is history. I really would not want to even dwell on what happened to Nigeria in the subsequent years in terms of level of corruption. However, it is important to note that even IBB himself is recently making efforts to change the perception that his regime was corrupt by saying “relative to regimes that came after his, his government was saintly”. By and large, Nigeria eventually won a gold medal on the global corruption index.

Here we are in 2015. After 30 years of struggling against corruption, we are faced with a strong possibility of Buhari’s second coming in 2015 election since his ouster in August 1985. Though Buhari made several attempts in the past, it has never been such a close-call in terms of probability of success this time around.

Again, most Nigerians believe that Buhari is incorruptible; in fact, that is his strongest selling point. Little wonder PDP and other critics of Buhari are spending so much time and resources throwing out all kind of accusations and propaganda, yet they don’t accuse him of corruption. So if Buhari is elected in the fast-approaching election and he takes over the mantle of leadership, what will happen regarding the issue of corruption?

As difficult as the fight against corruption in Nigeria is, to which Nuhu Ribadu said “when you fight corruption it fights you back”, I think Buhari will have relatively easier “fight back” than most Nigerians that aspire to lead the country in recent times or even Jonathan that is the incumbent. My reasons are as follows:

Firstly, when it comes to the fight against corruption, perception is very important. As a leader you can’t be preaching against corruption while right under your nose all kinds of corrupt practices are taking place. In that regard, Buhari has a huge advantage because the perception of him as truly against corruption is there. The mere fact that Buhari is in charge, people in both private and public institutions would naturally start aligning. Not due to fear of God but rather due to belief that this is for real. The alignment would be mostly in two ways, completely abstaining from shady deals or simply changing strategy from blatant corruption to “don’t get caught” strategy.

Secondly, I don’t believe Buhari owes any political “debts or loyalty” stemming from crooked arrangements with the politicians so much so that he would need to protect a political ally even if that person is guilty of corruption. I believe Buhari has a name to protect and has been careful enough not to have got involved in some shady deals or arrangements that could be used to blackmail him to give protection to the corrupt. So if Buhari successfully puts Nigeria back on track and things start falling in place, IBB’s standing in the eyes of Nigerians will further plummet and would likely be given  a very negative role in the history of Nigeria as the guy who took the country 30 years (1985-2015) back by truncating earlier attempts by Buhari and Idiagbon. I think this is the true reason why IBB endorsed Jonathan.

Lastly, as a Nigerian from the northern part of the country, I don’t see the coming elections as a struggle between the north and the south as Nzeakah tried to portray in his article. I would rather see it as simply a struggle between the legacy of IBB from 1985 to 2015 (PDP) and the possible new era of General Buhari.

Abdul Abuja