Longstanding readers of this column will know that I was absolutely thrilled when Dr Goodluck Jonathan became our President.
Mere words cannot fully express the almost delirious joy I experienced when I watched this first-ever Niger Deltan Head of State being sworn in. And I SO loved the fact that his beautiful wife, Dame Patience, was from my state.
Tears of happiness came to my eyes when I saw him, on TV, standing alongside Obama and other world leaders shortly after he joined their exclusive club.
I rushed out, purchased a huge photograph of him and proudly hung it in my house. I was ready to fight anyone who dared to criticise him in those days.
But reality, sadly, eventually intruded; and I eventually decided to abandon my unconditional hero worship of Jonathan as it became increasingly obvious that he was human and therefore imperfect on a number of levels.
Journalists are not supposed to view rulers (or anyone else, for that matter) through delusional rose-tinted spectacles. We are professionally obliged to be truthful. So I started (somewhat reluctantly!) to complain about Jonathan and his team from time to time. But I’ve never been his harshest critic; and I certainly haven’t gone out of my way to search for – and highlight – his failures.
The Bottom Line is that despite occasional grumbles about his leadership style, his policies, some of his subordinates and his administration’s shortcomings in general, I have hitherto been pro-Jonathan overall since 2010.
I wept when my Governor and friend, Rotimi Amaechi, left the PDP, thereby walking out on Jonathan. I empathised with Amaechi’s grievances but wanted him to forgive and forget and stay within the Niger Deltan Political Family; and I was, until recently, doggedly determined to vote for Jonathan in 2015.
And, to his credit, Amaechi understands my position and has neither hassled me to change it nor turned his back on me for refusing to follow him to APC.
However, even though I’ve always said that no intelligent or ethical person should make electoral choices on purely regional or ethnic grounds, I have inanely and hypocritically clung to the idea that I must support Jonathan at all costs simply because he is from my part of the country; and it is only now that I have finally summoned up the moral courage to practise what I preach.
Yesterday, I concluded that I really need to ditch essentially dishonourable knee-jerk biases and become what the British describe as a “floating voter”.
Floating voters are open-minded individuals who have not yet decided which way to vote in an upcoming election. They are not firmly, permanently or consistently committed to any one party or any one candidate.
Floating voters often don’t make their minds up until the very last minute. They withhold allegiance until they have had a chance to analyse the implications of various parties’ manifesto promises. They wait and see what and how various candidates say and behave in the months preceding the election in question.
Jonathan can no longer count on me because I intend to cast my votes in the presidential, gubernatorial and National Assembly elections on the basis of merit. In a nutshell, NOBODY can count on me at this stage.
I will spend the next few months monitoring the performances, lifestyles and utterances of PDP and APC stalwarts. And I will only vote for those who deserve, in my opinion, to be voted for…regardless of the parties they belong to.
If Abba Moro, the Minister of the Interior who presided over a recruitment disaster that led to many deaths, is not sacked, I will find it hard to vote for Jonathan….unless he achieves a spectacular feat like giving us uninterrupted electricity that makes his continued support for Moro easier to tolerate.
If Amaechi tries to foist a guber successor I dislike on Rivers people, I will not vote for his preferred successor.
If the anti-Amaechi PDP faction in my state – also tries to shove a useless guber candidate down my throat, I will not vote for anyone.
Cynics keep saying that voting is meaningless in Nigeria because politicians are so hellbent on rigging and have the power to get away with malpractices. And I’m tempted to agree with these cynics because I have personally witnessed several situations in which unpopular candidates have “won” in the past.
I have to keep reminding myself that voters CAN become meaningful.
I am just one lone person, so my protests probably won’t have a significant impact. But mass protests CAN achieve desired results. And I urge all Nigerians to start preparing themselves psychologically to say a resounding “no” to inept or uncaring or plan-less or corrupt candidates they don’t want in 2015.