WHO WILL TELL THE PRESIDENT?
Certain statements emanating from President Goodluck Jonathan of late paint the image of a young, naÃ¯ve impressionable and starry-eyed youth. Just two examples will suffice. The 51st anniversary of Nigeria provided a platform for Nigerians to assess the performance of the president.
The verdicts returned differed, depending on who did the assessment. They ranged from the extreme, such as that by the politician and medical doctor, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, who virtually crossed the bar of treason in a newspaper interview last week when he called for a revolution to oust the present government, to that of the president's men, who rate his performance in government as above average.
But, in the midst of all the reviews of Nigeria's journey, and Jonathan's efforts in improving the lot of the people so far, the president, brought in the famous 'Obama has commended me' angle, which has been generating its own controversy. The president, in a reaction to strident criticisms of his administration, wondered why Nigerians are always full of criticisms of his work when America's president, Barack Obama, has commended him.
At another occasion, he tried to debunk the claims of growing insecurity in the country by saying that Nigeria was not insecure. As he explained it, how can Nigerians say lives and property are not safe in Nigeria when Bill Gates, one of the world's richest men, visited Nigeria and left safely without any security problems?
The president's Obama statement suggests that the endorsement by the American leader is proof of his good governance in Nigeria, and Nigerians should accept it as gospel truth.
I am certain many Nigerians will disagree with that position.
President Obama is not a Nigerian. He does not live in Nigeria and it will be right to say he cannot say where the shoe is pinching the Nigerian masses. He comes from a society where government is responsible, and the system works. How then can the president take his statement on his performance with more seriousness than that of Nigerians themselves?
The impression of Nigerians on this matter is much more important than that of Obama or any other world leader. Obama himself will never rate the impression of his leadership by elements from abroad above that of the American people, to whom he holds primary allegiance as they are the ones whose votes can either keep in power or sack him from office.
The president also appears to believe that Nigerians' views on the security situation in the country is exaggerated. If Bill Gates comes to the country and goes safely back to his country, does it make the country secure. How many Nigerians can afford the kind of security arrangement that Gates can afford? This is just like a man saying there are no armed robbery incidents in Nigeria because his house was not attacked by armed robbers last night.
The president should go beyond the naivetÃ© oozing from these assertions. They give the impression that he is not in full grasp of the Nigerian situation and does not understand what the hoopla about the problems of the country and his laidback administrative style is. This simple approach to issues could be quaint, but it is not a virtue for someone presiding over a country of over 150 million people.
Someone, obviously, has to sit the president down on the problems that are bedeviling the country and putting the people on edge. He needs to be told why the people are sorely worried and almost always critical. Also, why they take him up at every opportunity and criticize his every action.
These facts are too commonplace to need repetition here. The president himself should know them better than all Nigerians, having emerged from a background where he had no shoes to go to school.
He needs to know why his governance is eliciting criticisms, and why he has to move faster with plans to deliver democracy dividends to the people. It is not enough to continue celebrating the years of 'unbroken' democratic governance. Democracy should not only be for its own sake. There must be visible impact on the lives of the people.
It is important that the world has a positive view of Nigeria and her leaders, but more importantly, Nigerians themselves should share this view. This will only happen when they notice improvement in their lives
The greatest challenge now is who will tell Jonathan the exact situation of things with the masses of the people. Who will tell him that many Nigerian children still have no shoes? Many are going hungry, they are stunted, there are many out of school. Many women are dying in childbirth. Polio, cholera and malaria are still ravaging the people.
Unfortunately, legislators who are supposed to be representatives of the people are largely immune from these problems on account of their privileged positions and their jumbo salaries. Persons that are close to the corridors of power are too busy trying to get heir own share of the national cake. The ministers who should talk are busy trying to paint the picture that all is well. Saying anything to the contrary could jeopardise their own positions, so they find it easier to tell the president that all is well and it is only politicians and rabble rousers that are making noise to gain political advantage. Not even members of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will bell the cat because here again, self-interest is the first law of survival in politics. The interest of the people is marginal. In fact, they are only relevant during election period.
The challenge before the president therefore is to determine the true state of affairs to know why he has been subjected to so much criticism. He must refuse to be ensconced in Aso Rock Villa. He should release himself from the stranglehold of political jobbers. If no one will tell the president, let him find out for himself and do what is needful to put the nation back on track. It will really be great to have a government that is fulfilling the yearnings of the people for once, instead of the perpetual opposition to leaders in power.
President Jonathan can be the leader that can make that happen if he goes beyond the simplistic views of criticisms of his government and confronts the nation's many problems headlong with a view to bringing succour to the people
It is just for all the criminals in Jonathan's government to have much to steal. That is why the government wants to remove fuel subsidy. Please, Nigerians rise up now.
Tayo Tola Agbaye
It's good to celebrate our independence despite having a failed economy and infrastructural decay. Let's pray for good governace.
Since cases of jailbreaks are rampant in Nigeria, the law to repatriate Nigerians serving various jail terms in Britain might be suicidal to this nation. Our lawmakers should play democracy with decorum, please.