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Jonathan a hairs breadth away from dictatorship

Published by The Nation on Sun, 23 Nov 2014

For those who think democracy is alive and well under President Goodluck Jonathan, who believe that organising elections is about the long and short of democracy, Thursdays combined security forces assault upon the National Assembly to bar Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, from presiding over the affairs of the lower chamber should open their eyes. And for those who entertain the fanciful idea that Dr Jonathan is as honest with his protestations of being a democrat as his dramatic gestures and verbal flailing suggest, I offer to dreamy analysts his vengeful attacks against the opposition, governors who irritate him and his wife, the press which he loathes, and a host of other politicians and institutions that dare to sneeze near his majesty. It is doubtful whether we can find a president like Dr Jonathan, not even Olusegun Obasanjo, who effortlessly unites in himself such contradictory passions that pretend to speak to liberalism as they rhapsodise totalitarianism.Doyin Okupe, Dr Jonathans impetuous spokesman on public affairs, has struggled to dissociate the presidency from the police attack on the lawmakers. But there can be no justification for the horrendous attacks, the tear gas, the intolerable affront to the number four citizen, the display of ignorance of the police who continue to defend their atrocious behaviour, subvert the constitution, and see themselves as the private security organisation of the president and the ruling party. And there can be no hiding the fact that the attacks were inspired by the presidency and executed by presidential aides who have managed to convince themselves that their interpretation of the role and powers of the Nigerian president allow for the sickening brutality they exhibited before the whole world last week.The Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, it is clear, does not have the strength of character to resist the presidencys unconstitutional behaviour, nor it seems does he even have the disposition and knowledge to draw a line between the presidents interest and national interest. And though he cannot claim ignorance of the limitations imposed on his office by the Police Act and the constitution, he is precisely the sort of official whose eagerness to please his employer is his lifeblood, as his withdrawal of Hon Tambuwals security aides showed shortly before he suddenly merited confirmation as the substantive IGP.It is inconceivable that Mr Abba acted independently in planning and executing the disgraceful assault on the National Assembly. The police claimed they received intelligence reports of plans by miscreants to cause mayhem at the legislature; but shouldnt they have taken the leadership of the legislature into confidence and joined them in thwarting the efforts of the hoodlums and protecting the number four citizen' It is embarrassing the egregious and childish lies the police often tell. However, it has emerged that the real reasons for Thursdays madness were connected with impeachment moves, one by pro-Tambuwal forces against the president, and the other by pro-presidency forces against Hon Tambuwal over his October defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC). It would have been foolish of the pro-Tambuwal forces to tamely give in to the police lockout, as some legal and political purists wanted, and then perhaps later resort futilely to litigation.The police were doubtless encouraged to desecrate the Speakers office and person because they knew the presidency was both remorselessly opposed to Hon Tambuwal and was willing to seize on any excuse to humiliate him. In June, at Hotel 17 in Kaduna, venue of a conference to which the Speaker was invited, soldiers subjected him to an embarrassing and provocative search. That was one of the earliest signals that the Speakers independence would not be countenanced by Dr Jonathans imperial presidency. The Senate did not see that humiliation as a dangerous precedent, let alone join hands to fight it. The harassments have since continued, culminating in the physical attack against him by the police and hooded secret service agents on Thursday. Since his defection to the APC, and notwithstanding the support he gets from his fellow lawmakers and the constitution, the presidency has been obsessed with unhorsing Hon Tambuwal using the security forces. Unknown to them, such attacks and subversion of the constitution in turn undermine their own legitimacy. They also misread the times, unable to appreciate how dangerously unstable the world has suddenly become, where revolutions and anarchy are precipitated by the tiniest of provocations. The mood in Nigeria is super tense and fragile. Does the rampaging Dr Jonathan know this'Though Hon Tambuwal survived the attack planned mainly to unseat him last Thursday, he should rest assured it will not be the last, for the Jonathan presidency will get increasingly desperate in its plans to get rid of the Speaker by any means, fair or foul. The presidents understanding of leadership, like Governor Ayo Fayoses, is completely distorted by traditional and monarchical influences and a poor appreciation of the concept of multi-party democracy. In spite of his constant expostulation about democratic tenets, much of it lacking in depth and coherence, Dr Jonathan has behaved more frequently like an autocrat. After managing to subvert the Senate and co-opting it as an appendage of the presidency, he has sought to similarly castrate the House of Representatives. He would have succeeded had the Speaker lacked the character to stand up to the anti-democratic tendencies of the Jonathan presidency.However, Dr Jonathans limited success in stultifying democratic practices in the legislature has not discouraged him from trying over and over again. He is satisfied that the heads of the security services lack the character to draw the line between presidential orders and the provisions of the constitution. In addition, his aides grovel before him, desperate to keep their jobs no matter what principles they are forced to disavow. The Council of State is too polite and soulless to caution the president. Some geopolitical zones, especially the Southeast and the South-South, have also completely surrendered to the presidents whims, eager to dine with him and massage his ego. As a sign of final humiliation, Nigerians have uncritically allowed Dr Jonathan to exploit religious sensibilities, thereby dividing the country largely along Christian and Muslim lines. Even the usually questioning Southwest has embraced Dr Jonathans hypocrisies, hypnotised by a barren national conference designed principally to hoodwink and deceive.With the entire country taking leave of its senses and metamorphosing into a parched land of sterile thinkers, the House of Representatives quickly became, in addition to a small section of the media, the champion of democracy and liberalism. The situation required the president to seek for imaginative ways of working with the critical House of Representatives, and harnessing the opinions and suggestions of the opposition and diverse critics for the countrys betterment. Instead, he chose not to understand the utility of dissent, and prefers to either compel support or destroy the opposition. Sadly, the president himself is surrounded by aides, security advisers and military chiefs who find it much satisfying and rewarding to tell the president what he wants to hear, indulging in the practiced buffoonery that has laid many African countries waste.It is unlikely Dr Jonathan will caution either himself or his overzealous police over the Tambuwal affair. He is also unlikely to find intelligent ways of getting his hostage presidency to relate with critics and opponents in a democratic manner. Thursdays attack on the Speaker and other lawmakers, the feverish intrigues to undermine opponents, the lack of imagination in the fight against Boko Haram, the reliance on hunters to fight wars, like Sierra Leones Kamajors (hunters) were made to do during that West African countrys implosion, and the subversion of opposition states and governors who disagree with the Jonathan presidency, seem all designed to produce perhaps the worst dictator Nigeria has ever had. By every consideration, we are in fact only a hairs breadth away from dictatorship. If he is allowed, Dr Jonathan will talk wonderfully about the 2015 elections, but will surreptitiously devise means of subverting the polls with all the viciousness he can muster.Our carelessness produced Dr Jonathan in 2011, a man so ill-suited to the demands of leadership in a modern and complex society. If he does not drive a permanent wedge between ethnic groups and religions before the next polls, we would be lucky to emerge unscathed should we have the apocalyptic misfortune of electing him into office next year. Should that happen, the first casualty will of course be democracy, followed by an exploding country no one can manage.]]>
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