One of the characteristics of Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency is its sheer predictability. As a prominent citizen of this country once told me, one could correctly guess or predict its moves, a quality that is not exactly exacting.
The pattern is this: you do something the Government does not like, the next moment the Government kicks and you are given the boot. There is no tact or finesse about it; it is just crude. If you were the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and you spilled the beans on what you knew or thought you knew, you would not complete your tenure and you would be instantly marked down. Fortunately, the very action against you might be all you needed to realise your life ambition.
Even if you were the Speaker of the House of Representatives and you took an action that was not pleasant to the powers that be, though you were supposed to be among those powers that be, your security paraphernalia would be withdrawn. Raw brawn would be used to fight you until, if you had mettle and the confidence of your colleagues, who were ready to be tear-gassed with you and accompany you to jail, if it came to that, the noose around you would be loosened and there would be calm, no matter how uneasy.
You might even be a Governor and to show you where power is, a microphone could be snatched from you in public and you could be prevented from gaining access to your own office and an attack dog in a police commissioner could be sent to hound you. Your private jet could be grounded when you were about to fly. There are so many examples of this pattern that would make you wonder if cutting the head is the solution to headache.
Therefore, if anyone was shocked about the sack of the former Chairman of the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), retired General Martin Luther Agwai, barely five days after he delivered the birthday lecture of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the person must be from Mars or has not been following the Government at all. One thing is as sure as the immediate past SURE-P Chairman has been made to realise, you are either with us or against us, you cannot express your candid opinion!
Specifically, that former President Obasanjo and the President are no longer the best of friends is not news but for General Agwai to have the courage, no the audacity, to attend his birthday shindig and give an uncomfortable lecture was too much.
In the lecture, “Imperatives of National Security Framework for the Development and Progress of Nigeria”, among other things, the respected General said, “Integrity matters, doing what is good for the larger society, and not just what you want to do for a narrow society to please yourself.” Another quote from the lecture is, “In life, you find that everything needs change, and if that is what the community wants, what the people want, you must give it to them and as such, it becomes inevitable.” This is also a thoughtful statement, it contains neither invectives nor the smallest hint of Fani-Kayodesque.
Now, since there is a word that the people of power loathe so much that they would rather wish it is no longer in the dictionary, the word should not be used. If the word “change” should be used at all, it should be in the context of payment, like what bus conductors don’t have much of, which passengers always demand. I guess the word “change” was General Agwai’s undoing though it is apparent that a person like him would know the implication of whatever he said and would be ready for it.
The issue is that the strategy is self-defeating. Rather than make General Agwai more popular, as almost every action against a perceived enemy has proven to be, a friendly invitation and engagement would have resolved the issue. He could be put on the defensive and the Government would have registered its displeasure. A situation in which every critic is considered a mortal foe is not helpful to a Government that needs the goodwill of many now more than at any other time.
The same Government that recruited Dr Reuben Abati and Chief Femi Fani-Kayode who had been two of its harshest critics is expected to know how well to relate with criticism. Though the personalities involved are different, if Fani-Kayode could be engaged as a masterstroke against himself, the Government can as well be flexible in accepting fair criticisms and moving forward with them.
Once again, cutting the head is not the solution to headache.
THE MESSAGE FROM MCCAIN
Prof. Danny McCain was the Guest Lecturer of the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies (CPSS), University of Ilorin, this Tuesday (March 17, 2015). Though an American citizen, having spent some 26 years in Nigeria, he knows the Nigerian society and politics very well, without having to be a political scientist. He can as well be called an American Nigerian the same way we have many of our Nigerian Americans (or Nigericans for short) living in Obama’s country.
Speaking on “Towards Peaceful Elections in 2015: The Roles of Stakeholders in Nigeria”, a lecture that was eminently chaired by the anti-corruption tzar and former Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Hon, Justice Mustapha Akanbi, Prof. McCain said something that struck a chord in me that our political stakeholders at the national level should bear in mind.
“Should the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, lose the upcoming elections, he will have lost nothing. He will continue to be the respected statesman he has been for many years, with an enhanced status due to representing the combined opposition party and a stronger run for the presidency.
“Should President Goodluck Jonathan lose the election, he will likely become a respected Africa-wide leader, who will be called upon for the rest of his life to support significant projects, reduce tension and share wisdom from his vast experience in governing the largest country in Africa.”
Those who are making winning or losing the forthcoming elections appear like the end of the world are doing a great disservice to this country. I think Nigerian politicians need to learn from Al Gore, as Prof. McCain reminded us, who congratulated his opponent even before the elections were concluded. Can we learn?