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DUMB QUESTIONS FOR THE PRESIDENT

By NBF News

Last week's article was not about zoning; it was about the character of the leadership of the PDP and in particular about the personality of the man that has emerged through twists and turns as the president of our country. Because the president belongs to the PDP, it is impossible to discuss his politics in isolation of his party's. The basic question was and remains: Was there ever an agreement, written or not, among the members of the PDP that political positions would be rotated periodically between the six geo-political zones in the country? If such an agreement does exists—and there is strong reason to believe that it does—we want to know what our President's decision is accordingly. I believe, and many people so believe, that it is at this point we should begin to appraise Mr. Goodluck Jonathan. Does he walk his talk? Does he qualify as a gentleman? On the outside, we see a smiling, soft-spoken sincere-looking personality. Is that for real; or just a clever disguise? In brief, these were the questions that last week's article tried to address.

Another issue that some readers raised about last week's article was to point out what they believed was a factual error. This had to do with the claim made that former President Olusegun Obasanjo and retired General T. Y. Danjuma stand on the 'opposite sides of the great question of whether Jonathan should contest or not'. It was a deliberate 'error'. I am fully aware that a few months ago, newspapers reported that the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) of which Danjuma is chairman, had advised Jonathan not to contest for the 2011 presidency.

The report went on to say that should Jonathan ignore its warning or advice, the PAC members would resign. I am also aware that a few weeks ago, another newspaper report emerged saying that Danjuma had given conditions to Jonathan for contesting the 2011 elections. I opted to believe the initial report, which says Danjuma opposed the idea of a Jonathan candidacy because that report was more detailed and cited a document to support the claim. It is interesting that hitherto Danjuma has not denied that his committee did send such a letter to the President. I believe it is up to General Danjuma to say on which side of the divide he is, and the only way to get him to do that is position him where he is reported to position himself. If the newspaper was lying against him, or if he wishes to change his mind, sooner rather than later we shall get to find out.

As a follow-up to all these, I believe it is necessary to point out that it is not just President Goodluck Jonathan that is on a scale in this matter of who gets the 2011 ticket for the ruling party; but the entire leadership class in the country is once again having its moral standing tested. A similar situation played out in 2005-2007 when the so-called third term saga unfolded and eventually crashed. It also happened during the 2007 presidential primaries in the PDP when free-spending contestants like former Rivers State governor, Dr. Peter Odilli mounted a very vigorous campaign for the presidential ticket of the PDP.

In both those occasions, the revelations that emerged about who received what were quite shocking even by our shameless standards. Now, once again, the same scenario is unfolding. From elderly politicians like Tony Anenih to their younger versions like Bauchi State governor Isa Yuguda, the flip-flops and summersaults have commenced in earnest. To attempt to unravel why people do these things to themselves and their eventual legacy would drive any normal person insane. It is better to zero-in on the most critical factor in the equation, in this case the President, whose word is law in the PDP. It is more sensible to address all questions to the President rather than waste time on so-called elders that have never respected anything other than their pecuniary interests.

Even so, it is not expected that the President would step forward with the answers; who knows, he probably doesn't even read the papers anymore. But that does not in any way relieve us of the responsibility to challenge the President's moral conscience to tell us who he is and why we should trust him. It is okay if the President chose to ignore our right to ask these questions and his obligation to respond; he would not be the first leader to do so. Even late Umaru Yar'Adua who briefly toyed with the idea of 'Servant Leadership' later turned out to be deaf and dumb to all our enquiries. The answers would manifest themselves, one way or another, sooner or later.

Since it is said that it is better to ask a thousand dumb questions than to make one dumb mistake, let's put a few dumb questions to the President: What does the president have against former PDP Chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor? Why is Ogbulafor only now being prosecuted for an offence he committed way back in 2001? Of all the options available to him, is Mr. Nwodo the best replacement he could find for Ogbulafor? Who is funding all the mushroom organizations that are springing up all over the place canvassing for the President to contest the 2011 presidential elections? How would the President and his people spend the ten (or is it seven) billion naira they have earmarked for the 50th anniversary of

Nigeria's independence?  Who has the contract to buy the ubiquitous green and white balloons?  Why is Nigeria still a toddler at 50?

And then the dumbest question of all: Why can't President Jonathan see that the greatest contribution he can make to the growth of democracy in Nigeria is to detach himself from the contest and then ruthlessly and scrupulously go ahead to conduct an election that would be free, fair and therefore acceptable to all?

Why can't he see the obvious: that his being a candidate automatically undermines and places a huge question mark on the election he would conduct?

Of course, while we chew over these questions, we must make allowances for the President. So far, we have to admit that if he hasn't done better, he hasn't done worse than his predecessors either (except in his 'vision' for the country's 50th anniversary). And as far as the issue of 2011 is concerned it would be naïve to expect the President, even if he would not contest, to say so openly.

Other than that, the President is not really coming across as the 'It' we are all waiting for to get started. Already the President, rather than being applauded for showing sparks of inspiration, has allowed himself to be characterized as encouraging the polarization of the country along in particular religious divides. That is a most unfortunate and a very dangerous trend. Even as a joke, he must never allow himself to be associated with that. Never. In the meantime, we shall continue to ask the questions in the hope that Mr. Jonathan understands that at the very least these questions, dumb or smart, represent the aggregate of the worries of a large chunk of the Nigerian population. He is as free to ignore them just as every Nigerian is at liberty to draw his conclusions from his silence or evasiveness.