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Nigeria breaks away from African Union at its own risk

Sun, 5 Feb 2012 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nigeria has threatened to pull out of the African Union just because its leader (Jonathan Goodluck) lost his bid to take over from the Equatorial Guinean leader (Theodoro Mbasago Obiang) as the Chairman of the AU. He lost to Benin’s Boni Yayi and is so peeved as to contemplate this action as a way to teach the AU a bitter lesson.

I hope this news report is not true. But we are far away from April 1 (April Fools’ Day).

Specifically, Nigeria is not just threatening to break away from Africa but it is threatening to form an independent continent of Nigeria. What else could be more ridiculous than “an independent continent of Nigeria”? Of course, Nigeria is a big country—probably, its size being a curse in disguise, something that would make the former Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi agitate for the country to be split into three—but it doesn’t justify any politically suicidal move to turn it into a continent of its own. What malarkey?

The threat was contained in a terse press release signed by Mr. Reuben Abati, representing the Nigerian government. The rationale behind this threat? Here it is: “Since Africa does not consider our President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan good enough for the Chairmanship of the African Union, then Africa does not deserve our presence on the Continent.”

The one-week’s ultimatum the Nigerian government gave the AU to regroup and crown Goodluck Jonathan as the head of the Union deserves nothing but disdain. There will be consequences for Africa but Nigeria itself. All of a sudden, we’ve been given the nasty part of the Nigerian leadership. Is this the sort of leadership that can help that country solve its hydra-headed problems? This threat is hollow, misguided, and politically misdirected. It won’t materialize to Nigeria’s advantage. It demonstrates incontinence and lack of respect for discipline and order.

This threat is characteristic of churlish losers of genuine competitions. Such churlishness doesn’t promote democracy. What does Goodluck Jonathan think he has to make him a better AU Chairman than Boni Yayi? To cut a long story short, Nigeria leaves the AU at a great risk to itself, not the rest of Africa. Specifically stated, Nigeria needs the rest of Africa more than ever to remain what it is.

Here is the reality, at least, gathered from the press release from the Nigerian government itself:

“Meanwhile, ministers, cabals, and members of parliament are believed to have secretly convened to decide how Nigeria’s breaking away from Africa should be organized to ensure that the Igbos and other Southerners do not use the opportunity to slip away into the Atlantic with their oil and also form their own continent.”

What could be more revealing of the danger looming over Nigeria than this situation?

Especially at this time that the Boko Haram terrorist group is intensifying its destabilizing activities, the Nigerian government will do itself a world of good if it stops giving nastily wrong signals forthwith. The threat posed to it by the Boko Haram threat can’t be neutralized with anything its leader does at the international stage. It can be tackled successfully if Nigeria depends on external support. It can’t handle that danger alone. That is why the Nigerian government must not make utterances or take any senseless action to annoy those whose help it needs to remain stable, if that is what its internal situation is now.

Then again, the aftermath of last year’s general elections is a clear pointer to the fact that there are many fault lines in Nigeria’s body political that are ready to cave in to plunge the country into chaos. At several levels, there are flashpoints. Ethnic tension is high, religious intolerance among the Muslims and Christians for each other is at a fever pitch. Politicians in the rival political parties (especially the ruling PDP and General Ibrahim Babangida’s camp) are at each other’s throat.

Beyond all is the general discontent among the citizenry over deplorable living conditions, neck-breaking bribery and corruption, and many other despicable tendencies that continue to threaten the country’s viability.

These faultlines are visible, and it is only a determined trouble-maker who will go out of his way to add more to it, especially as the Nigerian government seeks to do now.

Can’t anybody wear his thinking cap the right way to know that Jonathan Goodluck’s plate of troubles is already overflowing and that he needn’t more added to it?

What is it about the Chairmanship of the AU that will equip him with the skills that he needs to solve his own country’s internal crises even before turning to shoulder the responsibilities of an AU Chairman that is nothing but a bundle of thorns to wear?

