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2011 AND CULTURE OF INTOLERANCE

By NBF News

Owing chiefly to our shameful outings in the past, insecurity of lives and property , growing trend of impunity and lawlessness as well as the seeming incapacity of security operatives to respond decisively to threats, Nigerians can no longer bear with any situation that pulls them closer to fear. This explains why many people believe that incumbents cannot truly organize a free and fair election when they are candidates.

The major dimensions of the 2011 presidential poll has been whether it is morally right for an acting president to go beyond the tenure of his late boss and run for the slot belonging to his late boss's region, in this case, the north, going by a zoning agreement in the political party that produced both men. In the process of this debate, the search for a man with the right understanding of the nation's critical problems such as the economy, under-funding, corruption, power supply, insecurity, regional equity and Niger Delta crisis, youth decadence, etc, were relegated to the back burner. This has always been the case in Nigeria at every presidential election . The debate usually shifts from real issues of development to regional balance, sit-tight syndrome, third term debate, etc. By this, the polity is robbed of quality debates and meaningful search as unimportant issues take centre-stage. This could explain why the likes of Pat Utomi, and many other highly intellectual minds do not get a chance, because the debate usually shifts from brain capacity to brawn capability.

In the present dispensation, as the debate over the proprietary of President Goodluck Jonathan's ambition raged on, the entry of Nigeria's former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) took the polity by deviant storm. Many are asking what IBB forgot in Aso Rock that he needs to go back and collect, or what policy initiative he failed to implement in eight whole years with all the dictatorial powers of a military dictator that he thinks he can initiate now and execute with the diluted powers of a democratic head of state. Others however argue that Nigerians must begin to imbibe true democratic behaviors, thoughts and culture which hallmark is the need to respect the rights of the next person under the supreme law of the land, no matter how we feel. So therefore instead of hounding IBB, his fate should be left in the hands of Nigerians to decide. Enough of the days when one man made president for the whole country.

Those who want Jonathan to run wave the 1999 Constitution where his right is found, far and above any agreements in the political parties, but the same persons find it difficult to see how IBB should run under the same 1999 Constitution. In Jonathan's case, they throw away morality and wave the law. In IBB's case, the same people throw away the law and rely on morality. This is the tragedy in myopic reasoning. The truth is that the North has a moral right to their slot, the South-South has a legitimate right to demand that an older moral issue (that of the goose not being rewarded for decades) of equity to be recognized. Whichever zone between the North and South-South produces the next president would be right, because one of the rights would have been satisfied. In doing so, however, the two zones ought to heed this proposition or counsel – the need to negotiate the slot to avoid injuring the enduring political relationship between the two regions which has given much benefit to the senior partners in the marriage.

It is in this light that analysts frown at the recent diversion to one of Nigeria's most enduring investors and media guru, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, with a chain of radio and television stations around the country. In other climes, such men who dare to invest in their country instead of sending the money in foreign land are respected and courted. When we go abroad to seek foreign investors, we bow at the feet of such men so they can bring down their investments to help create jobs and trap capital. This is why Ghana is now sending ministers to remote Nnewi and Emene to woo a man unknown in Nigeria, Innocent Chukwuma, just because the young Umudim-Nnewi youth has found a formula for motor manufacturing and other industrial techniques after many years of hobnobbing with the Chinese.

Dokpesi, Nigeria's own Ted Turner looks like those who founded the CNN Empire. He has his business challenges and setbacks as many Nigerians do, but the truth is that he invested in Nigeria. We do not think it is right for some Nigerians, just because of positioning themselves for recognition in the presidency, to attack him on account of his political views. Some unknown persons have been procured to threaten him with assassination and kidnap, together with his family. When he cried out, instead of assurances from the police, he got more bashing for doing so, as if Nigerians have not seen several men that cried out and still got the hammer. The nation is playing with this matter because many do not pursue their rights under the law, else, a citizen is free to take the government or the appropriate organ of government to legal tasks if his relation cried out for safety and still got killed or injured.

By the time the government pays heavy compensation for such neglect in so many instances, the authorities would sit up or do what the late president Yar-Adua did when he ordered all government agencies to do what is right or take the rap in the event of legal fallout. This was when NEPA ignored the appeals of a citizen in Lagos whose wife was partially paralysed from electrocution due to fallen NEPA wires. The citizen later took NEPA to court (but NEPA did not even show much concern) and won N30m. It was then that the agency started running from pillar to post, and Mr President issued that order.

Those attacking Chief Dokpesi for working with IBB have refused to listen to him and to some others. The truth is that there are now new faces in the south-south presidency project that do not feel secure with the intimidating presence of Dokpesi. Some sections feel highly alienated in the Jonathan camp but we believe that the President has the benefit of Nigerian incumbency, robust public funds, unsolicited goodwill and loyalists (some pretending) to convince Nigerians to vote for him and so he does not need avoidable enemies.

This is not to eulogize Dokpesi, but we believe it is wrong for him to be shabbily treated on matters that touch south-south presidency. Dokpesi worked so hard to realize a south-South presidency in 2006 even when many in the region worked against it. It was their work that brought the vice presidential slot to the zone and later it has brought the presidency to the glory of God. It is this great sense of alienation that is pushing many important south-southerners away from Jonathan's camp. Every time people talk about some governors in the south-south working against Jonathan's emergence, but many forget that many of the governors want to work with Jonathan, but if they are not carried along, and if Jonathan's workmen threaten the governors, would it not be exigent for such governors to seek protection in other camps?

Analysts are advising the Presidency not to soil its hands by engaging in ignoble political acts against those on the other side of the divide. Attacking Dokpesi, who many say is available for dialogue, may not be the best option for Jonathan's managers. Threatening IBB supporters in the south-south is suicidal because Jonathan has many supporters in the North too. If IBB's people are to be uprooted in the south-south, what would happen to Jonathan's men in the north? Would this not create chaos in the country and put Jonathan in a mess? Jonathan's younger brother had once advised him not to allow Nigeria to break up in his hands. Now, many, including former US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, are foretelling disaster in 2011 largely due to Jonathan's desire to run on the northern slot. Now, is threatening IBB's men in Jonathan's region not an invitation to anarchy? Does the south-south think it has the monopoly of violence? Records show that northerners have applied direct violence to fight matters as minor as rejecting a way of worship, a way of education, etc. (see recent Bauchi prison massacre, Maiduguri 2009, Jos, etc, all in recent times). Many patriots think it should be better to allow free campaigns reign.

Many think Ima Niboro (presidential spokesman) should be advised to be more mature and professional. He does not love Jonathan more than his Ijaw brothers. In doing his work, he should know how not to insult elders. Others say Niboro emerged by accident, and that on a good day, he would hardly be the one managing the image of Mr President especially going into elections. Experts say every insult from Niboro alienates hordes of votes and supporters to the detriment of Jonathan.

Free elections without free campaigns are not possible. Democratic culture begins with free aspiration, free primaries before free elections. Those who use guns or threats to stop aspirations can also use same to stop free elections. It is worse if those doing so openly come from Jonathan's camp. In that case, such people cannot claim to be working truly in the south-south interest.