THE IMPARTIAL OBSERVER
Read Gaddafi’s Lips
Sunday, 21 March 2010
Put in the proper historical context, a la the split of Hindi India and Muslim Pakistan, which Gaddafi had used to buttress his proposition, we must admit that he was right, infuriating as his views were…. Still, Nigeria must learn from history, including its own as well as from the painful and hard lessons of other nations, unsavory as they may be.
Nations breaking up is not a historical novelty. So Colonel Maummar Gaddafi’s seemingly perfidious call to split Nigeria into two should not be seen as an affront. Rather, it should give Nigerians pause, for indeed, Gaddafi did us some good. Nigerians need to think out of the box. We should, in sincerity, read Gaddafi’s lips.
First, considering the slippery trajectory of our national politics since President Umaru Yar’Adua’s incapacitation, Gaddafi’s seemingly irresponsible and meddlesome call, reminded us, in case we were not aware, of the ugly possibilities our nation faced and where indeed, Nigeria might end up if we do not act in concert and resolutely.
So, those Nigerians, who like Senate President David Mark, precipitously reacted and even undiplomatically called Gaddafi names, should think twice, if they ought not be thanking him for waking us up and making us refocus on the ill fate that could befall Nigeria, if we keep killing each other is such a senseless way, while the government is nonchalant about such mayhem. Thankfully, some Nigerians are aggressively reacting to these heinous crimes and condemning them, while others are rallying behind Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, to assist him in running and righting the drifting ship of state.
Hitherto, it seemed that Goodluck Jonathan was running out of luck. But there are some silver linings on the fringes of our politics and indeed, some evidence of “groupluck,” now that some well-intended members of the northern establishment have taken bold steps to engage Acting President Jonathan’s government in the national interest. Pleasantly, those that matter in northern Nigerian politics have come to realize, as I have long advocated on this space, that it is imperative and in their special interest to act promptly and to politically embrace Jonathan, both literarily and figuratively.
Ever since the northern power policy group emerged with the understandable groupthink that their interest is subsumed in the greater interest of an indivisible Nigeria, and could be realized through partnership and support of Acting President Jonathan, Nigeria has started exhibiting some semblance of seriousness in governance matters. As the slogan goes, Nigeria seems to be “jelling”. And these policy shifts and their implementation are being done transparently and democratically. Clearly, it is obvious that such approach is to be preferred to an adversarial approach.
The recent political advances and shift in Nigeria are not tectonic. However, on governance matters, the once unthinkable is happening. Dismissal of those who thought themselves part of the eminent clique of “the invincible” or “the untouchables” has happened without adverse consequences. I hope they now know better. They should have been attentive to General Ibrahim Babangida’s admonishment about power equations; that once one is out of power or not in control of the instruments of power, it was not wise to challenge the man who is in power and, therefore, possessed the clout, the resources, and government’s might with which to deal with trouble makers.
Apropos, Goodluck Jonathan, while he may still be acting, he is in charge and “the buck stops at his desk.” Those who ignore this fact, do so at their own political peril. But as the president, ad interim, he has many unenviable responsibilities and must deal with all the challenges confronting Nigeria, including the recent spate of sectarian killings that triggered Gaddafi’s remarks. He must also be president for all Nigerians, not just the PDP, south-south or south.
In placing the present brouhaha in context, one must admit that Nigerians in power, or put differently, members of Nigeria’s ruling elite, prefer to sway between two extremes; either grandstanding or playing the ostrich. Often, the loser is the so-called Nigerian “common man” or the disenfranchised electorate. Yet, as recent events have proven, it is better to be elected than to be appointed; and if appointed, it is better to be principled, than to suck up and wallow in divided loyalties.
Still, we are far from resolving Nigeria’s governance challenges and the thorny and the prevalent distractive succession issues. We have certainly not witnessed the last of the macabre political games that has been orchestrated by PDP’s zoning policy. But there is hope that the nascent partnership between the northern bloc and Acting President Jonathan would in time yield a political consensus, thus saving Nigeria from going over the brink and hence, justifying what Gaddafi warned us about.
But let me return fully to Gaddafi’s allegedly impolitic utterance. Put in the proper historical context, ala the split of Hindi India and Muslim Pakistan, which Gaddafi had used to buttress his proposition, we must admit that he was right, infuriating as his views were. But equally true, is the fact that Gaddafi was meddling, perhaps, mischievously so.
To Nigerians, like the Swiss and many others, Gaddafi might be a “nattering nabob of negativism.” But, if the truth be told, Gaddafi said what many Nigerians, mostly those from the southern parts, continue to say openly as well as in the privacy of their homes.
Let us put a positive spin on it. Gaddafi did Nigerians a favor. Consider this. The recent spate of sectarian killings in Jos represents a profound fault line in Nigerian politics, with rumbling and troubling political undertow. Lest we forget, how did the Nigerian civil war of 1967 begin? It all started with ethnic-based killings, which is no different from religious-based killings. Yes, ugly history always finds a way to repeat or mimic its past.
It is galling, that our political leaders frequently recite with great insincerity, the need for national unity, but hardly work at it. So, if it would take some form of ugly, meddlesome, shock and awe diatribe from an interfering foreign leader, to remind us that Nigeria is at risk of splitting up like Pakistan and India; Czech Republic and Slovakia; Ethiopia and Eritrea, Former Yugoslavia, and prospectively, North and South Sudan, so be it. Not long ago, US intelligence had drawn a similar conclusion that Nigeria would implode in the near future. We should, however, think hard, if that is really what we wish for our country. Only Nigerians can prove Gaddafi and others wrong. But it will require political will and hard work – not platitudes.
Our national leadership – political, traditional and religious rulers—cannot pretend that we do not have an immense national crisis at hand. Neither can they gloss over the urgent need for collective agreement on a remedial agenda, ideas and solutions for tackling the scourge of religious and ethnic -based violence, sectarian killings and restiveness bedeviling the country.
Our leaders must not
resort to the convenience of attacking the messenger, with a well-placed person
like David Mark doing so with embarrassing plebian language reminiscent of his
military days. Those who take this approach only seek to dodge the core issues.
In a nutshell, such an approach seeks to address the symptom not the
divisive and malignant disease that could eventually cause severe rupture to our
nation. A word is sufficient for
the wise. We should read Gaddafi’s lips and then, as the Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo
saying goes, “use our tongue to count our teeth.” Nigeria must learn from
history, including its own as well as from the painful and hard lessons of other
nations, unsavory as they may be.
With neither anger nor partiality, until next time, keep the law, stay impartial, and observe closely.
Hank Eso is a columnist for Kwenu.com. His observations on Nigerian, African and global politics and related issues, has appeared in various print media, journals and internet-based sites.
© Hank Eso, 21 March 2010.