“I saw the emergence of Jonathan as an opportunity to solve the problem of minority agitation. The three majority ethnic groups in Nigeria can always sort themselves out but not so for the minority. A good example is my state here in Ogun. Despite the best of intentions, nobody from Ogun West has been able to become governor because of this minority issue and it will take a conscious effort to make it happen. So, it was in the context of that I had to plead with prominent people in the North to allow Jonathan run for a term….I believe the President’s concern or fear is not about life after office per se, because he and I have had occasions to talk about this both seriously and jovially. I believe the President’s fear is particularly motivated by the person he sees as his likely successor, that is General Buhari. I believe the people would have been telling him that Buhari is a hard man; he would fight corruption and he (Jonathan) may end up in jail if not in the grave”
– Former President Obasanjo
“Okay, let us agree for the sake of argument that Chief Clark and the others were offensive, what about those from other ethnic groups who were also making incendiary statement about my person with insinuations about people who wear bowler hats? “I am not defending whoever may have crossed the line among Ijaw people but let us be fair, why should I be held accountable for that and you would not hold other leaders accountable for what politicians from their own ethnic groups also said?”
– Former President Goodluck Jonathan
“I could see the conspiracy and the gang-up building up in the north against the aspiration of Jonathan but my voice was drowned out by those who took it for granted that a sitting president, and one from PDP, could not lose.”
– Former Senate President David Mark
“Given the scale of revelations and recoveries so far made by the anti-corruption agencies, it is obvious that corruption had an uninhibited course during our recent past”
– Presidential Spokesperson Femi Adesina responding to the section of the book containing claims that President Buhari is harassing him and his family
If words are not innocent, what do we make of the above snippets from each of the key players in that drama based on what they told Segun Adeniyi who problematised the defeat of incumbency in a text due in the market later today? Eventhough the book is still unfolding, do they not remind us about anything called blowback?
Animus against northern hegemony was the key sensibility in Nigerian politics in the early 1990s. It actually predated the early 1990s and it was understandable. By the time General Abacha came to power, something had to be done to ensure that formalized the rotation of power. Paradoxically, it was inside the political conference Abacha organised in 1995 that an elite pact was sealed in favour of a north-south rotational regime. The Abdulsalami regime that succeeded the Abacha regime threw it out of the constitution before the military withdrew from politics in 1999 but the PDP, the main instrument put together to receive power from the military in 1999 used to joke that they had a presidential candidate even before the party was formed. It was a reference to the fact that before the formalities started, the presidency had been zoned to the south-west where Chief MKO Abiola who was winning the 1993 presidential contest came from.
After eight years of General Obasanjo in 2007, it was time for the north to take its turn. Eventually, it did but three years into the first term, the president died in office. The constitutional provision is very clear on what happens in such a circumstance – the Vice-President takes over. There was nothing anyone could do about that. Dr Goodluck Jonathan took over. The tricky dimension was what should happen in 2011 after exhausting the Umaru Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket. Should Jonathan step aside and then another northerner came in to complete the eight years for the region or should Jonathan go ahead and contest in his own right? If a northerner took the slot, what would stop him from seeking a second term in 2015, which would be a violation of the rotation power pact? If Jonathan was contesting, then what happens to the power pact? Either way, the power pact was at risk unless the PDP acted quickly and wisely.
Beyond the power pact tension, there was the observable problem of Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s lack of grooming for the office. Neither from the exclusive elite club of retired military officers, middle class professional such as doctors, engineers or lawyers nor a technocrat of any standing, there were concerns about the instincts he was going to rely on to rule. As a retired military officer, former Head of State and international actor, Obasanjo didn’t have a problem of grooming. The late Umaru Yar’Adua was none of the Obasanjo stock but the quality of education he received in a typical Nigerian university in their days was such that he did not lack the cognitive competence, more so with his activist background. Where was Dr. Goodluck’s epistemic fall back in power when his articulation showed a crisis of depth? And why was it not possible to keep him by power between 2011 and 2015 when he would have developed a better grip of the complexity of managing Nigeria? How could the first person from Niger Delta to rule Nigeria not be a crack, all rounder whose individuality alone would be a compensation for the region for a long time? Or did those pushing him actually buy the idea that power would empower him?
Well, he got the power in 2011. But now, Obasanjo, for instance, is saying Goodluck was too small for the office. And that fear of Buhari as his successor was the beginning of wisdom for Dr. Goodluck. Goodluck himself has to find nice ways of responding to manifestations of naiveté in power in the Nigerian setting. David Mark says he warned him about conspiracy against him in 2015. Femi Adesina responds on behalf of his boss to say the revelations about corruption since 2915 must show that it was the industry in Goodluck’s regime. Perhaps, we have to wait and finish reading the book by when it may not be surprising if reviewers and critics emphasise the blowback element in all these.
In which case, the various positions articulated in the coming book should remind us of the connection between language and power. This is in the sense that power is the ability to determine the norm, the normal or what is acceptable and the terms that makes it normal or acceptable. That makes language a technology of power because it is with words we name names, set standards and make something commonsensical. It is, therefore, language that sets off the chain reaction that constitutes reality itself because, without language, what is real can even be denied its reality. So, speaking is doing and no words uttered by anyone are innocent. If words are not innocent, then what might we be dealing with in the narratives of the key players as in the coming book?