A President under Siege by His Own People
“If we can learn to be bold enough to restore the value of truth in our society, then we will have justice. Without truth, we cannot have justice” – Jerry Rawlings, ex-President of Ghana
“And without Justice and Truth, we cannot have a Democracy” – my own humble addition.
When the late ex-President Umar Yar' Adua was in incommunicado and invisible, due to his failing or failed health for many months, probably even dead, and his wife and so-called kitchen cabinet were doing all they could to pull the wool over Nigerians' eyes, through a risible and even ludicrous combination of subterfuge, criminal fraud, treasury looting, sycophancy, negligence, insensitivity, travesty of democracy and subjugation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I was amongst millions of Nigerians who took to the streets to demand that to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is respected and adhered to, and to let the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, take his rightful place as the President.
The protests were given credibility and galvanised by the likes of the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka (ironically, some misguided political jobbers and ethnic bigots who say they are from the same South South region as the President, are now castigating and hurling abuses at Wole Soyinka because the Nobel Laureate is criticising the governance style and incompetence of President Jonathan), Pastor Tunde Bakare, Femi Falana, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin and many others. That was in January 2010. I, with many other patriotic Nigerians stood in the harsh cold of the Parliament Square in London before marching on the Nigeria High Commission – Nigeria House – just a few minutes away, in the bitter inclement weather. We were there for over six hours. And what were we doing? Fighting for Mr Jonathan to be constitutionally proclaimed the President of Nigeria; fighting for the Constitution to be obeyed; fighting for entrenchment of true democracy; fighting for transparency in governance and fighting that those in government must not take the people for granted and spews falsehood to them for selfish, corrupt, odious and insidious reasons.
Mr Goodluck Jonathan, God bless his good heart, but weak resolve, eventually became the first minority Ijaw man (predicted many decades ago by the late Yoruba sage and leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo) to rule Nigeria. He contested the election and secured his own term in 2011. I voted for him then, because I believed a God-fearing man like him will do well (ironically, all our leaders have been or are God-fearing men, so what happened to the fear of God in their governance?) He now wants to go for a second term, which of course, according to the constitution of Nigeria, he has the right to do. We will not deny him that, but on the back of what achievements and morality?
In fairness to this mild-mannered man with a very feisty woman as first lady, who Nigerians generally believe to be a nice guy who means well for his country, he had been facing many deliberate travails and obstructions, the greatest of which is the Boko Haram insurgency. It is very clear this insecurity problem is aimed at undermining his Presidency and to prevent him from seeking a second term in office, come 2015. The conspiracy against him has of course claimed many lives, running into thousands in form of bombings, massacres, kidnappings, destruction of properties, and general mayhem and murder confined mostly to the north eastern part of the country, for reasons most obvious to many Nigerians.
In fairness to him again, he inherited a country that had been brutalised, looted, oppressed and a people left in a parlous state of hopelessness, depravity, degradation and poverty by successive governments since the days of the Second Republic of Shehu Shagari. The country had been spiralling, unchecked to the quagmire of corruption and dilapidated infrastructure that we have today. Who is this mild-mannered man to arrest this or make a difference? However, this is not making an excuse for him. It seems it is simply beyond him, from all current indications and assessment of his four years in power so far.
But as the leader of a country which is viewed in the whole world as a regional power in Africa, Jonathan has been very weak, ineffective and deficient. He has not lived up to the expectations of his people, who fought for him in 2010 and voted for him in 2011. He has committed so many gaffes that it is difficult to imagine him as a leader. Perhaps it is the sycophants he has surrounded himself with that are, for their own personal reasons and aggrandisement, misleading this man, but of course, there is absolutely no excuse. Jonathan has to take the blame. It is the leader who takes blames, not the people in his cabinet or advisers. The buck will always have to stop at his desk; but in this case, the buck is hardly reaching Mr Jonathan's desk, and if it is, he probably is not seeing it or is letting it go past his desk. So much then for leadership!
His choices of words are so appalling. “Corruption is not our problem or the only problem. Stealing is a major problem. You need to distinguish between corruption and stealing”, said Mr President recently. Corruption has proliferated over a thousand times during his tenure. Insecurity of life has of course made Nigeria a fearful country to live. Deterioration of our educational and material infrastructure had worsened. Just recently, the President, on a Radio show said the success of his Transformation Agenda may have been responsible for the upsurge in terrorism in the country. If there is any correlation here, I can't see it. Yet, his spokesmen continue to assault us with lies about his achievements instead of telling him how it is, and applying conscious efforts to redress his image in order to help him win a second term, assuming a free and fair election. Unfortunately his kinsmen, the Ijaws (a people I always have a deep love for) are not helping matters, insisting a second term must, at the risk of Nigeria breaking up, be allowed for Jonathan. Threatening and making inciting statement, and preferring not to advise their kinsman on the right path to a second term – good governance and accountability.
