At the presidential level, Goodluck Jonathan has taken the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office on three occasions — first as the vice-president, as the acting president and again as the substantive president. These pledges were taken, not as a sectional or ethnic leader, but as a national leader. But in recent times, particularly within some Ijaw enclaves, many act as if Jonathan is the President of the Ijaw ethnic group.
It is so disconcerting when you see and hear some Nigerians of Ijaw extraction talk and act as if “without Jonathan, there will be no oil, no Nigeria.” Please disregard such chest-pounding and insensitive talks.
Frankly, I do not know if President Jonathan supports or encourages such fervour. I do not know. However, what seems clear is that he or his Minister of Justice, the Inspector General of Police, the State Security Service or other security and intelligence agencies have not cautioned those who swore to push the country off the cliff in the event the President does not continue in office past 2015. What nonsense!
Democracy is not about personalities. Sure, there are influential and visionary individuals who may help with the democratic process; but really, democracy is not about individuals but about the collective, the process and institutions. Whether President Jonathan stays or goes – whether he is rehired or fired from the presidency — is up to the electorate. If he is fired, Nigeria will not burn or disintegrate. The oil will not stop flowing. But hubris and egos emanating from the creeks want you to believe they can move mountains. They can’t!
One needs not be a lawyer or a constitutional scholar to know that Jonathan is qualified to seek the presidency the second time. He can and he should. All the talks about “war,” “blood,” “cutting off oil pipelines” and making the country a “living hell” if he is not allowed to are nothing but an empty talk.
In functional democracies, no one comes off the street or the farm to become the president. There are many things to worry about, i.e. the screening process and the party primary. Jonathan, as with everyone else with presidential dreams and aspirations, must convince his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, to vote and select him as the party’s flag bearer. Whether or not the nomination process is free and fair is up to the party and its members. Slighted and aggrieved members have access to the courts. It is not for militants or ex-this and ex-that to dictate to or threaten the PDP and the country.
No one voice is louder than the voice of the country; no single personality is more vital than the wishes of the collective. Nigeria has myriad problems. However, that does not give anybody, any braggart the right to think they have the power to bring the country to its knees. What is this country turning into?
We have politicians bastardising the political process. We have those in the public and private spaces stealing the country blind. We have a judiciary that is less than stellar. We have a legislative branch that is more concerned with enriching itself than enriching the nation. We have non-state actors killing innocent citizens at will. And now we have petty and pesky individuals threatening the survival of the country. What is going on here?
Really, what is going on in Nigeria? On September 8, 2013 PoliReporters, an upcoming media outfit, reported that, “Former leaders of militant groups in the Niger Delta region have ordered former Vice-President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to tender an apology to President Goodluck Jonathan for tearing the ruling PDP apart.” The militant groups went on to declare Atiku “a persona non-grata in the region.” How does a self-serving group declare any Nigerian a persona non-grata in his or her fatherland?
According to the Sun newspaper (September 6, 2013), it was this same group — Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative — that “warned the Peoples Democratic Party and the Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi on the consequences of not re-electing President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.” And of course there is the Coalition for Militant Action in the Niger Delta that’s openly threatening the safety of Amaechi.
What we should worry about – what militants should worry about – are the unhealthy and worsening conditions in the region and the country. They ought to ask their respective governors what they’ve accomplished with several billions in monthly allocations. They should ask their state and federal parliamentarians what role they are playing in the development of the region and the country. They should demand from their public servants good governance and accountability. They should demand socially responsible behaviour and sound environmental practices from the various oil multinational companies.
Instead of threatening Jonathan’s opponents and critics, they should march to the Presidential Villa and demand accountability and public goods and services. It is not for these and other militants to dictate to the PDP or any other political party what it should do in terms of its primary and presidential candidates. Who the country elects as its number one citizen is wholly up to the people.
With this in mind, why do we have all these militants clamouring for Jonathan to continue in office? Ok, they have the right to support his candidacy and his presidency, but why threaten those who oppose him? Why call into the question the character and reputation of those who criticise him? This unbounded and irrational loyalty to Jonathan will not, in the long run, augur well for the region and its people.
The behaviour and pronouncements of many of these militants do not put the region and its people in a good light. And by the way: Why must all Ijaw belong to the PDP or pledge allegiance to Jonathan? As great a human being as Obafemi Awolowo was, not all Yoruba supported him or his politics. And not all Igbo supported Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu or Nnamdi Azikiwe. So, where did the Ijaw get the idea that it must be “Jonathan or hell”? Where? The idea that any Ijaw who does not support or sing Jonathan’s praise is a saboteur or anti-Ijaw is sheer nonsense.
In the end, you must understand this: An effective and visionary leader does not need the support of arm-twisting and fire-spitting militants. No! He earns the people’s trust and affection by his good and measurable deeds.