“Just as lightning makes no sound until it strikes, the Negro Revolution generated quietly. But when it struck, the revealing flash of its power and the impact of its sincerity and fervor displayed a force of a frightening intensity. Three hundred years of humiliation, abuse, and deprivation cannot be expected to find voice in a whisper.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Why We Can’t Wait
The state of the nation is pathetic. The perception of the president is pitiful. The frustrations of President Goodluck Jonathan’s supporters are boiling over.
Here is the narrative that they are marketing:
The president is a good man who is trying his best to fix things that have gone wrong in the country for decades. The opposition is doing everything to frustrate the president’s genuine intentions, including sabotaging his every move. The opponents do not like the president because he is a Christian and a minority and they blame him for truncating their turn to rule, and for failing to abide by a fathom pledge to govern for just a term. So they swore to make the country ungovernable for him. Many of the president’s opponents have this attitude that they are ‘born to rule’ and once they find themselves out of power they default to frustrating the person in power until power returns to them. We must all come together to support the president with ideas that will work to achieve his goal rather than antagonizing him with criticisms that are not constructive. Compared to past presidents, this president has carried out his duties in a democratic fashion and some unscrupulous people have perceived it to mean weakness. People induced by the opposition have chosen to focus on few negative things happening in the country instead of celebrating the numerous great deeds that have been achieved by the president in the last four years.
By now you’ve got the drift. Any issue you raise can be plugged into this narrative and the result is an immediate exoneration of the president. If you do not discharge and acquit the president, you must either be in the pay book of the opposition, or a baby, or believer, or beneficiary of the born to rule syndrome.
During the tail end of President Umaru Ya’Adua’s tenure, I wondered why he would not resign and hand over power to Vice President Jonathan when it was apparent that he was incapable of providing good governance to Nigerians. In one of my interventions, I wrote what I think is still the harshest thing I have ever written about anyone. I essentially wrote his obituary while he was still alive. I wanted him to read how history would remember him with the hope that it would make him reconsider the hardship he was putting the country through. If I write anything like that on Jonathan I would be called a devil, even though we are virtually in the same spot as a nation – a president not capable of providing leadership and not willing to step aside. The only difference is that, in this case, this president is hale and hearty.
This is essentially what the supporters of the president do not get: while they were sleeping, Nigeria changed. The thirst for leadership has morphed into impatience. In retrospect, I was probably ahead of the time when I expressed my frustration with the Yar’Adua team. Now it is mainstream mood. Like a character in the movie, The Incredible, said, “I want results not excuses.” Nigerians want results not excuses. If you are the one working for the country, in moments like this, let your work speak for you. Let the results counter the doubts. Even in the face of opposition propaganda, counter propaganda is often counterproductive. The weight of expectations is tilted towards the government in power, especially at the federal level where resources are concentrated. The judgment standard is stricter for them for the same reason. The job of the opposition is not to provide ideas for the government in power. It is to chip away confidence in the government in power until they can grab enough votes to get into power.
Those who love Jonathan so much should encourage him to read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s book, “Why We Can’t Wait.” By reading the book the president will see that “leadership is not a role or a position but a choice each of us makes in how we live and lead our lives.”
Life may not have been fair to President Jonathan but we all play the cards life gives us. If we cannot, we always have the option of throwing in the towel. The card on the table is that the long abused and deprived multitude of Nigerians is invoking what has been called in previous era, “the urgency of now’. The only viable and valid response available to President Jonathan is to embrace it and act as if he understands it. Lamenting that he cannot perform miracles won’t win him converts. Blaming the opponents for his failure won't enhance his standing.
On a more practical level, the president should master issues of policy and diplomacy before he speaks. When he sounds so unsure, the nation feels so uncertain. When he misplaces facts and figures, the nation cringes. The job of being the president of a modern state requires the occupant to exercise mental rigor in all things. It’s not a place to go and make merry. He or she must be willing to lead and willing to sacrifice. Being the president of a modern state is no longer our grandfather’s job. Be it in Malaysia or in South Korea, the expectations of leaders are growing and the world is no longer willing to excuse incompetence and indolence.
I pity the supporters of the president. They believe the president is a good man. They struggle to explain why a good product is hard to sell. In today’s market, it is not enough to say that the product is good when the result is showing the opposite. Part of being good now includes the end product. If the end product is rotten the foreman does not deserve the tag: good.
I pity the president. But I pity more the next man or woman who will be the president of Nigeria. It’s not your grandmother’s Nigeria. And whoever gets there will find that out sooner or later, though I prefer that he finds out before he gets there. And an easy way to discover what awaits him is to observe the plight of President Goodluck Jonathan.