The 5 Stages of Political Grief

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15 months after the elections and 12 after the swearing-in of the new administration, more than enough time has passed for everyone to move on from campaign rhetoric and be more forward looking. It doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon, though, as many on either side of the fence still seem somewhat upset, for various reasons. However, both sides are more alike than each would like to admit and have been going through the same emotional/grief cycle. How, you ask, given that one side’s candidate won and the other lost? I’ll try to explain it.

 

Denial

For the Jonathanians, there was a lot of hope in the power of his incumbency and while they did expect the elections to be close, they did not anticipate his loss at the polls. They tried to point out voting irregularities like extensive underage voting in some parts of the country and a blanket failure of card readers. But it was not to be. Jonathan had lost.

 

The Buharists on the other hand, could not believe that the candidate they had sold with so much gusto was not similarly embraced by the entire country. Newspapers, in succession, both local and foreign, pointed out that he was probably as problematic a candidate as Jonathan, with his own Achilles Heel. However, they sold the candidate they imagined and hoped Buhari would be. President Buhari went on to win the election, but only by 51% of the vote to Jonathan’s 46%.

 

Anger

The Jonathanians were aggrieved at their principal’s loss and nothing is more symbolic of that anger than former Minister Orubebe’s sit-in “We will not take it” protest while the results were being announced.

 

Meanwhile, between the elections and the President’s assumption of office, information began to filter through about the wanton excesses that had occurred in President Jonathan’s government and how some officials were keen to make restitution before the axe of Buhari was imbued with the power of office and came swinging down with a vengeance. The Buharists were angry that so many were willing to consider Jonathan for re-election, and that alleged looters thought they could plea-deal their way out of consequences for their actions.

 

Bargaining

Then came all the what-ifs and if-onlys. If only Jonathan had focused on the Niger Delta and on Power. If only he’d shown a steelier spine and not been such a Johnny-come-lately, allowing everyone and everything to sway him. And if only Buhari was a bit more communicative and empathetic and did not do things that lent credence to the pre-election suspicions of the Jonathanians. What if he’d actually hit the ground running and appointed a cabinet earlier? And if only when he spoke he didn’t actually say some of the things that he was being reported to have said.

 

Depression

This is the current stage in the cycle. Both camps are losing wind and are defending their principals with a little less enthusiasm now. The profligacy of the Jonathan administration has led to the alleged uncovering of swathes of cash buried away in septic tanks and false walls in people’s homes; revelations, almost new every morning, about the EFCC’s noose tightening around some former official or the other’s neck. President Buhari has also not shown too much dexterity outside the sphere of chasing down loot, with the economy reeling from his tentativeness in addressing its issues. More than a few of his supporters, even the most ardent ones have stopped just short of renouncing their followership.

 

Acceptance

This is where we urgently need everyone to get to, especially the President’s cabinet. Looking back so frequently and pointing accusatory fingers only opens the door for them to be measured against the same yardsticks, as they are all coming to find. The supporters also need to fully accept the flaws of their respective principals with equanimity. Both have huge chinks in their armour and anyone who sticks their neck too far out in their defence will probably end up with a lot of egg on their face. We need to accept that GEJ wasn’t all bad and Buhari isn’t all good. We need to also accept that our fate, at least for the immediate future, lies in Buhari’s hands & his failure has grave implications for all of us.

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Hopefully, acceptance will mean that as supporters we can put away triumphalism, snark and I-told-you-so; and that the current administration is looking firmly forward. Let’s move on.

 

 

NB.

What about supporters of Kowa Party (and other “mushroom parties”) and those who remained on the fence in undeclared fealty?

