n his political master piece,’ the Prince’, Niccolo Machiavelli, describes the various ways men acquire and retain power. He looked at those who acquire power by wickedness, and concluded that they can only retain it by ruthlessness, stratagem and eliminating all oppositions. He cited the case of Agathocles the Sicilian who became king of Syracuse. He was the son of a potter who joined the army and finally took over the government and killed all the senate and ruled as a dictator. However, Machiavelli went on to propose that power is better gained by fortune or virtue and that such power, if well managed with justice as fairness and the rule of law, lasts and brings good and development to the people. In his own discourse on power, Plato in the ‘Republic’ examined the qualities and characteristics of those who should hold power and concluded that only enlightened men of ideas, who he described as philosophers should hold power. Both men agree that power is as good as the men who hold it. The surprising fact about Plato’s republic is that it would appear that the type of men he said should not hold power are the type that often gain power in Nigeria.
Sadly, many Nigerian leaders have tended to gain power through wickedness of coup plotting or rigging elections and have tended to retain it by ruthlessness, subterfuge and psychopathic stratagem of assassinations. Past Nigerian leaders, with exception of a few, before Jonathan, have tended to be very corrupt, rule as dictators, clamp down on oppositions and the press, and kill those who would not be bought. This is why the problem between Obasanjo and Jonathan should not be under estimated. It is a struggle between a leader who gained power through wickedness and one who gained it through a mixture of fortune and wickedness. Inevitably their attitude to power would be different. Jonathan’s style would seem be to see, if he can gain the love and support of the people through good deeds, while Obasanjo’s style is to do whatever he feels is in his best interest, while claiming it is in the best interest of the people.
Their disagreement is between people whose primary training and attitude to life are different, but united by corruption and love of power. On studied biological sciences while the other studied engineering, how to make war, kill, destroy and prevail by force. One believes in negotiation and dialogue, the other is autocratic my nature and believes in the elimination of oppositions and brute force. One is mindful not to offend the other because he is his benefactor; the other sees no reason why he should not be obeyed for being the architect of the opponent’s fortune. This is the probable psychological context in which the political struggle between Obasanjo and President Jonathan is being played out.
Unfortunately, Machiavelli has no advice for people like Jonathan who gained power through a mixture of fortune and wickedness. However, their only option is to establish themselves by virtue and stratagem which is why Obasanjo has attacked his integrity the only claim he has on power. Jonathan has to be decisive, if he is going to survive. He has to quickly decide both to cut ties with Obasanjo and challenge him to substantiate his allegations or make peace with him and lose all credibility. He has to choose between breaking away from wickedness and corruption and building a new Nigeria or allowing his benefactor to regain control of him as a stooge. The counsel of perfection for Jonathan would be, whatever he does, he must ensure that his benefactor does not muster enough momentum to sweep him out of power. He should also be mindful that those who gain power through wickedness and retain it by corruption and evil, almost always end in infamy.
No doubt, whatever was left of Nigeria’s reputation as an honest country was shattered last week by the Obasanjo’s letter, the disclosures by the Central Bank governor Lamido Sanusi, of the extent of theft in the oil industry by the Oil Minister and the statement by Speaker of the house of Assembly that the President is not doing enough to fight corruption. These are very serious allegations that have enormous potential to further do irreparable damage to the already battered reputation and image of Nigeria as a country. Therefore, Nigerians must be insistent that these allegations are investigated and addressed in an honest, transparent and judicious manner. Nigerians must not accept a political solution to this allegation or for the national assembly to hijack it and sweep it into the long grass. Obasanjo does not own Nigeria and he must be made to substantiate these allegations or withdraw them. We must not allow sectarian considerations, selfish political interests and prejudices to blind us to the seriousness of these allegations and the need for them to subject to due process.
I suppose the most important thing is for President Jonathan to look beyond the personal attack and the need to respond directly to these allegations. This will be a very naïve move. It would be a serious mistake to engage Obasanjo directly in a public debate. This is what Obasanjo would like him to do, so that both of them can engage in public debate to enable him prove that his administration was less corrupt. Obasanjo wants a public debate between himself and President Jonathan, so that he can compare bad with worse to appear better. He sincerely believes that Jonathan is worse than him and he wants the world to know. He seems oblivious of the fact that any comparism between him and Jonathan would not be a comparism between good and bad or right and wrong, but between bad and worse, which would leave both of them very diminished.
