Now That President Jonathan Has Declared
Speculations about President Jonathan making a run for the 2011 presidential election ended on Saturday, September 18, 2010 , when he made a formal personal declaration that he was offering himself as a candidate in the presidential primaries of his party, the People's Democratic Party (PDP). The arguments seeking to persuade him from running have become redundant now. Some had argued that based on the PDP's internal zoning arrangement, President Jonathan should be considerate and 'gentle-manly' enough to refrain from running. In all these, I have been convinced that he would run. I refer readers to my November 2009 article entitled ' On Yar'Adua's Incapacitation, the Constitution, and a Dream .' In the article I wrote: ' It was Sunday night on November 22, 2009 . I went to bed and had what you may call an open vision or a dream. Nigeria's president at the time, Mr. Umar Yar'Adua had died. I saw that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice-President assumed the position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria . There was uneasiness, particularly in the northern part of Nigeria . In this dream, Dr. Goodluck declined the request by the North not to contest the presidential elections in 2011. Then, the unease turned to something inexplicably dastardly. '
The genie has left the bottle, and the future is shaping up according to what I saw about a year ago. To Nigerians who are still living in the past and making threats on the basis of some 'zoning arrangement', I have the following words— You have lost the attention of Nigerians . The months between now and January shall be remembered by Nigerians as an eye-opening period.
My eyes got misted up as I listened to President Jonathan's well-delivered declaration. Not only the content of the speech moved me, but the manner and spirit of the delivery did too. There was something strangely different and refreshing about the speech. I was connected to that speech. I saw myself in that speech. Could this be the usually boring President Jonathan or another? I saw someone different. I saw a man growing in confidence, a man who suddenly seemed to know the power of words. I had written about the poverty of our politics. The influence of words is tremendous, influencing the speaker himself. There is something in speaking; it shapes the person. It matures your thinking and infuses confidence. When a politician becomes possessed with what he says, it resonates with the people, especially when the people see themselves as the subject thereof. The president said: ' My story is that of a young man whose access to education opened vast opportunities that enabled me to attain my present position .' This cannot be truer. Then the clincher: ' My story symbolizes my dream for Nigeria . That any Nigerian child from Kaura-Namoda to Duke town; from Potiskum to Nsukka; from Isale-Eko to Gboko will be able to realize his God-given potentials, unhindered by tribe or religion and unrestricted by improvised political inhibitions. My story holds out the promise of a new Nigeria . A Nigeria built on the virtues of love and respect for one another, on unity, on industry, on hard work and on good governance .' I was impressed when President Jonathan declared: ' I have come to launch a campaign of ideas, not of calumny. I have come to preach love, not hate. I have come to break you away from divisive tendencies of the past, which have slowed our drive to true nationhood. I have no enemies to fight. You are all my friends and we share a common destiny .'
Nigerians would like every aspirant to an elective position to embrace politics of ideas and not calumny, of inclusiveness and not divisiveness. The president has set the bar and standard by which he himself shall be judged. My appeal to some of our Northern elders, who are finding it difficult to come to the realization that politics of division, euphemistically called 'zoning arrangement', has already seen its best days, is to find ways of waking themselves up from their dream land. The train has since left the station. Politics can never be the same again. As the president said, the time has come for a new Nigeria where every Nigerian must pursue his or her dream ' unhindered by tribe or religion, and unrestricted by improvised political inhibitions.' Zoning is one such 'improvised political inhibition' that must be condemned to our past.
Where is the 'opposition'? I am a pragmatist. For now, Jonathan remains the man to beat. Any group of presidential aspirants seeking to come together at this late hour to 'defeat President Jonathan' shall meet the same fate that dreamers of a 'Mega Party' experienced lately. Many Nigerian politicians lack the patience, foresight, planning, sacrifice and organization required to wrest political power from a party already in power. If there are any politicians or elders who are seeking to dissuade any persons from running for certain political positions based on some 'zoning' fetish or any other reasons, those should be told in no uncertain terms that they are living in the past. Words, words! Ideas, ideas! Vision, vision! Let them take those to delegates of political parties and the electorate. Let them stop wasting their time and distracting us. There is work to do. Politicians who are not used to a free and fair contest shall be exposed further for what we have always suspected them to be. Political sagacity dreads not fair contest. The new electoral Act makes transparency in internal democracy of political parties a requirement. Who is afraid?
I can hear the 'opposition' screaming that the timetable already released by the electoral commission (INEC) is not convenient. Lazy group! Let them get ready to allege 'rigging' in 2011. Now that there is no free money for political parties to spend, many of them shall die the natural death. We seek an opposition of ideas; not the kind that makes empty noises simply to frighten and get certain gratification. We need an opposition that is not quick to abandon its base at the slightest wave of carrots from across the divide. We demand an opposition of ideas, not of calumny.
Now that the president has declared to run for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2011, let him know that his words have been kept in the archives. We shall hold him strictly to the standards he has espoused. We shall shout out if he violates his own standards. He has made some promises; we would like him to be prepared to answer specific questions based on them: 1. In specific terms, how would President Jonathan end corruption in federal universities, colleges, and polytechnics, so that money released for infrastructural development, staff support programs, research, etc., is not diverted by their management staff? 2. How would President Jonathan improve funding to Nigerian public secondary and tertiary institutions? Would he, for instance, support the appointment of university presidents in a competitive manner based, among other factors, on the potential to attract funding? 3. In what specific ways would the president produce a civil service that is corruption-free and productive? Would he rely only on improved condition of service or would he do more? And what more would he do? 4. How is President Jonathan ready to 'fight' kidnappers, criminals, and miscreants? Would he consider initiating a bill that would permit State Police in order to share practically, with State governors the task of providing security? 5. We have seen his roadmap in the power sector. Would he insist on removing fuel subsidy in the first half of next year in spite of the lack of public transport infrastructure support and double-digit inflation? 6. How would he address the health sector crisis? How would he support an action plan to train more doctors? 7. What are President Jonathan's plans to encourage research and develop our public infrastructure so that in the next four years we attain an average manufacturing capacity of about 60 percent?
Finally, I would advise President Jonathan and other political aspirants to learn the art of speech making and delivery. They should rehearse often with their staff and master the use of Teleprompters and the making of eye-contact when speaking. They should enlist the services of good speech writers. They should make this election season the most exciting in our political history so far. Nigerians are yearning for a symbol of hope. We need something unusual, something different. We are looking for a politician we could believe. We have lived in forced cynicism for too long. The fact is that this makes things a lot difficult for the old woods in our political theater whose acts have for too long been repulsive to Nigerians. People have said plenty of things about Mr. Nuhu Ribadu running for the office of President of Nigeria. He may run at this time, but maybe just to cut his teeth for 2015.
I have yet something to say about 2011. Nigerians should stay tuned.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement ( www.nigeriarally.org ). TEL: +234 (0)8055024356 EMAIL: