Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Goodluck Jonathan Winning Buhari’s Blame Game

The other day I read tweets from a beloved sister online where she took us down memory lane on how General Buhari’s economic policies in 1984/85 ruined her father’s thriving business.  Guess what? In 2015, this same sister was one of Buhari’s staunchest supporters, although right now she has evolved (or is still evolving) into one of Buhari’s strongest critics. Still in 2015, I got blocked on Twitter by another lovely lady after I tried to make sense out of her intense love for then Presidential candidate Buhari. You see, similar to the first sister, this other lady’s father was illegally imprisoned by General Buhari in 1984/85, but in 2015 she was (I think) one of his campaign photographers and followed him to many rallies.

Goodluck Jonathan

Today, both ladies, like most Buhari fans, are disappointed at President Buhari’s ineptitude yet proclaim to whoever cares to listen that they still have no regrets voting for him…and that former President Goodluck Jonathan was not an option. Many have attributed this awkward scenario to a variant of the Stockholm syndrome, but for me, na Witchcraft I go call am.

Was President Goodluck Jonathan that bad?

On several occasions, I have reviewed Goodluck Jonathan’s five years in office and tried my best to objectively assess his successes and failures. The area most people including fans agree on is that President Jonathan failed in curbing Boko Haram activities which peaked during his tenure. Perhaps Jonathan’s inexperience in Military issues may have counted against him, but let’s not forget that Nigeria as a country was also inexperienced in battling Terrorism. President Goodluck Jonathan in spite of this was the one that set up Nigeria’s first Anti-Terrorism or Counter-Terrorism structures which the Buhari government inherited. Boko Haram in Jonathan’s era was heavily politicized by the then opposition party (APC) and their supporters. Successful Terrorists attacks during Jonathan’s tenure were inwardly celebrated by APC and their supporters with outward shedding of crocodile tears.

In the tail end of his administration, President Goodluck Jonathan took advantage of postponed February 14th 2015 elections to initiate a putsch against Boko Haram; this singular move incapacitated the Terrorists severely. Credit must however be given to President Buhari for building on this momentum and hitting Boko Haram hard, but it is not yet Uhuru. The Buhari government seems to have invested more in media blackouts on Boko Haram atrocities rather than on weapons and catering for Internally Displaced citizens.

On the economic front, President Jonathan’s tenure was one of Nigeria’s most prosperous era in recent memory save for the 1970s Oil boom period. Jonathan’s era, though critics claim was backed by higher crude oil prices, witnessed immense growth in Nigeria’s non-oil sectors. Nigeria witnessed a boom in Tech start-ups, Mobile business, Agriculture, Vehicle manufacturing or assembling and Entertainment, just to mention a few. Nigeria experienced a major flood disaster in 2012/2013 destroying many farmlands, yet food supply was not affected and prices remained stable.
President Jonathan’s tenure also gave Nigerians unprecedented freedom of expression which was ultimately used against Goodluck Jonathan himself and perhaps contributed to his loss at the 2015 polls.

Today’s Nigeria under President Buhari is currently in a recession, inflation is at 17%, job losses have been monumental, the economy is stagnant, investors are fleeing, Aviation sector is struggling, poverty is on the rise and freedom of expression is threatened. President Buhari’s response to most of these challenges is to lead the unhealthiest Blame Game in Nigeria’s history. President Buhari, his cronies, appointees and supporters have found solace in blaming former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for most of Nigeria’s current economic woes. 

This Buhari blame game has become a kind of opium drug being fed to disillusioned Nigerians regularly. Whenever a new series of Buhari failures surface, the next move is for one of his appointees or agencies to announce unverifiable sensational news of a discovery or recovery of stolen funds by Jonathan’s administration. Since the ruling All Progressive Congress now has a firm grip on the once vibrant Lagos media axis, these often false reports are injected into select Television, Radio and Print media outlets. Most times, Buhari Government agencies never substantiate these claims directly rather they forward it to the press as “from unknown sources.” When the we-have-caught-another-Jonathan-thief news gets out, gullible Nigerians put aside their current sufferings, rain curses on the previous administration for ‘looting us dry’, commend Buhari’s anti-corruption war and then life goes on. Few days later, these stories die off naturally, no arrests or prosecutions, but as soon as Buhari’s popularity dips again, a new loot discovery story is thrown out there and the cycle continues.

