Jan 8, 2011

Goodluck Jonathan and a Stormy Nation

When I was a kid I used to hear the story of persistent fighting in the Great Lakes region of Africa and thought the people of that region were created differently. In 2001 fighting broke out in Jos, the capital of my home state of Plateau in central Nigeria. I wasn’t in Plateau State at the time and called home to get details. To my amazement, the expressway at the exact location of our house separated the warring sides with the Muslims and Christians on the eastern and western sides of the road respectively. As it turned out, that very episode of the crisis in Jos was to become the beginning of chain of killings and mayhem in Plateau State. Sadly however, there is no sign that the fighting will ever end, despite the series of commissions that have been set up for subsequent episodes of the conflict. I have often wondered why our scarce resources should be spent on a commission whose report will not be used. As it stands now, the people of the Great Lakes region are thinking that we in Jos were created differently.

Politicians in Nigeria are like gods. Once an individual ascends to a certain critical position politically, he lives above the law. It explains why the problem in Jos has continued to recur as nothing happens when a commission submits its report. The Jos problem is clearly political. Following the bombing of Christmas Eve of 2010, people were lost as to who could be responsible. When the state authorities pointed their fingers on the political opposition however, people suddenly saw that it could indeed be true in view of desperation of the opposition in Plateau State. One would have expected the police to arrest some of these opposition leaders and detain them for questioning. Once this is done, then anything can be done in future. Avoiding this rational line of action is an indication that nothing will be done eventually.

Following the January 2010 crisis, Goodluck Jonathan as the Nigerian acting President at the time, set up the Solomon Lar’s Commission and vowed that the report of the commission will be acted upon no matter whose oath is gored. He failed to live up to his promise however.

Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in my opinion is a man that has come to truly address the development challenges of Nigeria in view of what he has done so far. To a reasonable degree, his administration has demonstrated its functionality. I am however, afraid that the President would go down as the others before him. Past leaders in Nigeria have often failed to restore order as a consequence of the fear that the repercussion could prematurely end their reign. This single fact underscores the selfishness of our leaders and the same factor can mar the excellent intention of the Jonathan administration. This is because development is abhorrent of a hostile and chaotic environment.

Nigeria will only move on with a leader who is selfless and willing to sacrifice his reign to end the cycle of chaos we have seen in the last decade and half. This brings to mind a model that ought to be copied by the Jonathan administration, the British model under David Cameron. I want to believe that the political maturity of Britain is as old as the nation itself. One manifestation of an adult political environment is the marvelous correlation between promise and delivery. Cameron made it clear that the reason why he wants to become Prime Minister is to reverse the obvious path to which Britain is headed, the path of bankruptcy. As far as he is concerned, giving him the mandate is an indication that Britons want that to happen. When the moment of fulfillment came however, it was painful to Britons. British students had to hit the streets to demonstrate their displeasure on the decision that they will have to pay up to three times what they had paid as tuition fees in the pre-Cameron years. Cabinet members no longer have permanent official vehicles and chauffeurs. The message is, “if you don’t have a personal car with which to come to office, take a commercial vehicle as we want to cut down operating cost.” It is interesting to note at this point that following the last budget speech of Jonathan to the Senate, the question arose as to how to meet up the budget deficit. Looking critically, it came to notice that the operating cost of the Nigerian Government is one of the most irrational for a developing nation groveling under the weight of decaying everything. By now, a lot of Britons are regretting casting their votes to the Conservative Party. Cameron knows this and cares less even if that means the end of his administration. After all, his dad is said to be a wealthy guy. The reforms are the reason why he wanted to become British PM. Eventually however, Britons will come to accept the position of Cameron as it will be obvious that it is the only option they have if they want it good tomorrow.

It is possible that taking drastic decisions in Nigeria would have bitter outcomes but as long as the decision is just, the unraveling ends will eventually tidy up. One of Nigeria’s surviving nationalist, Yusuf Maitama Sule, has often said that Nigeria needs a revolution, albeit a bloodless type. Nobody understands how such a bloodless revolution would look like. I do think however that the bitter outcome will be mild. Should the authorities fail to trigger a revolution themselves, then it would perhaps come bitterly from Boko Haram Islamic Jihadists in Northeastern Nigeria.

Basic Nigeria

Nigeria is a former colony of Britain found along the western coast of Africa between Benin Republic to the west, Cameroun to the east and Niger to the north.

Recent head counts put the current population of Nigeria at about 150 million, making it the largest black nation not just in Africa but the planet at large. This figure represents a spectrum of distinct ethnic groups totaling over 250. Thus Nigeria is also one of the most diverse nations on the planet.

The tribes of Nigeria are made up of the big three that include the Hausa-Fulanis who are largely Muslims to the north. In the southeast and southwest are the Ibos and Yorubas respectively. Scattered within and in between these three tribes are the minorities. Some of these minorities include the Ibibios, Ijaws, Ikweres, Benis, Itshekiris, Urhobos all of which are found in the south. In the central region, one finds the Tivs, Idomas, Tarok, Beroms, Ngas, Gwaris and many more. Up north are minority tribes such as the Kanuris, the Fulfuldes, the Tangales, etc.

Prior to the discovery of oil in the fifties, cash crops such as cotton, groundnuts, rubber, palm oil, rubber and timber sustained the economy of Nigeria. Soon after the discovery of oil however, attention shifted to the comparatively huge oil revenues that come more readily. Besides oil, Nigeria has a huge array of solid mineral deposits most of which are lying undeveloped in different parts of the country.

Despite these human and material resources with which the nation is blessed however, Nigeria has remained a struggling nation since independence in 1960, with millions of ordinary people living below the poverty line. The ethnic diversity rather than becoming a solution to the nation’s development challenges have become the nation’s greatest burden.

The parliamentary democracy that started at independence lasted for only six years when it ended abruptly as a result of a military coup. In 1979 Nigeria resorted to the presidential system of government that also lasted for just five years. In between these periods, the nation remained under successive military administrations. The new democracy that came with a lot of promises in 1999 has however been frustrated by series of conflicts that border on religious intolerance between Christian minorities and their Muslim counterparts in the north. In the Niger Delta in the south, militants demanding a fair share of oil revenue have been fighting the authorities since 2006. These challenges have remained the nation’s greatest obstacles to the realization of its full potentials.

Finangwai Dreams Big for Plateau State

Dr Hosea Finangwai. Source Dr Finangwai There is that saying that “the things that people desperately seek are always with them.” If ...