This our president will never cease to amaze with his simplistic ways and rationalizations. On the Boko Haram insurgents whose abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno state that has now taken centre stage, globally, President Gooodluck Jonathan simply dismissed criticisms of his reported aborted trip to Chibok, contending that it was not mandatory for him to visit the town. Of course, simplicity is one of President Jonathan’s virtues. He comes across as the regular guy made good – no pretentious frills or airs. Even his speech carries no affectations, though some of us would wish he packs more punch than his trademark flat, monotone of delivery. But that is natural Ebele for you.
Anyway, how could anyone want to crucify the man if the deeply internalized character molding of the pristine, uncomplicated simplicity of his rural upbringing in the rusticvillage of Otueke has permanently etched an enduring, simplistic thought process on his impressionable young mind? In the fast trajectory of God’s amazing grace on the young academic’s rise to Mount Olympus of power, there apparently was no time for grooming, for creating a new personality for him – the public persona. No doubt, his simplicity has its advantage – it got him the votes in 2011 general election, with his projection as one of us common folks. Remember the shoeless, canoe boy imagery? But then, simplicity in disposition, coupled with simplistic speech, can become a baggagethat diminishes the high office of the President of the most populous Black nation on earth.
The Presidency is a unique platform to inspire the populace and for those it has pleased God, in his wisdom, to put on that throne, they owe it a duty to the nation not to become letdowns. Stirring words and bold actions are the hallmarks of any inspiring leadership. Sir Winston Churchill, Britain’s war time Prime Minister stirred the British to stand firm against Nazi Germany and snatched victory from the jaws defeat; Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. galvanized his underdog African race in the US with his soul-stirring ‘I have a Dream’ speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and changed the course of American history, for ever. They spoke, gave hope and lifted spirits in troubled times.
These are troubled times in Nigeria. Can this president rise up to the occasion? I have my doubts, not when our ‘gentleman’ president projects a simplistic understanding of grave situations and seems more rattled and exasperated, as if he is being unfairly ‘crucified’. It is a wrong attitude. And unfortunately for this president, he is apparently surrounded by those who stoke this feeling of his being made scapegoat of a governance crisis he inherited. Admitted, the system rot preceded him, but the issue is: What has he done to lift the gloom? Has he been able to stir and energize the populace? Where a leader has speech and action deficiencies, disaster looms. Nigeria is heading toward that foreboding threshold. Mr. President must demonstrate a clearer understanding of the state of the nation and speak reassuringly to the people.
President Jonathan is a highly educated person – with a PhD- and a doctorate degree does not come cheap. I should know; I recently took that hard road, and as a senior citizen. He got his PhD as a young man and that meant he was a sharp fellow. So, you ask: What happened? The attributes of a PhD are the rigour of research and understanding of relationships among variables. The economy is an area where there is need for the President to demonstrate understanding of the relationship between statistics and the situation on the ground as statistics alone does not give a complete picture of the state of the economy.Statistics can become an exercise in gimmickry, the protestations of Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the Kukah Centre workshop notwithstanding. The re-basing of Nigeria’s economy, that has made it to upstage South Africa as Africa’s biggest economy, is one such gimmickry, primarily to massage a bruised political ego – to showcase a ‘success’ story. But the World Bank put dampers on the celebration of this ‘feat’ by rating Nigeria among the five poorest countries in the world.
The World Bank has indices of development– including per capita income, gross domestic product, school enrolment, state of infrastructural facilities, life expectancy – uniformly applied to all countries in its rating. For those of us ‘on the ground’, Nigeria’s rating among the poor nations closely reflects the daily battle of survival among the preponderant majority. But President Jonathan, still basking in the re-basing euphoria, wouldn’t take such ‘nonsense’ rating, not even from the World Bank. Pronto, the president created his own ONE INDEX RATING of development to show that Nigeria is a buoyant economy – the ownership of private executive jets by the country’s parasitic, Jet-set elite.
The President, at his 2014 May Day speech at Eagle Square in Abuja, hadcontended : “Nigeria is not a poor country. Nigerians are the most travelled people. There is no country you go that you will not see Nigerians… AlikoDangote was recently classified among the 25 richest people in the world… I visited Kenya recently on a state visit and there was a programme for Nigerian and Kenyan business men to interact and the number of private jets that landed in Nairobi that day was a subject of discussion in Kenyan media for over a week”. He then declared: “If you talk about ownership of private jets, Nigeria will be among the first 10 countries, yet they are saying that Nigeria is among the five poorest countries”. What a laughable, simplistic talk! A voodoo development index. How can it be lost on the President that the presence of most Nigerians abroad as economic migrants is their escape option from grinding poverty and insecurity at home?
Does it also occur to the President that the boom in private jet ownership is perceived by the people as manifesting the boom in corruption under the Jonathan Presidency? The other day, President Jonathan wondered why we are raising dust about Boko Haram terror campaign, saying that it is our turn to experience the global trend of terrorism, sowe must endure. Again, simplistic talk. With BH rampaging in the core North and Fulani herdsmen militia invading North Central, with threatening spillover southwards – it may not come as a surprise if, in his signature simplistic nature and in spite of the horror of the times, President Jonathan tells us, in the words of singer, Bobby Ferrin: Don’t worry, be happy!
Dr. Bisi Olawunmi, lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Bowen University, Iwo is reachable firstname.lastname@example.org