This is Nigeria’s reality and there seems to be no end in sight. Recently, the dwindling potency of Buhari governments’ blame game strategy has inspired his team to push forward a national orientation gimmick tagged, ‘Change Begins With Me.’   This is Buhari basically telling Nigerians including his supporters that we as citizens are responsible for our country’s predicament. Meanwhile, Buhari and his party’s campaign winning slogan that got him elected in 2015 was ‘Change’ accompanied by wonderful promises. It’s like a fake Pastor or Prophet inviting desperate individuals to his church and after endless months of prayer and fasting declares, “Your miracle is not forthcoming because you do not have faith.” 

Critics have rightfully or wrongfully accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of encouraging corruption, but when compared to current levels of brazen corruption taking place right under Buhari’s nose, it becomes obvious that most of Jonathan’s (allegedly) corrupt cronies were learners. Goodluck Jonathan fought a more effective anti-corruption war by applying modern technology, data verification and electronic payment systems into Government transactions, thereby blocking loopholes. Unfortunately most Nigerians prefer dramatic anti-corruption wars where thieves are caught and humiliated publicly or possibly lynched on National television with or without a fair trial – President Buhari is giving them a semblance that.

I doubt if there’s any nation right now where a segment of her population due to political affiliation is hell bent on erasing or denying a former President’s achievements while elevating his weaknesses to ridiculous heights – this is the sad story of Buhari and his supporters versus former President Goodluck Jonathan. The good news here is that as recession bites harder, more and more Nigerians will increasingly become tired of Buhari’s blame games. Unfortunately for the Buhari administration, former President Goodluck Jonathan has continued to attract global and local admiration. It seems Buhari’s blame game may have even succeeded in further cementing the name ‘Goodluck Jonathan’ into the Nigerian consciousness; this may prompt some of Jonathan’s harshest critics to perhaps take a second look at his legacies. 

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Relax And Enjoy Buhari

A man gets sick and tired of his meek wife; everything she does irritates him, so he chases her away and marries a new wife. His new wife is an older woman, coming into his life with illusions of experience, vows of fidelity and promises of marital bliss. Many months into this new marriage, the man discovers that his new wife was a catastrophic choice. Her mannerisms are crude, her hair, breasts and buttocks was padded all along, she can neither cook nor pray for one hour. Sex with her is like a physical encounter with an Egyptian Mummy. Our dear husband now depressed goes to town with his frustrations, but strangely his lamentation borders on blaming his previous wife’s bad behavior and how it pushed him into marrying a Scarecrow.

President Muhammadu Buhari
This currently is the pitiful situation of many Nigerians that keyed into Messianic possibilities promised by a Buhari presidency in 2015. Today, Nigeria has become worse off; Africa’s topmost economy has crashed, standard of living has thoroughly depreciated. In as much as several disciples of ‘Change’ are gradually coming back to their senses, some with heartfelt apologies; insisting that former President Goodluck Jonathan is somewhat responsible for Nigeria’s devastating new reality under President Buhari remains a recurring anthem on their perturbed lips. Some of us have engaged these characters online and offline trying to make them see reason as to why Buhari is solely responsible for Nigeria’s current woes, yet to no avail. To these delusional lots, chanting “President Goodluck Jonathan was not an option” has become a soothing and therapeutic experience, any attempt to challenge their line of thought on platforms such as Twitter will earn you a cowardly Block.

I have decided to let them be, and in fact show them love and understanding. Sometimes, the only way to cure a mental patient is to enter into his or her world and see things from their own perspective, no matter how skewed. Nigeria’s economic misfortune affects all of us Wailing Wailers, Hating haters, Lying liars and ‘Fencists for Hire.’ President Buhari’s self inflicted failures are so ridiculously surreal such that only equally bizarre excuses can help his core supporters find closure. They have my sincere sympathy.

