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Published On: Fri, Nov 14th, 2014

That macabre rally after massacre

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President Goodluck Jonathan, acknowledging cheers from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters, during declaration of his intention to contest for 2015 presidential race, yesterday at the Eagle Square, in Abuja.

President Goodluck Jonathan, acknowledging cheers from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters, during declaration of his intention to contest for 2015 presidential race, yesterday at the Eagle Square, in Abuja.
Photo: Joe Oroye

By Jaafar Jaafar.

Last Tuesday, most Nigerian newspapers abused their readers, mortgaged their conscience and stepped on ethics to run advertorial of President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration on their front pages, leaving a little space for the story of suicide bombing that killed 49 school boys in Potiskum. All the major national dailies did not carry on their front pages the photographs of either the funeral prayer or burial of the 49 school boys killed by a suicide bomber on Monday. Although the papers’ headlines, cast above the advert caption, were a matching kicker that depicted the insensitivity of the Nigerian presidency, the newspapers should have turned down the plug, which covers at least 70 percent of their front pages.

On April 14, a twin tragedy that should have made the president wake up from slumber and cut his engagements occurred. While the terrorists shepherded about 250 school girls in the wee hours of April 14 in Borno State, the terrorists struck later in the morning in the nation’s capital, killing 75 people at a bus station. The following day, the president flew to Kano State for a rally to receive former governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau who defected from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Much like the president’s declaration adverts, the bereaved nation was forced to watch the TV simulcast of the president dancing at the rally.

Justifying his action at the Kano rally in April and at Abuja rally on Tuesday, President Jonathan said they went ahead with the rally in order to tell the terrorists that they cannot stop the country from moving. But between staying in office to attend to files and going to dance at a political rally, what actually ‘stops the nation from moving’? Where lies the sense of ‘moving’ when citizens were barred from their normal activities and vehicular and pedestrian movements were restricted around the area?

On November 5, the day Mubi — a town with a population of about 250,000 was captured by the terrorists — the president jetted out to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso to help solve a succession crisis following the resignation of President Blaise Compaore. Had Jonathan listened to the Gospel, he would have shelved the Ouagadougou visit and attend to the Mubi issue. Matthew 7:4 says, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”

In junketing around the world, President Jonathan is seemingly peerless, while in going to the battlefield to motivate troops as responsible leaders are wont to do, the president is anything but fearless.

But in Nigeria, we have a president who doesn’t show concern to the plight of the people, nor listen to the cries of the citizens. The president appears to show much respect to the opinion of the outside world than he respects the cries of millions of Nigerian citizens. He would respond and act after a single op-ed article is published in, say Washington Post, and blink over tens of editorials of the Nigerian dailies. When the Chibok school girls were abducted, the president spent three weeks without a word, parrying a deluge of local pressure to respond to the issue. The president later bowed to international pressure. He shut out #BringBackOurGirls campainers but opened doors for MalalaYousafzai to gratify his photo-op instinct. When the capital city was wrapped around with posters bearing an offensive campaign hashtag #BringBackOurGoodluck, the presidency didn’t consider it offensive despite the local condemnation until a foreign news medium ran a story faulting the banners for insensitivity.

Condemnation from the major opposition party, civil society and concerned citizens poured in torrentially after the president’s Tuesday declaration.

APC’s Lai Mohammed described the rally as “utterly insensitive and absolutely callous”, adding that “when about 60 students were killed in the terror attack on the Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, in February 2014, President Jonathan never visited the scene to commiserate with the families of the victims. When over 80 people were killed in the first Nyanya bombing in April 2014, President Jonathan went dancing ‘Azonto’ in Kano less than 48 hours later. And when almost 300 girls were freshly abducted in Chibok, President Jonathan neither acted fast enough to rescue the girls nor visited the village. His Administration even denied anyone was abducted, until 19 days after!”

A US based Nigerian commentator and writer, Kunle Sowunmi, said “President Jonathan’s declaration for second term at the Eagle Square a day (after) 47 innocent students were killed and several wounded shows insensitivity on his part. His action did not display love and feeling. It is even unfair to the feelings of the people he is planning to get another mandate from”.

The problem with the Jonathan presidency is waiting for God to wave the same magic wand He waved to bring him into the presidential Villa. Of course one can become president by luck, but a nation like Nigeria cannot be led by luck. The president needs to be determined in fight against insecurity, a cataract that blurred our eyes from seeing a shred of his achievements and also amounted to his mounting image crisis.

To justify or whitewash his action or inaction, the president would cover his gross incompetence by heaping blames on the opposition. To me, it sounds defeatist for the president to apportion blame on the opposition politicians for his failure. A good leader should see all the citizens alike. A good leader should not turn blame game into a cloak for covering failure.

The president’s insensitivity, among other things, is what fertilises the erroneous notion in the North that Boko Haram is a malware designed to destroy the region by the present administration. Similar fallacious belief is also ripe in the presidency that the opposition politicians sponsor terrorism to sabotage his government. In any case, holding a political rally, with its accompanying fanfare, a day after the killing of 49 students is the worst way of calling the bluff of the opposition.


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