AMEH EBUTE AND THE GOODLUCK JONATHAN TRAVESTY
The last time anybody heard from or about Senator Ameh Ebute must be some 16 years ago when, as his own June 12 gimmick, he threatened to re-convene the National Assembly that Sani Abacha had disbanded. Abacha promptly sent him to relax in one of the dictator's numerous jail houses. When Ebute regained his freedom, he melted into oblivion.
He himself once told us in Lagos that after he was left off the hook, he dived right into his village which I know to be some distance from Ugbokolo, the nearest semi-urban township where we attended the reception for him in 1993 after he became president of the Senate following the impeachment of Dr. Iyorcha Ayu. I would be surprised if the village he pointed the direction then has got GSM service even as GSM is almost everywhere in Nigeria now. That is to show how far he dived from civilization after that detention from where he surfaced about three weeks ago to make childlike statements regarding what Goodluck Jonathan's ambition is about to do to Nigeria .
There is nothing very new as such in what Ebute said except that when some people start making some statements, you know that something has gone wrong somewhere about Nigeria. When I was politically active in Nigeria , I got very close to this man. I am saying that I know Ameh Ebute very well. And he was never like the other politicians as far as spending spree, licentious life or greed were concerned. And he was very concerned about his own people. I can still recall the sentiments he used to express about the monopoly of power by the Tiv neighbours of the Idoma people in Benue State and, over time, I felt that, on that basis, the Idomas and the Igbos share a same problem, though on different scales. In those days, Ebute was used to fuming that before he suddenly became Senate President, they did not use to invite him to meeting of elders and senior citizens in his state.
It is very curious that somebody who agonized a lot about experience of exclusion of his own people in Benue could afford to say now that zoning is undemocratic and should be jettisoned just to make room for President Jonathan to contest and rule.
Ebute cannot forget all those 'jokes' about Idoma Kingdom not being an emergency or an artificial Kingdom but a minority whose children went to school and made its people a dominant minority, permanent stars in national politics ever since Independence. And that they did not deserve their experience in Benue State . He cannot forget how we used to discuss all these in his NICON base in those days.
What happened to a scion of the Idoma tradition of excellence at a crucial moment in the life of our country such as this? Has he forgotten that he was the Number Three citizen of the country at some point and that such a position carries a responsibility? Ebute's kind of political behaviour is what makes it difficult for the Middle Belt to lead the North. With people like Ebute, neither the so-called core North nor the South is sure of or trusts the Middle Belt.
It is comforting though that Ebute's more brilliant brothers are not making the kinds of statements that the former Senate president is making on zoning. Audu Ogbeh, for instance, remains steadfast that abandoning zoning is something that would create problems in the future. Even David Mark upon whom the Jonathan presidency also rests a lot has refrained from those kinds of statements. These gentlemen must have refrained from careless opinions on the issue because they know what it means.
But it will remain unfortunate that Ameh Ebute said what he said about rotation of the presidency. He got it all wrong. He said that the agitation from the North for power to remain there till 2015 is a selfish campaign by some individuals and that the Northern minorities will no longer be used to pursue any selfish agenda. See who is talking!, the same Ebute who has been one of the greatest beneficiary of zoning and rotation of power, both as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation in the Second Republic and then President of the Senate in the fateful Third Republic. A man I cannot remember hearing anything from against rotation when he was in the NPN, the cradle of the politics of rotation of power in Nigeria .
Has he forgotten all these? I am sure that he temporarily forgot that he is a Northern minority when he was enjoying the fruits of zoning. I do not think Ameh Ebute thought about these things very well. I do not want to come to the cheap judgment that Ebute has been bought but I cannot stop wondering how he can be so inconsiderate of other people's sentiments and forgetful of his own bitterness about denial of governorship to Idoma people in his own state. Before now, I thought I knew him and that he was the man to follow when an issue like this is on the floor. I wouldn't say I made a mistake but we should learn a lot from these kinds of experiences without feeling disappointed when some people we knew and saw as the moral authority crumble even before our Lord Jesus Christ could say, Judas.
All I believe is that the road to greatness must be great. Anything short of this will meet its nemesis. With the money and American, British, French and Canadian support, (Jonathan hasn't been here yet in Germany), Obasanjo and T. Y Danjuma must have mobilized for president Jonathan and the death or willful disappearance of courage and honesty there in Nigeria , Jonathan will end up as president from now till 2019. The way I see it, nothing will stop him for now. But it will leave a question mark on Nigeria . Ten years from now, we would see.
