[Bamidele Upfront] Pick Your Poison: No Good Options for 2015, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

In 2015, we will have to make a choice among unsatisfactory options. Our duty is to determine the least bad way out.

There are no good options when it comes to Nigeria’s political future in 2015. This is what you get when you have short-sighted people who are governed by ego and personal ambition instead of collective good. The road to perdition for us began when General Olusegun Obasanjo overrated himself on the third term agenda, thinking it will sail effortlessly. Unfortunately, it didn’t and by the time it became very clear to him, he had no time left to pick and groom a successor from the vast talent pool he had at his disposal. As often the case with him, his messianic complex and the rabid pursuit of his much coveted father of Nigeria crown enveloped his thinking. As a consequence, he became a victim of his own fears, he got maniacally fixated on the foreign reserves he had painstakingly built and became utterly paranoid at the thought of Nigeria’s numerous thieves plundering it and running us into fresh debt.

At the same time, Gbaramatuland and adjoining kingdoms in the creeks of the Niger Delta had bred and was actively breeding thousands of militants who were crippling oil production, siphoning oil and are ready to sabotage the economy. At the time, General Obasanjo thought Jonathan would be a good bet to stave off agitation when he eventually takes over from late Umaru Yar’Adua. He also thought Mr. Jonathan would willfully take instructions from Ota. His strategic calculations did not factor in the intoxicating nature of power, influence of free money on the militants and their sponsors, interest of oil thieves and foreign dealers of arms supplying the militants. Obasanjo got almost every key variable wrong; he focused mainly on the political calculations to the neglect of economics. Like the appointment of the foreign-bred Ken Saro Wiwa Junior as a way of pacifying oil producing communities, his unilateral decision to handpick Jonathan as a way out of the resource control mess proved disastrous. Not only is Jonathan lacking in Ijaw/resource agitation bonafides, he is reliably inept, cunning and very slippery.

In 2013, Nigerians grew more despondent. The nation inched closer to the precipice and Jonathan seem to relish his role at helping her unravel. President Obasanjo became unsettled, his sin of imposition has started bearing malformed fruits. This prompted his search for absolution from the sins of foisting Jonathan on us. His half-hearted penitence gave rise to the letter, the missive was his way of drawing the world’s attention to ominous cloud gathering in our national firmament. Many may pooh pooh anything coming from the stables of Obasanjo, the truth is there are no good political options for us at this time. We are in a mess politically and economically. General Obasanjo along with the “Owners of Nigeria” knows this. His letter to Jonathan serves to help us think; thinking of a way out early may help us be better prepared. We cannot stand aside and look because not acting is the worst option.

We are in a maze now. We cannot afford to think linearly because linear thinking that got us where we are seem to be gaining traction yet again. Linear thinking caused us to labeled Boko Haram, a sect gone mad. Boko Harm has since mutated into hydra-headed monster defying military putsch. That same thinking is steering the political horse-trading focused on getting Jonathan out (not a difficult task) to the neglect of what happens in the Niger Delta when Jonathan is gone. Whether we like it or not, the Niger Delta is Nigeria’s jugular. Jonathan and his band of ethnic irredentists are going to give us a run. We must not forget the Niger Delta is awash with cash from the amnesty sink hole, proceeds from oil theft, bunkering and monies from federal allocation that were stolen instead of being used to build infrastructure. This year alone, an estimated N59 billion has been budgeted to be spent on “ex-militants” according to details of the 2014 Appropriation Bill. N23.6 billion will be spent for payment of stipends to 30,000 ex-militants, another N35.4 billion is allocated for transformed ex-militants. In 2012, the amnesty program gulped N66.17billion, in 2013 N66.28 billion was earmarked for it in the budget. Has the billions stopped oil theft? No! Instead, oil theft has multiplied stratospherically thus jeopardizing Nigeria’s fiscal health.

Reading the political tea leaves, these are the emerging scenarios:

Jonathan is elected on his own steam by inducement, appeasement, election rigging or a combination of factors – Boko Haram insurgency will escalate and move southwards. Oil theft will continue, the economy will be crippled due to mounting insecurity and paltry crude oil sales and receipts. Pressure will mount to remove him and he will be unable to complete his term Jonathan contests and he loses – Hell boils over. Militancy assumes astronomical proportions with the deployment of asymmetric warfare. This is not far fetched because a large portion of the proceeds from oil theft and the amnesty program has been going into stockpiling arms, it may well be the beginning of a protracted battle over the existence of Nigeria.

Jonathan opts out of the 2015 race for fear of upset at the convention, owning to the specter of humiliating losses at the presidential elections, withdrawal of support by key political blocks in the country etc. – The Ijaw people will see this as intimidation and an affront. Militancy will exacerbate and crude oil exports becomes a fraction of what is required to keep the nation afloat. Foreign reserves gets depleted and massive borrowing pushes Nigeria to the precipice. The country will be thrown into some kind of primordial flux. Elections will not hold. A compromise candidate will have to be selected as a peace move, with a mandate to conduct elections after negotiations. The opposition will have to wait for their time. Boko Haram escalates, the country appears rudderless and a genuine national conference is prescribed as a way forward.

Each of these options are fraught with pitfalls. The 2015 presidential race is the battle for the soul of Nigeria. It is a complex situation; General Obasanjo miscalculated with Jonathan big time! Where do we lean! We are boxed in left, right, and center with a set of options that are just plain bad. Everything about Jonathan and his history of opportunism disguised as good luck would suggest that he would much rather go down with Nigeria unless the national players begins to plan altruistically.

It is in this light that we must view Obasanjo’s letter. He took to letter writing out of the biting need to get Nigeria out of the dilemma he imposed on us when he picked the duo of Yar’Adua/Jonathan. Obasanjo’s letter faced two contradictions.

The first was between the strong incentive to publicize Mr. Jonathan’s egregious violations of his oath of office. The second was between the level of outrage it will elicit that would have a chance of producing useful strategic results and that is politically tolerable. Even among those of us who disapproves of Mr. Jonathan and demand his ouster from the political landscape, the pressure to rid the country of Mr. Jonathan is exceeded by pressure not to fracture Nigeria’s unity and for fear of entanglement that can breed war. The responsible choice for Nigeria must be one that does not make things worse.

Our dilemma at this point mirrors the timeless words of Carl von Clausewitz, “A short jump is certainly easier than a long one: but no one wanting to get across a wide ditch would begin by jumping half-way.” In 2015, we will have to make a choice among unsatisfactory options. Our duty is to determine the least bad way out. Nigeria’s situation is much like jumping halfway across Clausewitz’s ditch. It requires Solomonic wisdom, in this case we have to split the baby. Whatever choice we make, it will be politically logical but strategically unwise. The nations’ political logjam is both understandable and tragic. Obasanjo did us in! He was shortsighted and he knows it now.

Twitter: @olufunmilayo

Email: olufunmilayo @ gmail.com


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