The APC-nPDP “Merger”: 5 Things

Although it’s a bit of a misnomer, as the “New PDP” neither ever acquired a distinct corporate personality nor was recognised as an actual political party, but a “merger” with the All Progressives Congress (APC) was announced today. As the news spread on Twitter, a hitherto latent pragmatism also spread with it.  Suspicions about the leanings and probity credentials of the APC leaders gave way to acceptance that Nigeria isn’t yet ripe enough to be led by a party of saints. There was palpable excitement at the notion that a party that didn’t exist a year ago now has 18 governors (and numerous federal legislators) in its fold. What are the implications of this merger, though? Here are a few naïve thoughts from my de-tribalised, de-politicised, de-everythinged mind

1. An Epic Clash Awaits in 2014/15

Forget for a second, if you will, about the potential presidential candidates. Lick your chomps instead at the prospect of the mother of all muscle-flexing between Federal and State might. Incumbents typically do not lose elections in Africa. In Nigeria, the ruling PDP’s candidate has won every presidential election since our then (and still?) nascent democracy was born in 1999. The PDP has wielded control over the fabled “machinery” of elections since then. However, it was overwhelmingly the largest party in the past and its majority has now been halved. Federal Machinery is no more than an agglutination of Municipal Machineries. With Municipal (i.e. State) Machinery no longer aligned with Federal purpose the outcome may remain unknown for now, but it is sure that the jostling will be the busiest, rowdiest, most legendary election campaign (and spending, let’s be honest) that us 45’s and under have ever seen.

2. Shine Ya Eye

My twitter bio has been updated, to indicate my availability to provide electioneering services that cater to the vanities of elite Nigeria. I am not a ballot-stuffer and I have never brandished a weapon against a fellow human in all my life. To be honest, I want nothing to do with that side of our peculiar electoral process. However, I can do and coordinate the fancy stuff that we, the electoral minority, like. After all, a credible campaign consists of serving the illiterate masses empty platitudes and attempting to beguile the elite with concrete policy. If the epic spending predicted in point 1 above proves true, then there is going to be a big “mahkate” for consultants. Get your consultancy on.

3. Jagabanism is Next to Progressivenessism

Slate the Jagaban Borgu all you like but dismiss him at your own peril. This dismissiveness I speak of is not just in the context of the opposition parties (as the political calculations suggest a South-Westerner is unlikely to be a popular presidential candidate for another 20 years or so) but even with the APC aficionados. Sure, he is building a family dynasty, with the good lady senator senating and the Iyaloja General doing whatever it is Iyalojas do, but perhaps the Tinubus will be the Kennedys or the Bushes of Yorubaland – with due apologies to FFK. With the opinion most people express about him online, I think, given his astute succession planning in Lagos State, it is either he gets an unduly bad rap or Governor Fashola simply is not the saint we imagine him to be. Lagos has progressed unquestionably under their watch however, so it is clear that the man knows a thing or two about developmental spending.

4. Dry Bones Will Live Again

It was said recently, citing sources from within the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, that the reason for its poor record of enforcement recently was  a lack of funds. No money to chase stealers of money; the sad irony.  We can rest assured, however, that this hitherto missing money or a good Executive substitute for it will be delivered to the EFCC and they will begin to pursue their statutory mandate with renewed vigour and unprecedented fervour. That the scope of their sights is set on members of the burgeoning APC will be a minor footnote in the quest to kick corruption out of government. Never mind the fact that the N255m armoured car scandal refuses to go away, even with the feeble Wag-The-Dog tactics of an attack on an empty ministerial car by unknown gunmen. But I digress.

5. Plus Ca Change…

Asari Dokubo and co will no doubt, in the wake of the moves to unseat their “Jesus Christ on earth”, remind us that it is Niger Delta oil that is running through all our veins and that removing the incumbent president would be akin to ripping each of our hearts out of our bodies. It will be of no consequence, should this president be removed by a popular vote. It is “their turn”. Then, as elections draw closer, and the president begins to lie down before men of God for prayers, religion will also join tribalism as an honoured guest at the electoral feast. General Buhari, did not lie prostrate before the archbishop of Canterbury during his recent visit, so GEJ is well ahead in the picture polls. Pictures from the Jerusalem walkabout will resurface and Buhari will have to defend why he contracted the Mossad to abduct Umaru Dikko. Allegedly. Then the president will reduce the barriers for accessing the Nollywood World Bank Fund. So those ones will come out and act and sing for him again. Then North will be awash with “Sai Buhari” posters. Then the polity will be unbelievably heated up, in spite of the tepid warnings from the presidency…

