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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Discourse 294 Jonathan on Trial

Discourse 294
By Dr. Aliyu Tilde

Jonathan on Trial

There was the Children of Israel, in Egypt, continuing with their suffering which was intensified after the appointment of Moses as a Messenger of God and his demand for their unconditional release from bondage of Pharaoh. Then the ministers of Pharaoh had advised that Moses and his people ”must not be let alone to corrupt the land (with their faith) and abandon the worship of Pharaoh and his gods”. The reply of the monarch was prompt, severe and boastful: ”We will kill their children and let their women, and we are indeed powerful over them.” (Mhm. Ashe ethnic cleansing is not the innovation of Milosevic or some rats around here!)
Moses appealed to the Children of Israel to persevere, hopeful of God’s intervention: “Certainly, the land belongs to God, He will inherit it to whom he wishes among his servants, but (victory) in the end will be with the pious.” Those were the most fundamental law of power: God is the owner of power; he gives it to whomever he wishes but the accomplishment of one’s tenure comes only with the God-consciousness in every decision the leader takes.
However, the Children of Israel continued to protest to Moses: ”We have suffered before you came to us and after you have arrived.” In his short but eloquent reply, Moses again enunciated three other laws of power: that God is the most powerful, that power is transient and that it is a trial for whoever it is given to. He said: “May be God may destroy your enemy and handover power to you to see how you will use it.”
And God fulfilled his promise. He subjected Pharaoh and his people to nine principal calamities as a way of bringing them to order. They refused. Instead, they ascribed merit to themselves and blamed the Israelites for any misfortune. They would enter into a deal with God whenever a calamity strikes. But after Moses had intervened and it is lifted they would return to their oppressive practices. “So We punished them and drowned them in the waves because they denied our Signs and were unmindful of them. And We handed over the people who were oppressed the land that is blessed, east and west; thus, the promise of your Lord to the Children of Israel was fulfilled…”
Then God turned to the tenure of the Children of Israel after their historic escape and the realization of their dream. It was sad to note, as in most cases with power, that they did not keep their own promise to God. Moses (May God be pleased with him) suffered from their disobedience more than how any Prophet suffered before him. They failed to appreciate God’s choice and longed for Egypt where they would eat varieties of fruits and vegetables; they refused to obey Moses until he shows them God plainly; and so many other things before the last stroke that broke the camel’s back: their refusal to enter the Promised Land in fear of its inhabitants whom they were terrified of: ”Go, you and with your Lord, and fight (them)”, they told Moses, ”Here we shall sit and wait for you.”
Moses looked unto God, hopelessly praying: “My Lord! I have no control over anyone except over myself and my brother (Aaron). Please, judge between us and (these) disobedient folks.” And the decree of God came quickly: “They will be deprived of it (i.e. the Promised Land) for forty years, wandering on earth. So do not despair over a disobedient nation.”
May God have mercy on Moses! He was the most discussed Prophet in the Quran. He was the epitome of patience and tenacity in the presence of suffering and uncertainty, a quality that qualified him to belong to the league of four resolute Messengers of God, along with Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of God be upon all of them!)
