Thursday, 6 March 2014
My Apologies, President Jonathan
Dear President Jonathan,
I’m ashamed of myself. I want to apologize for my heartless abuse of your meek and gentle self. Please accept my sincere apologies.
I did not mean any harm. If I had known that you were as fragile as an egg, I would have been massaging your tiny ego instead of throwing darts to strengthen your muscles.
Just like you, Mr. President, I want to move Nigeria forward. I want to do it in a gentleman’s way - without shedding any sweat. But I have seen that Nigeria is such a heavy load that anyone involved in that venture must be ready to perspire.
Despite the impression I must have given over the years as a professional critic, I am a thoughtful man. I know it must be hard being the president of a dysfunctional country like Nigeria. But I did not know it was this hard. And surely, you did not have the slightest idea how hard it would be when you allowed your name on the ballot.
At a non-denominational service to mark Nigeria ’s 51st Independence Day, you lashed out at me and other critics of yours. I truly deserve it. But your frustrations drew no sympathy in me.
As a member, in good standing, of the National Association of Armchair Critics (Home and Abroad), I want to respond to you.
It wasn’t my intention to be abusive. I wanted to use sweet words to present my thoughts. But it hasn’t been easy. And that is for the simple fact that the Nigerian political space that you head is so rude to me. Everyday, your people insult me. They dish out foul acts. When they speak, obnoxious words come out of their mouths. Your people exert cruelty on me and on ordinary folks like me. The vicious disregard of our feelings makes it hard for me to be loving and kind.
I do pity you, Mr. President. But I cannot sugarcoat things because I’m livid that you haven’t declared your assets yet - and this, in and of itself, is a form of abuse to me and my humanity.
Often, I hear you and your friends in high places say that you don’t mind constructive criticism. You ask that we proffer solutions when we criticize. Well, I thought by pointing out the problems we have invariably made the solution obvious. Must we spell it all out?
We say that we are outraged that 469 people in Nigeria’s National Assembly get paid over N150 million (about $1million) each every year. That’s about $500 million in total. What does that say to you? Do you need from us a solution on that?
We say that we are mad that the Nigerian government spent $3.2 billion of our money to build Delta Steel Co that is over N480 billion without factoring in inflation. Later, the same steel company got sold to a company that is a front for Obasanjo for mere $120 million, i.e. N7.5 billion. What does that say to you? Do you need from us a solution on that?
We say that we are fuming because Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim bought NICON, valued at N50 billion for N1.05 billion. He used equity in the company to borrow N41 billion from Union Bank PLC. What does that say to you? Do you need from us a solution on that?
We say that we are furious because Theophilus Danjuma made $4.5 billion when he sold to a Chinese corporation 45% share of a company he build around the two oil blocks Gen. Sani Abacha “dashed” him. He said that after paying taxes and taking care of all he could think of, he had $500 million left. To avoid having his children fight over too much money after he’s dead, he used $100 million to set up a Foundation. What does that say to you? Do you need from us a solution on that?
We say we are incensed that governors across Nigeria cart away hundreds of millions of naira each month as security vote. They commit crimes and hide under immunity. They leave office and live above the law. What does that say to you? Do you need from us a solution on that?
Forget about them-others. What about you? Why haven’t you declared your assets? How much do you get as security vote? Even if you are so helpless about stopping others, why can’t you live by example?
We are enraged. We feel the violence you and your people exert on us right inside our hearts. And all you want us to do is to stop abusing you. Forget you!
In your swipe at us, you essentially said that while we were busy hating you at home, world leaders were busy extolling you abroad.
“President Obama commended me,” you said, like a teenager asked out on a date by a cheerleader. Eeyaah!
Maybe I should tell you that President Obama commended me too? And I never met him. I have a letter written and signed by Obama to prove it. In the letter, Obama called me his friend. He even sends me emails every Friday. So what is the big deal?
I noticed that Obama’s commendation wasn’t all that when I discovered that it doesn’t mean a thing to my children. And frankly, I am more interested in what my children think about me than what Obama thinks about me.
