2014: Relevance of a paradigm shift
SIX days into the New Year, it is not too late to say Happy New Year to my readers. Thank God we survived 2013, but we still suffer from its hangover. There are knotty issues to be resolved; there are still quite a number of unfinished businesses, like workers' welfare, power outages, terrorism, street violence, kidnapping for ransom, general deficit in the national infrastructure, oil theft, oil subsidy scams, corruption, discrepancies in the remittances of oil revenue to the Federation Account and the power realignment arising from the internal crisis of the PDP, etc.
Most of these issues were raised in what the media has dubbed ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo's 'letter bomb' to President Goodluck Jonathan. Although one does not want to get involved in this Presidential media skirmishes, the fact remains that while Jonathan has replied the ex-President's letter, the fall-out of OBJ's epistle would, to some extent, shape political discourse in 2014 as much as the PDP-APC political configuration, which are bound to set the stage for the make or mar 2015 general elections.
This is the most decisive year since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999 because for the first time, the implosion in the ruling PDP which I had predicted way back in 2007, is proving extremely difficult to manage for the dramatis personae. This is a sharp departure from past internal crises of the ruling party which its leaders were able to resolve through deft manipulations and compromises. The PDP's incumbent President is facing the battle of his life against a background of an emerging fierce opposition that appears to be succeeding in cobbling together, a diffuse group of political forces which have a common goal of dislodging the ruling party from Aso Rock in 2015, even in the absence of a coherent ideology behind this strange coalition.
Yet, given the capricious nature of politics, it is too early to say that the game is up for the Jonathan forces. It is premature to say the 15-year reign of the PDP at the helm of affairs will come to an abrupt end in 2015, because of the poor handling of the party by its leaders, especially the battle wary President, who is just recovering from the stress of a paralyzing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU; the Aviation Ministry car purchase scandal, and other minor crises surrounding his leadership.
But the first challenge of Jonathan is to shake off the hood of an 'Ijaw President' that has hung on his head, in addition to his shocking indifference to the rapid growth of corruption with impunity that has smeared his Administration. Thank God, in his New Year message, he has pledged to be more aggressive in his battle against graft, Nigeria's No. 1 enemy, and his main albatross.
However, what will save his crises-ridden presidency is to find the verve to act with Presidential grit, and confront the developmental challenges he has, hitherto failed to solve, despite his Transformation Blueprint. The charge of weakness and ineptitude hanging on his neck arose from his tepid response to the sea of troubles that is drowning the ship of state under his captainship. He must prove to be a master mariner who is able to bring life savers to the sinking ship of state, and the only way to do that, is to shift the paradigm of his leadership.
The habit of using Presidential media aides to aggressively engage critics of his Administration would only aggravate his image problems. The language and combative communication style of his aides cannot, by any long shot, rescue a president on a stump. Being impervious to reason, as he sometimes comes across in his response to criticisms, will not help him either. Certainly, what can cut it for him is to engage the array of problems of development in a more decisive manner, in this twilight year of his presidency; and not bury his head in the sand like the fabled ostrich. No leader can hide behind one finger in a traditionally contentious polity like ours. A President who does not know this, does not know anything.
Therefore, while the shenanigans and the chicaneries are going on, on the political front over 2015, a performance-driven presidency can ride over all of these, if he delivers on his promise to at least, solve some of the basic problems we all know too well- epileptic power supply, corruption, collapsed infrastructure, transparent management of our finances, fight against terrorism and street crimes, creation of a strong private sector to drive the economy and create jobs, etc.
These are the issues of the day, which are rooted in decades of neglect by a succession of insensitive and corrupt leadership. We'll continue to discuss the same problems because our current leaders across the political spectrum, rather than get down to work and face these challenges squarely, are more interested in the security of tenure, or how to capture power in 2015 for personal aggrandizement. The issue has never been about coalitions. What did the NPC/NCNC alliance between Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe produce in the First Republic? Confusion and political wranglings in the opposing Action Group of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, which led to the crisis in the then Western Region that triggered the first coup.
In the Second Republic, a similar alliance between the NPN and NPP was short-lived. The UPN-PPA Alliance could not get off the ground. At the end of the day, the military toppled the Shagari government after barely four years in power in the New Year eve coup of December 31, 1983.
We must recall that ex-President Ibrahim Babangida's experiment with diarchy didn't work. His political laboratory later created the SDP-NRC two-party system which produced the election which Chief M.K.O Abiola won decisively. Unfortunately, that election was annulled. Its fall-out was the seizure of power by Gen. Sani Abacha. The manic-depressive maximum ruler attempted to transmute into a civilian president like the Arab military dictators. His five-parties, dubbed by the whimsical Bola Ige as the 'five fingers of a leprous hand', were the vehicles of his hatchet job to create a life presidency, but God intervened. Abacha died with his vaulting ambitions, unfortunately with Abiola's mandate as well. This got us to where we are today.
The point being made here is that we must be wary of coalitions because realignment of political forces has never taken us to the Promised Land. They often begin with a big sound and fury, but end up signifying nothing but confusion, which often makes a bad case worse. Yet, nobody says we should dismiss the APC-nPDP Alliance altogether; one only went into history to remind Nigerians, and all stakeholders to view the latest power realignment with cautious optimism.
What Nigeria needs is a shift in the leadership paradigm in a way that engenders the kind of economic reforms and political actions that put the people first. Prioritizing the people over appropriation of political power is the way out of our leadership predicament. I will continue to harp on this point in 2014, because that is the way to go. That is the only way out of the emerging political gridlock which has dogged our polity since independence. In this year of our centenary, this country deserves a clean break from the past.
As we begin our second millennium as one country united by destiny, we must shift the leadership paradigm, if nothing else, for the sake of our impoverished people who continue to watch helplessly as an uncaring governing elite scramble for power ahead of 2015. Our journey has been motion without movement. If we allow this to continue in our second centenary, the road ahead will be very rough indeed. One only prays that we do not get entangled in another chain of crises that would truncate the modest gains we have achieved after 100 years of co-existence.
• Rev. Okotie, a former Presidential candidate, wrote from Lagos.