The Nigerians They Don’t Give a Damn About—A Rejoinder by Ayo Sogunro
“They” in this title refers to all the defense men, the pen-brandishing king’s men, the unrelenting, self-appointed applauders, the cozy and established, comfortable, myopic and collective children of corruption, the distant crowd of Presidential addicts, the any-government-in-power cinema crowd of Nigeria, who seem to be in competition among themselves to achieve the favours of President Goodluck Jonathan.
This army of sponsored and self-appointed sycophants is so diverse; many of them don’t even know why or how they should defend the President and neither do they understand, or “give a damn” about, the views or complaints of Nigerians.
The clear danger to public affairs commentary is that we have a lot of intelligent people initiating stupid clichés and too many unintelligent persons wasting public funds occupying offices established to lend relevance to these thoughtless clichés. Hold on. I don’t want to be misunderstood. I am not saying nobody should defend the Nigerian President. I’ve spent some time understanding that social maxim: “He who pays the piper calls the tune”. Public position comes with its own share of sycophancy and grovelling. But the defending, praise singing, “Special Advisers” and “Senior Special Assistants” crowd of the Jonathan regime must be guided by facts.
Let us gather our well rounded stones. I have spent all my life as a Nigerian. I have watched the leadership of this country since I was capable of understanding such things. I can write a whole book on the Occupy Nigeria movement, but you won’t get to read that until much later. I am certain that some government people will not buy the book if it gets written. Well, your choice. What I can state, for now is, that President Jonathan and his praise singers grossly misunderstand Nigerians. They think Nigerians are unfair to them. They criticize Nigerians as “ignorant”. They accuse everyday Nigerians as mischievous. And when Nigerians dare to protest, they simply attribute it to the work of the opposition parties. How unfair!
Nigerians say he is a clueless President. A paid employee in the service of the President says Nigerians are wrong. Between Nigerians and the employee, who then is clueless? Nobody is more committed to the Nigerian Project than Nigerians themselves. In spite of unforeseen challenges, in spite of decades of brutal military rule, in spite of a bloody civil war, in spite of continuous government corruption, Nigerians have done their best to remain one and fend for themselves both in private and public enterprise. And this year alone, President Jonathan has done his utmost best to increase the burden of Nigerians with a fuel price increase and its attendant consequences. Ordinary Nigerians protested against this. Let it be known now that those parading themselves as “special advisers” to the President, and who claim that the President still has the support of Nigerians, represent only themselves and their selfish salaried interests.
They say President Jonathan is a clever, methodical and intelligent man, and yet he is very adept at wrong footing majority of Nigerians, confusing the issues and distracting from the main agenda. They say he understands the complexity of Nigeria, but he uses it to his advantage— for example, by turning May 29 into an opportunity to raise unneeded dust over June 12. But that aside, Nigerians do not care about his acutely conscious sense of history nor his personal reflection as a representative of all common persons. Nigerians only care about the results of his government policy-making processes. Nigerians are not interested in sentimental expressions about the children of all blue collar workers who never wore shoes or got a chance to eat three-square meals, and whose mothers and aunties could never be part of policy-making processes.
And yet they say he understands Nigerians.
When Nigerians deride Jonathan about not wearing shoes as a child, they meant that as a metaphor for the irony of the President’s purported penurious past contrasted to his clearly comfortable present, and the urgent need to redress such social inequalities. But I have read a “Special Adviser” responding literally that Nigerians meant that people should never vote for a man who never wore shoes. How simplistic! Attention needs to be drawn to the fact that a party-sourced President who has given no indication of how to transform Nigeria, and yet who campaigned on a platform of transformation, will always definitely be defended by those who consider themselves the children of the new regime, those who think that their descendants will inherit Nigeria. Wrong.
The Ijaws, the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria, have as much right to have their son as President as do the Nupe, the Tiv, the Efiks, the Ibibio and so many others—and nobody expects Jonathan to dwell on this. He may never have uttered an ethnic statement and he is not expected to do so. Must Nigerians applaud him for this? He is expected to see himself as the President of all Nigerians, which is why he lives in Aso Rock and not Bayelsa. He is expected to be at home with every group which is why he should listen to writings such as this.
They say he is focused on the challenges of nation-building but what about reinstating the President of the Court of Appeal? They say he wants to transform Nigeria, but this is based on an agenda only he knows about. They say he wants to unite the country but yet he is creating avenues for popular protests, strikes and demonstrations. They say Nigerians want regular power supply and that he is working at it—but Nigerians don’t want to cross 4, 400 MW on paper, they want to see it everywhere with their eyes.
Nigerians want infrastructure not a President who knows they want it. Nigerians want the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway fixed not an empty threat to the contractors. Nigerians want the East-West road fixed quickly not a mysterious directive to a particular nameless minister. Nigerians want to see corrupt people in jail, not just ineffective directives to government agencies. Nigeria’s have no issue with foreign relations—they want charity to begin at home. They say he is transforming the agriculture sector, yet Nigerians still suffer expensive food items. The reason Nigerians do not go into a song and dance routine for President Jonathan is because they know that true rebranding of a nation is the actualisation of positive things—things that are already happening and not just a projection.