A quick digression! Don't you think it is our corruption that is now catching up with us on this tragic and sad issue of Boko Haram and the bombings and the kidnapped girls? Our governmental system has been so completely overwhelmed and weakened by endemic corruption that it has affected the functionality and effectiveness of government in terms of defence, information, action and provision of security. The military is very corrupt; ministers responsible for security and defence are corrupt, and of course will be mediocre and incompetent; department and agencies like the SSS, the Police, Customs, and Immigration – all responsible for border, security control and maintaining the territorial integrity of the Nigerian land – are dens of corrupt officials and officers. The military budget has been depleted and looted, resulting in poor training, poor arming and equipping of our once-respected military. The top echelon of the Nigerian Navy is up to its neck in illegal oil bunkering and stealing of our oil in the creeks. Everybody is lying their heads off to save their skins or to cover up their paucities and ineptitude. Top military officers do not want to risk death because they have loots waiting for them.
Optimism? I am not optimistic. The nearest to optimism I have come to is Hope. I have thought and written so much about our problems that it is becoming repetitive and unproductive. The problem with Jonathan is he is weak, indecisive, poorly advised, and does not radiate or inspire confidence in and from those he is ruling. I would love to have confidence in him, but I find it difficult to rally round him, despite the fact I know about the debilitating and negative effects of all the conspiracies and intrigues around him. His wife, his advisers and cabinet (his poor, mediocre and mischievous choice of ministers, for example) are not helping matters. His vociferous and garrulous kinsmen are making matters worse also. It seems he's just immobilised with terror and uncertainty. Despite my likeness for him as a person, (are Nigerians going to live and survive on sentiments?), I just find it very difficult to support him politically and in matters of governance, openness and accountability. People say, and I most often agree with this contention, that Mr Jonathan has good policies, meant well for Nigeria but lack the strong will and stone heart of courage to push them through, and that his lack of leadership qualities led to this bad impression from Nigerians around the world that this Boko Haram insurgency could have been dealt with at a much earlier stage.
While so many Nigerians are very deeply, and almost violently (ethnically and religiously) divided as to whether Mr Jonathan deserves a second term or tilt at the Presidency or not, Mr Jonathan needs to weigh his personal ambition and patriotic instincts against the well-being and survival of Nigeria. However, I would support Mr Jonathan if it appears, as it is being stressed that some elites from certain sections of the country are bent on seeing him out just because of their selfish regional interests and their belief that it is their “right or turn to rule”. This line of odious and selfish thinking is abhorrent to many patriotic Nigerians.
In sympathising with Mr Jonathan and making excuses for his perceived deficiencies in government and governance, it is instructive to let such people know that his travails, in diverse forms, are not unique to him as a leader, whether as a Nigerian leader or as a leader in the world. All our past leaders have faced challenges and almost always fail to overcome those challenges and then pass it on to the next leader. Is Mr Jonathan's government being sabotaged both internally (within his own cabinet, advisers and inner caucus) and externally (within Nigeria itself by his political enemies, including the opposition)?
Amongst many other traits associated with it, leadership is about challenges – to lead to overcome challenges and clear a path for the people you lead. Sometime, leaders, in saner and more advanced countries create challenges for themselves to overcome, just to keep them on their toes. The problem with us in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular is that everybody who manages to find themselves in positions of authority think they are leaders; do not know what real leadership is, take leadership as an opportunity to ride rough-shod over their people, enjoy themselves and the trappings of power without doing what leadership demands of them; looting of the treasury for personal aggrandisement, power and wealth. Most of them, of course are accidental leaders; most of them rig elections or shoot/kill others to get into power, and bereft of ideas of governance are quickly exposed as charlatans; unfortunately the complacency, indifference and sometimes, active or unwitting complicity of the ordinary people always sustain these ilk of leaders in power.
Our leaders do not realise that, according to the singer, Jon Bon Jovi, “anytime that you think you've hit the top of the mountain, the truth of the matter is you've just reached another mountain, and it's there to climb over again.” Once our rulers reach the top of the mountain, they do not realise there other mountains to climb, and that they will one day have to climb back down those mountains. They always think they are going to be on top of the mountain forever – refer to Mugabe, Museveni, Paul Biya and even the late Sani Abacha and co.
So do we tolerate and gamble on Mr Jonathan and vote for him for another uncertain four years, and hope he will get his bearings and perform better, and to our benefit? Or do we discard him, that is, if we really can, and let somebody else, most likely a Northerner fielded by the opposition parties, just because they say it must be a Northerner? Mind you, I don't have against anybody from any part of the country, as long as that person is competent and not susceptible to corruption.
Or do we, as we always like to do, leave everything again to God to determine for us who our leaders will be? Of course, now should we be blaming God for choosing all these past leaders for us who never made any positive impact on our lives and welfare, but instead trod on us and looted or squandered our common wealth away so quickly we never knew what hit us until too late?
How do we reconcile Mr Jonathan's good intentions with allegations that he has been going around to traditional rulers across the length and breadth of the country distributing thousands and millions of our common wealth in dollars and naira to them all for the purpose of seeking their support for his second term ambition?
Therein lay the dilemma of most informed, politically-savvy, well-meaning, passionate, and truly patriotic Nigerians. There is a vicious and genocidal battle for the soul – and wealth – of Nigeria by elements who are far from true patriots, but who parade themselves as democrats and hope of the people. These are avaricious and self-serving, evil Nigerians with hidden agendas and absolutely devoid of any ideas or vision for the people.
No matter how well these ilk of politicians hide their true –or false –intentions, we have identified them and true patriots and well-meaning Nigerians will and must prevent them from occupying positions of trust and responsibility, or swaggering in the corridors of power to our detriment and suffering in this country. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!
It is a matter of telling and accepting the Truth always.