JONATHAN PRESIDENCY: IMPERATIVES FOR NATIONAL UNITY (3)
As Jonathan is inaugurated today as the first Ijaw, a minority ethnic group, to win election into the highest office in the land, he will be well advised to remai his good, humble self. Humility was the route that took him to the very top of the ladder of success. God loves the humble but the arrogant He keeps far away.
Another significance of today's inauguration is that the principle of rotational presidency has taken a firmer root in the land. Power shift, which started in 1999 when the Presidency was conceded to the South-west to compensate for the annulment of the June 12, 1999 presidential election won by a Yoruba, the late Chief MKO Abiola, helped to heal the wounds of the nation and cement its unity and oneness.
It is doubtful if the annulment would have been 'forgotten' and the Yoruba a happy part of the country again today had power not shifted to them. In like manner, the Presidency going to the South-south is significant for the integration of that part of the country into the Nigerian project, as they say. For one, the new President, an Ijaw, comes from an area that produces the crude oil that feeds the entire nation.
The processes of oil exploration, production, and exportation impact negatively on land and people; the environment is often polluted by avoidable as well as unavoidable oil spills and gas flaring, thus affecting the health and economic livelihood of the host communities. To make matters worse is the fact that the oil producing areas have also been neglected in the provision of basic amenities and infrastructural facilities.
Marginalization led to alienation which, when it blossomed, led, first, to agitations and protests and later to full-blown armed struggle which, at its apogee, not only threatened the nation's source of livelihood, as it were, but also its continued existence as one entity. If the amnesty deal brokered with the Niger Delta militants brought peace to the restive region, power shift has now cemented it.
This is one critical point that should not be glossed over. We are stronger today as a people with power shift to the South-south. Peace has returned fully to the once restive region; oil exploration, production, and exportation activities are in full swing and the country has been able to meet and surpass its OPEC quota, which was not the case when the region was boiling; and the Niger Delta people are once again happy members of the Nigerian union. It may be a sacrifice on the part of those who feel power ought to shift right now to the North; I dare to say, however, that it is a worthwhile sacrifice.
The gains of power shift are for everyone while zoning, at best, would have benefitted only a few. As for those sections of the country yet to produce a Nigerian leader, the South-east especially, power shift kindles the hope that it will be their own turn one day. That day will be the real date of the end of the Civil War and the actual 3-Rs (Reconciliation, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction) needed to fully and finally reintegrate the former Biafrans into the Nigerian nation.
The Jonathan presidency not only offers that hope, it also draws it closer home. If an Ijaw can be President, why not an Igbo who is of a larger and, perhaps, more influential ethnic stock? Properly taken in and analysed, therefore, today's event, that is, the inauguration of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, an Ijaw, as the third President\Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria since the Fourth Republic kicked off in 1999, gives the hope that this country will stick together to fulfil its manifest destiny as leader of Africa and of Black peoples all over the world, the apocalyptic prophecies of apostles of doom notwithstanding.
Note: The first part of this piece was published by our sister paper, Sunday Sun, May 29, 2011.
*Bolawole, member, Publicity Sub-Committee, 2011 Presidential Inauguration Committee.