Simon Kolawole: Can Goodluck Jonathan Survive This Blitzkrieg?

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You are watching a two-hour movie. President Goodluck Jonathan is the “actor” (that’s what we used to call the main character as kids). It is just 10 minutes to the end of the movie. Jonathan has been dodging bullets on the streets in the last one hour, running from pillar to villa. Many of his fighters have deserted him and joined his adversaries, led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. They lob missiles at him, like javelin, from every direction as he snakes towards his fortress. Out of breath, he uses the butt of his AK47 to smash the padlock of his gate, and his rifle falls into pieces. He is now left with only a pistol and a hand grenade.
Eight minutes to go…
His vest torn, blood crawling from his exposed biceps down to his forearm, he makes a dazed dash for his entrance door, barely hooking the gate with a chain from inside. The adversaries are closing in. They volley gunshots at the fence as he desperately runs to open the door. He has bruises all over his body. His nose is bleeding from a stone just thrown by Obasanjo, which landed on his nose with mathematical precision. Soyinka had earlier knocked off his front tooth at a blind corner. The scar on his forehead was scribbled by Kolade. Jonathan now hates the mirror. It is a hostile piece of glass.
Five minutes to go…
His right hand is hurt by the door knob as his trembling arms try to force it open. His mouth is in dry season, dreadfully in need of saliva or anything liquid in form. The enemies are massing outside the fence. He whispers to himself, in pidgin English: “Wetin I do dis people na?” He does not quickly reckon that the door is playing its own trick. It refuses to open. He has to fire the last bullets in his pistol to force it open. He is now left with only a hand grenade as he creeps into the villa.
Let’s pause there. I’m an amateur script writer and I don’t know how to complete the remaining three minutes of the movie. But let us leave the world of make-believe and come back to reality. And the reality is that this is not the best of times to be Jonathan. With a swelling crowd of opponents hitting at him, the room for manoeuvre is getting smaller. Now, if Buhari criticises him, you could say: What do you expect? If it is APC, you would say it is predictable. Even Soyinka, you might conclude that he’s been vocal all his life. And Obasanjo? Well, he tackles even the dead.
But Kolade? Now this is a different proposition. There are a few Nigerians I adore with every bit of my soul and pray to be like them in my old age. Kolade is one of them. He is a man of integrity, a role model, a patriot and a non-partisan. I admire him to no end. So when someone like that becomes your critic, then there is trouble. The biggest mistake you will make is to lump him along with your natural or regular critics. However, you can choose to lock yourself up, read his statement word-for-word, get pricked in your heart, and say: Dear God, what may I do to be saved?
I have said this before and I would like to repeat myself: it is not in the interest of President Jonathan to lump all his critics together. As a leader, he has to sit down, analyse his critics and their criticisms, arrange them in groups, classify the key issues and work out his actions and reactions appropriately. He sure has millions of critics, like any other leader. People criticise with different motives. People have different agenda even when they are saying the same thing. Unfortunately, you will miss the message when you lump everyone together and respond to every critic and criticism with cynicism and antagonism.
I once identified at least four different categories of Jonathan’s critics. In Group A, I placed opposition figures and other political opponents. There is no way APC would come out and praise Jonathan; that is political suicide. They want power. They want his job. Theirs is to say Jonathan or PDP has not done well and that if Nigerians give them a chance, they would do much better. This is a universal characteristic of opposition politics. You can argue that they do not always work with the facts, but what is politicking? PDP would do the same if APC were in power.
In Group B, you have those who lost out in the political game. Many politicians, who supported Jonathan in 2010 and 2011, feel abandoned. They feel like a deflated orange: squeezed, sucked and dumped. They feel Jonathan treated them to a one-night stand, whereas they wanted an affair. Some wanted appointments; others simply desired respect and recognition. But they are bitter that Jonathan jilted them after getting what he wanted. In no time, they became his sworn enemies. I would locate Obasanjo within this group.
In Group C, you have those northerners who are still bitter that Jonathan “hijacked” power after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2010. The north had conceded power to the south in 1999, with the understanding that Obasanjo would do only one term. But Aso Rock was too sweet for him. So PDP agreed to a north/south power rotation every eight years. Unfortunately, Yar’Adau died prematurely. Jonathan took over and refused to let go. To some northerners, there is nothing Jonathan can do to make them happy. Even if he turns northern Nigeria to Dubai, their message is clear: Thank you and just get out of here.

