Fellow Nigerians, please note that the title of my column today is written in the past tense. I must confess that I did it deliberately for reasons I will explain shortly. You probably remember an earlier article titled WHO’S MISLEADING OUR PRESIDENT? I had written too many unsolicited epistles in the past advising our dear President free of charge. Those accusing me of hating the President don’t know me. I lack the capacity to hate anyone, not even my enemy. It is sinful to hate your fellow human being. My Christian faith teaches me to love my neighbours and forgive those who trespass against me. I intend to abide by those injunctions to the very end.
What is there to hate in President Goodluck Jonathan? For me, he is a man richly blessed by God almighty. He has achieved what no man would in many lifetimes. His story is a stuff of fiction and fairytale. It is a classic case of grass to grace or from a valley to the mountain top. Every man should use Jonathan as HIS prayer point/contact with God and seek his type of uncommon favour. The depiction of his life’s trajectory had resonated with many Nigerians. We hoped and expected that he would know and appreciate the meaning of poverty. Nigeria badly needed a compassionate leader who would work for the general people and not for a few privileged fat cats.
We prayed and anticipated a relatively young and educated gentleman to come in and fix our comatose education. Dr Goodluck Jonathan fitted that bill almost in surreal terms with his PhD. Who could have been better suitable for such an onerous task if not Jonathan? We believed that here finally was a man to connect perfectly with the university eggheads and put an end to the incessant closure of our institutions of higher learning. But we were dead wrong. Our universities went on indefinite strike and at the height of this mutual madness, university lecturers who refused to go back to work were pronounced sacked with automatic alacrity.
Not even a military junta would have conjectured such ribaldry but a democratically elected government led by a former University Don not only envisioned it but made it reality. Beyond that, the substantive Minister of Education, a Professor in the person of Ruqayyah Ahmed Rufa’i was replaced by the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, a full-blown politician, whose understanding of his remit was undoubtedly suspect. It was a clear indication of how much disdain the Federal Government has for Education.
The President who was projected as a man who grew up without the basic necessities of life soon became a high-flying, jet-setting impresario. In fact, his government became so elitist that many started wondering why a man from a pedigree of frugality would become more flamboyant than any leader before him. Our President travelled at the flimsiest excuse. His unwieldy entourage, comprising of a multitude of acolytes, became a subject of international opprobrium. Yet the same government insisted that Nigerians must forgo the nebulous subsidy they had always enjoyed in varied forms in the past. The subsidy itself was a grand scam with the bill skyrocketing and quadrupling within the twinkle of an eye. Yet the citizens were told to pay more for the only semblance of privilege they should be enjoying.
The many mistakes of Jonathan are seemingly endless. The President behaved not like a national but a clannish Chieftain. It was as if he did not expect the year of reckoning to arrive sooner rather than later. I repeatedly warned against fighting on too many fronts which no reasonable General would indulge in. I’m yet to understand the logic behind alienating the rest of the nation as if their votes would never be needed. This is the most unfortunate attitude that led to what has become the President’s albatross today.
Nothing has redefined this government than the seeming nonchalance of President Jonathan to the spate of Killings in Northern Nigeria. Thousands of our brothers and sisters have been massacred like locusts and the response from government has become too predictable and totally insensitive. The standard practice is for the Presidential spokesman to come out with a cut and paste template of regurgitated message of alleged sadness and sympathy filled with empty promises that won’t be kept. And then, life continues as normal with no sign of the monumental tragedy being addressed. No matter the number of the dead, our government goes ahead with whatever jamboree it has already planned.
The latest PR disaster comes with the President offering condolences to the French Government following the Charlie Hebdo tragedy which led to the death of 17 French citizens whilst almost 2000 people were killed in Baga at about the same time without attracting even the slightest whimper from our dear President. Even the “Super” Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla succumbed to this fawning tribute of the ‘whiteman’ forgetting the massacre at home. The Government was #JeSuisCharlie, when it should have been. #AllforBaga! I urge Nigerians to let this Government know that Nigerians are also important even if we empathise with others.
Our President has never been able to mobilise and galvanise the people into coming together to fight a common enemy. The fact that every occurrence is suspected as an act of political opponents has made it difficult and almost impossible to rise up to some of the debilitating challenges we face today.
There are not many people in the world who don’t feel terribly sad about our condition. The Western media has virtually written us off as a nation of violent vandals and vampires. So many reporters visiting Nigeria openly wonder if we actually have blood flowing through our veins. Many have concluded that we are just incapable of caring for those in need. The abduction of over 200 Chibok girls is what has exposed the type of leadership we are forced to live with. Our next door neighbour, Cameroon, has shown a greater capacity to fight terrorism than us. Their military has been motivated in a way that they’ve carried out kamikaze raids on dangerous hideouts. They have been able to rescue their people from captivity while we have suffered too many setbacks and casualties.
