The measure of a president

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By Tochukwu Ezukanma
At the 2014 Democracy Day Interdenominational Church Service, President Jonathan talked about his enemies. He called them evil forces, and said that their violence and other distractions are planned to bring down his government. It was the Nigerian president at his best - his blame-game best. In his self-righteousness and feigned immaculate blamelessness, he takes no responsibility for his administration's ineptitude, moral lapses and repeated political blunders; he blames them away on everybody and everything.

Although as president, he is the Commander in Chief of the Nigerian armed forces and personifies the powers of the government, he insists that he should not be held accountable for the insecurity in the country because the terrorists, not him, are responsible for the killings and bombings. In a recent speech; he wondered why Nigerians blame him and his administration for the insecurity in the country but 'when a bomb goes off in Kabul, Afghanistan, the people do not blame the government, they blame the terrorists. When (it) goes off in Baghdad, Iraq, the people of Iraq do not blame the government, they blame the terrorists'.

Going by this warped logic, Nigerians should not hold him responsible for the increasing levels of corruption in the country. After all, he is not the policeman on the street that extorts money from motorists and the bureaucrats in government offices demanding bribe from the public. He is not the accountants, administrators and other upper level government officials that masterminded the alleged disappearance of $20bn from the public coffers. He is neither the oil minister nor a party to her splurging of more than N10bn of the people's money on her personal air travels. And again, why blame him for the frayed and defective healthcare delivery system in Nigeria when he is not a hospital administrator, and definitely, not a nurse or a medical doctor.  And the least goes on and on.

But then, what is he responsible for - absolutely nothing? How can he be blameless when, apart from his campaign promises to curb corruption and improve the overall quality of life for the generality of Nigerians, he, also, as president, swore to uphold the Nigerian constitution? One of the fundamental objectives of the Nigerian constitution is the security of lifes and property of the people of Nigeria. Nigerians are holding him accountable to the oath of his office, and quite naturally, blaming him for his failure to make good on it.

That Mr. President has enemies is no news. The object of his enemies, which, according to him, is to bring down his government, is a question of detail. It is impossible to ascend to that pinnacle of national power in this our complex and heterogeneous country without having enemies - lots of them. It is how a president handles his enemies that is a measure of who he is; it shows the stuff that he is made of - his mettle as president.

By failing to live up to the moral and constitutional obligations of his office, the president handed his enemies the ammunition to undue him. His government's ineptitude and irresponsible and anti-people economic policies increased unemployment and deepened and widened impoverishment and deprivation in the land. It left too many Nigerians, especially, among the youth, desperate and despondent. Boko Haram feeds off of these direct consequences of misgovernment. The increased scale of corruption in Nigeria under his watch is worsening the dysfunction of Nigerian institutions, including the armed forces. Not surprisingly, the military and other security agencies, corrupt and unmotivated, cannot effectively fight Boko Haram.

The 19 th  Century British Prime Minister, William Gladstone, relevantly stated that, 'it is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong and easy to do right'. Like bad governments in general, the administration of Goodluck Jonathan makes it easy for people to do wrong and difficult to do right. As such, it hamstrung the efficiency of the military and other security agencies in performing their rightful roles and provided the enabling environment for terrorism, violence and all forms of lawlessness to thrive. Thus, Boko Haram, almost uninhibited, is striking with impunity and increased capability at their civilian and military targets, while the defense and law enforcement agencies, enervated and demoralized, are, essentially, losing the war on terror.

If the president can rise to the responsibilities of his office, then his government will live up to the duty of government. It will then become easy for the military and other organs of government to do their work, which is to defend and protect Nigerians from terrorists and other criminal predators and the Nigerian government from undemocratic forces plotting to bring it down. And thus, difficult for wrong doers, especially, that most notorious wrong doer and relentless purveyor of death and terror, Boko Haram, and other forces of evil planning to bring down his government, to operate. And Nigerians will exhale, in relief from terrorism and its attendant horror and sorrow.

Ultimately, in passing the buck, it stops at the president. Nigerians elected him president: the Commander in Chief of her armed forces, the repository of the powers of her government, the personification of her hope and the embodiment of her will. No evil force and/or power can successfully undermine, thoughtless of bringing down, his government, without his, first, having abdicated his moral and constitutional responsibilities to the people of Nigeria.

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
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