Unless President Buhari plans to make a sweeping change in his cabinet, there is no light at the end of this tunnel. This current APC government led by President Buhari has institutionalized Nepotism where fixing of square pegs in round holes has become a norm. An arrogant Lawyer heads highly technical Power sector, an aging subsistence farmer and failed Politician is in charge of Agriculture; a kleptomaniac Ex-Governor oversees Transport ministry; a glorified Town Union Treasurer is Finance minister and a schizophrenic leads Nigeria’s sports ministry. Meanwhile, President Buhari’s legendary Anti-corruption war has turned out to be a noise-making, witching hunting exercise capable of showing compassion ONLY to Broom wielding criminals. In spite of this convenient anomaly, we are yet to get a fair trial and conviction of Buhari-approved suspects and Umbrella wielding rogues.

The good or bad news is that with Buhari’s presidency, things can still get a lot worse, hence we had better appreciate what is currently on ground and roll with it.

Some of us are coming to the conclusion that there’s no point engaging President Buhari or his supporters (genuine and deranged). “I told you so” only motivates misguided ‘Buharists’ into transferring their frustration and aggression to previous administrations, specifically Goodluck Jonathan.

The best bet right now is for the politically inclined amongst us to concentrate on participating in ongoing political realignments. The alternative People’s Democratic Party (PDP) may once again find its footing and redirect Nigeria’s course. If this fails to happen, we can look up to other Political parties that show decent potentials. If that too doesn’t happen, we relax and enjoy Buhari and his APC until whenever. With some luck, the ‘Nigerian Big Bang Theory’ might just come to our rescue, where everything blows up in our faces and survivors are forced to click on the reset button. A reset button that ignites the push for a restructured Nigeria where regional autonomy and fiscal federalism becomes our new reality.

Friday, 25 March 2016

There Is Vacancy In Aso Rock.

By March 28th 2016, it will be one year since a major event changed Nigeria’s political landscape forever. An incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was voted out of office by fifteen million Nigerians, roughly 20% of Nigeria’s voting population; the other thirteen million tried their best to retain Jonathan but were unsuccessful. About 35% of Nigeria’s voting population participated in the 2015 Presidential elections where Muhammadu Buhari emerged victorious. 

President Muhammadu Buhari - Aso rock
As Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari prepares to mark his first year in office, Nigeria under his leadership has witnessed a nose-dive on all fronts, economically, socially, politically, security, you name it. In science fiction movies, the concept of Time travelling has always fascinated many, including Einstein. So, let’s say a Time traveler from Nigeria in 1984 teleports himself to Nigeria of 2016, his likely reaction would be, “I think my Time machine is faulty, I’m still in 1984.”

President Buhari’s first year in office has been marred by all things distasteful, even though his ever decreasing Army of supporters and sycophants remain disagreeable yet optimistic that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It will take more months of suffering before these die hard supporters realize that there may not be light at the end any ‘Buhari tunnel’. In 1984, as a much younger and vibrant military Head of State, Buhari’s tunnel led Nigeria nowhere, it was darkness all over; how much more now in his golden years with no visible added intellectual capacity since he was toppled in 1985. Where de light wan come from?’
Nigeria’s deteriorating economic situation has led to intense buyers remorse by lots of Buhari voters that flew with the APC’s CHANGE mantra-many are too ashamed to admit it. But with unending fuel shortages, perennial electricity blackouts and crumbling foreign exchange, even the most loyal Buhari fan must be very worried.

Elections in Nigeria have once again become a bloodbath, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under Buhari’s administration has failed woefully in its conduct of several election reruns. The concept of Free, Fair and Credible elections have gone to the dogs. The ruling APC, in most of these elections have behaved like deadly spoilt children with a sense of entitlement on Nigeria’s Electoral process. The opposition PDP has emerged victorious in most of these rerun elections and has lost a number of members and agents to electoral violence that ensued.