So far, President Jonathan has held his nerves by not responding immediately or sending his aids on the offensive. In this singular act he has demonstrated good judgement. However, this must not be the only reaction. The issues Obasanjo raised in his letter are grave to say the least. They strike at the very heart of our existence as a nation and must be addressed satisfactorily, if they will not be the reason for some people with sectarian agenda to widen the schism in the country. The questions Obasanjo raised must be answered in the most robust manner, irrespective of his true motives for making them public. We have to take him at his words that his motive is because he loves Nigeria so much, to watch Jonathan destroy the country by allowing sectarian consideration to guide his actions. However, he must be tasked to produce the evidence for the allegations he has made. This is what the rule of law demands.
In this wise, Obasanjo’s allegations should be seen in their true light, as mere allegations, serious as they are, without much sentiment, until they are proven. This is due process. Those who are asking for Jonathan to resign, or calling for his impeachment on the strength of Obasanjo’s allegation, are either mischievous or ignorant of what constitutes due process and the rule of law truly mean. The government should not dignify them by responding to their ill thought out and irresponsible comments. How can they demand for impeachment, when the allegations have not been investigated and substantiated? Whatever happened to being innocent until proved guilty? Obasanjo has made serious allegations, the least president Jonathan should do is provide appropriate platform for him to substantiate them. In fact, the President’s personal response to these allegations will not suffice as the allegations are grave, Damming, and touches on his integrity, probity and character. They need to be independently investigated.
I hope that President Jonathan will see the opportunity in the problems Obasanjo has brought to light. A good leadership will use it as a spring board to greatness. Jonathan can seize the moment to his credit. He does not need to answer Obasanjo's allegations personally. He should seek to answer the allegations in a way that would validate the facts and exonerate him if he is innocent.
Therefore, he should set up at least three Public judicial commissions of inquiries with full powers as a matter of urgency to look into corruption in Nigeria.
First, he should start by setting up independent public judicial commissions of inquiry to look into all the allegations Obasanjo has raised in his letter. This commission should be headed by an honest and independent judge who is known to have a good reputation, and one of those they use to do their dirty works. This will give him the time and breathing space to continue to do his job.
Second, he should set up other commissions of inquiry to Look into corruption in the police, unsolved murders, and the various ways the judicial system is abused by corrupt politicians to escape justice with the view to eliminating them. Nigeria cannot continue to have a judicial system that clears politicians of economically damaging corruption, while it sentences common criminals to death for crimes that have little or no serious consequences to the economy.
Third, he should establish another commission to look into corruption in the oil industry, how it has been managed and recommendations of how it should now be managed. This commission should also examine oil block allocation, and current way Nigeria exploits her oil resources with the view to making recommendations, after looking at how countries like Britain, Norway and others exploit their oil resources.
Thereafter, the president should send the following bills to the national assembly:
- The Nigerian restructuring bill to restructuring Nigeria into six regions according to the Ekwueme recommendations, and abolish the state structure. This is the most important structural adjustment Nigeria needs today. This bill if passed into law, will drastically reduce the cost of government in Nigeria, release money for social investment, and steady the economy. Creating six regions will immediately stop the fragmentation of Nigeria into its ethnic nations. Without this, every ethnic group in Nigeria will sooner than later, be asking for their own state and at the last count, there are over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Certainly, no country that wants to unite its people will continue to pander to the wishes and caprices of ethnic nationalists and religious extremists. We simply just have to get serious with nation building.
- The amendment of INEC bill to make the INEC truly independent of the government in power and be able to remove money in Nigerian politics, ensure that political parties elect their candidates in free and fair elections and make the selection of candidates by godfathers a criminal offence. The bill should also set a limit to how much each candidate for an office should spend during elections and hold the candidate responsible for any violent activities of his supporters. In addition, the bill should introduce open and verifiable voters register and make it easy for every Nigerian reaching the age of 18 to be included in the voters register, which should also be accessible on line by those who meet the criteria to view it and at the payment of a fee. All these will enable INEC conduct free and fair election and sanctions candidates that break the law.
