The 2015 electoral contest is one that pitches President Goodluck Jonathan puffed up by his native Ijaw and some of the South-East states- seen to be the biggest beneficiaries of the prevailing order in the country-on the one hand, and a largely disoriented, disorganized but bitterly angry states of Northern Nigeria. Many are already saying that the contest between the two sides will come to be defined by cash, raw emotions and the role of the South-West.
The Governor of Niger State, styled as Chief Servant, Dr. Babangida Aliyu has done the job of organizing Northern politics, economy, peace and security matters as Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF, but seems to have gone over the top in tagging fellow Northerners supporting Dr. Jonathan’s 2015 aspiration as traitors.
In the November 24 edition of the Punch newspapers, the Chief Servant, after taking a hard view of the President’s aspiration for 2015, announced that “over 400 Northerners have betrayed the North after collecting money from mercenaries. He promised to publish the list.
He continued: “We hear rumours of some people who say they have a list of four hundred Northerners that they are going to settle and they are sure if they settle the 400, everything will be okay. We are looking for that list so that we will tell people that these are the people that want to betray you. This sense of betrayal on the Northerners has festered into a groundswell of mistrust.”
The first time I heard of the list of 400 was from an editor of a growing vernacular newspaper who said a former Minster showed it to him. It may have secretly been going round some time and there is the danger I see in what is going on. As the leader of the country, Mr. Jonathan may have made some promises that he has failed to fulfill and could possibly be unelectable on account of his performance in office. It is clearly being talked about all over the country that governance and public service have deteriorated under him in his two terms. Human development and other indices have shown signs of decline. These notwithstanding, he has a right to strategize and seek popular support even if his bid for another term of office is abhorrent to many. The constitution guarantees him the right to freely canvass for support all across the federation and nobody has a right to inhibit him in enjoying his rights under the constitution.
Equally unacceptable is also the attempt to label fellow citizens as traitors on account of the wrong political choices they make, in this case supporting an unpopular President. The coming elections must be fought on the basis of ideas supported by evidence of service delivery. It cannot be won by fighting physically on the ground. That would bring shame to all concerned.
On point of principle, I find it abhorrent that a candidate in a national election be barred from access to all or any section of the voting population. Freedom of choice is the only basis for a free and fair election. Dr. Jonathan may himself not believe in this right of access and freedom of choice as was evident from the last general election, in 2011 which he superintended. I worked for a candidate who was denied access to delegates and in some cases barred physically visiting states in the South-East, and in Bayelsa State in the South-South, the President’s home state. To be met by this aspiring PDP presidential candidate, Bayelsa delegates had to be smuggled out of Yenagoa, to a secret location in Port-Harcourt where the meeting held. I did not see anything Dr. Jonathan did to stop the unwarranted abuse and disregard of the constitution of Nigeria at that time.
To attain and maintain the moral high ground, those victims of the President’s excesses must not lower themselves into doing the same things he did to others. The Constitution must in all cases be allowed to prevail.
My other worry is about secret lists being circulated. Whoever has a hint of how Nazi Germany was run and the genocidal activity undertaken; how more than 100,000 Bosnians-mostly Muslims were killed under Serbian ethnic cleansing and in Rwanda where nearly a Million Tutsi and moderate Hutus were killed should shriek when they hear words like “collaborators” and “traitors” being used against fellow citizens. In all these instances, secret lists of men and women who had helped the Nazis, or having had secret deals with the invader or one side or the other of the conflict were cited as legitimate bases upon which arson and killing were carried out.
Although the North under men such as Babangida Aliyu have both mandate and legitimacy to give Dr. Jonathan a good fight for 2015, this battle must be fought on development issues with civility and utmost decorum. History has always had a way of dealing with people who sided with rulers to decimate (Nigerian) nationalism.
A failed politician, Vidkan Quisling cut a secret deal with the Nazi but they betrayed him after invading Norway in 1940. Another failed politician, Anton Musset, had a thirst for power that led him to make a pact with the Nazis to the point of pledging personal allegiance to Hitler. Hitler turned the table against him when it mattered to him the most.
Here at home, if you look at all those who are crying the loudest about injustice in the Jonathan regime, are they not those who made him President, against the wishes of their own people?