Nigeria’s next general election is in 2019 and as the economy falters, the ruling APC has subtly began politicking towards Buhari’s re-election in 2019. Interestingly, within the APC fold, right inside President Buhari’s North-west power base, some disaffection seems to be brewing. Recently, supporters of former Kano state Governor Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso were reported to have gate-crashed an APC event demanding that their principal replaces Buhari in 2019. The Governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir Elrufai was recently accused of plotting to replace Buhari in 2019, his accuser is known political rival but fellow APC member Senator Shehu Sanni.  APC Grandmasters like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar have remained very calm observers, yet engaged with each other in a quiet battle for the soul of APC via BOT chairmanship. However, the APC leadership has attempted to put its feet down by recently proclaiming that as it concerns 2019, “There is no vacancy Aso rock,” thereby affirming its support for a likely Buhari second-term bid.

As for devastated Nigerians, those sleeping in Petrol stations, recently laid off workers, entrepreneurs folding up their businesses and many others, a vacancy for Aso rock has already opened up in their minds. Their Nigerian spirit encourages them to ‘hang in there till 2019’ and if things don’t improve by then, we will send Baba packing. For other observers that have witnessed recent electoral violence allegedly instigated by a losing APC side in Bayelsa and Rivers rerun elections, voting out an incompetent Buhari in 2019 will not be a piece of cake, blood will most likely be spilled. Perhaps it is better (and safer) that we pray for Nigeria’s economy to improve under Buhari before 2019, so that he can ‘jejely’ win his second term and save us from a real life manifestation of Dogs and Baboons being soaked in blood on a national scale.

As for the opposition PDP, one can only hope they build on momentum gained from recent electoral victories while institutionalizing internal democracy on all party organs. If this is done, the PDP might as well become Nigeria’s only hope and source of democratic refuge through the uncertain and rather scary situation we find ourselves in right now. As for APC’s “No vacancy in Aso rock” proclamation, only the Nigerian people have the sole power to determine whether a vacancy exists in Aso rock or not, after assessing their President’s performance record. Based on current assessment of President Buhari’s performance by impoverished and recently-impoverished Nigerians, their verdict seems to be, “VACANCY: Qualified Nation Builder Needed As President In 2019 - QUALIFICATION: Anything except NEPA Bill.”
“PS: We Will Change Our Mind If Nigeria Improves By 2018.”


Thursday, 24 December 2015

Break Up And Make Up Nigeria

At some point in our lives as Nigerians we must come to terms with the fact that Nigeria was designed by the British to fail. God played no role in Nigeria’s creation, men did, white men. Nigeria before 1960 via colonialism was a mere private estate owned by the King/Queen of England, her sole purpose was to supply raw materials and Agricultural produce to British industries. The tribes that made up Nigeria co-existed for centuries; they traded with each other but never envisaged coming together under one roof as a country. The ancient Oyo Empire had trade relations with Hausa states; the Benin Empire had trade and cultural relationships with most tribes south of the Niger. Before the ‘white man’ called us Nigerians, many tribes already knew each other and understood their diversity.

As fate would have it, colonialism ended, and in a bid to maintain access to raw materials, the British institutionalized this Neo-colonial Nigerian state, a union of strange bedfellows. As at independence, Nigeria had a well educated competitive South merged with a conservative feudal North. The only unifying factor about Nigeria was the mutual suspicion amongst various ethnicities, to the delight of former colonial masters – that was the plan from the outset.
Nnamdi Kanu: Biafra agitator
Several countries created by Colonial powers with similar complexities as Nigeria’s have since broken up. India and Pakistan were once administered as one country, there’s North/South Korea, most recently South-Sudan parted ways with Sudan, all in a bid to actualize self determination and resource control.  Apart from mutual suspicion, the second unifying factor for Nigeria is Crude Oil, a commodity that has cursed both the land that produces it and the entire nation as a whole. It is pointless writing about how dependency on Crude Oil has stunted immense potentials of the Nigerian state, or how its pursuit has institutionalized corruption. We all know the story.

Today, a lot of things about Nigeria are fundamentally flawed; the exit of President Goodluck Jonathan and second coming of Muhammadu Buhari presented hope to many, a hope that sadly has started waning months into this new administration. Nigeria’s age-long challenges seem to be mutating into bigger problems, many can see it but the blind optimists can’t. Ethnic and religious tensions have not abated, Boko Haram is still a scourge on the land, there’s been a resurrection of Biafra agitations, and Nigeria’s economy is nose-diving at the speed of light.

