24 April 2014

Nigeria: Take It Easy, You Two


Last week's very public political altercation between President Goodluck Jonathan and Kano State governor Rabi'u Musa Kwankwaso was a danger signal that the leading politicians in this country intend to heat up the polity with uncouth and unguarded actions and utterances.

It is an unfortunate development in the run up to the 2015 general elections and it did a lot of discredit to the two men involved and to Nigerian politics as a whole.

Governor Kwankwaso fired the first salvo when, two days before the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rally in Kano to welcome former state governor Malam Ibrahim Shekarau to the party, he said he regretted voting for President Jonathan in the 2011 general elections. Addressing a meeting of All Progressives Congress (APC) elders, Kwankwaso further alleged that PDP is planning to disrupt APC by deploying money to buy people over. He also blamed Jonathan for corruption, insecurity and embezzlement of public funds in the country.

All these would perhaps have been tolerable but Governor Kwankwaso went over the top when he declared that the people of Kano State [meaning the Government of Kano State] will not welcome President Jonathan to the state when he arrives for the rally. Kwankwaso was quoted as saying, "Kano people will not welcome the president because he has done nothing to make life better for them." He fulfilled this pledge by refusing to turn up at the airport when the president arrived in Kano. The political enmity between Kwankwaso and Shekarau is well known but it was totally wrong to refuse to accord protocol courtesies to the president because he is visiting the state for a political rally.

No matter their political or ideological differences, state governors especially those who belong to opposition political parties should see it as a matter of state to welcome the latter each time he is on a visit to their states. It is immaterial whether the visit is personal, political or official. If it is political, of course the governor is not expected to accompany the president to his rally, but he should welcome him at the airport, accompany him to the Emir's palace and provided lunch for him and his entourage, for example. Governor Kwankwaso could be absolved of blame only if, as happened in Sokoto not long ago, presidential aides failed to inform the governor that the president was coming.

President Jonathan's response to Kwankwaso's charges totally went over the top. Speaking at the PDP rally, Jonathan said Kwankwaso was lying when he claimed to have voted for him in 2011. He accused Kwankwaso of embezzling campaign funds given to him for the PDP primaries and general elections. Jonathan, who spoke loudly at the rally, said "Even the little money that was meant for Kano delegates, Kwankwaso refused to give them because he wanted them to be angry with me. In the general elections he also refused to use the money that was given by my campaign office for the election." In his unguarded charge, Jonathan inadvertently confessed to committing an electoral offence by sending money to convention delegates.

At the same rally, President Jonathan also accused Kwankwaso of squandering N255 billion meant for local governments (LGs) in Kano state. In yet another ugly twist to the tale, Jonathan said at the rally that Kwankwaso called him a devil. He said, "They say I am a devil and that anybody wearing a hat is a devil and that was why I refused to wear the white babanriga that was given to me at the airport." If indeed anyone called anyone a devil based on his cultural dress, then that is despicable and totally inimical to peace and security in Nigeria. There is no reason at all why political contest should degenerate to a level of inter-cultural insensitivity of the kind that could threaten peace in the country.

With 2015 general elections less than a year away, we would like to urge all political leaders and their supporters to desist from unstatesmanly conduct and unguarded language. For the sake of peace in the already volatile Nigerian society, politicians should choose their words carefully during political meetings or rallies. This will go a long way to forestall unnecessary political bitterness as next year's general elections draw closer. If they wreck this country through unguarded utterances, they will not have anyone to rule over.

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