What Mandela did, is Jonathan doing it?

By Adeyemi Sulaimon
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Prior to the formal announcement of President Goodluck Jonathan to contest for another term in office, Nigerians were daily inundated with the TAN-sponsored (Transformation Agenda of Nigeria) messages, with their sensibilities regularly assaulted by the propaganda of how some revolutionary leaders in the world had done great sacrifices to rescue and reform their respective countries, and how Mr Jonathan too is ‘doing’ same in Nigeria.

The promo usually opened with how Martin Luther King (Jnr.) did it in the US, fighting for the human rights of Americans, especially the blacks; how Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore turned around the fortunes of his country to become a first-world nation; how legendary Nelson Mandela helped South Africa to eliminate apartheid and how President Barack Obama is doing ‘it’ in the US at the moment.

In the message, TAN informed Nigerians how Mr Jonathan is ‘doing it’ here in Nigeria and urged him to ‘keep doing it’.

Certainly, those leaders being compared to President Jonathan sacrificed immensely and achieved remarkable strides for their respective countries and their genuine popularity, engendered by marvellous, inconceivable accomplishments endeared them to their people.

They became enigmatic with their attainments and daring feats, they instantly became heroes even before their demise from this world. They neither had any reason to ‘threaten’ their people with ‘feeling of absence’ that would be felt after their demise or their legendary sacrificial spirit that would be sorely missed if not elected into power. They never asked their countrymen to like them, yet they were ‘hero worshipped’ by their compatriots.

To many Nigerians, Mr Jonathan’s record since he mounted the saddle six years ago, when placed side by side with those leaders, is not in any way match-able. In the estimation of majority, the comparison is exaggeration taken too far! Except for unrepentant tribalists, religious bigots, chronic pessimists, bold fazed sycophants and those with bifurcated knowledge of history and or with low intellectual capacity to comprehend the issue at hand, most Nigerians refused to concur with TAN’s submission.

Of specific interest here is Nigeria’s recent let-down of the Palestinian people through its infamous and callous abstention from the UN vote on a draft resolution for Palestinian statehood.

History has shown us how the late anti apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela stood solidly behind the Palestinians in their quest for freedom from Israeli occupation which has been characterised by killings, settlement activities and all sort of inhumanities.  In the face of Western criticism and despite the fact of his being labelled as a terrorist, Mandela remained undaunted.

In 1999, the anti-Apartheid hero toured the Middle East, visiting Palestine. In Gaza, he closely identified the South African struggle for freedom with the Palestinian struggle. According to him, “the histories of our two peoples, Palestinian and South African, correspond in such painful and poignant ways, that I intensely feel myself being at home amongst compatriots. The long-standing fraternal bonds between our two liberation movements are now translating into the relations between two governments.”

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His famous statement of support that has continued to reverberate even after his death in December 2013 still serve as a kind of soothing balm to the Palestinians. He said “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestine.”

However, unlike Mandela who did it for Palestine till his death, President Goodluck Jonathan bungled it on Tuesday December 30, 2014 at the most crucial time. The Palestinians only needed a vote at the UN from Nigeria to attain statehood.

Rather than ride on the same pedestal with Mandela, Jonathan decided to romance with the forces of oppression, suppression, subjugation and terror which Israel and US unarguably represent in today’s world. He simply ignorantly equated abstention to neutrality which to foreign affairs experts has no other name than criminality.

Jonathan’s action marked a pivotal shift in Nigeria’s foreign policy, where the country always voted in favour of Palestine and had always thrown its weight behind a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even before the recent realisation and support of the EU and all other Super Powers except US. Nigeria’s vote would have ended IsraelI occupation of Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip by 2017.

The UN resolution, sponsored by Jordan, had called for new talks based on territorial lines that existed before Israel’s occupation of the territories in 1967, and was the culmination of three months of campaigning by the Palestinians at the UN and had the backing of Arab states.

The Palestinians required nine votes from 15 permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. The United States and Australia voted against the resolution, while Russia, China, France, Luxembourg, Jordan, Argentina, Chile and Chad voted in favour. Nigeria, Britain, South Korea, Rwanda and Lithuania abstained. Nigeria’s abstention did the damage!

The position to say the least was a disappointment to the Palestinians who had banked on the robust historic foreign policy of Nigeria that never queued behind iniquity, support injustice and identified with the aspiration of the oppressed peoples and nations of the South-South, Asia and Pacific nations.