They say he is not ‘tribalistic’. True. But how many Ijaws voted for President Jonathan compared to the rest of the country? Very few, I can tell you. Jonathan was voted in by Nigerians. Well, there are of course, all kinds of persons, special advisers and the like, who go about telling people that they have the President’s ears and eyes. I have since learnt that some Nigerians consider it fashionable to wear the false garments created by public office.
They say the Presidency qua Presidency is staffed by key officials from all parts of the country, but are these officials efficient? They say the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is from Ebonyi State—but is he the best man for the job? They say the Chief of Staff and the Head of the President’s Secretariat are both from Edo, but do they realise they have a wasteful budget? They say the Protocol Liaison Officer and Principal Private Secretary are from Adamawa, the Chief Detail is from Borno, the Aide De Camp (ADC) is from Kogi, the Perm Sec, State House is from Benue, the State Chief of Protocol is from Kwara, the Special Adviser, Media and Publicity is from Ogun, the Chief Physician to the President is from Rivers—but Nigerians want to know the criteria for their selection! They say only the Chief Security Officer, the Special Assistant, Domestic and the Special Adviser, Research and Strategy are from Bayelsa but Nigerians don’t care about where they come from—Nigerians only care about what they have achieved!
They say when the President is in the office, he gets there early every day, and works till very late, and that he is exposed to all categories of Nigerians, but the same is true for even the market woman, especially the market woman. They say he runs a modern and open Presidency and yet he sends soldiers to the streets of Lagos. If he is on Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS, BB, and reads like they say, then he would realise that he has lost the approval of his initial support base—the people they call “idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria”. This is not even a provincial President—he is a cabal president. The purported intelligentsia in his immediate community should advise him to step out of office.
They say President Jonathan is the first Nigerian leader to appoint a woman as his Chief Economic Adviser as well as the Nigerian leader who opened up the Nigerian Defence Academy to women, but is this the meaning of progress? They say he took affirmative action in political appointments to a higher level by reserving 35 per cent of all appointive positions in government for the women folk, but is this why the First Lady must take a post as Permanent Secretary?
All these facts they point out may be incontrovertible but they are very irrelevant. Nigerians are not interested in whether a man occupies a position or whether a woman occupies it. Nigerians are not stupid! If it is a goat that will do the job well, Nigerians are happy to support the goat as a Minister! It will certainly not do any worse than the current ones are doing. They say the President’s commitment to Nigeria is total, but what about his appointees? They say the President’s children school in Nigeria, but do the children of his Ministers? Let the President wear any attire he enjoys, it is not his dress code that will promote Nigeria.
They say the President doesn’t drink. Well, maybe he had better start drinking if that would make the administration more effective—what with all the choice drinks on every trip. What’s the use of people who are not allowed to touch alcohol and yet have nothing to show for it? Alcohol is not served during official duties, but neither is it served at anyone’s workplace either. Should we applaud the President for not drinking on the job? Even a student knows not to take alcohol in the classroom. Now they praise the President for not drinking alcohol and try to distort the issues at hand.
The budget states that the Presidential household intends to spend millions on feeding. Well, I have not enjoyed the privilege of eating at the President’s table. But they say he eats fish pepper soup, Cassava Bread, slices of yam, rice, boiled plantain, fruits and vegetables. If this is the case, then why does the budget require millions of naira for his table? They sat he fasts when he chooses, and fasts all month during Ramadan and Lent—this is all good, but we have our Bishops and Imams to do that for us. Nigerians do not care about his culinary habits or physical fitness regime. Let him drink kain kain if it will make him stronger, let him drink water if that would boost him. Let him fast if it will strengthen his arm, let him eat roasted turkey, and every delicacy under the sun if it would fire him up. Nigerians are not concerned whether the President is a glutton or not. Nigerians want a disciplined, hardworking president who has an effective plan for the country without burdening the people further.
Here is a man who started a New Year with indiscretion and insensitivity. The thing about the President’s men is that they just cannot accept that Nigerians are intelligent enough to know what is right and what is wrong. This is the King George Complex. King George of England could not accept the fact that the simple colonial Americans were sophisticated enough to decide how they wanted to be governed. And just like the colonial Americans gave chase to King George and his army of redcoats, Nigerians will eventually throw away these yes-men and promote a nation with men of integrity at the helm.
Let me end by saying that Nigerians, especially the “idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging” Nigerians may be a simple people but simplicity is not naivety. If simplicity were to be naivety then the world would not be where it is today. It is simple people who gave shape to the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Kwame Nkrumah, simple people gave a mission to men who listened to the voice of the people—even when the special advisers around them were cajoling otherwise.
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