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Goodluck Jonathan: To contest is to win

By: Ome Dede
 Published June10th, 2010

Nigeria, like other nations world-over, always has an interesting national debate to engage the sensibilities of her people and evoke their most eloquent and polemic arguments. I particularly remember the heated debates over IMF ‘conditionalities’, the June 12 ‘imbroglio’ and Obasanjo’s ‘secret agenda’. We cannot forget so soon the debate over late President Yar’Adua’s illness and the delay in transmitting power to then Vice-President Jonathan. Now the issue is whether or not President Jonathan should run for president next year. Once again, all sections of the polity are falling over themselves to exercise their civic right to express their views about this topic that has virtually taken the public discussion space captive since President Yar’Adua passed on barely six weeks ago. And once again the national media is not only at the centre of the ring, but at ringside, promoting, directing and creating a huge hype around the verbal fireworks that keep everyone glued to their TV and radio sets, newspapers and magazines. It’s like Barrack Obama versus Hilary Clinton all over again. But now, more than ever before, I think it imperative for Nigerians to take a breather, step back and consider – for once – what manner of debate it is we have allowed ourselves to be embroiled, nay, obsessed with.

Why is Jonathan’s candidacy such an issue? I think the answer is simple. For Jonathan to contest is for him to win, as no incumbent loses an ‘election’ in Nigeria’s peculiar democratic style. If this were not the case, then it would be irrelevant whether he chooses to contest or not, because the important question in any real democratic contest is not who contests, but who wins. By being obsessed with Jonathan’s contemplation to run or not, we admit that we have no democracy, that we are slaves of the oligarchy and forever at the mercy of the incumbent. What is more irksome, is why we do not expend our precious collective breathe in tackling the real problem. For how much longer shall our national media lead us down the road of perverse self-deception in their self-centered efforts to sell adverting space by creating this Wrestlemania-type hype around a farcical debate whose outcome has no impact on our overall wellbeing?

The Nigerian media is hereby not only failing in its sacred duty to engender the right debate over the right issues, it is becoming as culpable as the current political elite in the perpetuation of our country’s social, political and economic backwardness. This is so because the gusto with which these farcical debates have been conducted in the media over the past decades have helped in no small measure in legitimating that which is not only indisputably illegitimate, but should be uncompromisingly made to appear so. In orchestrating this illicit debate, the media is indeed conducting an underhand but de facto election for the oligarchy, as its outcome will determine the extent to which Mr. Jonathan (or no other devious individual than IBB himself) can push their good luck which has so far been extremely phenomenal (from their point of view, at least). The debate will serve no other purpose than to enable the long-ruling cabal determine which of it’s members (whether from the old house or the new emerging house) becomes the next kid on Aso Rock.

But if the media fails to provide Nigerians with leadership, why may we not help ourselves? Why must we eternally allow lackeys of every sort play the tribe card or the religion card to our detriment? Regarding the tribe card, social commentator Colonel Umar made a very instructive observation many years ago. He is credited with remarking that the fact that Northerners had held the highest office in Nigeria for so long has not affected the number of beggars of Northern stock. Let’s not deceive ourselves; a Northern president who emerges from a true election will serve Southerners better than a Southern president who emerges from the usual ‘selection’. Of course it works the other way round. So the real issue is not that the president, and all other elective leaders for that matter, must emerge from a particular region, but that they must emerge from genuine, free and fair elections. The blind tribalist who insists on having his tribesman in office should be aware that when the chips are down, the ‘selected’ oligarch – wherever s/he comes from – will protect their personal interests and those of their clique rather than the interests of tribe or nation. So, enough of these misleading and unprofitable discussions: Let Jonathan and IBB run for president if they want to. Even Abacha, Dimka and Lawrence Anini can rise up from the dead and buy nomination forms if they think they are fit. Let us rather debate how to make the ballot sacred and powerful. If our votes are made safe, the presidency will be safe. For then, except a (wo)man be voted, s/he may not enter (or even see) the inside of Aso Rock.

Ome Dede (omedede@yahoo.com)



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