Buhari is now the Head Honcho and his party, APC, is ruling the roost federally. But all of the key Niger Delta states remain firmly under PDP control.
Even though the election results in the above states are highly suspect because of widespread malpractices and violence (especially in Rivers), I think it is fair to say that ex-President Jonathan is genuinely popular on his home turf…and that lots of Niger Deltans are currently determined to stay with his party.
My driver in Port Harcourt politely refused to buy into my passionate pro-Buhari arguments and continues to be a staunch Jonathanist. Ditto some of my other employees, many of my relatives and most of the chiefs in my Ogoni village.
Frankly, even though I voted APC and am convinced that Buhari can deliver several positive changes, I’m impressed by Niger Deltans who are determined to stick with the ailing PDP and suffer the disadvantages of being in Opposition.
CULTURE: Participants from one of the South South states at the last Abuja carnival. The Niger Delta ministry is set to explore the tourism potentials in the region for economic development.
Because Nigerians are, as a general rule, obsessively opportunistic and totally unapologetic worshippers of success; and they tend to shamelessly switch sides pronto if they backed a loser, so I initially assumed that there would be a tidal wave of defections to APC in the weeks following the March/April polls.
But this has not happened. And I (perversely perhaps) like the fact that so many folks from my region, including humble workers who struggle to survive, have decided to forget about self-interest and doggedly stand by a principle.
The principle they are standing by is not remotely noble, cerebral or logical – they are motivated by a sentimental, ethnocentric belief that Jonathan is a beloved Big Brother and “deserved” two terms, regardless of his performance.
A friend who works for a government agency in Rivers State and shares my faith in Buhari told me that he felt like a lone voice in the wilderness in his workplace…and that when, on the eve of the elections, he reminded his colleagues of Jonathan’s myriad failures, including his failure to enhance the Niger Delta, his colleagues angrily turned on him and defiantly assured him that they would “vote for anyone from our area, even if he is a useless goat”.
They also told my friend that they would never support Buhari because they bitterly resented the North’s “born to rule” sense of entitlement…and that Northerners had ruled Nigeria for most of the years that had elapsed since Independence and therefore had no right to agitate for the Presidency “yet again” at the expense of the only President the Niger Delta has ever had…
…and that Jonathan’s Northern predecessors had been no better than Jonathan and had also neglected their geopolitical zones…and that they were sure that Boko Haram had been funded by Northern grandees to undermine Jonathan.
I personally think that my friend’s colleagues are bigoted, knee-jerk diehard regionalists and essentially misguided. But I must admit that I understand their mindsets; and it HAS to be said that Niger Deltan fans of Jonathan are not the only essentially misguided, bigoted, knee-jerk diehard regionalists in Nigeria.
Many Northerners wanted Buhari to win, simply because he was a fellow Northerner. Meanwhile, many Yorubas only voted for the APC because Buhari’s running mate, Prof. Osinbajo, happened to be their fellow South-Westerner.
So what next?
Within a democracy, it is not the end of the world if a particular part of a country is largely opposed to the central government.
Observers of the international stage have watched Scottish nationalists thumb their noses at the London-based British Establishment in the UK.
Meanwhile, for years and until very recently, Yorubaland was largely controlled by a vibrant opposition party that was led by the inimitable Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who was rarely on the same page as the PDP mandarins in Abuja. So, in theory, it’s no big deal that Buhari has not been warmly embraced by Niger Deltans.
HOWEVER, Nigeria is not the UK and the Niger Delta is not Yorubaland; and the status quo is mega-awkward because the Niger Delta is oil-producing, the main source of this nation’s wealth and full of disgruntled citizens and militants.
And I strongly urge Buhari to take alienated Niger Deltans VERY seriously indeed and do his utmost to persuade them to regard him as a credible and caring leader and dispel negative myths about the so-called Northern Agenda.
It’s about making a special effort to win hearts and minds…and making a special effort to display respect towards the people whose ancestral waters and lands have produced a valuable commodity that has kept Nigeria afloat for decades.
So MANY Nigerians from other zones have sneeringly informed me that Jonathan and Diezani Allison-Maduekwe were so disastrous that they will never again “allow” my zone to hold the Presidency or run the Petroleum Ministry.
Some of my foreign chums and contacts have also hinted that they don’t think that Niger Deltans are “ready” to cope with the substantial responsibilities.
I find such comments enormously offensive and stupid!
Yes, Jonathan and Diezani disappointed. But there are plenty of immensely accomplished and honest Niger Deltans who would not have disappointed Nigerians or the global community if they’d been given a chance to serve!
I’ve met LOADS of frighteningly incompetent and disgustingly greedy Yorubas, Northerners, Igbos and foreigners throughout my life. But I don’t automatically assume that all Yorubas, Northerners, Igbos and foreigners are worthless!