Jonathan And His Kinsmen
"In spite of this reality, Jonathan, a man who claims to come from a humble background and poor parentage and lacking shoes and modern amenities, does not see it fit to do anything about the abject condition of his people? What nonsense! How much will it cost to build two major highways and eight connecting roads in and around the Niger Delta? No more than four weeks’ worth of oil export! How much will it cost the oil-producing states to build first-class schools and hospitals, and to provide potable water and clean environment? Less than thirty percent of their yearly budgets! How much will it cost these states, in concert with the federal government, to industrialize the region? Less than twelve weeks earning from oil export."
This President – President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan -- has six sets of problems. First, he is not suited for party politics. Second, he has a limited and provincial worldview, which makes it difficult for him to grasp complex domestic and global issues. Third, in the political arena, at least, he is not loved, feared, or respected. Fourth, he may have steely nerves and the heart of a lion; but outwardly, he is weak and cowardly and scared. Fifth, he lacks the skill to effectively articulate and execute his plans – assuming he has any. And finally, he is not to be a good judge of character. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have appointed seventy percent or more of the men and women he has so far brought onboard.
I intend to return to these observations in the very near future. Here and now, however, my interest is on the president and his kinsmen: men and women from the Niger Delta who are members of his inner conclave. Many – very many of these folks are enemies of progress and growth. Individually and collectively, they have refused to tell the President the whole truth. They failed to tell him the complete and unadulterated truth. The truth they should have told him some six to nine months into his presidency was this: resign or get your acts together! The Ijaw among them should have been more vocal, more direct, and more honest. As a result of their failing, Jonathan and his presidency has been curse to our collective aspirations.
Instead of being honest and patriotic, they urge him on; they sing his praise; they make him believe he is good for the country; they make him believe the country needs and want him; and then they feloniously gloss over his deficits and incompetence. Lately, they’ve been whispering in his ears: “2015-2019 is yours, ordained by the God of Abraham!” What a disservice! What evil! For the Ijaw among the president’s kitchen cabinet, several decades of isolation and exclusion and poverty seem to have severely damaged their humanity and their sense of self to the point where, today, it is all about self-aggrandizements.
Many of the honest and sincere voices among the Ijaw have been silenced. The forward-looking ones have been excommunicated. Those who object to and make their objections public have either been severely frustrated or alienated. The Jonathan Praise Singing Project does not want or need Ijaw men and women who genuinely want the president to succeed. Critics are not wanted. Gadflies are not needed. Rationale minds are not welcome. What the Jonathan Project wants are attack dogs and character assassins. They embrace pathological liars and neurotic cheats and pipe dreamers and snake-oil sellers. In their minds, Nigeria now belongs to them and them alone. Therefore, in Nigeria’s vernacular, “it is time to chop and chop.” And they plan on chopping until 2015 or 2019. After 2015 or 2019, they intend to revive the Niger Delta Crisis.
The questions I have, and have had since Jonathan’s ascension are these: What are we to do about the sorry state of the oil-producing communities? What are we to do about the larger Niger Delta? How do we prevent a reoccurrence of the Niger Delta Crisis? What are we going to do when we run out of oil? What do we do when the lands are no longer able to sustain farming, and the rivers so polluted that fishing is almost impossible? And even if we don’t run out of oil, what do we do when the world discovers alternative source of energy? How do we move Nigeria forward? And who, in the name of the almighty, is going go clean and restore our terrible and sickening environment?
If Jonathan – a son of the soil – does not pay serious attention to the region, on whom should the Niger Deltans place their hopes? If Jonathan does not develop the riverine areas, what right would the Ijaw have to cry on the shoulder of the next president who, definitely, will not be an Ijaw? Since the late-1970s at least, oil has been the dominant earner of foreign exchange; and more than eighty percent of the nation’s budget has come from petro-dollars. Yet – yet – there are no travelable roads and bridges and hospitals and enviable human development and what is commonly referred to as Federal Presence.
In spite of this reality, Jonathan, a man who claims to come from a humble background and poor parentage and lacking shoes and modern amenities, does not see it fit to do anything about the abject condition of his people? What nonsense! How much will it cost to build two major highways and eight connecting roads in and around the Niger Delta? No more than four weeks’ worth of oil export! How much will it cost the oil-producing states to build first-class schools and hospitals, and to provide potable water and clean environment? Less than thirty percent of their yearly budgets! How much will it cost these states, in concert with the federal government, to industrialize the region? Less than twelve weeks earning from oil export.
And so, while Jonathan and a section of his kinsmen (and governors from the oil-producing states) are chopping and misappropriating public funds, they should remember that they will not be in power forever. They may lose elections. They may be impeached. They may become incapacitated by mental or physical sicknesses. They may die. Yes, they may die! And of course, death is a great leveler. And especially in the case of Mr. Jonathan -- whether he remains in power beyond 2015 or not -- he is likely to be the most reviled man in the history of the Niger Delta; and certainly, may become the most despised after General Olusegun Obasanjo.
What Jonathan’s kinsmen should have told him or what they should be telling him is this: “if you can’t effect change and improvements in the economic and political space don’t make it worse; and secondly, stay away from the 2015 presidential elections.” It’s that simple. It is this simple because, as we approach the halfway mark of his presidency, one can hardly point to quantifiable achievements at home and abroad. Especially at home! The Ijaw ethnic group – spread over six states – is still waiting for Jonathan to positively impact their lives. In so many ways, not much has changed in the riverine areas since the Portuguese and the British first set foot in that part of the world more than 700 years ago. The larger Niger Delta region is also waiting. Indeed, the entire country is also waiting.
** Sabella Ogbobode Abidde, PhD., an Assistant Professor of Humanities & World History at the Alabama State University, Montgomery, Alabama, wrote this article exclusively for publication on THEWILL. Email [email protected]