By Robinson Tombari Sibe
Politics as we know in Nigeria has always been a game of intimidation and elimination. The successful ones are those who never give any room to any perceived opponents. Thus, it is very common to see the incumbent deploy all the forces (both state and private) at his disposal to tame perceived opponents. If you announce your ambition to vie for same position, be sure to expect the incumbent deploy all the forces to bully, scare and intimidate you out of the race. Nurse an ambition to unseat the incumbent and expect Chastisement and Persecution.
However, President Goodluck Jonathan has changed all of this. He has brought a new dimension to politics in Nigeria. Rumours abound that he’s always been a magnanimous man but many thought he will forfeit this virtue upon joining mainstream politics. Not so! President Jonathan has enlarged the political workspace in Nigeria by not only playing by the rules but also encouraging perceived opponents in their quest to unseat him. His magnanimity has ensured a more vibrant political process where anybody can vie for his position without any fear whatsoever. He has approached politics with his trademark “gentleman” attitude that has endeared him to many.
Apart from the non-political beneficiaries of President Jonathan’s magnanimity such as Mallam El-Rufai and others, the current political landscape is filled with beneficiaries actively involved in the current political activity. Prominent among them are Nuhu Ribadu and Atiku Abubakar.
In the latter days of the Obasanjo administration, the man Nuhu Ribadu experienced a meteoric promotion from Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) to Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG). The former anti-corruption czar was almost untouchable, pulling the strings at EFCC. Then came the late Umaru Musa Yar’adua and the trials of Nuhu began. First the then Attorney General cut down his prosecution powers, then Nuhu was asked to vacate his position at EFCC and go for a course he didn’t bargain for at National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). This was followed by series of maltreatment at NIPSS and his subsequent demotion by the Police Service Commission from the rank of AIG to DCP, citing irregularities in the original promotion that got him to AIG in the first place. This was not the last of his trial as he soon found himself in a tangle with the law for allegedly flouting of code of conduct rules.
Then came President Goodluck Jonathan and in a swift move, Nuhu climbed up from the deep valley where he was to becoming the flag bearer of arguably the 2nd party with the largest followership. Yes, the charges against him were promptly dropped and his rank restored – retiring honourably as an AIG. This is the story of Nuhu’s life that has been rather sinusoidal. Nuhu was one of the first beneficiaries of Jonathan’s magnanimity, today he is one of Jonathan’s opponent in the forth coming elections. Will I call this ungratefulness? No, President Jonathan gave him an open cheque of political freedom and he is within his right to cash it. Perhaps, a vibrant political landscape is germane to our democratic process and President Jonathan through his magnanimity has made this possible.
As I write this piece, Atiku is still smarting from his defeat to President Goodluck Jonathan in the just concluded primaries of the PDP. He is probably hibernating somewhere, licking his “wounds” sustained in defeat.
Rewind to a little over four years ago, Alhaji Atiku was traversing the length and breadth of this country campaigning for votes with the broom (AC symbol). Anyway we all know the story as the rains fell in 2007 and the umbrella became more useful than the broom. AC and Atiku Lost!
In 2009, like the Biblical Nicodemos, he went visiting Baba “at night”, supposedly to re-negotiate his come back to the PDP. Few months later (after unsuccessfully trying to sweep them away), he publicly declared for the PDP again. He was greeted with all manner of opposition. Even the PDP in his home state of Adamawa vowed never to take him back. President Jonathan thought otherwise. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was granted full waiver by the President.
Like Nuhu, Atiku benefitted from the President’s magnanimity and quickly “repaid” the kind gesture by contesting against him at the PDP Primaries. Quite an irony! Even at the venue of the primaries when Atiku threw tantrums, President Jonathan simply chose not to join issues with him. Well, he was beaten fair and square at the Eagle square.
The President at the expense of Atiku displayed a high level of magnanimity and Political maturity. Whether this magnanimity by Mr. President back-fires on him personally, the nation and our democratic process has benefitted from the broadened and dynamic political space orchestrated by this new found freedom. He has showed that if you are good, you need not waste your energy on running down your opponent, simply concentrate your energy on being better. Mr. President has set a good example of being a success without necessarily being a bully.
(Sibe is Strategy Coordinator of The Jonathan Project)