If some of us are still alive by the time he is through with power in 2019, we will see what happens thereafter. If we are dead by then, our children will see to it. History will also see to it. But even as Jonathan, Obasanjo and Danjuma will be enjoying power, they will never, for one moment, forget that theirs is a coalition against the Igbos. Danjuma who felt a sense of injustice in what Obasanjo's juniors in the military had done to him and to the Yorubas in June 12 and, almost single-handedly, made Obasanjo president in 1999 cannot feel that a grave wrong is about to be committed against the Igbos in particular by truncating rotation of the presidency in favour of Jonathan. Instead, he is telling us that no laws banned Jonathan from contesting. He felt about the issue enough as to give an interview distancing himself from the PDP when he recently told Thisday something like, 'I am not a member of that party'. He must be referring to the PDP. The ploy is simple. If he is not a member of the PDP, who can blame him for not contributing to sustaining rotation of power?
Who can surpass T. Y when it comes to teaching the Igbos lessons of their life?
And this reminds me of what the Igbo activists in the June 12 saga were being told as long as June 12 struggle lasted. Whenever we met, it would become an issue of argument if the Igbo people should be in it. The question was, why should we be in a struggle that cannot yield any reciprocal benefits for us? It was being implied that unlike the Yorubas, there is still a reservoir of anger against the Igbos that our people would not even attain a June 12 stage before we talk of a struggle for it and the solidarity or lack of it from other ethnic groups in the South or North. I think brothers like Ndubusi Kanu can see the whole thing more clearly now although it is too late.
The Yorubas are quiet, having nothing left to buy or sell in the rotation market. Or so they think at the moment. That is why it is a Yoruba General who is leading the charade against rotation and no one has cautioned him against it. Generally, apart from Chief Olu Falae, not even our fellow travelers in the June 12 road show are speaking up even though they all heard how, long before YarAdua died, Dr. Bello Halliru, a Hausa-Fulani, Northerner and PDP chieftain, announced to the whole world that in 2015, power would rotate to the East. He used the word East. He did not say the South but the East. As long as YarAdua was alive, nobody, to the best of my knowledge, challenged that announcement.
But as soon as YarAdua died, all the retired Generals began to speak in tongues. It was then they knew that out of 50 years of our independence, the North has cornered 38, leaving the South with only 12. Some, like Obasanjo started telling lies all over the world claiming that there is nothing like rotation of the presidency. T. Y Danjuma joined him and with a rented crowd made up of the Ameh Ebutes of Nigeria, they started teaching the whole world democracy, how rotation is against democracy, how it will re-produce mediocrity. The way they talk about it, you would think that Goodluck Jonathan is a genius.
Of course, we know he is not. Here in Europe , that is not the impression of him. But we are not blaming him. Some people, mostly outside Nigeria , especially America and Britain , are pushing him into all these, using Obasanjo. Was it not somewhere in America that Obasanjo announced that there is nothing like rotation of power?
But when you look at the entire thing deeply, you can see who the joke is on. It is on the Igbos. Because if it is time to equalize the Northern control of power, why don't we ask an Easterner to advance to be recognized as a Southern rallying point, since the Yorubas, the other leading power in the South have had it for eight years? Why must it be Jonathan? Is it just because he happens to be there now?
What is wrong with the North completing its own eight years by another Northerner replacing YarAdua? What is wrong with it is that it will become the turn of the Igbos to take over power. That's all. If a Northerner takes over power now, it would be too brazen to deny the Igbos their turn in 2015. So, it has to be stopped now. That was the same approach in 1983 when the same military elements organized and overthrew Shagari because the possibility of an Ekwueme presidency was becoming real. The rest is now history. After Dr Alex Ekwueme emerged from that shocker, he came to the conclusion that rotation of power is the only way forward so that every geo-political axis would taste power as a guarantee of stability.
The Abdulsalami regime gave the recommendation a cavalier treatment, asking the political parties to implement it instead of making it a constitutional provision. That was not surprising since the whole stretch from Babangida to Abacha to Abdulsalami is one and the same thing as military people and Northerners. After all, the North opposed Alex Ekwueme's zoning at the Constitutional Conference in 1995 under Abacha. Today, it is the North that is fighting for rotation, it is the East whose son was hated for proposing rotation that is being denied its fruits. We cannot run away from history.
In making sense of all these, there is no way Ameh Ebute's contribution will not remain painful. It is very surprising that it never struck someone living next to the Easterners that his nieghbours would be the most colossal losers. Unlike his small ethnic group, the Idomas of Benue State who can be said to have shared with the Northerners every of the 38 years that they were in power and unlike the South-South which has an alliance between them and the North dating back to 1960, the Igbos have no such alliances. In population terms, the Igbos have no such overriding electoral strength. So, without zoning, how do they ever become president of Nigeria ? By merit? Nonsense!
Goodluck to Nigeria anyway!