The just concluded World Economic Forum for Africa (WEFA) in Abuja offered President Goodluck Jonathan a great opportunity to put up a profound showing of himself as someone determined to provide the exemplary leadership required to dramatically alter the course of his drifting ship. The president, besides raising the hopes of the mostly foreign participants at the WEFA for an early rescue of the missing Chibok schoolgirls, also appeared to have partially cleared the thick pall of hopelessness that has been cast over his leadership. The niceties in his ‘schoolgirls abduction marks the beginning of the end of Boko Haram’ speech, as well as the finesse in his concluding remarks at the WEFA closing ceremony, appear to have opened a window for a sort of PR rebound for him. But that was not before he and the government were besmirched.
The most resounding jibes came from the international community. The Economist, the New York Times and Hilary Clinton led the pack. But even locally, some home-truths have been laid bare on the Jonathan administration’s clumsy handling of state matters since he took over from his deceased boss, Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Three key words summarized the latest global public outrage against the government and its head: incompetent, corrupt, inept.
Undoubtedly, the initial indiscretion, and the ultimate dawdling and politicization of the Chibok abduction saga by no less an institution than the highest office in the land did not only confirm the long held notion about the administration’s incompetence, but even made a huge mess of the country and its people globally. And the only plausible cause of this sordid drift of Nigeria is the nondescript process of choosing its leaders. This is an ‘exceptional country’ where a small clique of clowns has for decades determined who leads, mainly through fiat. And this hasn’t changed even with the current ‘democratic’ experiment. For all they care in the leadership selection process is which person will be beholden to them. Thus, a key credential for one to emerge as leader at any stratum of leadership is some streak of luck, tied to one’s ‘loyalty’, period! It does not matter if the chosen candidate lacks the competence, capacity and character required to lead. More so, it doesn’t matter if he/she is one that would rock the boat.
At the peak of the 2011 presidential campaign, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar sounded this note of warning. He said in an explosive speech during the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential primary election on January 14, 2011, at the Eagle Square in Abuja: “You cannot entrust the fate of millions of Nigerians in the hands of someone who fumbles at every opportunity. Obviously, you can become a president by accident or good fortune. But you do not govern a country by accident or luck. Governing a country requires a plan and its courageous execution. It requires the capacity and willingness to assemble the best and brightest people to help you get things done. The last eight months have clearly demonstrated that he (Jonathan) does not have what it takes to lead this country. It is time for us to move beyond this luck thing. It is time for serious people to take over the affairs of this country. The world is changing and we must change with it”.
Of course, Atiku was swiftly ignored as an irritant. The small clique of fixers, which has always determined the fate of millions of this country’s citizens, dismissed his warning as the ranting of a desperate man who had seen clear signs of defeat at the primary election. And now here we are, reaping enough of what luck had in store for us. Is it surprising, therefore, that the international community has now come to terms with the reality of those words carefully selected by Atiku in 2011? It is indeed no surprise to millions of citizens that with every atrocious Boko Haram attack, Jonathan blames everyone else but his government. For me, Atiku has contributed significantly over the years to the effort to get this country out of its present predicament, even if he was one of those who created the problem in the first place. The question, therefore, is where are those prominent figures that actually took the whole country down this miserable road? It’s all too clear; they are now burying their heads in shame.
And this brings me to the pertinent issues that the present generation of young Nigerians must address. We must resist current attempts to rev up ethnic, religious, tribal and regional sentiments by some power mongers in our midst. We must insist that Goodluck Jonathan deliver on our expectations, and those of other citizens – i.e. good governance. Anything short of that should be rejected. In other climes, this president would have resigned long ago, if not for his colossal failure to contain Boko Haram, for the clumsy handling of the Chibok abductions by his government. But he won’t because this is Nigeria. We must, however, stop this culture of impunity in our country. We must put much more pressure on this government to bring back our girls. We must resist current efforts to trivialize serious national issues, and divide the country, especially the youth, along clannish lines. It is time to stop the appalling parochial descend of some hangers-on around those in power, who occasionally heckle constructive critics of President Jonathan’s glaring ineptitude. We must also resist the myopic “na-our-turn” symphonists.
The president needs to be reminded that while the US and its western allies help the nation to find the abducted schoolgirls and stop the ceaseless Boko Haram attacks on hapless citizens, Nigerians expect his government to do much more to end the insurgency. The government must show greater commitment to job creation by stopping the huge scam called Subsidy Reinvestment and Employment Programme (SURE-P) and rechanneling the billions into a worthwhile venture. More so, the National Identity Card is one of the basics in trying to ensure a crime-free society. But as simple as executing such a project appears, we are still agonizing over it. Indeed, if the feelers from across the country are anything to go by, the N30 billion approved by the Jonathan administration in 2012 for the execution of this all-important project will go the way of the billions stolen in the past. President Jonathan must wake up to these realities if he truly desires a second (or is it third) term in office.