It is time to push the reset button.

There is hardly any nation on earth that was created on a platter of Gold, peace and harmony; many great nations of today had very dark histories filled with sorrows, tears and blood. How did they overcome it? Through thorough soul-searching. There comes a time when a long-suffering country decides to tell itself the truth and ask her citizens, “Where are we headed?”

Nigeria needs to ask her people this same question. This present arrangement where we have a Northern region that seems aggressively hostile to modernity and an ambitious South jostling to outsmart the next ethnic group leads us to nowhere. Agitations for resource control and self determination can only be curtailed when the ‘national question’ is answered. Answers to our national question will not be obtained through conferences, we’ve had too much of those already; neither will a violent revolt lead us anywhere.

We must renegotiate Nigeria; if Nigeria must remain together as one country, where will our loyalties lie? Is Northern Nigeria prepared to see itself as an economic and industrial unit that needs NOT rely on Political power at the center to remain relevant? Will Southern Nigeria agree to remain steadfast in the pursuit of human advancement without sacrificing its potentials on the altar of seeking political power at the center? Can Nigeria get rid of its powerful and enticing centre replacing it with a moderate managerial system where the centre only enjoys military might but outsources economic power to federating units?

If nothing works can we propose a mutual separation (not divorce) of Nigeria with a predetermined reunification date? Perhaps certain regions can be allowed to take a ten to twenty year break from the Nigerian federation with the option of reunification if it so desires. East and West Germany did it. Germany collapsed after the Second World War in 1945. The country was divided into four zones, where each superpower controlled a zone namely France, Great Britain, United States and the Soviet Union. By 1946, French, British, and American zones merged to become West Germany while the Soviets held on to East Germany. West Germany prospered in capitalism while East Germany struggled economically with communism. About forty five years later, the Berlin wall fell; East Germany agreed to adopt the capitalist ideology of West Germany, Germany reunified and is today a world power.

Can we experiment with this in Nigeria? Maybe Southern Nigeria should come together and form a truly federal and secular federation while the North is allowed to tow a feudal, socialist and Islamist pattern.

Nigeria must find her soul, but not in Abuja. The soul of Nigeria is broken into many pieces residing in hearts and minds of over 250 ethnic nationalities. Each ethnic nationality needs to discover or accept that it possesses a piece of Nigeria’s soul; the government of the day must initiate and encourage this national soul searching exercise.

Implementing key recommendations from the 2014 CONFAB report might be a good start; the time to act is now.




Monday, 2 November 2015

Before I Finally Become Biafran

I recently concluded a weeklong tour of four major Eastern Nigeria cities namely Onitsha, Enugu, Aba and Owerri. My trip was purely business related but at every juncture I took time out to reflect on the past, present and future of the Igbo nation. Whenever I passed by an old street near Trans-Ekulu, Enugu, I wondered how that same location looked like during the civil war. In Onitsha, I wondered how residents survived in four, five, sometimes six storey buildings without elevators. In Owerri, I saw an obsession for Hotels, very good hotels at almost every part of the city but I don’t recall seeing one foreign tourist. Aba was a complete mess.
Ojukwu inspects Biafran Guard of Honor
One impressive quality I noticed in Igbo landscape was unlike most Southwest Nigerian cities I’ve visited outside Lagos where rusted zinc rooftops plague the landscape; Eastern Nigerian cities even in remote locations had colorful aluminum rooftops.  Roads in Igboland still have a long way to go, especially federal roads, but from the Niger Bridge down to Onitsha main town, a massive improvement is noticed unlike what obtained less than a decade ago.