Since the disappearance of the Chibok girls all we’ve been told is the Government is working very hard. Worse still, more people have since disappeared or been murdered yet the news about them at home is usually scanty. We rely on foreign organisations for any useful information. Even the foreign media is endlessly frustrated by the trouble of getting government sources to open up and give clear answers to questions.
But politics appears to be more important to our leaders. Our civilians and military are being slaughtered like Salah rams and we don’t seemed bothered. Nothing is likely to beat the type of disgrace we’ve suffered in the past one week. It is no longer news that the map of Nigeria has been boldly redesigned by daredevil terrorists; the dastardly attack on Baga and Doron Baga last week was the height of it. There are vivid reports indicating that about 2,000 or more died from the indiscriminate shooting by assailants believed to be Boko Haram. Satellite images revealed that over 3,700 structures were damaged.
As usual, our government said the story was exaggerated and that the number of those killed could not have been more than 150. Even if true, how a country remains so calm and unperturbed by such degree of wanton destruction of lives and properties remains a mystery to me. Again, we all carried on as normal until BBC, Sky and CNN opened fire on our country. I could not bring myself to watch some of the reports to the very end out of a sense of collective guilt and shame. Once again, we were in the news for the wrong reasons.
Suddenly things began to happen in Abuja. Our President’s handlers must have sensed danger with elections a month away. Nobody could afford this type of scandal at this auspicious time. The President who could not find time or the courage to visit the war ravaged parts in the recent past, especially Chibok, now found the time to go to Maiduguri but not Baga. It is a however too little and too late. It confirmed the people’s impression that the President would do almost anything to remain in power. It is such a poor image of who we are. A little effort from our leaders would probably have reduced this tension.
There is nothing more disheartening than watching our soldiers, reduced to emotional wrecks while speaking to foreign journalists. Some are claiming how miserable life has become for those expected to safeguard us. They are ill-equipped, ill-motivated, and ill-protected. One of them said he had to pay to obtain his uniform. I’m sorry, I just can’t get it. It all sounds like tales by moonlight. What happened to all the fat allocations in our defence budgets? I remember the President asking and getting the Senate to approve N1billion loan to buy ammunition to fight Boko Haram.
I’m tempted to suspect that there are people who are deliberately deceiving and misleading our President. The confession that he gets conflicting and contradictory advice should demonstrate clearly why we are in this mess. I can see how this has now put so much pressure on the President. The tempo of his campaign has become racy because of the realisation that this election will not be a walkover.
But I doubt if those mistakes can be corrected in just one month leading to the election. The President has been sold too many lies because he chose to be a psychedelic leader than a man of the people politician who would personally supervise some of the work his aides claimed they have done. He would have been shocked to see the quality of what he’s promoting as uncommon Transformation Agenda. Most of those achievements would have been seen as fake, poor, and abandoned projects.
The Murtala Muhammed International Airport remains one of the worst in the world despite the cosmetic renovation that took place at God knows how much. If in doubt, I can give a quick rundown: very terrible air-conditioning, archaic elevators, leaking roofs, lack of car parks next to the airport, cumbersome immigration process (the only country with double screening, Immigration and DSS), too many uniformed agents dipping hands into your luggage at this time and age, poor roads welcoming visitors going out of the airport, the list is endless.
So much has been said about roads. Nigeria still has some of the most useless roads in Africa. Most of those under rehabilitation have nowhere near completion. The Benin-Shagamu road is a veritable example. What is the purpose of rehabilitating only a part of it? That road remains a nightmare as does the Lagos-Ibadan which remains not only a nuisance to everyone but a death trap. It is strange how a government can make so much fuss over many uncompleted projects nationwide. Much has been said about the East-West road but like others, it has remained a work in progress. The second Niger Bridge has become a butt of jokes. I love the idea of trains but the government should have invested in modern coaches and certainly more than a single gauge line even if it has to find private investors. This would have complemented the good job done so far.
I have read so much about Agriculture and would love to applaud the dream of the Minister but I reserve that for another day as I don’t know where and how he assembled his 10-14 million farmers and how it has impacted on our food production and distribution. This government has not justified the huge resources made available to it. Those days are gone when people would have glossed over some of the excesses. The social media has changed the world for good or for bad. Nigerians are not asking for too much. They are not even looking for saints as their leaders but they want men and women who are less greedy and more caring. Unfortunately, they’ve searched in vain for too long and it seems there is no end to this misery.
This is why in frustration they have turned to a man who left power 30 years ago, General Muhammadu Buhari. No one should blame us. It is in the character of human beings to run to the elders of the house in the days of tribulations. Everywhere you turn today what you hear is the cry of change. A wife rejected has suddenly become the beautiful bride in retrospect. Let no one envy Buhari because it is not his fault if those handed power on a platter of gold trampled on it.
From what I see and feel, Buhari’s time has come and he looks unstoppable. People are simply tired of being lied to and they want to use someone as scape-goat. Sadly, President Jonathan is the one they see in front of them and it is a cross he has to carry like a man. Those who misled him are just waiting for their flights to a safe haven leaving him alone and forlorn. Such is life.