Since the current president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria declared his intention of contesting the forth-coming presidential elections, accusations of infidelity has been on full flight. Notable people like Adamu Ciroma, Abubakar Umar, Ibrahim Babangida, Abubakar Atiku and a host of others both in politics and in the academy have been accusing President Jonathan (GEJ) of reneging against the constitution of the People's Democratic Party and their gentleman agreement on the issue of zoning. This is to say that GEJ is not a man of honour; a man who keeps his part of a bargain. In short,as Abubakar Umar puts it, a man who cannot be trusted.
Trustworthiness and contractual-fidelity are moral virtues that are highly esteemed in any community or nation that wants to be taken seriously. Therefore we cannot underestimate or wave off with a slight of hand such weighty accusations of infidelity and bad-faith. It is a serious accusation and one that is being professed by those who think that they have been wronged; that is to say being denied an opportunity to take full advantage of their earlier contract. In legal terms, it is a breach of contract that clamours for retribution. However, insofar as we esteem contractual-fidelity and integrity, we must explore the other side of the coin in the case of GEJ's present status and decision to contest.
Now the question may be raised, will GEJ be doing some people any wrong if because of zoning, he decided not to present himself as a candidate for the presidential primaries? The answer is clearly in the affirmative. For many citizens who see in GEJ - after experiencing his four or five months leadership - a worthy candidate, one who can pilot the affairs of the state better when compared to the alternative candidates, it will be a grave wrong, if he, knowing that he can assuage the fears of these citizens when juxtaposed with other candidates, fails to declare his interest. The issue now becomes, is it possible to compare or balance out without undermining the interest of these two groups, the wrongs that GEJ will be doing to either party? My answer is that it is incommensurable. Any decision he takes - as he has taken - one of the groups or parties will feel aggrieved.
Giving this idea of incommensurability of wrongs, the stridency of the group of people, Adamu Ciroma and co, who have been shouting themselves hoarse that GEJ is not trustworthy or that he is a renegade without considering the interest of the other party, owes its seeming plausibility to their misunderstanding or lack of understanding of the idea or concept of "transubstantiation." Transubstantiation for theologians refers to the miraculous transformation of some particular substance into another one. This transubstantiation results in the re-presentation of an object or a material in another scheme. Perhaps, we can plainly say transubstantiation is a re-modelling or re-scheming. This re-modelling, or re-scheming does not obliterate nor annihilate the material in question, rather provides for it another, usually, a higher status or being. This transformation or re-modelling happened in the case of GEJ.
If GEJ has not been a member of the PDP, perhaps the issue of zoning and the stridency it has taken might not have been in the first place. The problem is that GEJ has been transformed and this transformation was not through the instrumentality of the PDP as a party. This transformation enables the object that is transformed to take a life of its own, it becomes a sui generis and also comes with an interest for those who value such transformation. As an eminent lawyer recently said, GEJ became the President through "the inexorable force of the Nigerian constitution." The force of the Nigerian constitution is not the force of a particular group of people but that of the entire country. Here lies the miracle, and the interest that accompanies such power is no longer restricted to a group of people; the PDP or the gentlemen. Rather, to all of us who are citizens. It then becomes absurd when some writers like Hank Eso says "the principles enshrined in the Nigerian and the PDP Constitutions are not contrapuntal or mutually exclusive." (see: Nigeria's Shifting Posts, Faux, and Anti-Truth Politics, www.kwenu.com, 17th Oct 2010.)
The absurdity of such statements stems from the fact that such writers discount, dismiss or even out rightly neglect the wrong which a pre-arranged contract or decision will do to those who have a stake in that transforming force that brought GEJ to power. In other words, the idea of zoning and the spirit of the constitution will always be mutually exclusive insofar as the transforming force of the constitution is presently at work. If we fail to see this, we end up conducting sterile and unending debates: such as whether GEJ is faithful, trustworthy or not. These debates are not merely sterile and interminable. They are pernicious as well because, by conducting such debates, we countenance the self-description of wrongs and discount the legitimacy of that transformation wrought by the will of the people (the constitution).
The harmonization of the presently mutually-exclusive interests that was engendered by zoning can only be done by the person whose status has been transformed. If GEJ decided not to contest irrespective of zoning, he will not be doing anyone a wrong since his own interest would be at play. The erstwhile president Umaru Musa Yaradua neglected this and paid dearly for it. However, having decided otherwise, no other member of any party can claim to have been wronged while discounting the wrong that would have been done to other groups, if GEJ opted for the contrary. We can imagine a priest who always in company of his servant use the communion wafers for breakfast. Now if the servant serves the remaining wafers in the spirit of normal breakfast but gets a scolding that the particular wafers are meant for the mass, the question will be, does such priest has a right to complain or, on the other hand, does such a servant have the right to complain of hunger since there are wafers available? Of course the priest can solve the problem by celebrating the mass and at the same time inviting his servant to partake in the consumption of the wafers in lieu of their normal breakfast. But, if the parishioners protest or if the priest does not accede to such suggestion, the question still remains, does the servant or the priest have a right to complain. Your guess is as good as mine here.
The good thing about democracy is that it is a mechanism for conflict resolution without bloodshed or violence. Those who feel that they have been wronged by GEJ's decision and those who feel that they will be wronged if he does not run should gear up for such resolution. And as a saying goes in my Igbo language, "ubochi nta ka achu o na owerri nchi." Meaning, when the D-day comes, all the parties whose interests are at stake settle their grievances through the ballot box. What this implies is that those who feel that they are wronged should reach out to those who share their sentiments - their friends, neighbours etc to help in ensuring that the resolution favours them. However, those who want to resolve such grievances by threatening fire and brimstone or by seeking to slaughter their human-cows, despite any acronym, label, nomenclature or tag they bear - MEND, Cabal, Mafia, Kitchen-cabinet, Oligarchs, Terrorists, etc - are the ones who must be zoned out.
The whole self-descriptive wrong being peddled by Ciroma and his ilk point to one thing, namely; the relationship between the constitution and political parties. It is really obvious that our so called party men and political bigwigs do not know the practical meaning of democracy or the constitution. I have said somewhere that the relationship between political parties and the constitution is that of subsidiarity. Political parties help in grouping people and empowering them with a manifesto. They cannot and ought not to subvert the spirit of the constitution not to talk of its letters.
It becomes really appalling when people say that things done in political parties are "internal affairs" that must be respected by members. Indeed to recall again a saying in my Igbo language "Ikuku kuo ahu ike okuko" that is to say, when the wind blows the backside of a hen becomes visible. The backside of the PDP is now in the village square and some are rationalizing it, while some continue in their bare-faced act of denial. Another group just throw tantrums. What we must know, to use a legal parlance, is that "illegal contracts are not binding."
We still keep mute while political parties continue their so called "internal affairs." The constitution and even the law-makers look the other way as political parties especially the PDP sell their candidature to the highest bidders. How on earth do we reconcile the idea of "expression-of-intent" for the presidency costing a million naira; that is more than US$7000 and the actual form costing ten million naira; that is over US$70,000. Now giving these amounts, how can the average Nigerian become a president? Or how can we chide a president who must recoup the loans he or she took to contest for an election?
In the end, this clamour for zoning or any zoning arrangement at all in defiance of the constitution smacks of double-dealing and we must continue to remind those politicians and their hack writers who promote tergiversation as a political morality that they should not complain when they are caught up on the wrong side of the divide.