100 Years Hitherto: Jonathan vs. Nigeria's Giants: Can the President Win?


By Ayodele Adebayo

Nigeria’s Centenary celebrations are in the air! If you were on the left wing, you would probably contend that the Centenary is worth celebrating; if you were on the right wing, you would perhaps argue that there is nothing glorious in 100 years of unfruitful marriage and traumatic experience called Nigeria.

President Jonathan. Photo courtesy: 360nobs.com

President Jonathan. Photo courtesy: 360nobs.com

Indeed there are giants in Nigeria, seeds of which were sown many decades ago—but can President Goodluck Jonathan overcome these giants: growing distrust among the ethnic groups, cancerous corruption, and unhealthy force of religion?

In spite of the giants that have debilitated the country in the last 100 years, it remains a mystery that Nigeria still remains one entity.

Nigeria vs. the ethnic giant: one nation on paper, but many nations at heart!

We see undisguised distrust among the major and minor ethnic groups in Nigeria. Some years ago, the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello expressed his distrust for the Igbos, during an interview with the BBC shortly after Independence, when he said the Igbos were too domineering and power-seeking.

World-renowned writer Chinua Achebe expressed his sadness when he wrote in his book, There Was A Country, in which he blamed Chief Obafemi Awolowo for the massacre of Igbo people during the Civil War.

When former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu claimed that Lagos was no man’s land, Yoruba socio-cultural group Afenifere fired back at Kalu for trying to alienate Lagos away from the Yorubas.

In addition, former Aviation Minister Femi Fani-Kayode attacked Kalu, saying that the Yoruba people would have progressed beyond its level of development were it not part of Nigeria.

If you hailed from the South-South or South-East, you might probably perceive Hausa/Fulani as a people who think they are born to rule and Yorubas as people who are not trustworthy.

Many Hausa/Fulani will hardly entrust a sensitive position such as the Presidency to an Igbo man. This trend of distrust has remained in the country for decades—right from the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Sir Ahmadu Bello.

What’s more. Today, Nigeria’s social-media sphere is littered with extremely toxic and ethnic-biased statements, mostly among young Nigerians, which shows that Nigeria is only one entity on paper, but not one at the hearts of most Nigerians.

Nigeria vs. the religion giant: from worship to manipulation!

Religion has been and still remains a formidable force in Nigerian politics. Because many Nigerians respect and trust their religious leaders more than they trust their political leaders, religion is often used as tool of persuasion and manipulation.

If this weren’t true, President Jonathan would not have received the Christians’ votes that helped him defeat his arch-opponent, General Muhammadu Buhari—a former leader who was widely perceived as one who had intolerant religious views.

In the words of former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, in an interview with The PUNCH, on the wide perception of romance between CAN and the government:

“This is what is going on now. They [CAN leaders] wanted money, they wanted houses, they wanted aeroplanes. When you hear about CAN…people don’t trust them anymore.”

Though the force religious bigotry has been potent before the Jonathan administration, religious divisions have further intensified under his dispensation, too. War of words ensued among the Sultan of Sokoto, the CAN President, and the suspended Governor of the Central Bank over Islamic banking.

The corruption giant is a potent force, too!

From the wholesale misappropriations being perpetrated along the corridors of Abuja to the countless underhand practices that go on in the backstreets of Lagos—unabated corruption remains the biggest giant confronting Nigeria.

If you were to count the many acts of corruption that occur in Nigeria everyday, it would take a lifetime to document them. But we all know how billions of dollars have developed wings and mysteriously disappeared from our national and state treasuries!

In Nigeria, corruption is not only a systemic problem, but a value-system and individual problem, too.

All told, can Jonathan overcome these giants?

We must commend the President for initiating a National Conference, which is aimed at putting Nigerians on a round-table for a discussion on how they wish to live together.

But there is one problem. Each of the geo-political zones is approaching the Conference with its own interests and agenda: South-West wants regional autonomy and a return to the parliamentary system of government; South-East wants an inclusion of the right to secede; the North wants the federal-system status quo.

If the National Conference is anything that should point toward one Nigeria, then the discussion must traverse the regional interests and agenda being canvassed by the geo-political zones. However, one Nigeria is one option; secession is also one, too.

The outcome of the National Conference is a critical mass that will definitely have profound effects on the 2015 general elections and the near future of Nigeria—either to make or break the nation.

Can the President win the war of corruption?

One thing comes under a big question mark: the President’s sincerity and willingness to fight the prevalent wholesale corruption going on now in Nigeria.

Many indications have branded the President as a leader who takes the problem of corruption lightly from the unnecessary delay of disciplinary actions against Stella Oduah to the posthumous Centenary award given to one of Nigeria’s most reckless and corrupt leaders, General Sani Abacha to the state pardon given to his corrupt former boss, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

Certain factors will handicap the President from fighting corruption, and one of them is the pressing flux of permutations ahead of 2015 elections.

In retrospect of the Stella Odua controversy, the President appears to find it difficult to overcome an ethical dilemma: to decisively and fearlessly take disciplinary actions against public officials of high political value but who are caught in the web of corruption or to retain them strategically for 2015 elections.

When 2015 elections come, and should Jonathan show his hand to contest the election, Nigerians will decide his fate on one test: his willingness, sincerity, and competence to fight insecurity and corruption. But it appears the President is not passing this test. 

The President needs to rid the present administration of the perceived prevalent ethnic and religious divisions in the consciousness of Nigerians. To engender more trust, the most honest constructive criticisms ought to come from South-South and South-Eastrather than the ethnic-biased comments and threats that come often from Asari Dokubo and Edwin Clark.

The future of Nigeria and the success of the Jonathan administration will largely be determined by how the President handles the dangerous trend of interference of religious and ethnicity with the nation’s polity and the nation’s peculiar beastcorruption.


Ayodele Adebayo is an analyst who loves to flesh out his opinions and insights on the subjects of public affairs and governance. Your comments and inquiries can be forwarded to aymail.adebayo@gmail.com

Leave a Reply