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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Team Jonathan 2015: Strong Institutions Vs. Strongmen –  A Case For Continuity – By Ezejiofo Sunny Udeh



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the young Nigerians – the youths are warned that buying into the poison chalice of APC change is akin to a case of hospital management who replaced their slow surgeon with an incompetent carpenter with a shady track-record of intolerance whose only solution is to hammer patients to death. Nigerians should stick with the slow surgeon following the dictates of democratic process of good governance and rule of law than revisit the years of locust characterized by the repressive regime of the rigid carpenter as represented by APC presidential candidate where the freedom of social media will vanish in one swoop…..Dr. Udeh

Precisely one year ago, I penned a piece advising the Team Jonathan 2015 to focus on governance and politics instead of firing scatter-shots. I reminded them that they are working from a position of enormous strength with all the paraphernalia of incumbency.  I urged them to caste a bold and robust strategic vision that captures developing opportunities and enduring performance. Such vision should paint a convincing picture of the destination ahead and should be capable of withstanding the competitive challenges of their main rival.

Specifically, I requested for a change in leadership of PDP at the time, as a departure from the old to the new PDP 2.0 ready to market and deliver President Jonathan to the younger generation of Nigerians. I called on the team to view the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria as the base of operation with added commitment of resources to Kano and Lagos States, two states with strategic importance in any election.


Also, I predicted that the election battle will be between President Jonathan’s new PDP 2.0 and the old political establishment dominated by the old military generals, former godfathers and other undemocratic elements whose decades of misrule placed Nigeria into the retrogressive tailspin.  Finally, I insisted that the team craft a better proactive message presenting President Jonathan as the same humble; hurt no fly-kind leader whose interest coincides with Nigeria’s interest.


To my utmost delight most of the suggestions were acted upon as Alhaji Adamu Mua’zu took over the affairs PDP as new chairman and the game changer.  The nagging question is whether sustaining these strategic paths would lead PDP to victory in 2015 election or should there be refining of the message to highlight the obvious absence of a credible alternative in the choice of presidential candidate by the major opposition.

My take to the new strategy is a two-prong approach; first, repackaging the transformation performance in more palatable and understandable message. Second, highlighting the past actions and activities (the overwhelming record of intolerance) of the leading opposition’s presidential candidate.


The first port of call is to anchor this discourse on an address to the Ghanaian Parliament where President Obama placed Africa’s quest for freedom in the proper perspective when he stated, make no mistake; history is on the side of these brave Africans not those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power.  Africa, he said doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.


Obama added that America would increase assistance for responsible institutions with a focus on supporting good governance, check abuse of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard, on the rule of law which ensure the equal administration of justice, on civic participation so that young people get involved and concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting and automating services to advance transparency and accountability.


A critical review of President Obama’s advice delineates the existing cleavage in political struggle between the ruling party and the main opposition.  One the one hand is the ruling party adhering to the democratic principles and process (strong institution) while the opposition has chosen one of their strongmen to mischievously return Nigeria to the darks days of intolerance on the guise of change.  This has become a case of strong institutions versus strongmen.

SStrong Institutions

Granted Nigeria is not where it should due to delay in democratic process as opposed to military fiat where things happen with immediate effect, a bad omen familiar to the younger generation however, there is remarkable evidence of political development and improvements in our elections since 2011.  The electoral process has been adjudged to have met the world standard with minor itches to address.  There are signs of build-up of responsible institutions to support good governance.  There has not been abuse of power as the opposition parties in Nigeria are neither banned nor restricted.


Moreover, the current administration continued the restoration of rule of law after years of arbitrary military escapade. There is civic participation as millions of young Nigerians embraced the social media and making their collective voices heard in the political space without fear of arrest and intimidation.

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Above all, there are concrete solutions to corruption as evidence in the fertilizer sector where government introduced electronic wallet (e-wallet) which ensures that fertilizers get to real farmers and not diverted as done in the past by corrupt officials.  Nigeria’s ranking in the Transparency International recent corruption index report showed signs of improvement.  There is tepid progress and more will be done in the next Jonathan administration as we examine the concoction peddles by the opposition APC.


Despite the loud call for change from the opposition it is beneficial if not imperative to dissect for our youths especially a segment of our teaming population born after 1983 who did not feel the impact of a repressive regime led by the flag-bearer of the opposition, a man disingenuously packaged as angel of change.  Such interrogation of their concept of change would place in proper perspective the type of change – a change, if you look deeper is nothing but a change from bad to worst.


While the PDP government has been building governance institutions, the main opposition is led by strongman who exhibited his strength in 1983 when he forcibly snatched power from democratically elected government.  If Africa, as Obama said, does not need strongmen therefore Nigeria does not, in fact, need to go back to the 1983 drama of misguided military men who threw freedom out of window and violated fundamental human rights of Nigerians as some were executed by retroactive decree


On a personal note, the drama that brought the APC flag-bearer to power on the guise of change touched me in several respects.  I was in Lagos in the final lap of my preparation to go to the United States for further studies.  The usual military marshal music rented the air as solemn voice was heard announcing the forcible overthrow of the democratic elected government of President Alhaji Shehu Shagari and the announcement of the new leader General Buahari.


Before the usual euphoria and joy died down, the military strongmen did not waste time to fire their first salvo of intolerance and repression by banning Nigerians from studying in foreign Universities.  All pending applications in the Federal Ministry of Education were cancelled dashing hopes of many young Nigerian who wanted to study abroad. I narrowly escaped their sledge-hammer because I had obtained my student’s advisory approval and was on the way to picking up my visa to United States.


