IBB as GEJ’s ‘fada,’ and the long goodbye

The Nigerian section of social media is horrified by President Goodluck Jonathan’s comment that Dec. 28 was the New Year. This gem dropped while Uncle Lucky was speaking with journalists following his visit to former President Ibrahim Babangida in Minna on Sunday. To me, this is not a big deal because in a round world (not flat, as Thomas Friedman claims), Dec. 28 could have been January 1 somewhere though it was just Tuesday morning in India – which is how far I mapped the time zone. There is always outer space to consider!

The President also said IBB is his “fada.” My response? “No Sir, you are no son of IBB’s!” A man “fada-ed” by IBB would have known better than to claim him so publicly 45 days to a critical election in which he seeks a mandate for four more years. If he wins, President Jonathan will tie with General Yakubu Gowon as the longest serving head of state in Nigeria, longer than IBB!

General Babangida wrote his version of Machiavelli’s The Prince, and perfected the art of stabbing you in the back with a wide-toothed smile while you thanked him with your last gasp of breath. I doubt that even IBB’s biological sons contesting in an election that requires votes from all over the country would publicly associate themselves with him. It could be that President Jonathan is truly the son of IBB because, like his “fada,” he understands that Nigerians suffer from a bad case of short-term memory disorder. Those who remember the past believe a birthright in the future is pointless when there is a “mess of pottage” to satisfy the greed of the present.

While the date and fada-hood references are non-issues, the reason for the visit itself is troubling (though Nigerians should be alarmed by the GEJ-IBB liaison … they can’t afford a like-fada-like-son scenario). The President said very matter-of-factly that he was at the Hilltop Mansion on Sunday to check on IBB who had just returned from medical treatment abroad. He sounded like it’s the most natural thing in the world for a former president of a resource-rich country such as Nigeria to travel abroad for medical treatment, and for the current president to publicly acknowledge it.

If this is the accepted reality, it is doubtful that the current healthcare situation in Nigeria will ever improve. I was hoping that at the end of the sentence, Uncle Jona would add something to the effect that: “Of course, we are working actively and urgently to improve our healthcare sector so that no one will ever have to travel abroad for medical treatment.”

The other thing that caught my attention in the President’s banter with journalists was the reference to terrorism in the North and “commercial kidnappings in the South.” Did the President of Nigeria just equate the two? While “commercial kidnappings in the South” are major security concerns especially to victims and their families, they are vastly different from the devastation of the North East by Boko Haram in scale and impact. They also require different policies and strategies. It is therefore quite disingenuous of the President of a country to dump these two problems in the same political bucket, and this attitude may explain why the war against Boko Haram has failed so tragically.

It’s interesting how a brief exchange with journalists has raised so many issues about President Jonathan. I can’t wait until he hits the campaign trails. It’s not everything that will be scripted for him and Nigerians should expect more “gems” that reveal the contents of our Uncle’s “humble” soul. It is time that Nigerians started demanding more of the men and women who seek their votes. With a strong opposition from General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), perhaps one can now ask hard questions of these candidates and their visions to improve the lives of Nigerians – all Nigerians. For the first time, Nigerian democracy is on the cusp of transitioning to the category of “maturing” rather than remain permanently “emerging.” Despite perceptions about the power of incumbency and corrupt electoral practices in Nigeria, I think there will be a real and credible contest for Nigeria’s top job this time.

Nigerians of all classes, regions and religions are energised. Governors in PDP states have pilfered from state coffers and donated to Team GEJ (even when civil servants in their states have not been paid). Stupendously wealthy private sector individuals have shelled out enough to buy entire states. Team GMB makes extensive use of social media and solicits donations of N100.00. Farmers are selling yam and donating the proceeds to Team GMB. Women in my village might soon start donating tins of palm oil to politicians!

This is something new in Nigerian politics. Usually, voters ask for money from electoral candidates upfront knowing that when they get elected, it’s bye-bye. Now that people (“ordinary people,” PDP governors, money bags, big time thieves) and big corporations are donating to the two major campaigns, guess who will hold the power when their candidate wins! My point? Every Nigerian has a stake in this election and it will not be business as usual.

Happy New Year … oops, that was two days ago! Oh heck, it’s my birthday today, my personal New Year Day. So … really, Happy New Year, friends!

Copyright PUNCH.

by Patience Akpan-Obong


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