2023: Jonathan’s return, power balance and peace

Former Goodluck Jonathan

As a country, Nigeria is currently at a near breaking point where it must urgently decide whether it wants to move forward out of the doldrums or not. The nation is in desperate search for an anchor, an inspirational leader around whom the nation can rebuild national confidence and trust between the government and the people, as well as among its heterogeneous entities.  

Interestingly, one of the dominant developing stories in our recent political space that caught important attention is the ongoing move by influential Northern political power brokers to convince the immediate past President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) of the leading opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to run for the 2023 presidential election in order to for him to complete his second tenure. 

History and the rest of us remember how GEJ shocked the world by very rare display of sportsmanship and statesmanship when he conceded defeat by calling on his opponent (then General Muhammadu Buhari) before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could announce the final result of his second term presidential election in 2015.

Surely, Nigeria is inching closer to the most anticipated presidential election in the history of our country and many Nigerians, and indeed watchers of Nigeria’s affairs from outside the country, have been watching with intense interest where the pendulum would swing with particular reference to the binary North versus South power block. This is in view of the fact that Nigerian national democracy gravitates around geopolitics which is usually laced with ethno-religious nationalism.

What makes this even more interesting is the reality of the perilous times we are living in as a country in terms of national security. Since the present government of President Muhammadu Buhari came into power, the country has been thrown into protracted conflicts at higher dimensions than it inherited. 

There is more than a the decade-long insurgency in the North-East, banditry in the North-West, farmers-herders conflicts in the North-Central which has spread to the South-East, South-West and South-South, as well as kidnappings nationwide, including the invasion of kidnappers into the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

There is an overwhelming perception that banditry and farmers versus herders’ conflicts are criminal activities mainly perpetrated by the Fulanis and that the federal government headed by a Fulani man in the person of President Buhari has been giving the suspects moral and logistical supports. 

This accusation appears to have been supported by the fact that the security agencies have been controversially involved or allegedly compromised in that they have not demonstrated any genuine commitment to arresting and prosecuting the criminal suspects; rather, they are being fingered as providing protection for suspected criminals to execute their barbarism with a view to fulfilling a land-grabbing agenda and take over the country in a so-called Jihad.

As a Fulani man, in as much as I detest and refuse to accept such a rather demonization of my race as criminals, it is very unfortunate that the Buhari administration has failed to dislodge this allegations through decisive security measures to arrest the daily fighting, killings and displacement across the country.

This is not ignoring another weighty accusation that the All Progressive Congress (APC) created the conflicts as political launching pads which it massively deployed in the bitter electoral campaign of calumny against the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the build up to the 2015 presidential elections, and which subsequently swept Jonathan out of power.

The present government and its foot soldiers have not refuted the gamut of these allegations that have been trending for years. As a matter of fact, top officials of this APC-led government have wittingly and unwittingly admitted to this very telling label.    

This has led to the violent regional agitations in the South-East by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOD), the Yoruba Nation in the South-West, etc. evidently, those of us who witnessed the events that snowballed into the Civil War know the fact that since that national pogrom, Nigeria has never been so divided along ethnic, religious and geopolitical lines. Where then can our country, under such disruptive forces, find peace, unity and progress? President Buhari’s second tenure will end in May 2023. Where and who should the country turn to at this critical time? These questions are as important as the concern over the future of Nigeria.

At this juncture, many people may be wondering: Why GEJ in 2023? Of course, from all indications, the GEJ factor in the 2023 General and Presidential Elections are pivotal to the survival of democracy, which is anchored on peace, unity and progress. More importantly, power moving to the South will definitely create that political and power balance between North-South power rotation circles, that is, after eight years of the Buhari administration (North’s turn).

Secondly, let us consider the provoking thoughts of an intellectual and author, Mr. Idowu Koyenikan, in Wealth for all Africans: How Every African Can Live the Life of Their Dreams. He paints a clear picture of what we, as a nation, should be thinking about right now. According to him, “Show me the heroes that the youth of your country look up to, and I will tell you the future of your country”. Perhaps, the real question is: Where are we going as a country under the present administration?

We live at a perilous time in our country where the government appears not to be accountable to no one. Thomas Paine, a famous English-American political theorist, philosopher and revolutionary and one of the most important influences on Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson of the United States rightly warned that, “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody”. According to him, the consequence is very brutal: “

No country can be called free which is governed by an absolute power; and it matters not whether it be an absolute royal power or an absolute legislative power, as the consequences will be the same to the people”. Unfortunately, that is exactly where the country is today.

If there is any time that Nigeria needs a national character, statesman who promotes the country and its people above self, a man who has amassed more national and international confidence and accolades after he left power, that ‘hero’ that Koyenikan talks about is GEJ. Arguably, GEJ is one of the most respected African voices in the world among former leaders in African continent. The youths miss their freedom of expression, media and association under him.   

Among the contemporary national leaders of our dear country Nigeria, GEJ is definitely the most accepted national leader in Nigeria who is respected openly across political divides. Members of the ruling party and top officials of this government confessed and apologized to GEJ for working against him in 2015 because, time proved them wrong and him (GEJ) right on economy, political accommodation, tolerance and humility.

Among several refrains that GEJ wrote in our political lexicon is that “My ambition does not worth the blood of any Nigerian” in a country where elections have been ignominiously described as a war or a do or die affairs. In one of his valedictory interviews ahead of the 2015 presidential elections, GEJ clearly stated that, “the choice in the coming election is not between President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari, or between PDP and APC; it is between freedom and retrogression”. Of course, Nigerians made were goaded into making their fatal choice and today, we are buying our freedom with the blood of our citizens, very costly price indeed.      

If we must move forward as a country, we must jettison ethnicity, religious and primordial interest so that we can live together as a harmonious entity and the only national figure that can forge that bond in our now history is GEJ. As Albert Einstein once stated, “the only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance”, which is what some elements in the Buhari government and certain conservatives in the North are trying to exhibit. The coming election in 2023 and, of course, Nigeria is greater than any region, group or individuals.

If by any means power is retained in the North in 2023, then it would become very clear that the North is creating a very dangerous imbalance in the already shaky system. It means that the region is sowing the wind and it would, without fail, harvest the whirlwind, which would finally nail the coffin of the entity called Nigeria. It is obvious to the discerning minds that the North has been making fatal errors in its politics of regional interest as exemplified in the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and the current President Buhari. Unfortunately, all these are as a result of visionary leadership whose voice provides clear direction and focus. That is why despite producing more presidents and heads of government in Nigerian history, we remain the most underdeveloped and impoverished region and people. In other words, the region needs to play its politics well this time.

Nigeria needs a national cohesion. The country needs to return to the winning ways among the comity of nations under a truly inspirational leadership and not the other way round. There is an urgent need to rebuild and reunite the different entities that are hurting and blowing hot as a result of obvious marginalization and exclusion in the governance structure under the current dispensation. It would amount to betrayal of common sense and friendship between the North-South power structure. Power thus must of necessity return to the South because as Paine once again stated: “The balance of power is the scale of peace” and of course, the lever of that balance is GEJ.

Engr. Abubakar, an information technology expert, writes from Angwan Rimi, Kaduna.

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