All through this sojourn around my Eastern homeland, I could not get thoughts of Biafra off my head, no thanks to Buhari’s fumbling of the ‘Nnamdi Kanu’ situation elevating him into some sort of freedom fighter. I have never subscribed to the Biafran dream; some of us believe that Ndigbo are better off in a united Nigeria. Considering the fact that Igbos are the most travelled ethnic group inside Nigeria with ownership of permanent structures scattered outside Igboland – how will Biafra work? If Biafra becomes a reality, will Igbos be happy applying for visa or resident permit in order to continue their trade in Alaba International market for example? A lot of Igbos own small, medium and large hotels in Abuja, what happens to all that should Biafra emerge? Are Igbo business owners willing to start applying for permits or expatriate quota or whatever in order to maintain their investments in Lagos, Abuja and beyond?

Igbos within the Nigerian context have never been good politicians; it is a cultural/traditional phenomenon. Igbos don’t like having kings, they are not one to sheepishly follow a supreme leader. The only Igbo leader that may have enjoyed some form of sheepish followership was Odumegwu Ojukwu, during the civil war era. The average Igbo man just wants to excel in commerce, trade, industry and life in general, using his wealth to cater for his immediate and (sometimes) extended family. Since the demise of Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael Opara, there is hardly any Igbo politician that enjoys any real form of reverence similar to what a Tinubu enjoys in the Southwest or Buhari in the North. The only people Igbos tend to idolize are successful entrepreneurs or big business achievers; one can hear such names mentioned in contemporary Igbo highlife songs.



I often wonder; what if the emergence of Biafra is inevitable? What if the spirits of over three million Igbos killed during the civil war are restless and may not find peace until Biafra becomes a reality? What options are available to Ndigbo? Will the Niger-Deltans truly (ever) subscribe to Biafra? Some of us believe that if the Niger-Delta people eventually commit to the Biafra project that will be the end of Nigeria. The emergence of Biafra no longer needs to be through war or violence; a united “Old Eastern Nigeria” forming a common front may be all that is required. All it takes is for one or two nations that are permanent members of the UN Security Council to recognize Biafra and push for a referendum. A scenario where all of Nigeria’s oil producing regions truly decide to opt out of Nigeria to form an independent nation will be too juicy for certain world powers.

However, why would the Niger-Delta region ever want to be part of 21st century Biafra? One name, Philip Effiong - the Efik war General that stayed with Biafra till the end, even after Ojukwu fled. Philip Effiong from present Akwa Ibom state was Ojukwu’s second in command and did become Biafra’s President briefly after Ojukwu’s exit. Philip Effiong negotiated Biafra’s surrender, further ensuring that no genocide was carried out against Igbos. The likes of Philip Effiong is evidence that Biafra did not set out to as an ‘Igbo agenda’ but the narratives started changing when major non-Igbo Biafra towns fell into the hands of Nigerian troops. Even Igbo towns like Port-Harcourt and sub-Igbo groups like the Ikwerres quickly denied their Igbo ancestry in order to avoid being massacred by Nigerian troops, the Asaba people weren’t so lucky.

Modern day Biafran agitators should perhaps go a step further by reaching out or building consensus with non-Igbos that fall into the original territorial plan of Biafra. What are the assurances that upon emergence of Biafra, the Igbo ethnic group will not dominate and oppress the Ijaws, Efiks or Ibibios? With zero political influence, the Igbos have managed to dominate certain economic sectors in Nigeria, how much more in a Biafra setting? Non-Igbo communities would be wise to harbor deep reservations about any talk of being part of Biafra. So, what is the deal? What are Biafran champions proposing? Will Biafra be a federal republic where oil producing communities are allowed to control their resources? Will ethnicity be abolished in Biafra, where all citizens are regarded as equal? Even within the majority Igbo tribe of Biafra, will a dichotomy exist between the business oriented Anambra axis and the educationally oriented Imo axis? Will the Osu caste system be thoroughly and effectively abolished? Will Biafran women enjoy equal rights as men and will first daughters be allowed to inherit their father’s choice properties?

These questions and scenarios need to be addressed before I genuinely start taking any talk of Biafra seriously; until then I remain Nigerian.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Reuben Abati Blasts Chief Edwin Clark And Jonathan's Ijaw Brothers

L-R : Reuben Abati, Chief Edwin Clark
I have tried delaying the writing of this piece in the honest expectation that someone probably misquoted Chief E.K. Clark, when he reportedly publicly disowned former President Goodluck Jonathan. I had hoped that our dear father, E.K. Clark, would issue a counter statement and say the usual things politicians say: “they quoted me out of context!” “Jonathan is my son”.

