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Published On: Thu, May 1st, 2014

Jonathan’s ‘Boko Haram is temporary’ refrain

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By Bayo Oluwasanmi

The most troubling paradox of Mr. Jonathan’s presidency is his reaction to national tragedies of huge proportions that involved loss of precious lives of Nigerians. Mr. Jonathan is aloof and most of the time inscrutable figure. “I don’t give a damn” has become his nickname. He has been very cold, distant, insensitive, and heartless in handling national problems especially tragedies. For our dear country, he has been a polarizing president securely anchored in trickery and intrigue. Behind his cool and calculating exterior, he’s a mixture of Machiavelli, Abacha, and Babangida.

Mr. Jonathan has mastered the art of counterfeiting official statements. In his public utterances, he speaks of reform, though so far he has delivered more words than action.

More often than not, he has had to resort to credibility-stretching gymnastics to explain past utterances. He has shown himself skilled in what could be described as the “tradecraft of clandestinity.”

I came across a picture of Mr. Jonathan plucked from one of the Nigerian dailies and posted on Facebook. Barely 24 hours after the Nyanya bomb explosion killed 71, over 100 wounded and 85 girls abducted by the same Boko Haram perpetrators of the bomb killings, Mr. Jonathan in the picture was dancing to pulsating music that animates his gyrating body at fund raiser in Kano.

The picture highlights the coldness, aloofness, and distancing of Mr. Jonathan. Since he assumed the presidency, he never missed the opportunity during national tragedies to trivialize the shock and grief of such tragedies by going about his normal duties in a manner of business as usual.

Months after the gruesome murder of Yobe school children, Mr. Jonathan failed to visit the state, instead he embarked on needless foreign trips and campaign rallies in other states. After the killings, he hosted a wasteful centennial celebration, traveled to Namibia, Italy, and Netherlands.

Many weeks ago, 14 people were killed in Taraba and Plateau States. In Buwa village in Ibi Local Government Area, seven people were brutally murdered on a Sunday night when gun men invaded the community.

January 26, at least 78 people were killed in two separate attacks in a busy market in north-east of the country in Borno state and in neighboring Adamawa.February 15, a vicious attack by Boko Haram left 106 dead in a village in Izghe in Borno State. Few days after, February 19, the insurgents killed 60 people in the north-east town of Bama.

February 25, 43 people were killed in a secondary school in Buni Yadi in Yobe State. Recent hostilities between Fulani herdsmen and TIV youths claimed about 50 lives at Gbajimba, in Guma Local Government headquarters in Benue State.The Northern Youth Leaders Forum (NYLF) in the aftermath of the crisis claimed that about 3,300 youths may have been killed by Boko Haram in the north.According to Human Rights Watch, more than 700 people have been killed and still counting in 40 separate attacks across north-east in 2014 alone. By rough estimate this year alone, 1,500 people have so far been killed by Boko Haram.

In all this carnage, Mr. Jonathan’s signature trademark of insensitivity is evident. While the country was smoldering in a mounted and coordinated killings of its citizens, President Jonathan went on a six-day pleasure excursion around the world.He attended Namibia’s 24th independence anniversary before departing for Rome and the Vatican for talks on March 22, with Pope Francis and Monsignor Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State. He also attended the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands.

Two days after dozens of innocent Nigerians were killed or maimed by suicide bombers in Kaduna State, Mr. Jonathan traveled to Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Whereas many lives have been lost in Nigeria from Boko Haram suicide bombers than from Kenya’s mall shooting last September, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared 3-day national mourning during which flags at public buildings flew at half-mast.

April 2010, Chinese President Hu Jintao cut short his Latin American tour and returned home after a strong earthquake hit west of China.This year, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir returned home early from his visit to China, due to rising tension along the border of his country with Sudan.Even a phone-hacking was enough reason for British Prime Minister David Cameron to cut short an African trade tour and returned home in 2011.

The question is: where is President Jonathan in all this? It is fair to say that his response to national calamities, the leadership style of Mr. Jonathan is a painful and prohibited tragedy ritual. A leader can’t connect with people only when he is communicating to groups. He must connect with individuals. The stronger the relationship and connection with individuals, the kinder, the more sympathetic, and the more empathetic the leader becomes. President Jonathan has failed to connect with the individual victims of Boko Haram. He’s untouched, unmoved, unresponsive, unsympatheticand didn’t care.

A leader must get beyond himself. Dr. Albert Schweitzer reminds us that “In gratitude for good fortune, you must render some sacrifice of your own life for another life.” Selfishness and insecurity usually lie at heart of those who fail to get beyond themselves.

For his failure to connect with the victims of Boko Haram, it means Mr. Jonathan does not remain others-minded. Leadership, if I may remind the president, is a privilege not a right.A leader must grow beyond himself. Mahatma Gandhi was right when he said “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”

The senseless murder of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram terrorists presents an opportunity for Mr. Jonathan to grow beyond himself by remaining humble and teachable.A leader must give beyond himself. Which is why effective leader must persistently ask himself: “What am I doing for others?” Mr. President, ask yourself“what have I done for the families and victims of the Boko Haram bombings?”

Bayo Oluwasanmi is on linkedin

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