Nigeria and the Winds of Political Power, By Leonard Karshima Shilgba

April 9, 2018
Prof Shilgba

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” [1 Kings 19: 11-12]

From the beginning of human life on earth, all political and managerial affairs have always had the divine touch, whether man actively perceives it to be so or not. The purpose of man on earth is to live in the divine nature, have dominion (which is political power) over God’s creation, and maintain and keep all of God’s endowment on earth.  History has taught us that empires rise and then fall, kings rule and then give way, dictators have held sway, only to be pushed away later. No empire or man sustains political power or dominion forever. Recently, an expert in string theory wrote that he had observed that human beings live in a matrix, that all of man’s affairs are being ordered by some power, and nothing just happens, but as they are so ordered. The creative power of all things, which we call God or the LORD (or as translated in various languages), is the ordering power.

In Nigeria, it appears that many people are too carried away by the winds, earthquakes, and fires of political movements or forces to pay attention to the still small voice of conscience, knowledge, and revelation. This weakness is a reason for the recurring mistakes the mainstream news media, opinion column writers, the electorate, and the perpetual critics, who hardly vote in elections, have been making. We are so inured to the dramatic that our perception of cerebral steps toward national growth and health has been impaired. We are often too emotional to be rational in our national discourse. And lack of knowledge makes people to actively work against their self-interest. For a nation to not slide into toxic acrimony both sides of the political divide must be courageous enough to acknowledge the good in each other. When a political party sees and speaks about only the bad, but not the good in the other party, it is a sign of political immaturity. Nigerian politicians and political parties must grow up.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presided over the affairs of Nigeria for sixteen (16) unbroken years under three presidents—Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan, in that order. In the first four years (4) of Obasanjo’s combined tenure, hardly any captivating achievements were recorded. Among his notable achievements, however, was the introduction of the GSM telecommunication technology, which also crippled NITEL (You may recall with nostalgia the beautiful public phone booths across Nigeria, including on university campuses, where a caller would go and make calls, using a plastic call card. They are all gone! I have written about this; if you are interested in reading more about the opportunity cost of the GSM “revolution”, simply Google-search “Shilgba+NITEL”). We ought not to destroy what is working because we would introduce what is uncommon. But, we must give credit to Obasanjo for the global introduction of mobile phone technology in Nigeria, which before 2001 was restricted to the few privileged people in Nigeria. It was in Obasanjo’s second term that he recorded some defining achievements, including the outcome of his legendary frequent travels outside of Nigeria in his first term, about which Gani Fawehinmi had kept records— the rescue of Nigeria from her sovereign debts, the banking reforms, which shielded Nigeria from the 2008 global economic crisis, beautiful governance and fiscal reforms, which were formalized by legislation—Fiscal Responsibility Act, and Procurement Act. I was thrilled by quite a number of things that Obasanjo had accomplished, and wrote about them, wondering what might have been if the opposition voices had stopped him from running for a second term in 2003, while I also pointed out some bad things that he shouldn’t have done, such as the gruesome murders at Zaki-Biam, Gbeji, and Odi by the military under his watch; the unsavoury disruption of democracy in Anambra State (under Governor Ngige), Ekiti State (under Governor Fayose), Oyo state (under Governor Ladoja), etc.;  the destruction of SLOKS airline because of his fights with then Governor Orji Kalu, which led to the loss of jobs by Nigerians; the unconstitutional withholding of public funds belonging to LGAs in Lagos State; and the unconstitutional replacement of elected governors with sole administrators simply because President Obasanjo had declared State of Emergency in those states such as Plateau and Ekiti.

A most glaring failure of President Obasanjo is his legendary failure to have successful successors, from Shagari to Jonathan, which failure destroyed much of the good that he had done for Nigeria. In this regard, Obasanjo can learn from Asiwaju Tinubu. The measure of a great man is in his succession. People usually talk about the great Nigerians that Obasanjo mentored and brought to prominence between 1999 and 2007, whom he had referred to as his “twelve apostles”, and about whom I have written in my book, From My Heart—The Black Race: Myths, Realities and Complexes, and among whom are Ngozi Iweala, Nasir El-Rufai, Charles Soludo, Nuhu Ribadu, Dora Akunyili, Bode Augustus, and Oby Ezekwesili. Yet, none of them could be trusted by Obasanjo to succeed him! In fact, none of Obasanjo’s protégés or those that worked directly under him was ever supported by him to succeed him. In 2015, Obasanjo supported Buhari (who had worked under Obasanjo as a Federal minister), not to succeed Obasanjo, but to defeat Jonathan (whom Obasanjo had single-handedly chosen to be YarÁdua’s running mate, and later worked for to become Nigeria’s president), with whom Obasanjo had an axe to grind.

Today, President Obasanjo has labelled Buhari’s government, which is barely three years in running the affairs of Nigeria,  a “failure”, and this was after he had in his famous letter asked Buhari to not run for a second term in 2019, and gone ahead to propose a “Third Force” in order to stop President Buhari. If Nigerians trust Obasanjo’s skills, insight, and wisdom in choosing a successor or a president, then they can go with his “Third Force” or hydra-headed “Third Force” (I understand that more than one “third forces” have emerged). Such winds, fires, and earthquakes of political forces will come and go, but students of history should ask: “But to what purpose for Nigeria?” I truly admire the response of President Buhari to all of these winds, fires, and earthquakes: Stolid silence. Buhari’s officials have said that General Obasanjo was GMB’s senior in the military, under whom he served, and so President Buhari would not answer back. This is a humble response, and I hope our great president Obasanjo will take note, and help his very first protégé to become Nigeria’s president after him, so that he will achieve more for Nigeria. I would not chronicle Buhari’s achievements, but only note that President Buhari’s government is not making excuses; his government is working, but also reminding Nigerians where we have come from: Obasanjo left about $ 60 billion in foreign reserve after eight years; Buhari inherited only about $ 24 billion in foreign reserve less than three years ago, and has now built it up to over $ 46 billion less than three years later, with about N 9 trillion cash in TSA for all MDAs. Physical and technological infrastructures, which are being built or built upon in order to facilitate our national growth, abound under Buhari’s government in spite of security challenges, which are also being worked on. Nigerian elders and leaders ought to come together to fight our security challenges, and not exploit or exacerbate our national pains for political gains.

To my brethren in the Middle Belt, it is a duty I acknowledge I owe you, I urge caution: Don’t be used by any individuals or groups. We own no political party; rather, we belong to various political parties. Unity among Middle-Belters can only be around shared interests. Nasarawa State and Benue State must not allow coldness between them to persist; Kogi State must show the love of a brother toward Benue State; Benue State should not walk alone; Plateau State must not mock their brethren in Benue; Kwara and Niger States should not stand aloof. All of those States must not waste their votes in 2019 on winds, earthquakes, and fires of political forces. Please, give heed to this still small voice.

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