That has not happened; rather, some other Ijaw voices, including one Joseph Evah, have come to the defence of the old man, to join hands in rubbishing a man they once defended to the hilt and used as a bargaining chip for the Ijaw interest in the larger Nigerian geo-politics.

If President Jonathan had returned to power on May 29, 2015, these same persons would have remained in the corridors of power, displaying all forms of ethnic triumphalism. It is the reason in case they do not realize it, why the existent power blocs that consider themselves most fit to rule, continue to believe that those whose ancestors never ran empires can never be trusted with power, hence they can only be admitted as other people’s agents or as merchants of their own interests which may even be defined for them as is deemed convenient. Mercantilism may bring profit, but in power politics, it destroys integrity and compromises otherwise sacred values.

President Jonathan being publicly condemned by his own Ijaw brothers, particularly those who were once staunch supporters of his government further serves the purpose of exposing the limits of the politics of proximity. Politics in Africa is driven by this particular factor; it is at the root of all the other evils: prebendalism, clientelism and what Matthew Kukah has famously described as the “myownisation of power”.

It is both positive and negative, but obviously, more of the latter than the former. It is considered positive only when it is beneficial to all parties concerned, and when the template changes, the ground also shifts. As in that song, the solid rock of proximity is soon replaced by shifting sands. Old worship becomes new opportunism. And the observant public is left confounded.

Chief E.K. Clark?

Who would ever think, Chief E.K. Clark would publicly disown President Jonathan? He says Jonathan was a weak President. At what point did he come to that realization? Yet, throughout the five years (not six, please) of the Jonathan Presidency, he spoke loudly against anyone who opposed the President. He was so combative he was once quoted as suggesting that Nigeria could have problems if Jonathan was not allowed to return to office.

Today, he is the one helping President Jonathan’s successor to quench the fires. He always openly said President Jonathan is “his son”. Today, he is not just turning against his own son, he is telling the world his son as President lacked the political will to fight corruption.

He has also accused his son of being too much of a gentleman. Really? Gentlemanliness would be considered honourable in refined circles. Is Pa E.K. Clark recommending something else in order to prove that he is no longer a politician but a statesman as he says?

As someone who was a member of the Jonathan administration, and who interacted often with the old man, I can only say that I am shocked. This is the equivalent of the old man deleting President Jonathan’s phone number and ensuring that calls from his phone no longer ring at the Jonathan end. During the Jonathan years, Chief E. K. Clark was arguably the most vocal Ijaw leader defending the government. He called the President “my son”, and both father and son remained in constant touch.

There is something about having the President’s ears in a Presidential system, elevated to the level of a fetish in the clientilist Nigerian political system. Persons in the corridors of power who have the President’s ear- be they cook, valet, in-laws, wife, cousin, former school mates, priests, or whatever, enjoy special privileges.

They have access to the President and they can whisper into his ears. That’s all they have as power: the power to whisper and run a whispering campaign that can translate into opportunities or losses for those outside that informal power loop around every Presidency, that tends to be really influential.

Every President must beware of those persons who come around calling them “Daddy”, “Uncle”, na my brother dey there”, “my son”, “our in-law”: emotional blackmailers relying on old connections. They are courted, patronized and given more attention and honour than they deserve by those looking for access to the President or government.

Even when the power and authority of the whispering exploiters of the politics of proximity is contrived, they go out of their way to exaggerate it. They acquire so much from being seen to be in a position to make things happen.

Chief E. K. Clark had the President’s ears. He had unfettered access to his son. He was invited to most state events. And he looked out for the man he called “my son”, in whom he was well pleased. Chief Clark’s energy level in the service of the Jonathan administration was impressive.

Fearless and outspoken, he deployed his enormous talents in the service of the Jonathan government. If a press statement was tame, he drew attention to it and urged a more robust defence of “your boss”. If any invective from the APC was overlooked, he urged prompt rebuttal. If the party was tardy in defending “his son”, he weighed in.