Soldiers of Fortune – A Review

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I’m glad I bought a copy of Max Siollun’s Soldiers of Fortune. Many might say it merely rehashes a lot of information that was already in the public domain but I would strongly disagree. Even if that assertion was true, a compendium of all the information from a pivotal point in the nation’s history can never be a bad thing.

My personal repertoire of the events that have shaped our history has never been more than superficial. No nuggets of particular insight, unless I was chanced to be in the company of someone “in the know”. Soldiers of Fortune puts into perspective many things I was either too young or too unsavvy to understand at the time they happened.

The book’s preface sets the context for the history it recounts, with a summary of transitions from independence to the civil war to the overthrow of the Shagari government, shortly after its “re-election”. Relying on a wide range of sources, from ‘hagiographic autobiographies’ to interviews given by the various actors, the book then surgically considers the events leading up to each intervention by the military, including the unsuccessful ones.

What surprised me most through the book? For one, some coups were instigated by civilians, one of whom became a martyr for democracy, another a perennial applicant for a gubernatorial position in the Niger Delta.

Secondly, there is absolutely nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to government proposals. The proposed “entertainment tax” in Lagos State was deployed by the Military Governor of Ogun State in the early 80s. A single 6-year term for executive office holders had been mooted (and rejected by the government of the day) since 1990 or thereabouts.

Thirdly, the June 12 intrigues will surprise a few readers, although I must admit, I found the portrayal of IBB as both orchestrator and victim of the annulment somewhat confusing. It also seems history has been unkind to Prof. Nwosu, chairperson of the electoral commission that organised the elections. I find a quote attributed to our Senate President particularly interesting.

On a personal note, I was at secondary school with the son of one of the officers executed for the “failed” 1986 coup. Siollun actually singles out the officer for being implausibly linked to the plot, having no soldiers or weaponry under his command. I remember the son cursing out Babangida on a few occasions.

Still on 1986, the tragic irony of the case of the officer who was executed for not reporting the rumours he’d heard was very sad. This man had informed General Buhari about rumours of a coup in 1983, not knowing that Buhari himself was at the centre of the plot. Buhari had him arrested and locked up for several months. When he got wind of the Orkar coup, he rightly(?) decided to keep mum and paid for it with his life.

In addition to his meticulous reconstruction of events, Siollun frequently provides analysis to explain rationale and sometimes fill in the gaps that the dramatis personae have left in their accounts.

If there are any lessons to be learnt from this book, it is that all incisive criticism of today’s government is a good thing. Not rabid, senseless expulsion of hot air, but line-by-line examination of government policy. We must also shelve blind nationalism and vainglorious pride – IBB was saluted for rejecting the IMFs conditions but imposed even more stringent conditions than the IMF had requested anyway. So, to all those who keep getting the word “activist” spat at them as if the appellation were some deadly plague, keep the pressure on. Additionally, it is clear that a whole generation will pass before the country’s political landscape is devoid of (de)militarised politicians – many of the beneficiaries of the system from 1983 to 1993 are alive and well; and loaded. Finally, until the Northern part of the country experiences real economic development, some of the thinking of its elite as reported in Soldiers of Fortune, should that line of thought still be prevalent, means that fiscal federalism, devolution of power from the centre and virtually almost all other constitutional reform as it regards the political status quo are an extremely long way away from happening.

My one grouse with the book is its use of endnotes instead of footnotes. I find endnotes impossible to use but this is a person foible and should not detract from the quality of Siollun’s work.