by Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive
In 2011, I took to the social media to express my grave reservation about voting then acting president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Owing to our fault lines, I looked at the security and stability of Nigeria, in canvassing for Nigerians to vote General Buhari, in order to continue with the northern term, and to spare the country the oncoming national security instability, that would manifest from the threats emanating from the north.
Nigerians often ignore the dangerous precedents of the past, and fail to recognize that all murmurings and clamour for change or political power is not rooted in such desire. It is usually a quest to wrest power from another group. Power is not concentrated in the hands of the Nigerian people because the constitution is not owned by them, rather competing regional elites and interests hide under various banner to access power, and when it’s achieved, amass wealth to the detriment of the people.
I will like to paraphrase Karl Marx here, the history of all hitherto existing power struggle in Nigeria is that of geo-political power struggle or that of predatory geo-political elite’s power struggle. Some northern elites went on record to threaten to make Nigeria ungovernable if Jonathan wins in 2011. Whether Boko Haram were used to achieve that threat is not clear, but what is clear is that the southern elites remain convinced that the northern elites used Boko Haram to undermine the Jonathan’s government and overshadowed whatever he has managed to achieve. Even late General Azazi, former NSA, attributed the heightened Boko Haram insurgency to the fall out of PDP’s fractious power struggle, and the fact many of the northern members never wanted Jonathan to run.
Going by the threats coming from the Niger Delta in the event of a Jonathan loss at the poll, we can understand where we might be heading with a Buhari presidency.The intelligence estimates suggest Nigeria will end up with two insurgencies (Reinvigorated Niger Delta insurgency and Boko Haram insurgency) in the event of a Buhari presidency.
A friend of mine, an APC stalwart, posited that it’s not tenable to concede that the state is powerless to contain two wars, both ongoing and potential, and averred that the preference to vote Jonathan to avoid a war is at best defeatist. However, a Ph.d candidate of political science at the University of Lagos, contended that the question is not whether a state can contain wars but whether a weak state like Nigeria can contain two different wars at the same time, and again, whether it can do so successfully bearing in mind that the past military regimes and governments could not contain the militancy in the Niger Delta for more than two decades until the amnesty, and the Boko Haram’s insurgency is a decade old.
Therefore, my support for President Jonathan is on principle, in the interest of national security. But could we have avoided this North/South tension that has brought us to 2011 scenario if the APC had zoned the presidential ticket to the South? Or maybe the PDP should have asked a sitting President to forego a 2nd term and choose a northern presidential candidate?
Indeed, the Nigerian people may be truly dissatisfied with the current ruling party and desired a change, but at what cost? The Nigerian state is a mere pretention, and does not have the capacity to wage two wars and assuage the feelings of the marginalized poor who are often used as cannon fodder. More so, the geo-political elites have not empowered the state to become stronger, they have appropriated the authority of the state and used same to subjugate the Nigerian people to their whims and caprices.
In any case, President Jonathan has done creditably well in infrastructure development, aviation, roads and transport, power sector reforms, agriculture and petroleum sector reforms, except for the government’s needed drive to tackle corruption and also an initial flawed military strategy in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency. A second term would address flaws in the fight against corruption and also with the recent massive military acquisitions, and ongoing tactical offensive against Boko Haram terrorists, the government is on a renewed path.
President Obama was caught on the microphone telling president Medvedev in early 2012 at a summit in Munich that he would need flexibility to negotiate missile defense in Europe and other strategic issues in his 2nd term, thereby underscoring the free hand a president needs to tackle some specific challenges in government. Also, President Obasanjo’s 1st term was a colossal failure, but got to achieve some milestone in his 2nd term albeit on corruption and macroeconomics, record on infrastructure was near zero.
My conviction to vote President Jonathan is borne out of two unhappy choices and the consequences that comes with those choices, and is also premised on security and national interest, with hope for reforms in the constitution that would allow for fiscal federalism and geo-political power rotation. That way we can we can stop going to war each time election approaches.
Prof Wole Soyinka talked about two problematic candidates, and asked how they intend to repay those who are dolling out billions to the campaigns? What is given in a Buhari presidency is hinged on his personal integrity but what is not a given are the characters and personalities that surround the 72 year old General, those with questionable sources of funds who bankroll his campaign, those he would hand over the economic affairs to manage, those that allegedly collect 10% of earned revenues of Lagos state government, those with EFCC cases hanging on their necks, those with N21Billion fraud case at the Special Fraud Unit, those that tell us CHANGE is coming, even when fraud is masquerading as CHANGE.
The next phase of Niger Delta insurgency may be hinged on unassailable demand for fiscal federalism, and I doubt if a Buhari presidency can accede to such request knowing that most of the constituent units that make up the Nigerian federation will never agree to such, and that would leave him with two debilitating wars that the defective Nigerian state may not be able to counter successfully, and we may end up with another arrested presidency for four years.
Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive is a National security Analyst. He can be reached on Twitter @nnamdianekwe
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.