Year of Some Kind of Good Luck – two issues dominated the year 2011

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President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan

For me, aside from my personal survival, two issues dominated the year 2011 – President Goodluck Jonathan, and Boko Haram. Today as I put finishing touches to my column, all I can whisper to myself or any one is – good grief, what a year!

President Umaru Musa Yar’adua died on May 6, 2010 at 58, leaving the mantle of leadership on the shoulders of his Vice, then little known Dr. Ebele Goodluck Jonathan. Through the late President’s ailment, the country had been confronted with a constitutional crisis because the President was ferried abroad to Saudi Arabia, without a formal handing over to his Vice, and the nation tottered on the brink of collapse. It seemed a miracle the President Jonathan was able to deliver the April 2011 National polls that brought him into office as President.

On Sunday May 29th 2011, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Nigeria’s President was sworn-in, to begin a four-year first term. It had been a long and winding road to that milestone, one that we all feared may not come to the consummation, I wrote in this column. “It cannot be forgotten that this President had been propelled by fate to become Nigeria’s Vice President when President Olusegun Obasanjo against all odds, foisted a terminally ill President Umar Musa Yar’adua as his successor in 2007, in an election that was witnessed and condemned locally and by the international community as being severely flawed. No less a person than President Yar’adua admitted that, and the conduct of credible elections became one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s cardinal aims.

President Goodluck Jonathan began his own tenure at a crucial time in the country’s history. Expectations were high, against campaign promises made since 2007, when he had ran with Yar’adua. Though President Yar’adua had made strides especially with the settlement of restive Niger Delta, his promise to tackle some of the country’s intractable problems remained unfulfilled because of his untimely death. With Professor Bartholomew Nnaji, President Goodluck Jonathan did raise a first class tactical team to deal with the moribund electricity supply predicament of the country, but what a price to pay, for so little impact! Nigerians are in exasperation, willing to admit that the country’s power supply, even with a slight upward blip, suffers a deformity that seems permanent.

Again I had written, “Goodluck Jonathan, local hometown boy and teacher, is sworn in as President of Africa’s largest democracy, a country of resources so immense that it should be ranked one of the most powerful nations in the world, but alas, this opportunity is denied by the failure of leadership these past 50 years. Nigeria is well endowed with qualified human resources, the country’s nationals have proved some of the best brains in the world, and it is a wonder that far less endowed countries in Africa have proved to be better blessed. The problem of Nigeria has always been leadership! And it pains to think all it takes is one just man, who will be bold and decisive. Goodluck Jonathan needs to connect directly with the ordinary folk, and it is possible. Just him, and them, because elite Nigerians it would seem, really have “no need” for a country since their preoccupation is self satisfaction which is in effect the destruction of the land! All it takes is one JUST man!”

Again, I had reason to write thus: “For a man whose campaign swan songs included his remembrance of the time he had no shoes to wear, Goodluck Jonathan must have worn the soles off more than a few pairs, pacing up and down the expansive living room of the Obudu Presidential Cottage, trying to figure out how to tackle the intractable problems that his victory at the (recently) concluded polls had thrown his path.”

Since his assumption of office, Nigeria has been troubled by general insecurity as we watched the spectre called Boko Haram rise from a small moribund group of dissidents to the international threat that it has become.

My take during the year included “In the past, when I wrote about Boko Haram and the fact that we learnt no lessons from the Maitatsine experience of the 1980s, the sect was just a band of local gun totting cudgel-welding extremists in rudimentary sectarian violence. One cannot help but remark that while the nation retrogressed in the functionality of infrastructure, Boko Haram has risen steadily in advancing its arsenal, at first, to small home-made Molotov cocktails and nicked hand grenades. With a little more time, by 2010, we have seen the use of small improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Mid 2011 Boko Haram sprang a surprise with a classic suicide vehicle-based bomb with which they trailed the convoy of the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, detonating it at the Police Headquarters car park. The size of the bomb and the carnage caused, spoke volumes of the steady advancement of the sect.

An international dimension was added to the profile with the August 26 Abuja UN Building bombing, and as can be seen that in both cases, suicide bombers volunteered and gave up their lives for the cause, and the sect showed that they were capable of systematic surveillance and selection of targets and entry points. Today, we have witnessed the attempted (?) sacking of a State capital Damaturu, in well-coordinated and commando style surprise, achieving devastating “success”, and most certainly leaving a footprint of technical and professional sophistication and improvement of the planners. The handwriting is sharpening to focus, which may clear in the attack which Boko Haram has promised.” As predicted at the time, a State of Emergency, has indeed been declared in specific local Governments of some Northern States.

The root cause of our problem is the failure of the political system to provide and sustain the people’s aspiration, particularly in the North. Once voted into public office, our politicians become demigods! The executive steal, the legislatures legislate their outlandish incomes from the public treasury into law and on top of it, blackmail a thieving executive into additional incomes from constituency projects. They become insatiable, unreachable and unreasonable, and make it impossible for the people to reject and change them!

The emergence of Goodluck Jonathan is the result of the defeat of the old Northern political elite class by a neo-Northern elite clique and this to me is the basic cause of rising profile and strength of the Boko Haram – an outcrop reaction to the gradual loss of power by a class to the other. The new power is now challenged to deal with the situation, while the old clique is standing, arms folded in their defeat, hence watching with a typical carefree and unconcerned grin full of glee – let’s see how you deal with this one. The (old oligarchy) snake charmer’s son (neo-Northern political class) has dug up a cobra!

The inevitable came. President Goodluck Jonathan, as if he would not, removed the subsidy on petroleum products and quite expectedly rooters are onl the streets, with inflation up by more than 100 percent. One cannot hazard a comment now other than to join concerned citizens to watch and to pray. God save and bless Nigeria.

Timawus Mathias, 4 January 2012

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