Perhaps, the worst irreversible atrocity of the military regime under the leadership of the APC presidential candidate was what the famous Professor Soyinka described as judicial murder of three young Nigerians.  These young men committed crime and were convicted.  The punishment for their crime was not death penalty at the time the crime was committed.


Despite appeal for mercy, the group of strongmen used jaundiced decree retroactively to cower Nigerians and executed the three young men.  Bernard Ogedengbe (29), Lawal Ojuolape (30) and Bartholomew Owoh (26), all three paid the supreme prize.  The worst part is that the same APC presidential candidate who presided over this gruesome act shunned the Oputa panel where he had opportunity to seek redress.  Murdered Bartholomew Owoh was my school mate.


As if the impunity above is not enough, the military strongmen recruited by APC set their eyes on the doing violence to freedom of association and expression with introduction of draconian decrees.  Veteran journalists Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson were sent to jail for writing a truthful article.   Tai Solarin was jailed and denied access to his asthma medication.  Many other Nigerians were either in jail or missing during this dreaded time.


The strongmen banned National Association of Nigerian Students, Nigerian Medical Association and ASUU. The strongmen violently disrupted the press conference of ASUU in 1984 and detained their executives.  The 1985 National Conference of the National Association of Nigerian Students was violently stopped and many slammed into detention. The repressive regime banned any association or meetings discussing transition to civilian rule making them the only military regime without plans to return power to civilians.


Professor Soyinka captured the tragic drama of the repressive regime when he argued that to deprive a people of volition in their own political direction is to turn a nation into a colony of slave.  Buhari enslaved the nation.  He gloated and gloried in a master-slave relation to the millions of its inhabitants.  It is astonishing to find that the same former slaves, now free of their chains, should clamour to be ruled by one who not only turned their nation into slave plantation, but forbad them any discussion of their condition.

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Ironically, the regime so despised was led by the same General Buhari, the presidential candidate of APC, the so called change agent traversing the political space with the mantra of change.  The APC presidential candidate forcibly imposed himself as the maximum ruler of Nigeria and left litany atrocities and impunities making his regime the most repressive.  The same APC presidential candidate had opportunity to make amend, to apologize or even explain his past actions but he chose to shun the Oputa panel.  Their APC presidential candidate thumbed his nose on Nigerians, the victims of his years of misrule, and the same people he wants to misrule the second time.  Nigeria is indeed on the threshold of change but change in what direction, change forward or change backward.

A Case of Continuity

The administration of Jonathan is the only in Nigeria NOT overly influenced by the military.  Today, Nigerians have witnessed real democracy with all arms of the government performing their functions without interference.  Nigeria’s political development improved with the widely accepted free and fair 2011 election organized by the Jonathan administration.  Nigerians have more trust in the electoral process as many are queuing up to collect their permanent voter’s card – PVC


Democracy, unlike military regime is a process.  The military is filled with actions packaged in decrees without the consent of the people.  Democracy is about building institutions while military juntas are about abusive strongmen.  The Jonathan administration is building institutions through its transformation agenda.  Results of such efforts appear slow but it is on course and sustaining.


On the other hand, the opposition APC is a collection of past military strongmen, disgruntled and corrupt politicians banding together with a former dictator as flag-bearer who presided over worst repressive regime. This APC presidential candidate refused to apologize when given the opportunity through Oputa panel.

Also, this APC presidential candidate has not undertaken any form of education, reformation or transformation to indicate any quest for change.  This APC candidate could not produce any certificate to meet minimum academic qualification to run for president. Instead the trail of this APC presidential candidate is littered with inciting and incendiary comments which resulted in bloodshed after his 2011 presidential election loss.


Most importantly, the need to know the type of change APC is peddling has become paramount.  We ought to dissect the snake oil APC is selling to Nigerian youths especially those born after 1983 when General Buhari was holding sway as a colossus and slave-master.  We need to interrogate the concept this change and come up with information to pierce the veil of deceit covering the real change APC is talking about.


As Professor Soyinka succinctly advised us way back in 2007 not to commit the error of opening the political space to any alternative whose curative touch to national afflictions have proven more deadly than the disease.  APC is indeed sending Nigeria back to the gulag of military strongman whose intolerance is made worse by age.   The choice of APC presidential candidate is not and cannot be a credible alternative.


In conclusion, the young Nigerians – the youths are warned that buying into the poison chalice of APC change is akin to a case of hospital management who replaced their slow surgeon with an incompetent carpenter with a shady track-record of intolerance whose only solution is to hammer patients to death.  Nigerians should stick with the slow surgeon following the dictates of democratic process of good governance and rule of law than revisit the years of locust characterized by the repressive regime of the rigid carpenter as represented by APC presidential candidate where the freedom of social media will vanish in one swoop.


As they say, tell me what you have done in the past I will tell you what you will be capable of doing in the future.  We know what APC presidential candidate has done in the past; what he will be capable of doing in the future is now obvious, hence we have to stay the course, keep what we have and vote continuity.

Dr.  Ezejiofo Sunny Udeh, adjunct- professor of strategic management, a social commentator and 2011 PDP aspirant for Federal House of Representatives, Udi-Ezeagu Constituency, writes from Enugu, Nigeria

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