by Azubuike Ishiekwene
A book with the above title would be a bestseller between now and the next general election in Nigeria. Such a book is not available currently, but President Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP is doing more than enough to provide material for it. Maybe all is fair in war as in politics. But I honestly did not believe that the day would come when a private businessman would have to make a choice between being in the government’s good books and honouring a private contract on leasing his plane.
That was what happened last week when the government obviously leaned on the owner of Max Air to cancel a chartered flight scheduled to convey the G7 governors from Abuja to Ota. I thought the government was mad, but I was equally tempted to hang the owner of the airline by the next pole. If, however, you live in a country like this where government has extreme arbitrary powers and influence and the courts are hardly any good, then, you will appreciate the tough call most businesses have to make.
The perils appear to be getting worse. What we have seen in the last few weeks is more than a show of raw power. It’s fear feeding panic and desperation. Day by day, the serious business of government looks more and more like a joke. About two weeks ago, the Federal Capital Territory Administration marked the national secretariat of the new PDP, claiming contravention of use. But this is the same building that had been used as the secretariat of the National Democratic Party for years before it was acquired. Properties in Abuja belonging to the Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and Senator Aisha Al-Hassan, both members of the new PDP, have also been marked. Three times in the last four weeks or so, the police have been deployed in Abuja to disrupt the legitimate meetings of the G7 governors or even prevent them from meeting at pre-selected venues.
If President Jonathan and his wife have decided that Port Harcourt is their playground, I find it hard to imagine that they are also personally interested in stirring the pot wherever dissenting voices are to be heard across the country. Foot soldiers who love the president more than he loves himself are at work and will throw everything, including the kitchen sink, to get noticed. Why the president will say nothing and do nothing while his foot soldiers run amok in his name I don’t know.
He has had three years to prepare for reelection. That may not have been enough time to deliver the moon on a stick, but it is just about enough to get the basics right – to take a stand on corruption, create the right environment for jobs, deal with lawlessness, raise power supply from the paltry 40watts per capita, and stamp his authority on his party. But Jonathan being Jonathan, the president never seemed quite sure of what he wanted until, slowly but surely, he started to lose momentum and things began to fall apart.
An insider told me during the week that, for the first time since the insurgency in the PDP started, there’s now a real fear in the inner circle that Jonathan could be a one-term president. No presidential candidate can convincingly win any election in Nigeria without 25 per cent of the votes in any two of Kano, Lagos and Rivers States. From the 2011 INEC records, the three states combined account for 13.7million votes, nearly 25 per cent of the voters’ roll. If you add Borno and Sokoto, both among the top eight states with the largest block of votes (now outside the control of the PDP), then you’ll begin to understand the desperation in the Jonathan camp.
If Shehu Shagari had won 25 per cent of the votes cast in Kano in 1979, he would not have endured the misery of 2/3 of 19. In the hotly contested elections of 2003, if after losing Lagos, Obasanjo had scored less than 25 per cent in Kano and lost Rivers, the final results might have tilted significantly in Buhari’s favour. In short, in the history of the country’s elections since 1979, no presidential candidate has scored less than 25 per cent of the votes in Kano, Lagos and Rivers and still won the election easily.
In 2011, failure by the opposition to reach a compromise worked to Jonathan’s advantage. That advantage has now been eroded, not just because of the merger but also by the government’s incompetence. In the last three years, not that the government tried to do anything and failed. No. Jonathan’s government simply put up its feet, snoozing on a sense of entitlement that, since the preceding civilian governments had two terms, no effort was required for him to be reelected.
Now, he is facing the headwinds and is obviously willing to let his foot soldiers cross the line to regain control. If things have got this ugly a year to the elections – scheduled chartered flights are grounded, private property marked for demolition, police unleashed on the opposition and rallies are disrupted – I wonder what will happen this time next year.
Clara Chime’s Cross
This must be a very difficult time for the Chimes. Enugu State governor Sullivan Chime and his wife Clara have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. It all started with the news that Clara’s younger sister had had a baby for the governor – an allegation the governor has denied.
Now, Governor Chime and his wife have been forced to go public over allegations that the governor had confined his wife to prevent her from telling the world the true story. I’m not sure that the true story will ever be told – cultural taboos will only complicate matters and reinforce the misery of all parties, especially the woman. That played out at Wednesday’s press conference where Clara demurred, insisting that her husband, the same man she had accused of treating her badly, should speak for her.
The governor said he would not do anything to worsen his wife’s vulnerable health. Quite thoughful. But how can confining her in the Government House be the best option? Why isn’t it possible for his wife to receive the same generous and professional care that he himself received when he was ill? Why?
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Azubuike Ishiekwene