Also, I saw the picture of you taking instructions from Hilary Clinton. Her pose was not that of someone commending. It was more of someone commanding. And your pose wasn’t that of a lion or a Pharaoh or an army general. Yours was that of a schoolboy taking instructions from the headmistress.
You said that you can change Nigeria without being a Nebuchadnezzar. Well, so you know, we don’t care what you are or what you want to become. All that we care about is to see the changes. No need talking. Just show us the change.
Let the critics be critics. Let you, the president, be president. That’s all that we want. You must not use us, the critics, as an excuse for your failure. And we, the critics, must not use your tears as an excuse to quit our job.
As far as I can see, nobody asked you to rule with impunity. All that you are asked is to show some audacity. If you don’t have it in you, just convince us that there is sanity in our polity. Is that too much to ask for?
You don’t have to be the King of Syria to change the lives of Nigerians.
Whatever pact you have with God, that is between you and your God. What we, the critics, think is the reason why you are there is more important than what you think is the reason why God placed you there.
Just in case you have forgotten, you are there to serve us. You said you wanted to do so. And by every means possible, you got yourself there. Now that you’re there, do what presidents are supposed to do.
Gear up and guide the nation. Don’t sit there and grumble.
God does not use grumbling men to change a society. Passionate men who pledged their honor, their fortunes and their lives grab the horn and turn their society around.
Only the dead do not have forces bent on frustrating them. A market woman has forces bent on tearing her ten kobo bag. So get over yourself. Get over the excuses. Get over the self-pity. Give us results. Inspire us. Nothing you say will make the forces against you to pull back. The more you look like a pussy, the more they push you around.
We have heard that one about ‘moving the nation forward.” We have even felt the movement. The only problem is that when we look around, outside of Abuja and your friends in high places, we notice that we are actually moving backward and not forward.
But listen, it doesn’t matter what we think. If you are sure you are moving the nation forward, by all means, don’t worry about what we say. Keep on moving. Majority of the people will notice it eventually.
You don’t want to waste your energy dealing with your enemies. You’re the president, for Christ sake. If all you see are Goliaths everywhere, you are looking at the wrong effigies.
And mind you, Mr. President, I know David - you are not David. Maybe you’re kind of confused. While you are searching for the forehead of Goliath, remember that you’re exposing your forehead too.
Maybe in your days as an intellectual, you did not have to do literature review and thesis proposal where you critic old arguments and advanced new ones. Critics have to do that on a daily basis.
If God is your pilot, I say, good luck to you. But God is not Nigeria ’s pilot. Don’t embarrass God that way. Your PDP is Nigeria ’s pilot. So the sooner you get that into your head, the better.
If you have no plans, no amount of prayers will lead you to your destination. And if you have no destination, no God can guide you there.
I don’t know about others, but I am not praying for you and all your friends who waste the resources of that country, living large in Abuja while ordinary men and women perish for nothing.
I am praying for that breadwinner who will die tomorrow night when the bus he is travelling in collides with an abandoned trailer left in the middle of Lagos-Ibadan road. I am praying for the women and children who will die in a fire tomorrow night because there is no fire truck anywhere in their local government.
I am praying for that pregnant woman who will die in labor tonight because the doctor has no tools to perform surgery. I am praying for the trader whose business will come to an end because ill-educated and unemployed youths will set his goods on fire tomorrow. I am praying for the girl who will be raped tomorrow by men who have copied the impunity of our national life, which you and your friends advertise.
Let Pastor Enoch Adeboye pray for you. Let Pastor Chris Oyakhilome mediate for you. Let Evangelist Helen Akpabio transfigure for you. Let T.B. Joshua splash you with Holy Water. Let David Oyedepo knock you into a winner. All I know is that, “vanity is vanity.” What use is a conscience that is deeply asleep?
Oh, by the way, Happy Independence Day, Mr. President. I hope you’ve received the card President Obama sent you. I’ve got mine here.
I’m your most humble subject,
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo