SWEET SONG FROM SOUTH EAST GOVERNORS
Politics is, expectedly, in the air. And President Goodluck Jonathan has heightened the anxiety by speaking with his body rather than his mouth. Really he hardly needs to say anything for Nigerians to know his political direction. He would present himself for election [or re-election] next year. Silence has long been deployed as a strategy. However, such tactics always hit the rocks. Late Sani Abacha and lately President Olusegun Obasanjo know it. Both men spoke through their aides and bodies in their bid to retain power.
That, perhaps, is why Jonathan's men have reportedly set a date in September, after the Ramadan fast, for the man to pointedly tell Nigerians his intention. Ahead of that official declaration, there have been alignments and realignments. People and groups have moved to put themselves in vantage positions. Over 800 groups had expressed support for the president even when he had not declared. They know he would.
Jonathan was coasting home with individual and group support before his party failed to shoot down zoning, even when they said he was free to run. That turn of events changed the equation. Foreign media reports said the man had decided not to run. His aides said they lied and thus fixed a date to his declaration. Ethnic kites have also rent the air. Governors from the south east in conformity with the trend have spoken, a second time, on the matter. They had excluded themselves from presidency or vice presidency; a move interpreted as tacit approval for Goodluck Jonathan. The music has changed and so has the southeast governors' dance step. They no longer any blanket endosement.
Hear their new song: 'we [governors] will properly scrutinize them and decide to support the person that will protect the interest of the Igbo. We south east governors agreed to stand and work together irrespective of party affiliations. I am sure you have not seen this kind of togetherness before among us'. Those were Governor Peter Obi's words. At the risk of playing the ethnic card too, I must say the song sounds sweet in the ears.
It is contrary to the ill advised and evidently induced endorsement of Jonathan, even when he had not made any declaration, by conveners of the All Igbo summit. They fired a wrong shot, one not aimed at any altruistic reason. The governors have finally come to their senses. They have made the Igbo the beautiful bride for 2011. A race that has descended from political Olympian height such that the Deputy senate President turned out the highest political office from the zone. Here are a people barely inches away from the Presidency back in 1983 courtesy of National Party of Nigeria, which had positioned Dr Alex Ekwueme for the top job.
Then the military struck, for whatever reason. History, that all time judge, has revealed how much they loved the country and where they left it in the wake of their 'rescue mission'. That ought to be a sublime reason for which some people should cringe and refrain from showing their face in public, not to add the injury of putting up their hands for political office. Nigerians have no sense of history, which is why an ego fight among retired Army Generals, now shifted to the political arena, is masquerading as genuine altruistic moves to govern the country. But myopia and gullible disposition leaves Nigerians swallowing such deceit line, hook and sinker. That is a story for another day.
In the last dispensation the south east zone was accorded the number three position. Admittedly disunity and acrimony made the senate presidency a turn-by-turn thing among the states. The current feelers show that no presidential aspirant has yet reckoned with the people to the point of luring them with anything juicy, a situation that relegates the zone to an inconsequential entity in the impending polls. The governors have clearly debunked this fallacy with their new and impressive position. It's a pleasant surprise from a zone long known for a staccato of voices, a people alleged to have the invidious capacity to mortgage their mothers for money.
Thank heavens for the governors who have collated the voices and reduced it to one. To ignore governors in the political space is to make a rather dangerous mistake. They hold the aces in their respective states. No one can break their ranks for now given their self-exemption from the temptation of being offered the number two position. The question now is this: which of the aspirants is offering anything meaningful to the zone? The governors have promised such an aspirant their support.
They need to know who would redress the despicable lopsidedness in a nation where only one zone has the least number of states and local councils. And to rob in the gaping injury, statutory allocations are made to states and local councils on that account. Who would redress the open sore of a nation where a tenth of the nation's 923, 768 square kilometers located within a zone has the worst set of roads belonging to the federal government. This government at the centre takes 52 percent of allocations leaving the entire 36 states and 774 local councils or more to scramble for a paltry 48 percent. This zone reserves the right to ask the question: what is in it for us? Indeed what is in the 2011 presidency for the southeast? Thank God for the governors who have pointedly put this question.
I have ignored the so called endorsement of Goodluck Jonathan by prominent Igbo leaders summit. I would refrain from mentioning names. If I do, it would become crystal clear that the endorsement is rainbow in the sky. It is a beautiful sight to behold, but an object you can neither feel nor touch. Those who endorsed have no political muscle, nothing translating to votes either in the PDP, where the battle line is drawn for now, or in the larger electorate. If they were driven by pecuniary interests then those who made the inducement have been conned, for the 'leaders' have promised what they cannot give. Let us hear Goodluck Jonathan's declaratory speech and hear his specific promises for the zone. There is a natural inclination to see this exercise here as one against Jonathan. Nothing can be farther from the truth. But he has to bring something to the table for that zone. The governors believe seeing is believing. I agree with their Excellencies.