An Evening with Goodluck Jonathan -By Prince Charles Dickson
Last week I was a year older, it was a privilege not only to be alive but in a clime like ours in Nigeria, each year is not just a privilege but a gift that one should grab with both hands and legs. I had chosen to be in sober reflection, more so as it coincided with fathers' day. In a nation where it is increasingly becoming difficult to be a good father...One could best imagine my mood as I thought of the life of Auwal Shanono, the young medical student cut in the prime of his life, and several drivers that paid the ultimate prize at the parking lot at the Police Headquarters Bombing for no fault of theirs. Coupled with the lack of security, alarming increase in cost of food items, an all time low in public confidence in government, it was not a time for celebration except off course you were being awarded a Honorary doctorate degree in science for delivering electoral votes . In these reflections, word got to me that the president wanted an audience with me...the President! Yes o, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of Nigeria wanted to see me. I had thought of the transport money you get when you visit the Villa 'Ã¡la Bakare nee SNG' and all those trado-religious guys and the tea they drink. I said to myself, after all its our money, I will go for my share or do I keep my small integrity and not show up, just decline the invite? After consultations that lasted some two days, I decided to go. Besides it was a chance to meet Nigeria's first PhD President, a nice man with a good heart. The man with no shoes but now plenty shoes that he did not know which to put his legs into. Got to the Aso Rock Villa that evening, soaking in my surroundings; it then occurred to me that this is one place with so much history...two presidents died here. Two were chased out under unceremonious circumstances, and another two got there by sheer luck. All these thoughts and more occupied me as I was taken into the expansive waiting room, like Obama had called him, I was called but I was not going to be over-awed I said to myself.
I was offered a foreign bottled water, I sat into the imported Italian sofa, the whole place was imported, except that I could hear the noise of a generator, not far away...in my heart it was a case of "even this place no get light".
10 minutes after, the man with the bowler hat that even the Clintons love, stepped in, now at a close range, I noticed his big nose, on top of that sweet Ijaw smile of his. We shook hands, he took his seat and we began.
Introduction formalities that I would not want to bore us with over. I brought out my reporter's notebook, a recorder and we began.
Your Excellency, because of the time constraints, pressing business of state, I will just ask you all my questions at once, so that there will be no need for follow-up questions, and debates... (As I know you do not like debates).
He obliged and below I have reproduced my questions as I asked them.
Are you ready for this job; is the job overwhelming, how difficult is it? Many of your statements are hurriedly made and thus quickly recounted by you or your managers (Like the football ban and FIFA, like you told Obama, Boko Haram was a domestic issue and then you told Nigerians, terrorism is an international affair and you are not safe, or the conflicting policy statements on power and energy, or like you promised a cabinet list with portfolios in two weeks but I am sure when this interview is out we may still not have got Ministers to help you not that anyone is noticing the difference, rather I think we are saving cost).
Sir, are you afraid of sacking the Inspector General, head of SSS, the NSA or any of those saddled with the maintenance of security for failure on their part?
How are you dealing with the opposition, do you think they are responsible for all these early morning sickness of your administration? There are persons that have a padlock grip on state matters positively and negatively, how will you deal with them?
We still have the Obasanjos, IBBs and co, how do you intend to handle them, in not many words one of them refer to you as a lame duck as far as corruption is concerned and you will do nothing, is this true?
Sir, what is you take on your victory at the polls, are you consolidating it, and efforts at nation-building are you ready for it? Your supporters say you need time, exactly how much time are we talking about, infact when will you really start.
If you do not finish the good work you are about to start or have started or do not even start by next year don't you think you will need more time...like tenure elongation, though constitutionally?
Can you disappoint PDP and tow a different line, many say you are a man of too many words these days, as against the very quiet Jonathan of Turai's kitchen era. You have promised this and that, but opinion is divided on whether you have said anything, will you deliver?
Can you unite Nigerians, given the almost every day constant reminders that we are on the edge, Boko Haram Bombs, MEND Explosions, MASSOB (threats for now), OPC, robbers, terrorists, suicide and homicide bombers, unemployment bombs etc?
In terms of our institutions, they are near collapse, PHCN, is no news, the health sector is another, and education is there what will you do, whether public-private or public-public, especially if you are bringing on board old war horse with nothing to offer or at best same old 1975 attitude that got us here?
Your Excellency, are you a nice man, a weak man, humble man or a sly president or you are still trying to define yourself?
I paused looked at my wristwatch, it was twenty minutes gone, I had 15 left, there were more questions I wanted to ask, so many, like what did you do in Bayelsa, is it true that X, was not Y even though Z is the last, and all those kind of questions that emanate from the vendors shop or did Yar'adua handover to Yayale instead of you. But the above questions would do.
As I had finished, Mr. President looked at the list, his now usual smile, he made a start to answering them, an aide had just sneaked in, with a file I could see from where I sat boldly written "Classified: The President's Men, Promises And Realities". I turned my head back and quickly interjected.
"Mr. President, I do not seek answers, Nigerians seek action, you are in charge, and the powers are yours, start to work, do something, anything, one thing or nothing". Whatever reasons Nigerians voted you is getting inconsequential by the day...Prove yourself, the excuses are not tenable.
And I woke up...it was a dream...I was sweating, not sure if it was a malaria bout or the fact that there was no light and the weather was hot...Life and its dreams, the Yorubas say ebÃ¬tÃ¬ tÃ Ã² kÃºn áº¹má»Ì lÃ³jÃº, Ã²un nÃ Å„yÃ i láº¹Ìpá»Ì€n sáº¹ÌhÃ¬n. It is a trap that the giant rat disdains that wrenches its testicles backwards. Dangers that one belittles are liable to cause great havoc. When a people suffer low expectation it's easy for the Stockholm syndrome to set it...This president won an election, he must now earn it!