Let us pretend we are a serious people, I know this is hard for us after been constantly fed mediocrity, we have become accustomed to this national pantomime called Government, we have, over time discard our ability to critically question what has become of us as a people. But for the sake of this article, let us assume the minds our fore fathers dreamt about, the one they sacrificed theirs to gain independence for and even lay down their lives for, in the dark nights of 1967. Let us assume the ability to think- even momentarily.
Today we are faced with a simple choice, a choice with historical repercussions. Today we are faced with an offer of continuity, a continuity of the last five years; five years of President Goodluck Jonathan and 16 years of his party; the People Democratic Party, until recently, Africa’s supposedly largest party. But we must ask what has the PDP done in the last 16 years to deserve four more years? Perhaps more specifically what has Mr. Jonathan done in the last five years to deserve four more years of our trust and loyalty? First we must appreciate what leadership is, Napoleon Bonaparte said “a leader is a dealer in hope”, Are we more hopeful for the future now, or afraid of it? Are we more unified today behind Jonathan or more separated by him? More succulently, Arnold H. Glasow, the American Humorist said “one of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency”. There is a leadership emergency today- however we might look at it, that leadership void is an indictment of the sustained incompetency of the PDP years.
On April 15, 2014, more than 219 innocent girls were brutally kidnaped from their school, by a band of renegades masquerading as religious fanatics, amidst International outcry for this and the Nyanya bomb blast, the President was busy shuttling from one Oba’s birthday party in Ibadan to another get together flimsiness in Kano- 325 days later- after endless Presidential promises, blatant lies and political clumsiness, the girls are still missing- unaccounted for, the renegades are still shooting YouTube videos of their atrocities, more than 13,000 thousand lives lost, Millions displaced, the North East’s socio-economical existence grounded yet the Mr. Jonathan wants 4 more years!
It was Jesse Jackson that concluded that– “leadership cannot just go along to get along; leadership must meet the moral challenge of the day”. The moral challenge of Nigeria today is the issue of corruption, the economy and security- even more desperately, the question of the missing Chibok girls, if this was a sane society by now Mr. Jonathan should have tendered this resignation letter for his failure to account for these innocent girls. Instead we are daily inundated with sad stories of his staff attacking the public for demanding the President do what he swore an oath before the world to do as President. What is more perplexing is the lackadaisical attitude that this administration continues to handle the issues of National Security. Beside the Civil war, at no time in our history as a nation have more people been murdered, maimed or rendered homeless than under his watch as President.
The numbers are staggering, the reality overreaching yet for more than five years, the Presidency choose to play Cat and Mouse with Nigerians on the issue of Boko Haram; one day they told us that they had murdered Shekau, next day, he is in a new video! Then they told us they had a ceasefire, then they fire the ceasefire, next the President is saying members of his cabinet are members of Boko Haram, Next it is actually the Opposition, then they said they knew where the girls were but would not attempt a rescue because it was too dangerous, next they are apprehended in South Africa in a Pentecostal Plane trying to buy arms in the Black Market! This, mind you is a Sovereign country, the largest Black Country in the Galaxy, turned into some crude puppetry. The question we must ask is- what has the PDP-years done to our reputation, that despite our countless bilateral agreements, we could not find one single country willing to sell arms to us, such that we now have to resort to sneaking across International borders to buy Black Market arms like smugglers. Is this the continuity they are taking about?
Today, Mr. Jonathan is not the President of the whole country, because there are territories that are no longer answerable to him, territories occupied by Boko Haram, not subjected to his authority as Commander-in-Chief or the laws he swore to uphold. And for the records, this is also the first time since independence that an occupying force has taken and control a part of this country. I am forced to ask again, what did the President do for five years while Boko Haram ravages the North East?
The primary responsibility of any President is to secure the territorial integrity of his or her nation; it’s the first and most important task of any President, on this, Mr. Jonathan woefully failed. We once had an army that was reverend in Africa, laced with glorious history, envied because of her successful military campaigns but under this President, our Military, the last standing Institute we shared pride in have become a tragicomedy- gleefully abandoning responsibilities, gallantly committing mutiny and tactically maneuvering into surrendering in neighboring countries! A politicalized Military, gradually groom for electoral permutations only.
Yet this same shamble of a military, who had besieged us with countless rounds of failures and mutiny was used to circumvent an election- in the name of National Security. Strangely enough, the so called renewed effort coincided with the set period for election, an election which by all accounts showed Mr. President was trailing, an election which was announced more than a year ago, endorsed by Mr. Jonathan who yet again, injudiciously approved a Military campaign to clash with the scheduled period of the proposed election- for a problem he has been dillydally with for five years! Mind you, we have a docile Ministry of National Planning and as usual, the President presumes us all foolish to believe the six week election extension was a mere coincidence and he would wipe out in six week, a problem he could not fix in six years.
“Man cannot live by incompetence alone”. Charlotte Whitton, the Canadian feminist said but as a people we have been wallowing in brightly-coloured incompetency, bankrolled by a Presidency on auto Pilot, we have delegated the fight against Boko Haram to the Chadians and Cameroonians, we have subcontracted governance to various cabals, what we have today at the National Government is a conglomerate of interested proxies, from former Niger Delta Militants, Pentecostal Prophets, Oil Merchants, Political and Military conclaves etc.
But in the face of all these, Mr. Jonathan wants us to ignore all that; he wants us to focus on his refurbished railway projects, free fertilizers and epileptic power supply. But how can we? How can we ignore the sadness of the Chibok girls, how can we move on to the promise of their polluted fresh air? Can we even begin to imagine the trauma these girls are enduring, the hopelessness that continues to define their existence or the hollowness that has become their parents’ lives? We cannot capture this tragedy in words; or the shamelessness that characterizes the school-boy attempt of this administration to rescue these girls.
The mistake the Presidency continues to make is to assume that all who opposes this administration are members of the APC. No, we are not all APC; we are just bored and frustrated with what has become of the last 16 years, and most importantly what has become of Mr. Jonathan’s 2011 promise of Fresh Air. We cannot even begin to talk of the fertilizer-powered corruption or the economic diarrhea that has encompassed us as a people. The hopelessness his leadership propagates has finally drained us of any aspiration. It’s not surprising then that Nigerians cannot wait for the new election date; we cannot wait to tell him “Thank You Mr. President” for this genuine effort however facetious and wish him safe journey back to Otuoke.
Anefiok Akpan (c)