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Published On: Mon, May 26th, 2014

Will our real leaders stand up?

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By Hussaina Ishaya Audu

About a forthnight ago, on Amanpour (CNN), Christiane asked Prof. Wole Soyinka a very pertinent question, one I think all Nigerians must give critical thought to: after this – the kidnapping of the Chibok girls and the robust media coverage provoked by the #bringbackourgirls campaign and the reluctant response it evoked from a drowy Jonathan – “can Nigeria ever be the same?”

I remember the the annulment of the June 12 elections by the Babangida Junta in 1993 and the murder of the Ogoni nine by the Abacha Dictatorship in 1995. I remember the passions these events stirred within Nigerians and our collective indignation, and the condemnation by the international community. And I remember how the embers of our national outrage cooled and were over taken by separatist sentiments. The June 12th 1993 debacle which was effectively the disenfranchisement of every adult Nigerian – irrespective of sex, religion, tribe and tongue – has become a flickering flame kept alive by the south-western states alone. The country returned to status quo and it was business as usual – again.

That was what Christiane Amampour was asking: is it going to be business as usual? After this hullabaloo about the insensitivity and ineptitude of Nigeria’s government are we going to accept another four years of ineffectual leadership? It is no longer just about Jonathan anymore; I believe we are now on trial. Every adult Nigerian has a responsibility to decide whether we are going to allow the Chibok Calamity to go the way of June 12, or if after this, it is going to be business unusual.

Nigerians are already offering reasons why we should return Jonathan to power in 2015. In his article, A Season of Conspiracies Against Goodluck Jonathan, published by Premium Times on Tuesday 13th May, Femi Aribisala articulated the sentiments of a section of this country which blames the North for everything. He said, “Let us call a spade a spade. There are well-placed Nigerians, especially in the North, sponsoring aiding and abetting terrorism for the sake of political gain.” Aribisala further contended that the North has inadvertently made it necessary for Jonathan to put himself up for re-election next year; anything less “would be tantamount to succumbing to black mail.” He further stated: “To accede to the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan by a Northern cabal is to promote the interests of the Boko Haram.” And again, “We must forget our differences and join hands to ensure that Jonathan prevails in spite of the stumbling blocks and minefields put in his way.” I have also heard others contend that if Jonathan is not allowed to enjoy his second term, the militants in his home region will not let sleeping dogs lie.

My purpose in this essay is not to dispute Aribisala’s claims about Jonathan’s successes, or his claims that a Northern Cabal fuelled the fire of insurgency in the country to subvert Jonathan’s government; it is to question his reasoning as to why we should accept another four years of Jonathan, and propose a challenge to Nigerians to move with the wind of change that is blowing across our nation.

Aribisala’s argument is based on the ‘appeal to the consequences of a belief’ fallacy which basically presumes a position to be true because if people did not accept that position as being true, then there would be negative consequences; or put another way, P is true because accepting that P is true has positive and pragmatic consequences. This line of reasoning is fallacious because the consequences of the belief have no bearing whatsoever on whether the belief is true or false.

Believing that our rejection of Jonathan is an acceptance of BH’s rule is not evidence that this is true. How can my rejection of inept and insensitive rule be equated to acceptance of terrorism? How is that logical? To my mind, Aribisala’s argument is a form of manipulation to force one to agree to 4 more years of questionable leadership. Yes, I agree that we have had worse. However, why must the only option we have be to ‘manage’ or ‘make do’ with Jonathan? Why must it be business as usual – again?

It is important to distinguish between a rational reason to believe (evidence) and a prudential reason to believe. The former is evidence that objectively and logically supports the claim, while the latter is a reason to accept the belief because of some external factor such as fear, a threat, or a benefit or harm that may stem from that belief. Predicting doom and destruction if we reject Jonathan is not rational and logical; it is a failure to recognise that there can be alternatives.

The kidnapping of the Chibok girls has brought Nigeria under the glare of a global searchlight. The world is watching us. All eyes are on us. Amanpour was voicing what the entire world is thinking: are we going to take advantage of this global intervention into our country’s affairs to demand for accountable governance at last? Or, are we going to continue offering excuses as to why we must accept the likes of Jonathan? Isn’t it time for us to stop accepting mediocre leadership and begin to prepare the ground for the emergence of a new type of leadership?

Perhaps the reason why we have not had credible leaders emerge as possible candidates for 2015 is because the country has not been ready for them before now. And while we continue to believe that our options are so restricted and one dimensional we will continue to attract second-rate leaders.

I reject Jonathan’s leadership because it is time to reject any leadership that cannot take us to the Promised Land. Nigeria is on the cusp of change; we have reached a stage in our history when we as a people can end the trajectory of our nation’s downward spiral. The time is ripe for change! Look at what is happening in the world today. The nations of this world are groaning for change.

It may well be true that a Northern Cabal is behind Jonathan’s woes, but maybe, just maybe, what the Northern Cabal intended for evil, is what will turn around for our good. Who would have imagined that a small group of disaffected citizens carrying placards and insisting that the government pay attention to the plight of some insignificant and marginalized plebian girls carted away into the unknown by BH would snowball into a campaign that has attracted global empathy and invited world powers to participate in their rescue? This is a season of change. In the words of Mountain of Fire and Miracles “POWER MUST CHANGE HANDS!!!”

Ms. Ishaya Audu, a lawyer, and an education administrator, wrote from Abuja.

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