BACKLASH: What’s On Jonathan’s Mind?
I HAIL O BROS. I don’t mean to disturb your peaceful retirement in Otuoke. You deserve a good rest after the six-year mad race at Aso Rock Villa. It is just that people are saying so many things at the same time, and I feel I should put you in the know of some of the things being said. They say in this country of turn-by-turn, your six years at the presidency fully approximated the South-south’s turn. And that being so, nothing will turn the way of the South-south till after 20 years at the earliest, given that each of the five zones will accept to do only four years at the Presidency, and 40 years, if the zones insist on full measure of eight years each.
In fact, Baba OBJ, who facilitated your entry into the villa, is also talking. He said something that sounded like, “I cannot give a man a wife and also supply the weapon with which to put her in a family way.” In effect, Baba is putting all the blame of your over orchestrated under performance as president, on your head and your head alone. He said you recklessly wasted the opportunity of the South-south to gain ascendancy and consolidation. He explained that given your performance, other zones would not take the South-south seriously in subsequent contest for the centre stage.
That is his opinion anyway. The old man who is full of bile is not known to be too generous with praises for others except, himself. What will matter is the opinion of your people from the South-south, and yours sincerely, is one of them. I can tell you right away that you did try your best to be a good Nigerian president and a bad son of the Niger Delta. The entire nation was your constituency and you did not punish any part for refusing to vote for you in the 2011 presidential election.
One concessioner that was given the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to build came to site with shovels and wheel-barrow. You got angry, revoked the contract and re-awarded same to competent builders. The work had started manifesting well before you were voted out of Aso Rock. Up North, you gave good attention to the highway between Kano and Maiduguri, the Lokoja-Abuja Road was permanently on the radar in addition to the massive renewal of the Federal Capital Territory.
You had woken up one morning with the almajiri school concept to mop up street urchins and recondition them for purposeful future life. In one stroke, you established about 300 of such schools. At the higher level, you pursued the policy of equity by establishing federal university in every state of the federation. Together with your minister of agriculture, you worked so hard to smash a cartel that had made it impossible for fertilizers to reach farmers in the north. Overall, food production was boosted such that we are today at the verge of self sufficiency in rice production. Even Obasanjo, who is a known farmer could not get this far with agriculture in eight years. You resuscitated the rail tracks to ease movement of agriculture produce from the farms to the markets.
When the Boko Haram insurgency got to a feverish peak you rose up to the challenge in spite of the difficulties in acquiring the right weapons for the battle. The United States of America, which is today all too ready to give Nigeria a helping hand to defeat the insurgents, scuttled every move of yours to get weapons from the West. In the circumstance, you turned East, to procure weapons in the twilight of your Presidency with which you launched the massive offensive to liberate territories occupied by the insurgents.
You feared being tagged a regional president. This phobia was so real that every executive action was calculated to create an impression of a nationalist. But nothing, unfortunately, added up to your advantage. When Gen. Andrew Azazi, your late National Security Adviser (NSA), said openly that Boko Haram was being sponsored by those who lost election in 2011, some quarters asked for his head. You obliged, even as you hurriedly announced a successor you felt would change the game.
Also, when one Festus Odimegwu, as chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC) questioned the existing national demography, which puts Kano State above Lagos State, there was uproar up north. Again, to prove your pan-Nigerianism, you decapitated a man who dare speak the truth about the geographical distribution of Nigeria’s population. To put it bluntly, you were playing succession politics instead of doing good governance. Pacification became part of your craft such that, you were ready to give all for only one thing — second term in office.
But you were limited or misled by your own perception of the situation. Put differently, you were offering red oil to a deity that was bailing for blood. The North wanted power not development and you should have known that early enough and played the game accordingly. The lesson here as you savour your retirement in your village, is to always ‘render onto Caeser, things that are Caeser’s and to God things that are God’s’. Ironically, the South-south that needed development was left out in your calculations. You traded the development of the South-south for power, which you lost, eventually.
While in Abuja, you were literally in the air. Now, you are on ground and it would help if you can personally conduct a survey to collate evidence of your six-year presidency in the Niger Delta region. The only bit of evidence that would have counted for all stakeholders is still so much underground after almost a decade of pushing it to the surface. I am talking of the East-West Road, which runs from Edo through Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom to Cross River.
Several dates had been given for the completion of the road, but they all came and passed without the road. The last was given by Godsday Orubebe, former minister of the Niger Delta Ministry, the supervising ministry, who said the road would be ready for commissioning in December 2014. Work on the road may have even stopped, which is why the Rivers State government and the petro-chemical company at Eleme are collaborating to intervene in the section of the road around Eleme on the Port Harcourt-Uyo stretch.
As it is, it will be futile to mention a coastal road that will run from Lagos to Calabar. I mean, we cannot, in all honesty, talk of the construction of a more challenging coastal road when the Federal Government under you could not deliver a conventional road after a decade. The coastal road is part of the overall recovery package for the Niger Delta. Its design, (not the actual construction), which was financed by the NDDC may be lying unattended in the drawers of some top government operative while the people mourn.
All the Sea Ports in the Niger Delta are dead. Yet, it didn’t require more than a policy stroke to revive all and create a robust maritime economy to ease the choking circumstances of the region. You did nothing bros and our biggest challenge today is pushing the argument for greater attention in the Niger Delta. Others will simply throw it back at us: what did your own son do when he was president? Bros you may advise us on a good answer to this poser.
While it is in the nature of man to wish for a second chance to amend past misdeeds, the constant competition for space in the social framework does not allow for such luxury. That is why everybody is advised to use his or her first chance to cut very deep. It is not every man that can get as lucky as OBJ and PMB, who have had first and second chance to do the same thing all over.
The one called IBB has been trying since he ended abruptly his first chance in 1993 to secure a second opportunity. It is unlikely he will have it and he may have to keep to himself corrections of his previous mistakes.
Bros, I pray that yours may be different.