The reader may wonder why I went to this length to narrate the above story of Moses in an essay titled the Jonathan on Trial. Our President has not committed a crime to warrant his arraignment before a court of law. Instead, he is visited by the good luck of becoming our President, something he never dreamt of, perhaps until three years ago when Obasanjo conscripted him to run as deputy to the terminally sick Yar’adua. He is happy and so are his people, just as anyone in his position would be. God, the owner of power, has chosen him and favoured him with the office. But as every favour comes with a responsibility, Jonathan should close himself in a dark room and weep.
He is standing in the position of Moses, if we must draw a parallel, a position of leadership, coming from a humble background like many of us. Will he be resolute, like Moses, and do the right thing and be counted among our heroic past leaders, in the league of Murtala, Buhari and Idiagbon, or will he bask in his victory and succumb to the temptation of power and belong to the group of corrupt leaders who have failed the nation and failed themselves?
And will the people of Jonathan, whose land has been dilapidated and their wealth looted by many successive Nigerian leaders and their governors, see his ascent as an opportunity to ruin themselves further by engaging in the unholy practice of looting the treasury and leaving their environment and youth in their sad state? Or will they use this opportunity to correct the condition of neglect that they have so much complained about for decades now?
Yar’adua was not Pharaoh by any measure and he has laid the foundation of things that Jonathan must build upon. There are four major areas where the mettle of Jonathan will be tested, and on them he can win or lose his case before the court of providence and that of public opinion. The areas are 1) Niger Delta, 2) Free and fair election, 3) Power, and 4) the choice of his Vice-President. Unfortunately for Jonathan, the lucky guy is not favoured by time. Nigerians are justifiably impatient on all the four.
Let us begin with the choice of a Vice-President. I am not happy the way members of his party are rushing him and threatening him on the matter. Particularly, I must chide politicians from the Northwest. Why are they so selfish and arrogant to dictate to Jonathan, in disdain to other Nigerians, that he chooses one of them, specifically, Makarfi, as the Senators said yesterday, as Vice-President? “If he does this, we assure him of our support…”, said a respected member of house of House of Representative before the press. Some of the politicians even threatened him with failure if he does not. I am tired of this arrogance, wallahi. We, as northerners, are made to shoulder their irresponsibility. Wai kura da shan bugu, gardi da amsan kudi (monkey dey work, baboon dey chop).
Where is the humility that once emanated from our pulaaku and kara? Why are people so bizarre in their lust for power? Do these Northwestern politicians realize that it is indeed this greed of theirs that has been breaking the ranks of the North and bringing the entire region to ridicule? What would they say to the Northeast and Northcentral regions? When has the PDP started zoning the office of the Vice-President in the North. Did not Obasanjo do it with a fiat: Atiku are you ready to be my Vice President? And did not the former VP answer: I am ready to be your briefcase, sir? We all passed through this. Can these folk sit down for a second and count the number of leaders that part of the North has appropriated? Sardauna, Murtala, Shagari, Buhari, Abacha, Yar’adua, including Babangida and Abdulsalami who were both from the defunct Northwestern State? Yet, these selfish politicians will frown at the idea of zoning the Presidency to the Northeast come 2011 or 2015. Their move for the Vice President now is to ensure that they return in 2011. I am not against anybody’s presidency; in fact, I do not believe in zoning, but in merit. However, like any man of honour, I hate to be made a second fiddle.
If I were the Jonathan, this will be the very reason to disqualify any politician from the Northwest on my list. I will refuse to be intimidated. To hell with 2011, because As Umar al-Khayyam put it,

