By Daniel Alabrah
President Goodluck Jonathan
Suddenly, the opposition in Nigeria appears to have gone into hiding after a vociferous media attack on President Goodluck Jonathan following his emergency rule declaration in three states north-east of Nigeria.
Heading the onslaught as usual was the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), whose leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, played far less the role of a statesman when he issued a statement accusing the President of preparing grounds for the poll in 2015 through emergency rule in the affected states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
He said the President simply wants to “use the excuse of the security challenges faced by the governors (in the troubled states) to remove them from the states considered hostile to the 2015 Jonathan project.”
Tinubu then went on to condemn what he called “the militaristic approach to tackling security challenges by the Jonathan government.”
Later, the ACN spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, would lash at the President for not consulting the National Assembly over the emergency declaration. Whereupon he (rather mischievously) called on the federal lawmakers not to endorse President Jonathan’s action!
But the turn of events in the past fortnight or so of the emergency declaration along with the steady military operation against the violent insurgents and the deft political moves of Jonathan have proved the critics as rather ignorant, mischievous or outright sadistic, who are trapped in the “political anxiety complex” enunciated by my former lecturer, the renowned late Professor of Political Economy, Claude Ake.
That theory says such politicians exhibit rabid fear for not being in power or for losing power! They turn in do-or-die tricks, including debilitating propaganda and negative criticism, to secure (or retain) power.
Later, discarding overwhelming support for the emergency rule, especially following the retention of the democratic institutions by Jonathan as opposed to their displacement in an earlier epoch, the opposition offered the killer absurdity: the President ought to have sacked the governors!
But the President proved the ultimate democrat. He disappointed those who sought to trap him with a charge that he was playing politics with the emergency rule so he could have his way in 2015 in the three states.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly had taken note of the patriotic thread running through the President’s action. Deliberating on the Executive’s request for Jonathan’s plans, 100 out of 109 senators, including key members of the opposition, supported the emergency importations. The nine remaining senators, including Tinubu’s wife, Oluremi, were said to have travelled. And in the House of Representatives 253 out of 360 members okayed the President’s decision.
These were wise men and women who correctly read what was at play. It had nothing to do with partisan politics. It also had nothing to do with Jonathan in 2015. Rather everything was about protecting the nation, its future and its people.
When President Barack Obama declared emergency in Oklahoma in the midst of the recent monster of a tornado that flattened some communities, the Republican Party Governor Mary Fallin didn’t cry foul. Nor did the opposition politicians protest that Obama wanted to make way for the Democrats to take over in the next election.
Our president has also convinced Nigerians that he can be a statesman and rise to the occasion in moments of need and challenges. Disproving that he isn’t a one-track leader as the opposition is awkwardly trying to do, Jonathan has given approval for the release of the relations of Boko Haram members arrested in connection with the emergency. These involve women and children under custody.
The President did so as part of his response to a request by the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Reconciliation. This reflects government’s multi-dimensional approach to tackling the security challenge in some parts of the country.
These are the largely behind-the-scene exploits of the President that have befuddled the normally vocal opposition to the point that they have since become voiceless, in a manner of speaking. There is hardly any snare they have not set with their prey remaining untrapped.
They expected him to stick only to the military option; he disappointed them. They thought he would sack the governors of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe so they could claim it was a foreplay to 2015; he didn’t. They resorted to a psychological attack on the National Assembly. That also failed.
Currently, the opposition, having failed in all these stratagems, is alleging that the Presidency had a hand in the process of electing a new Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) chairman. Their charge is that the Presidency wanted to influence the choice of a so-called candidate who will in turn influence the re-election of Jonathan in 2015. What a wild imagination!
Of course, the Presidency has denied it because there is too much on its hands to allow it dabble into the NGF election. Observers believe that the opposition is merely playing politics with everything the Presidency does even when politics is not involved. So far, the opposition has played more to the gallery and its criticisms have not been constructive but merely for criticism sake.
It is time the opposition stopped looking at urgent non-partisan national issues from the narrow perspectives of politics. Such a posture would always lead to disappointments of personal nature but more tragically of a national dimension.
The opposition has pursued this destructive path for too long. The dilemma is that it prevents Nigerians from appreciating true selfless leadership when one surfaces. Besides, it pushes politicians and political office holders to think only of elections and not service to the people.
It is a mind-set that runs contrary to the calling of a statesman worthy of the office of a leader as taught by Pandit Nehru, the great Indian leader who said: “A politician thinks of the next election while a statesman thinks of the next seven generations.”
• Alabrah (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Head, Media & Communications, Presidential Amnesty Office, Abuja
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