- The land use act abrogation bill. This bill will be the master stroke bill to fix one of Nigerian’s most intractable problems and the real cause of most of our problems. The bill will abolish the current land use act and return lands to their ancestral owners. The idea that a group of people should control the land because they have been elected into office is both criminal and feudal to a democratic and enlightened mind. The law should also establish the rights of people to the natural resources on their land to put an end to the injustice of oil block. There is no reason whatsoever, why somebody from Maiduguri, Abakiliki Abeokuta or Sokoto, should own the right to the oil in Ogoni or Ijaw land, while those from the area, whose people pay the environmental cost of oil exploration are excluded from the benefits of the resources under their ancestral land. This is the travesty of justice and at the heart of the Nigerian problem. We cannot build a country, when it is designed to ensure the political and economic domination of one ethnic group over the rest. It is recipe for disaster and unless the government takes justice as fairness, and equality seriously, and address the built in injustices in the Nigerian system and polity, no amount of letters will stop the drift to disintegration.
Finally, the government should send a third of the Nigerian army to occupy north east Nigeria and dig into the Boko Haram region and at the same time step up the psychological warfare for the minds of the people in the region. The government should be actively exposing the fact that Boko Haram is the evil face of Islam and has nothing to do with ‘peaceful religion’. They should be exposed as the insane extremists they are and offered a choice to give up their arms or face the full weight of the Nigerian army. The government should stop treating Boko Haram with kid’s glove. Islamic extremism is a virus that destroys countries and anything that is different from it. It is the vestigial of ancient time when men killed those who are different from them and saw in metaphysical wisdom the end of all knowledge and morality. The government should declare an all-out war against them and sensitise the people to understand that the country is fighting a war of survival. The army should also consider recalling people like Babangida and Obasanjo to help fight Boko Haram. Babangida said that he is ready to fight again to save Nigeria; this is an opportunity for him to help Nigeria.
By making these radical moves, Jonathan may be able to stabilise the sinking Nigerian ship. Nigeria is much more polarised along ethnic and religious fault lines. There is need to not only address the anxieties Obasanjo expressed in his letter, but to be seen to be addressing them and taking them very seriously. Nigerians need to know the extent of corruption in the government, oil industry and police, and those who have benefited from it. This is the minimum Nigerians expect from President Jonathan. I have no doubt that all these actions will revitalise Nigeria and give Nigerians hope and assurance that the captain of the Nigerian ship is not planning to escape with the only viable life boat in the sinking ship.
These are some of the options open to the president at the moment, if he is serious about his legacy and future of Nigeria as a united country. Arguing about the allegations will not solve anything. We need practical solutions to the problems. I have offered mine and done my duty to my country in hour of its need. We need to investigate the allegations and take the necessary, but difficult steps needed to change Nigeria for better. All these measures can be taken within six months, if the Nigerian government is serious about solving the problems.
Nigerians should be thinking about the solution to our problems instead of analysing the problem and blaming those who have made them public. Jonathan needs to act now to stop the failed Obasanjo generation from completely destroying Nigeria. If Jonathan acts, he may well be able to save Nigeria. Some people predicted that Nigeria will break up in 2015. It is not inevitable. It will only happen if the government of Goodluck Jonathan fails to take the necessary difficult decisions that need to be taken to change Nigeria for the better. I pray Jonathan shows the leadership to save Nigeria. Jonathan needs our support now to save Nigeria, and we can hold him accountable for his corruption later, if the inquiry shows that he is indeed as corrupt as Obasanjo has said.
The most important thing now, is to save Nigeria. It would be sad, if all Obasanjo wants is to regain control of PDP, by stopping Jonathan from running in 2015, and in the process set in motion events that would lead to the disintegration of Nigeria as a united country. Obasanjo must be compelled to substantiate his allegations. He is the one who should prove that Jonathan is corrupt and in deed is guilty of all his allegations. The law does not require Jonathan to prove that he is not corrupt and those who are asking him to defend the allegation may be misguided. I hope Obasanjo will produce his evidence when the legal fireworks begin, should Jonathan be minded to do the right thing. In any case, the Jinni is now out of the bottle, and Nigerians demand the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.