If I Were President Jonathan By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I had planned, and hoped, to escape from President Goodluck Jonathan’s unending brouhaha this week but that seems impossible for as long as our President and acolytes continue to titillate us with salacious news every week. My piece today was triggered by a few unrelated events. The first was a chance meeting I had with a distinguished media baron who spent over ten hours with me in Accra early this week. He had apparently read most of my articles and was determined to get me to take a closer look at President Jonathan’s efforts and achievements so far. He acknowledged, unlike most of this government’s apologists, that I had maintained a semblance of objectivity in my writings. He was particularly impressed that I had remained in the National Conscience Party, at a time most politicians would have jumped ship.
I was grateful for the kind sentiments expressed by him and thanked him as was expected of me. He believes we can’t write this Jonathan Administration off despite many daunting challenges. He said it was the collective responsibility of all and sundry to support the President in order to succeed. He could see the evidence of incredulity on my face but he did not give up on his conviction. I listened to him with rapt attention and responded occasionally.
I confessed that I did not see any redeeming grace for this trouble-prone government. My pessimism was not out of what I thought the President had done wrong but from what he has refused to do right. I do not know about other critics of President Jonathan, but God knows I bear no personal animosity against him. I will continue to try my best to support and encourage the President through constructive criticism, but unfortunately, his new-found supporters have never seen anything good in the critical appraisal of those who risked everything to get Jonathan where he is today when they were nowhere to be found. If they truly cared for the man’s well-being, they would have cultivated more friends than the enemies they’ve been amassing for him. And if they were very smart, as expected of close associates of Mr President, they would have differentiated genuine critics from those few who may have personal scores to settle. The astute leader appreciates well-founded criticism and is tolerant of even rabid ones because there is always something good that can be derived from even brutal character assassination. But since they could not decipher that simple and straight-forward fact, they chose to lump the wheat with the chaff thereby making it difficult to bake an edifying cake out of their mess.
What were the things I expected him to do that he did not do? I shall endeavour to itemise and articulate a few of them. The first and most important was that I expected a man who comes from my kind of humble background to run a simple and less expensive government. That encapsulates most of my grouses against our present leader. Under Jonathan, I think governance has become over-bloated and unnecessarily ceremonial. We have succeeded in elevating frivolity into an art. Look around Abuja and even beyond, there is no sign of ostensible commitment to national rebirth and development. While the Emirates are investing their wealth in enduring monuments, we are frittering away our own like a people without vision and ambition. I’m rigid in my belief that there’s elegance in simplicity and that it removes nothing from us if we reflect austerity measures in our days of tribulations. I’ve studied the history of other nations that went through our kind of socio-political instability and economic woes. None of them ever recovered by spending what they did not have on luxury goods.
They sat back to reflect seriously and intensely on where and how they got things wrong and re-routed their journey from the road to perdition to that of prosperity. Right now developed nations are engaged in severe austerity measures because of the economic crisis rocking the world but our current crop of leaders choose to bury their head in the sand like ostriches.
Why is it so difficult to accept that we are comatose and agree to administeran intensely painful treatment on our ailments? Rather than do this we continue to live in denial and wallow in deliberate stupidity as if there is no tomorrow.
Examples abound in Africa about countries that rebounded from perfidious and self-immolating crisis to a staggering economic growth and socio-political stability. We don’t have to travel far or look beyond our continent to see and seek examples of miraculous rehabilitation from the shadows of death. Angola, Rwanda, Malawi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Botswana, Southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania and others are making effort to march forward. What unites them is the discipline to understand that there is no paean without pain and that no one makes omelette without breaking eggs. We can never drink the coconut water if we are unable to crack the nut. It appears like we expect our changes to occur by some esoteric magic without lifting a finger. But that will never happen because God has already endowed us with all we need to be the true giant of Africa.
Two, I expect President Jonathan to emulate the best practises from different places. As a scholar, he should be able to conduct research into how others got out of their own quagmire and learn from them. As they say, knowledge is power. There is nothing happening to us today that had not occurred elsewhere.
I repeat, that I expect a more aggressive way of tackling the issue of poor quality education and mass unemployment because no nation on earth can be great when majority of the youths lack basic and qualitative education and the employable ones lack commensurate jobs. We cannot fight crime in a land overflowing with hunger and ignorance. We cannot exterminate corruption when an average citizen cannot survive on his earnings and there is no credit system as buffer. We can never call ourselves developed or developing when our infrastructures have virtually collapsed almost beyond resuscitation and there seems to be no redemption in sight. We spend so much on over-inflated contracts but get little or nothing in return.