In Group D are those who have neither partisan nor sectional sentiments against Jonathan ─ they are sincerely critical of certain aspects of his stewardship. Jonathan was marketed as a breath of fresh air in 2011. But these critics have been genuinely disturbed at his handling of critical issues such as corruption and Boko Haram. In truth, Jonathan lost a lot of sympathisers with the Chibok schoolgirls saga, which was turned into the “Na Only You Waka Come” tragicomedy in the corridors of power. Now, you cannot group these genuine critics with his political enemies. You cannot put Kolade and APC or Obasanjo in the same category. You will miss the point completely.
Let’s now unpause the movie. Jonathan is holed up in his fortress with only one grenade left. The blitzkrieg outside is intimidating. Some in the cinema hall are already tweeting that Jonathan is down and out and Buhari is only two minutes away from taking over. The social media community is awash with “Sai Buhari” victory chants. But, wait, Jonathan is still the president. He still has enormous political and economic powers. He still has a few more minutes to decide what to do with the grenade in his hand. And he still has troops from 36 states trying to come to his rescue.

Will he survive? Will he detonate the bomb? Let’s just relax, with popcorn and Pepsi, and soak in the closing scenes. There could still be a twist, who knows. It’s an exhilarating political thriller.
I find the circumstances surrounding Obasanjo’s latest memoirs quite revealing. First, he defied a court order. Typical Obasanjo: lawless. Second, he titled the book “My Watch”. Wow. In 2004, Chinua Achebe rejected a national honour, writing to Obasanjo: “I write this letter with a very heavy heart… I have watched particularly the chaos in my own state of Anambra where a small clique of renegades, openly boasting its connections in high places, seems determined to turn my homeland into a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom… Nigeria’s condition today under YOUR WATCH (my emphasis) is too dangerous for silence.” Memories.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has wanted to be president of Nigeria since 1993 and it would seem the dream is finally over after the APC primary. If you had asked me in 2001 or thereabouts, I would have said Atiku was the most powerful politician in Nigeria and it was just a matter of time for him to succeed Obasanjo. In his latest book, Obasanjo recalled how an Atiku associate came to “gist” him on the VP’s comprehensive plan to become president anytime he wanted. Obasanjo said he thereafter told his ADC: “Why do people plan and leave God out of their plan?” Deep!
This is not funny, although there is a bit of fun in it. In September, Malam Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Kano governor and former APC presidential aspirant, described Malam Nuhu Ribadu as a “laughing stock” for defecting from APC to PDP and then failing to get the Adamawa governorship ticket. But now Ribadu has the PDP governorship ticket, while Kwankwaso has failed in his own bid, despite reluctantly appointing Lamido Sanusi as Emir of Kano under pressure from other APC governors who reportedly promised him the party’s presidential ticket in return. Ribadu would be saying: who’s the laughing stock now? Irony.
And finally, we’re going to have a rematch between Jonathan and Buhari in the presidential bout. To the partisans, this is going to be a Rumble in the Jungle. To the spectators, it is a Thriller in the Villa. But to the security agencies, this could turn out to be a nightmare. One thing we should all plead for is that the contest should, for God’s sake, be conducted in good spirits. In 2011, it was too bloody. Violence erupted even before the election. The combatants should stick to the issues and undertake to control their supporters in the national interest. Sportsmanship.


Article written By Simon Kolawole, and Culled from Thisday Newspaper.. Email: [email protected]


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