Jonathan gave a lie to and present an excruciating disappointment to the laudable stand and historic speech of the late General Muritala Muhammed in 1976; when he ptoclaimed: ‘Africa has come of Age’. He did this in response to the pressure from the West to tele-guide OAU.

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Jonathan also diminished the status of Nigeria, as typified by General Muhammadu Buhari’s corresponding seizure of British plane and President Olusegun Obasanjo’s nationalisation British companies in the 70s. Relegating Nigeria status to that of an errand boy of the US and by extension, of the West is indeed humiliating.

The Ambassador of the State of Palestine to Nigeria, Dr. Montaser Abu-Zeid who could not hide his shock, told the media that he had received the assurances of Nigeria’s foreign ministry officials and had transmitted same to the Palestinian president and foreign minister.

“It was a surprise because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed me that they would vote for us, and I have informed my president and foreign minister. Even yesterday (Tuesday), they assured me they would vote for an end to the occupation.

“It is a shock for us, why they abstained, only Nigerian officials know, and you would have to ask them. We needed nine votes and eight countries including China, Russia and France voted for us.

“It is a sad day for us. Nigeria had recognised the state of Palestine since 1988 when it was even at difficult times. They voted for the two-state solution, they voted for us on all issues on Israel and Palestine.

“Nigeria has been big brother to us, but at this crucial time, to vote to end the occupation, they abstained,” Abu-Zeid lamented.

While the anguish continued in Palestine and the rest of the sane world, the Israelis and their American backers were raining praises on Jonathan. Such back-sliding, back–stabbing and hypocrisy of unimaginable height can never be trace-able to such great men being compared to Jonathan.

Indeed, the founding fathers of Nigeria’s foreign policy will be writhing in their grave for such aberration and they certainly will not be sending their blessings to the orchestrators of such clueless, selfish and wicked decision that serves majority of Nigerians no good.

If foreign policy of a nation is a reflection of the feelings of its citizens, may we then ask: whose interest is such decision represents? Not even Martin Luther King Jr in far away United States of America would have contemplated such heinous decision that only took Nigeria backward to pre-independence era!

Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, confirmed he pulled the string with Jonathan.

“I would like to voice appreciation and thanks to the United States and Australia, and also special appreciation for the president of Rwanda, my friend Paul Kagame, and the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan.

“I spoke with both of them. They told me and promised me, personally, that they would not support this resolution. They kept their words, and that’s what clinched this matter. I think this is very important for the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

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Some have attributed Jonathan’s decision to with-hold support for Palestine’s quests for statehood to Israel’s ‘support’ for his government’s war against insurgency in the North-east.  Israel, as opposed to the United States, Britain and other traditional Western allies, has given Nigeria ‘concrete assistance’ in the form of drones, arms, military advisers and training that has ‘helped Nigerian troops in the fight against insurgents.’

They also reasoned that the president’s close romance with the racist enclave in recent times might have informed his decision to damn the consequences of abandoning the Palestinian cause.

Of course, to any sane mind, objective analysts and sound scholars of international relations and foreign affairs, the above assumptions are not only untenable, they are bereft of any intellectual and academic postulations.

The so-called military assistance by the Israelis is not working. Nigerians and the world have been baffled with the rate at which the terrorists conquer territories after territories in the northeast of the country.

As I write this piece, twenty out out twenty seven local governments in Bornu State are under the control of the terrorists. Since the ‘arrival’ of the much celebrated ‘assistance’ from the Israelis, more Nigerians have been killed in the most savage manner; a recent case was the carnage in Baga town in Borno state where over one hundred and fifty or is it two thousand as claimed by Amnesty International were brutally murdered by the Boko Haram terrorists.

Even though Nigeria’s vote at the UN might not have changed anything as it was sure that the US would veto the resolution, the expectation was that the Nigeria remained with the people of conscience across the globe, until Nigeria redefined his position. This is unlike the remarkable role played by Nigeria in ending apartheid in South Africa.

And until recently, in most parts of the African continent, Nigeria contributed immensely to the liberation of many countries from colonial enslavement.

Nevertheless, the people of conscience who still have the milk of humanity flowing in the veins still believe and of the opinion that the decision was not that of Nigerians but of Jonathan! The local outrage that greeted it confirmed this assertion.

The unfortunate scenario presented by this event is that in truth and indeed, Mandela did it, but Jonathan decided to bungle it.

Sulaimon writes from Lagos

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