Three, instead of concentrating on his job, our President is allowing himself to be distracted by politicians who have nothing to lose. I would have expected President Jonathan to let his good work speak for him rather than engage the services of bullies who bark at every perceived and imaginary enemy of government. They fail to realise that critics exist everywhere including the most developed countries. Nothing illustrates the dangerous game our leaders are playing than the report I read in THISDAY, June 28, 2013. It was an acerbic response to Dr Muhammed Junaid’s purported attack on Mrs Patience Jonathan for her perceived role in the Rivers State crisis. It was signed by a Mr Timi Briggs on behalf of “League of Rivers Lawyers.”
If the release is a sign of, and dress rehearsal for, what is to come, then Nigeria is in a very serious trouble. It seems some people have already given up on the country and are merely waiting for the opportune time to kill the dream of “one nation, one God, under one Destiny.” I did not see what Dr Junaid said that would warrant such vituperations on behalf of the President’s wife. According to Mr Briggs, Junaid has no business talking about Rivers politics: “when his region is on fire and its economy broken by activities of Boko Haram, Junaid is dumb and helpless…”
Mr Briggs was not yet done, as he vented his venomous tirade against Junaid in a manner suggesting preference for war over peace: “ If Junaid is looking for what to talk or work to do, the collapse of the Northern economy, rising unemployment, illiteracy and alarming insecurity under his nose are enough engagement rather than abusing Mrs Jonathan.”
My God, when and how did we degenerate to this level? If this is how we hope to secure a second term for our South-South brother, we are missing the road big time. Nobody, and I repeat, nobody can be President of Nigeria by the votes of his own people alone. As I explained to my concerned brother who spoke to me, our people need to wake up from this persecution complex. Our son, or brother, is President today by the grace of God. After God, people from other parts of Nigeria made it possible for him to get to where he is today.
President Olusegun Obasanjo was not an Ijaw man when he concocted the potion that threw up Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Most of those who demonstrated on the streets of Abuja in solidarity with Dr Jonathan when he was being oppressed by the Yar’Adua cabal were not from the Niger Delta. Many of those spitting fire and brimstone today did not utter a whimper.
Dr Jonathan has a good chance of returning to power in 2015, I’m sure. It won’t be on the basis of spectacular performance but because of the way Nigeria is configured. If he fails to make it, the reason would be attributable to the nonsense some people are mumbling all over the place like victims of acute delirium.
Many are boasting that we can break up Nigeria if Jonathan is not allowed to have a second term. Please, tell me the sense in the President of Nigeria downgrading to be President of the Ijaw nation. I’m yet to see a man Nigeria has blessed more than Goodluck Jonathan. I used to think President Olusegun Obasanjo had no rival until the arrival of President Jonathan on the scene. Since he joined politics around 1998, Dr Jonathan has been permanently in power at the highest levels. Why would he want some desperados to break up the country that gave him so much on a platter of gold? It does not make sense to me that someone that God has made a World Heavyweight Champion would seek a Belt in the Featherweight category.
If I were Ebele Jonathan, I will urgently surround myself with those who can think outside the box and roll up my sleeves to hit the ground running. To whom much is given, much is expected. We should stop beating these useless and unreasonable drums of war. We brought nothing to this world and we shall take nothing whenever we return to our father in heaven. What, therefore, is the essence of this hullabaloo? The best way to guarantee Jonathan’s second term ambition is to begin to work like a modern day President and not like some prehistoric demagogue.
And to those spreading the hate campaigns against innocent Nigerians from other parts, please cool temper. You must remember that most Nigerians don’t belong to any political party. They just want to live in peace and earn their daily bread. Why would you inflict maximum damage on people who are minding their business even while the looting goes on unabated?
It would be unfair and unfortunate to throw them into chaos they know nothing about. In doing so those who have dragged us to the precipice may find themselves falling off the edge and descending into a nightmare they never bargained for or one that that they can expect to wake from as the people vent their pent up frustration and anger on those who have destroyed their slumber.
President Goodluck Jonathan must rescue Nigeria from those determined to draw blood.
May God help us all.
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