• Saturday, May 25, 2024
businessday logo


International dimensions of the coming elections(2)

In April 2011, French soldiers bombed the presidential palace, paving the way for the capture of Laurent Gbagbo and the First Lady. After detention in the north of the country he was unceremoniously taken to The Hague. After Gbagbo and his eloquent youth minister Blé Goudé presented their defence, the judges in their wisdom have referred the matter back to the prosecutor to go back to the drawing board all over again. Laurent Gbagbo had his own share of foibles, but he was a lesser criminal than those whom foreign powers used to destroy peace and harmony in Côte d’Ivoire.
Make no mistake about it, Goodluck Jonathan is a statesman of destiny. It was Albert Einstein who famously remarked that God does not play dice with the universe. His path has not been a random walk through history, guided as he has been by the invisible hand of fate. Throughout his presidency, even his enemies will acknowledge that he has exercised power with justice and compassion. I have met him in person and I can tell you that appearances can be misleading. The intellectual reticence and rustic accents are deceptive. The man has a brilliant and incisive mind and the aura around him is that of a highly organised and purpose-driven soul. He has a great passion for Nigeria. Above the noise – above the din and the madding crowd – he is a man who believes his good work will speak for him.
Consider the facts: No one has done for infrastructures more than he has; same for roads, railways, agriculture and education. There are no political prisoners in Nigeria. Political assassinations that were rampant during the Obasanjo years are a thing of the past, including the cultic-inspired plane crashes that made our aviation industry such a by-word among the nations.
Goodluck Jonathan knows he is a Daniel in the lion’s den, but he has treated his enemies with nothing but respect and decorum. He is a man who will quietly dine with people whom he knows will betray him tomorrow, if they are not already doing so. He reminds me of the mythic al Prince Rasselas of the ancient African kingdom of Abyssinia. A calm and collected man; a man of inner strength and courage. A thoughtful man. A man of patience, whose wife, ironically, may not be that patient with her husband’s critics. Dame Patience is no one to suffer fools gladly. I heard she even challenged Wole Soyinka to an open debate and Kongi chickened out! She may sometimes use intemperate language, but she is far from being the Lady Macbeth that her enemies have portrayed.
The Jonathan presidency, as the whole world knows, has been shadowed by the Boko Haram insurgency. Some of us blamed him for not acting with boldness from the very beginning. When he later tried to act, he came up against an impregnable international conspiracy. It soon became clear that America, whose arms were being used by the insurgents, and some of the NATO allies, had imposed a de facto arms embargo on our country. Boko Haram was manufactured by our northern oligarchs who had lost power and who had promised to make the country “ungovernable”. And when a former president such as Olusegun Obasanjo remarks that the insurgents “have legitimate grievances”, we are overcome by a shuddering cold. What kinds of grievances will ever justify the wholesale killings of thousands of women and children in defenceless communities throughout the north east? What kind of grievances will justify the unspeakable atrocities by so-called “Fulani” marauders throughout the wide expanse of the glorious savannah of my birth in the Middle Belt of Nigeria? What kind of war can ever justify such mayhem?
These wicked demons have received tacit support from our local potentates as well as from foreign powers because Boko Haram and the “Fulanis” fulfil their geopolitical intent of creating the political atmosphere that can lead to the eventual balkanisation of our great federation. Tonnes of weapons have been smuggled into our country through the ports and by stealth flights at night. It is a known fact that our neighbouring countries – Niger, Chad and Cameroon – were in tacit connivance with the insurgents until the situation went out of hand, when they now realised it is in their national interest to work with us to contain the menace.
Goodluck Jonathan began his career as a mild-mannered science lecturer without ambition. Destiny thrust him into the high magistracy of Africa’s greatest republic. He never sought to fight a war; but a war has been thrust upon him by those who are now insisting that they must rule, by force and by thunder. As he wins the war against the insurgents, these forces arrayed against the president are far from happy. The insurgents that they had probably hoped to use during the elections are being dealt a definitive and final blow.
These coming elections are not about Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. Rather, they are about the moral foundations of this nation – and whether we would succumb to the forces of evil or the forces of light; and whether our country would be an open society based on the rule of law or by backward ideologies that will reinforce our millennial bondage.
Let the truth be told: Those who wish us well are few while those who wish us ill are numerous. The forces arrayed against our nation are not just in the erstwhile capital of the West that put Africa in chains for centuries; they go as far afield as Tehran, Qatar, Riyadh and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, to whom Boko Haram has recently pledged allegiance. 
It is in this context also that we may best understand the ordinary matter of a phone call from Aso Villa to Rabat which became a diplomatic blow-out between our country and the Hashemite Kingdom of Morocco. According to the Villa, our president had put out a call to His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco ostensibly to seek his support for Nigeria’s candidate for the presidency of the African Development Bank Group. Although the phone call did not go through (or was not responded to), some ‘creative talent’ in our foreign ministry decided to announce to the world that the two leaders had spoken. The government in Rabat responded in the strongest possible language, short of calling our country a land of nefarious scammers, insisting that their exalted king had in no way condescended to speak with the president of Nigeria. They even recalled their ambassador in protest. The Moroccan government added that their king did not wish “to interfere” with Nigeria’s democratic processes. The impression may have been created that President Jonathan was seeking the king’s endorsement so as to impress our northern Muslim electorate for the upcoming elections.
The Smart Alec who took it upon himself to falsely announce that the two leaders had spoken ought to be sanctioned for embarrassing our government and the presidency. But I think the over-reaction by Morocco was totally unnecessary. Morocco has long borne a grudge against Nigeria for recognising POLISARIO and Western Sahara. Morocco pulled out of the AU because of the stance taken by the majority of member-states on the Western Sahara Question. I used to live in Tunisia and I am quite familiar with the Maghreb, including Morocco. While acknowledging some of the forward-thinking that has informed some of the impressive economic and social reforms in that country, Morocco remains an absolute monarchy with all the limitations it entails. The bulk of the black population continue to be treated like slaves. When we had the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the Moroccans shamelessly pulled out of hosting the African Cup of Nations. In economic standing, intellectual prowess and cultural energy, Morocco is small fry compared to Nigeria; a bunch of confused Berbers who are not sure whether they are Arabs, Europeans or Africans. We know who we are and what we are going to be. We should leave them where they are.
Let us make it very clear: It is up to Nigerians to decide who will become their leader come March 28. It is not for Europe, America, the Arabs, NATO or anyone else to decide for us who should be our president. Muhammadu Buhari has a good chance of winning and he will come to the job with a solid anti-corruption writ if Nigerians decide to cast their lot with him. For my part, I must confess that, of late, my spirit is moving towards the demonised underdog; this lamb who is totally incapable of abusing or insulting anyone or calling upon his followers to maim and kill in the name of politics. In the immortal words of King David: “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant has thou been unto me; thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”
Obadiah Mailafia