On January 8, 2012, I watched live as Prophet TB Joshua warned President Jonathan to allow Nigerians to talk some more about fuel subsidy rather than go ahead with removal of the subsidy, for which organized labor and civil society had called out Nigerians for mass action that was to commence the following day Monday, January 9, 2012.
The obstinate president obviously ignored the “opinion of God” (as the prophet had put it), even as Nigerians demonstrated across the land their commitment to not only force Jonathan to reverse the pump price of PMS to N 65 a liter, but also to make clear demands for transparency, justice, reduction of waste in the political system, and true nationhood.
I saw my brothers and sisters across Nigeria—Southerners and Northerners, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor—go hand-in-hand demanding for a better Nigeria that benefits all Nigerians regardless and not just a few. I was moved from deep within; I became prouder as a Nigerian. I saw what was possible. The lies of the oppressive Nigerian political class were exposed—Nigerians are all united against oppression, deceit, and corruption. There is no war between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. I saw Muslims and Christians preach against injustice at the rallies. Nigerian Christians protected their Muslim brethren as they took time off the rallies to observe the mandatory Islamic prayers!
But I also saw the unfortunate and troubling. I saw a stolid president who clearly either did not read the situation well or put his confidence in the wrong places. He watched silently as ethnicity was steadily injected into the crisis. He was silent as some Niger Delta people, led by Niger Delta opinion leaders such as Asari Dokubo, Ms Anniko Briggs made statements such as “If Nigerians don’t want Jonathan to lead then it means Nigerians don’t want our oil,” and “If PENGASSAN shuts down oil wells, Niger Deltans would take them over and PENGASSAN would never return.” I have written quite a lot about the (past) neglect of the Niger Delta; I have published a book that places their plight in clear public domain. I have, in my expositions on re-engineering or re-structuring of Nigeria, advocated resource control as an important element that would drive national growth and development; resource control is a singsong of the Niger Delta people. Jonathan obviously delights in threat by ex-militants in the Nigeria Delta to swim and sink with their brother president.
A true leader would never encourage degeneration into ethic sentiments. Among the three rapid society destroyers— Ethnic and religious sentiments, and economic deprivation—the first two are the most damning. And President Jonathan clearly encourages one of them. We Nigerians must choose between President Jonathan and Nigeria. On the morning of January 14, 2012, I was curious to hear what Prophet TB Joshua would say about the obduracy of President Jonathan. As a Christian preacher and teacher of the Word myself, and a believer in the fact that God is interested in nations and usually reveals the path that should be trodden in each situation, I am curious to listen to fellow servants whom I believe have a passion for the nation. I believe that God shows His servants important things about their society and family. The prophet preached about sacrifice of love. He alluded to the biblical story of the direct encounter between Jesus Christ and Peter. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him; He also thrice asked Peter to demonstrate that love by “feeding” His sheep and lambs. A leader must sacrifice for those he leads. In fact, Prophet Joshua asked that sacrifice should come from the leadership of Nigeria, even as he told the nation that “Nigerians should not seek to embarrass the president.” The prophet claimed that he had sent a message to the “authorities.” He went on to call for “shifting of grounds” and “compromise”. To buttress his point, the prophet read a biblical passage in which Jesus Christ, in response to a question about the propriety of paying taxes to Caesar, said, “Give what is to Caesar to Caesar, and what belongs to God to God.” Prophet Joshua concluded by assuring Nigerians that “God is on top of the situation.” Besides, he advised that President Jonathan should listen to “politicians” and not to “technocrats” on the matter of fuel subsidy crisis.
The poor Nigerian has no more sacrifice to make. The Nigerian has no ground to shift. It is in the hands of President Jonathan. Furthermore, Nigerians are not embarrassing the president; it is the president who is embarrassing himself. As I wrote, President Jonathan was meeting with governors and ministers over the fuel subsidy palaver after the collapse of talks between labor and government the previous day. It was reported that he would address the nation later in the night. Whatever he said after the essay you are reading, he has created a huge task for himself.
At this time in our history as a people, we must choose between pleasing President Jonathan and his cabal and rescuing Nigeria. The continued impoverishing of Nigerians while Nigerian public officials live lavishly at our expense is not the will of God. Nigerian crude oil does not belong to Jonathan, so Nigerians cannot cede to some oppressive hike in the pump price of PMS. Rather, President Jonathan must give to Nigerians what is ours—subsidized pricing of petroleum products, prosperous society, transparent and corruption-free nation, and a just society.
The Nigerian Summit Group’s hasty meeting announced for Monday January 16 and Tuesday, January 17, 2012 in the midst of the nation-wide mass protest is to me a red herring. It is a joke, especially when it is being pushed by President Jonathan’s man, Mr. Tony Uranta, who confessed publicly that President Jonathan was in knowledge and approval of it. Let us be serious in this country. The group has unilaterally chosen participants at the summit to discuss deregulation of the downstream oil sector, the constitution, and security! What became of the phantom constitution committee that Jonathan inaugurated last year, which I lampooned? To the summit, people like Adamu Ciroma, Solomon Lar, Audu Ogbe, Maitama Sule, Asari Dokubo, Pat Utomi, Ben Nwabueze, etc., were invited. When asked to tell what informed the choice of participants at the out-of-the blues summit, the secretary of the summit and Jonathan’s friend, Mr. Uranta, simply said that they could not invite all Nigerians, and that those invited had “influence” in their domains. Well, it is a joke. The point I want to make is that President Jonathan has demonstrated that he would rather play the comedian with serious national issues than solve our problems that he was elected to tackle. Just consider the president’s announcement of the purchase of 1,600 buses for all of Nigeria and calling these “palliatives” for fuel subsidy removal!
Irrespective of how the fuel subsidy issue is resolved, Nigeria cannot be the same. Nigerians have discovered themselves this year. We must use our new-found strength to negotiate our union. Ignoring the shenanigans of the Nigeria summit group, we must initiate the process of just remuneration of Nigerians and their servants (the public officials), resource control, a people-oriented constitution, restructuring of system of governance and federating units, prosecution of corrupt public officials, business men, and companies, and demand for just restitution.
As I was about concluding this article, I saw on television an announcement that the Nigerian Summit Group had “postponed indefinitely” their earlier hastily announced summit. The comedy couldn’t be more obvious. The choice between Jonathan and his cabal and Nigeria can’t be more urgent. President Jonathan lacks both the moral strength and intellectual capacity to lead Nigeria.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University
of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org ). He is also the Chairman of the Middle Belt Alliance (MBA).
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