“Equal in the grave are the dead of tomorrow
And of the past of thousands of years…”

If Jonathan must pass this test, he must not be blinded by the ambition of tomorrow at the expense of the correctness of today. Tomorrow could be a failed ambition but today is assured. That is the advice of Umar al-Khayyam again:

“Do not preoccupy your mind with the past,
Nor with the future before it comes.
But harvest from the present its pleasures
For trust is not among the nature of Time.
Tomorrow rides on the back of the Unseen
But today is mine…”

Any sign of weakness emanating from external pressures or yielding to his own internal ambitions will make him vulnerable in subsequent encounters especially when he comes to decide on the leadership of INEC and the conduct of the election itself. His choice for a patriotic, humble but resolute deputy will make him an instant hero and would find in that person an Aaron to depend on in his coming struggle against the children of his political tribe. He is free to choose a deputy whom he may support as the next presidential candidate, in case he is not contesting himself, or simply someone who will remain indifferent but resolute on achieving his laudable objectives.
The issue of INEC is even more important. The Vice President may be kept idle, but INEC chairman is indispensable to the realization of Jonathan’s promise of free and fair election. The President has every reason to conduct a free and fair election, particularly with his premature exclusion from the presidential race in 2011 by the national PDP leadership. What will he lose, therefore, by mobilizing all the necessary organs of government to ensure a free and fair election that will register him as one of the most patriotic and decisive leaders that Africans ever had? Can he see this as the task that destiny has chosen for him to undertake? It is there on the wall. Can he see it? If he can, can he read it? If he can read it, what stops him from resolving to pursue this path to greatness? Or will he be so foolish to choose the path of failure by disappointing God as the Children of Israel did? In that case, he must remember that he does not have another forty years to wander in the land wo. Aha.
So let him appoint a patriotic, fearless, honest and hardworking Nigerian to the seat of INEC chairman and use the same yardstick to appoint his commissioners. He can go and sleep thereafter, resting assured that they will use their offices and his powers to block any magumagu which our politicians of all parties are accustomed to. The problem is not with the electoral law. It is with the people who operate it. This has always be the bane of our leaders. They make fine promises but fail in appointing the appropriate people who have the capacity to realize their dreams. They employ the best architect to plan their house but contract a taxi driver to build it. The result is a foregone conclusion.
Then comes the issue of Niger Delta. That region is the most neglected part of this country, undoubtedly. It has suffered from the negligence of oil companies that refused to live by their terms of their contract regarding the environment as contained in the relevant laws as well as from the supervising bodies that were formed to ensure compliance with those laws. As usual, money has been the mother of this evil. The companies are ever ready to give huge bribes and the officials are always ready to collect them. It is also the evil that perverted the heart of the governors of that region who fail to develop, at their own level, the rural infrastructure and programs that will mitigate the suffering of their people. A medical student from their states does not enjoy a scholarship allowance, unlike those from the poorest states in the country, even though each of the governors of those oil-producing states receives as statutory allocation the equivalent of the combined allocation of six states in the Northeast, for example. All of the governors of the South-South during the last Obasanjo era had dismal record to show but horrific corruption cases to answer. According to Ribadu, every one of them had a case to answer before the EFCC.
Now Goodluck is the President. Their luck is good. Abi? At least for a year or more, other Nigerians will be spared the shower of abuses because a person from the Niger Delta region is now the President. He must use this opportunity to correct as many wrongs as he can, building on the honest and substantial effort of Yar’adua. Here also, he must not lose sight of the importance of appointing the right people to manage the Ministry for Niger Delta and the other relevant bodies. He must not fail; otherwise, his people will stone him for his capital sin. I no dey inside wo. Ba ruwa na.
Finally, he has made himself in charge of power. It is urgent. It is tempting. It is difficult. Whether him too go chop, we go see. Obasanjo come chop $16 billion dollars, phew. Yar’adua people come squander N75billion, phiyam. Dis scorpion wey Jonathan come put for him trouser na nwa wo. Ah! I no sabi wo.
All said, Jonathan is definitely is on trial by God. His success will depend on him, he must know. If he will stand up to evil and do the right thing, God will guide him throughout the difficult journey of being our President, we who are least appreciative of any good effort while anyone is on power, but who are most hypocritical in our assessment when he leaves it. We, as Nigerians, will criticize Jonathan for not following our selfish demands. Few will stand by him to protect him from the advancing arrows. But we assure Jonathan, once he remains resolute, as we are now doing for Buhari after doing every juju on earth for his overthrow two and a half decades ago, that we will fanatically crave for his return. Then, should he come knocking on our door, we would certainly rush to open it for him; should he ever ask for a favour, we would readily grant him, and should he solicit for our help, we would hastily render it to him.
Jonathan is now passing through the most difficult moments of his life: He is being weighed. He is being tested. He must not, like most men before him, be found wanting. But like Moses, he should establish resolve, as did Mandela and other courageous sons of Africa.

12 May, 2010

Readers should please forgive my amateurish rendering of some Quranic verses and those of Ruba’iyyat of Umar al-Khayyam in the above discourse. I always prefer to copy from the translations of renowned scholars. As I was writing it on transit, however, I had to rely on my faint memory, insufficient vocabulary and poor diction. I pray that God would forgive any mistake that I might have unintentionally committed.
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