Is the Nigerian government disputing the outcome of the voting that put Benin’s Boni Yayi in place as the AU Chairman to replace Theodoro Mbasago Obiang of the Equatorial Guinea whose tenure some of us can’t say we were proud of, his being a wicked tyrant who shouldn’t have been given the Chairmanship of the AU, in the first place?

What the Nigerian government is about to set in motion is horrendous and must be condemned with all the force at our disposal. Indeed, by this desperate move, all that Nigeria is telling us is that respect should be demanded, and not commanded. Such a move is empty, calamitous, and idiotic, to say the least.

The rotation of the AU Chairmanship is based on the atmosphere of trust (or is it conspiracy?) that exists among the various Heads of State of the member-states. It is based on the assessment of a candidate’s abilities to handle the tasks, not on anything that might be motivating the Nigerian government’s intended desperate move.

Has the Nigerian government done any homework, it would realize that Jonathan Goodluck is not experienced enough to become what is now being sought after with this kind of dangerous manouevre. He doesn’t command respect among the member-states of the AU.

At least, he may wait for his turn after passing the test as a leader who can command respect, trust, and confidence among his colleagues. It is only then that he will draw attention to himself for consideration. He has to know that a good thing sells itself. No one has to draw attention to it.

If he hasn’t succeeded in becoming the AU Chairman at the just-ended 18th summit of the AU, it’s not because of any conspiracy or mischief against him. It’s because his own colleagues don’t consider him fit for the position. What about this glaring fact is difficult to understand and accept?

Let the Nigerian government go ahead to pull out of the AU. Unlike Morocco, which broke ranks with the AU over its objection to the AU’s handling of the Saharoui Arab Democratic Republic’s status, Nigeria’s case is based on childishness and immaturity in international politics.

Instead of doing anything rash only to pay dearly for it, the Nigerian government should recant, swallow back its empty threat, and take measures to groom Jonathan Goodluck for the position in future. After all, he has about four more years to function as a Head of State. If he does what will appeal to his colleagues, they should change their impressions about him and place him above them as their leader in future.

For now, he should just accept his fate and concentrate on what he can do to solve Nigeria’s problems instead of seeking to bite off more than he can chew. Statesmen are not made through the issuing of empty threats. More importantly, he shouldn’t expect to know how to run without first learning how to walk. If Nigeria has a functioning railway network, it shouldn’t be difficult for someone who knows what the prominent warning signal at a railway crossing is: Stop! Look! Listen… before you cross! Will Nigeria’s Jonathan Goodluck look before leaping into danger?

The African Union may not be achieving much to justify the sacrifices made by citizens of the continent to maintain it; but it can’t do so just because it is a Jonathan Goodluck of Nigeria who will be at the helm of its affairs. Yes, we want to see results, but we don’t expect anybody interested in heading the Union to do so through unconscionable manouevres, including this arm-twisting move by Nigeria.

Indeed, some people will never learn to cut their coats according to their sizes. They will want to fly even before developing wings. And when they fail to take off, they blame others for their woes. Why won’t Goodluck Jonathan hasten slowly? Surely, he is over-speeding on the highway for no apparent reason but just because he wants to be where he hasn’t prepared himself to be at this time of his political career. He has more learning to do and should be content with what he is now. Nigeria needs him more than Africa does.

All too soon, is he also power drunk to want to plow the entire field for more to satisfy his ego? We are beginning to see how political power can mislead those who grab it into thinking that they can go to any distance at all, the sky being their only limit. Surely, Nigeria has started an action that will explode in its face.

Let the good luck that Jonathan Goodluck has be used to tackle Nigeria’s internal crisis first. Then, with experience from solving his country’s problems behind him as his best teacher, he can step out to handle more complicated challenges to move Africa forward. For now, the door is shut and he must remain where he is. An independent continent of Nigeria fits more into Don Quixote’s agenda than the reality on the ground in Africa.

Or is someone doing overtime to win the crown of the most celebrated comedian of the 21st century? Let some sound-minded Nigerians step in to help this Jonathan Goodluck before he goes haywire to mess things up all the more.

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.