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I have always felt Goodluck Ebele Jonathan might be the wrong sort of president for Nigeria.
The peculiarities of the Nigerian experience, I felt, are too diverse and complex to be left in the care of a man who reports from his stint as deputy governor, and later governor, of Bayelsa state showed to lacking of the type of the kind of strong will leadership of a country like Nigeria so clearly needs.
Many of my compatriots shared my misgiving about the man and his antecedents, but our numbers were not enough to keep him from winning a largely free and fair election. He made it back to Aso Rock villa, where he had, while rounding-off late president Yar’Adua’s tenure, failed to show the progressive leadership Nigeria needed.
Those misgivings of mine have proven to be justified, as Goodluck Jonathan managed somehow to not realise the enormous power he wields as president of a regional super power. He has tried to act, but only succeeds in appearing more helpless to stop Nigeria’s gradual slide to anarchy.
Truth be told, President Jonathan did not cause much of the problem he is saddled with now. It has been said that the man means well for the country and has himself said it is his desire to leave the country better than he met it. He has even, a first for Nigeria, declared that he will not run for a second term. On that count anyway, his detractors are wont to stress that he cannot be held to his words, as he will, like other politicians before him, recant and run on the presumed prompting of “concerned Nigerians”.
Perhaps the man would have been successful as a president all the same; perhaps his self-professed good intentions would have become clear to Nigerians. While what-would-have-been now resides in the realm of speculation, what is clear is that Nigerians are largely unhappy with their president.
Even those who still hang on to the notion of him being a messiah with a divine mandate to rescue Nigeria feel Goodluck Jonathan is missing in action, though they believe his failure for effective leadership stems from the fact that he had surrounded himself with the wrong sort of people.
While this might not be the space to talk about his handling of the Fuel subsidy issue, it is my intention to visit the Boko Haram issue—yes, both issues do have uncanny instances of overlap, as does many other matters affecting Nigeria at the moment.
On Friday, January 20, 2012, Boko Haram fighters overran Kano, held the ancient city to ransom for hours on end. They killed hundreds, destroyed properties, threw the populace into a heightened state of panic and disappeared with the resultant chaos back whence they had emanated.
The attack was a new angle to the ever-shifting Boko Haram mode of operation, a new vista of the reach and bloodlust of a sect whose insurgency have been said to have started as a localised conflict between them and allegedly heavy-handed police officers.
While it would not be right to blame the president for the acts of a sect that has defied coherent definition and who have rebuffed every call for dialogue, it is right to blame him for not doing enough to safeguard Nigerians within the borders of a country that is the regional power broker.
Why him? Some may ask.
Well, because he is the president and the buck stops smack on his extra-large desk.
So far, President Jonathan’s media managers have made a very big mess of the simple job of reading the mood of the nation and making sure the president understands it and articulates the right kind of response. Perhaps they misunderstand the issues themselves or are still caught up in that stale system of governance that underestimates the intelligence quotient of the average Nigerian. Examples of these gaffes abound, whether we look at the erstwhile-celebrated Presidential spokesperson Reuben Abati’s insult in the face of the Kano carnage (“seven people dead” he said, when the body count is over 200) or the attempt by the Minister for Information Labaran Maku and co to sell the unsellable fuel subsidy bullshit to Nigerians.
Mr President’s key ministers have not helped matters either, as their body language indicate scorn for Nigerians, “over-sabiness” and the belief that the protective bubble which the PDP has wrapped around its own since 1999 will continue to endure, will continue protecting them, while ensuring they remain deaf to the real aspirations of the Nigerian people.
I understand what Goodluck Jonathan is facing, maybe just a little but that should suffice here. I know how difficult it is for one to function effectively as a leader when people feel are your superior intellectually and those who may have played big roles in ensuring your electoral victory surround you. It is worse when the wishes of those “powers” differ from yours and when hurting them may spell more trouble than you can handle. Back in my university days, I was opportuned serve as the president of my departmental association. Being an indigent student, there were several rich students who felt they were socially above me and are thus above my authority. It was not easy going, but I managed to bring them to heel and I did it with the help of the majority.
The President needs to understand that no matter the route he took to get to where he is now, no matter the role played by any individual, he is there and that is the status quo. The nature of that position places him above everyone else, as he is the lord of the land until the next election. He wields enormous powers; he is in charge and should be seen to be thus. The only people he needs to answer to are the Nigerian people, the majority that is, and their feelings should be law. He should look at history and learn, aside outside intervention, he who is backed by the people is powerful indeed.
Going forward, the president needs to take more proactive measures, seek advice beyond the traditional channels—here social media will do him good, as a fictional twitter and facebook name will bring him firsthand information and deeper economic analysis than whatever Jeff Sachs and Paul Collier can come up with, It will also be free.
He needs to as a matter of urgency suspend the minister for petroleum and perhaps get his vice to personally oversee investigations into that rotten-through sector, which remains the mainstay of the Nigerian economy and the centre of corruption.
He needs to start a process that will overhaul the nation’s security apparatus, moving them from job creation agencies to the professional bodies they should rightfully be. Besides there are too many uniforms in Nigeria, all doing the very same thing. Think it would be right to merge where possible and cancel-out where necessary.
Bottom-line, Nigeria is in dire need of a comprehensive overhaul, and Goodluck Jonathan should be man enough to begin the process. Let us for the first time in its history see Nigeria work right.