If anyone had accused the President of lacking “the political will to fight corruption” at that time, he, E.K. Clark, would have called a press conference to draw attention to the Jonathan administration’s institutional reforms and preventive measures, his commitment to electoral integrity to check political corruption, and the hundreds of convictions secured by both the ICPC and EFCC under his son’s watch. So prominent and influential was he, that ministers, political jobbers etc etc trooped to his house to pay homage.

In due course, those who opposed President Jonathan did not spare Chief E. K. Clark either. He was accused of making inflammatory and unstatesman-like statements. An old war-horse, nobody could intimidate him.

He was not President Olusegun Obasanjo’s fan in particular. He believed Obasanjo wanted to sabotage his son, and he wanted Obasanjo put in his place. Beneath all of that, was an unmistaken rivalry between the two old men, seeking to control the levers of Nigerian politics.

Every President probably needs a strong, passionate ally like Chief E. K. Clark. But what happened? What went wrong? Don’t get me wrong. I am not necessarily saying that the Ijaw leader should have remained loyal to and defend Goodluck Jonathan because they are both Ijaws; patriotism definitely could be stronger than ethnic affinities, nonetheless that E. K. Clark tale about leaving politics and becoming a statesman is nothing but sheer crap.

If Jonathan had returned to office, he would still be a card-carrying member of the PDP and the “father of the President” and we would still have been hearing that famous phrase, “my son”. Chief E. K. Clark, five months after, has practically told the world that President Buhari is better than “his own son.”

It is the worst form of humiliation that President Jonathan has received since he left office. It is also the finest compliment that President Buhari has received since he assumed office.

The timing is also auspicious: just when the public is beginning to worry about the direction of the Buhari government, E. K. Clark shows up to lend a hand of support and endorsement. Only one phrase was missing in his statement, and it should have been added: “my son, Buhari.” It probably won’t be too long before we hear the old man saying “I am a statesman, Buhari is my son.”

I can imagine President Obasanjo grinning with delight. If he really wants to be kind, he could invite E.K. Clark to his home in Ota or Abeokuta to come and do the needful by publicly tearing his PDP membership card and join him in that exclusive club of Nigerian statesmen! The only problem with that club these days is that you can become a member by just saying so or by retiring from partisan politics. We are more or less being told that there are no statesmen in any of the political parties.

It is not funny. Julius Ceasar asked Brutus in one of the famous lines in written literature: “Et tu Brutus?” President Jonathan should ask Chief E. K. Clark: “Et tu Papa?” To which the father will probably tell the son: “Ces’t la vie, mon cher garcon.” And really, that is life. In the face of other considerations, loyalties vanish; synergies collapse. The wisdom of the tribe is overturned; the politics of proximity dissolves; loyalties remain in a perpetual process of construction. Thus, individual interests and transactions drive the political game in Nigeria, with time and context as key determinants.

These are teachable moments for President Jonathan. Power attracts men and women like bees to nectar, the state of powerlessness ends as a journey to the island of loneliness. However, the greatest defender of our work in office is not our ethnic “fathers and “brothers” but rather our legacy.

The real loss is that President Jonathan’s heroism, his messianic sacrifice in the face of defeat, is being swept under the carpet and his own brothers who used to say that the Ijaws are driven by a principle of “one for all and all for another”, have become agent-architects of his pain. The Ijaw platform having seemingly been de-centered, Chief E.K. Clark and others are seeking assimilation in the new power structure. It is a telling reconstruction of the politics of proximity and mimicry.
Chief E.K. Clark once defended the rights of ethnic minorities to aspire to the highest offices in the land, his latest declaration about his son reaffirms the existing stereotype at the heart of Nigeria’s hegemonic politics.

The same hegemons and their agents whom Clark used to fight furiously will no doubt find him eminently quotable now that he has proclaimed that it is wrong to be a “gentleman”, and that his son lacks “the political will to fight corruption”.

There is more to this than we may ever know. Chief Clark can insist from now till 2019 that he has spoken as a statesman and as a matter of principle. His re-alignment is curious nonetheless.