On The Presidential Declaration, By Sunday Akinlabi Dare
The fate of the nation hangs on what they do. Yet, they do nothing except what they do for themselves. I speak of the PDP leadership who organized the sad spectacle of President Jonathan’s declaration to seek re-nomination as his party’s standard bearer. I speak of the President himself. Usually I do not bother myself with internal PDP matters. How they cook their pot in their own kitchen is not my concern if only they would conduct government in the right way. However, sometimes what they do runs so contrary to the mood and reality of the nation that to remain mum to such an open insult to the national conscience would be tacit assent to the collective lunacy that has descended on these people.
They have drunken and feasted to their own benefit so much so that they have become afflicted with a intemperate indifference to the nation. Narcissism has turned them mad. Their “great party” has turned into a greater flop. What may be a party to them is no party for the rest of us. It is hopeless pain.
They know better yet they wrong us because it profits them. Even their celebration of Jonathan’s campaign was strained and contrived because the cloud of guilt hovered over the event. The only genuine smiles around Eagle’s Square were on the faces of the street vendors selling food to the participants. Otherwise, the event resembled a funeral procession. As Jonathan was being lifted up, being buried and brought down was our precious future.
The invited crowd looked subdued and coldly professional as if attending such mass events had become their studied vocation. They were as zombies. Their faces bore the look of resignation one sees on attendants at a funeral especially those worried that the next funeral they attend might be their last because it would be their own.
Shame on the leaders of this brazen cavalcade for seeking to bury what should be consecrated. Double shame on them for doing this in broad daylight with the wry smile of arrogant corruption on their faces. Triple shame on them for lifting up a man whose performance in office merits refusal not reward.
They call themselves the largest party in Africa and the largest party in Nigeria. Yet, they are telling us that this man is the best they can offer from such a vast crop. They are asking us to believe that of the 170 million people who call themselves Nigerians, this is the best our nation can do. While they may know themselves and their broken ways, what this means is that they don’t know Nigeria at all. There is more talent and ability on display in the average household than was apparent on that stage.
The real trouble with these people is that they seem numb to the danger they have let fester. They have become so imperial that they are also imperious to the precarious state of things. They sit in the safe confines of Aso Villa comforted by the fluffy luxury of high office. That is their reality and their Nigeria. No wonder the president is always smiling and wants to return to office. He enjoys the pomp and ceremony that power bestows. He also enjoys the fact that he has so much power that he can be delinquent even in his most profound responsibilities without being answerable to anyone or having to face any repercussions due to his negligent fumbling of the nation left in his care. If he were a nanny looking after a baby, he would be fired for reckless disregard. Because he is president, he has the effrontery to prance before the nation and proclaim that we should be happy because he wants to misrule us an additional four years. It is all joy – but only for him and them with him. He lives in and rules a political fantasyland where his overriding concern is to remain the king of this self-centered make believe. Imagine, he has turned the presidency into a job with no serious responsibilities.
However, the rest of Nigeria must live in the world reality has bequeathed. For many of us, this means a world of war terror, vexing poverty or both. Day by day, mile by mile, Boko Haram claims more land and chews at our social fabric. Most recently, they invaded Mubi in Adamawa State. The army battalion deployed in Mubi laid down their weapons and fled even faster than the frightened civilian population. Thousands and thousands of our brothers and sisters escaped the town with nothing more than what their hands, wheelbarrows and vehicles could carry.
I am baffled that this president and his government can be so callous and nonchalant in the face of glowering danger. Perhaps they know something about Boko Haram that we don’t, something that renders harmless to them what seems so lethal to the rest of us.
President Jonathan recently visited Chad. He was joined there by a known sponsor of Boko Haram whom he refuses to arrest or even interrogate. The reason given for the visit was to plow the ground for bilateral coordination with Chad concerning Boko Haram. Peace talks commenced soon after. Government announced a cease-fire. We were later to find that the talks were a fraud. Boko Haram intensified their attacks. The false ceasefire turned into a more terrible open fire. BH announced the Chibok girls have been permanently enslaved never to return home. More land fell under the terrorist banner. Boko Haram engineered the deadly bombings of schools and other public places. In the face of this onslaught what has the president done? Nothing, from what we can tell. Before a fleeting mention was given in his declaration address, he had not directly and personally addressed the nation to reassure us about the Chibok girls or to explain his next steps in the face of the collapse of the fake negotiations. All he could muster in response to the Potiskum school bomb that killed over 40 children was a moment of silence before he gave his awkward declaration. In some ways, this is appropriate because this has been his policy. He has observed a six year moment of silence by stand still and doing and saying much of nothing as Boko Haram steadily devours our country.
In the face of Boko Haram advances, the President has now taken to hiding behind the dumb rhetoric of his aides as they mouth the flimsiest of imaginable excuses for their boss.
Their defenses of the president are telling. They are not defending him by saying he has devoted himself to a better strategy. Their defenses are intended to deflect us from what he refuses to do – he refuses to act as a fully engaged commander in chief. Thus, they say silly things that no nation should give a failing leader the boot during wartime. However, they neglect to tell us that both the US and UK, the nations after which we model our system, have rejected leaders who failed to do the necessary during times of war. They also say other nations have battled terrorism for years such as the American’s fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq. What they neglect to tell us is that Iraq is 10,000 kilometers from America. If Al Qaeda tried to establish a foothold on American soil, it would be crushed before it started. But here, our government allows the evil gang to gain ground yet government changes neither military strategy or the hapless people tasked to implement it.
We all should ask how this man spends his hours. A person devotes his time, mind and energy to what is important to him. From all I can see, the President spends the majority of his time in political caucuses determining how to share offices and allocate the spoils of government so that enough of his party’s governors and senators don’t rebel against his reelection bid. These party members care nothing about the quality of his performance and he cares nothing about the quality of theirs. They dance the dance of thieves and embrace each other as liars do. The dirty bargains they make to hold office demonstrate their vision of government. It is an employment agency for the elite and a tax on the rest of the people.
If the president took his function as commander in chief seriously, he would have nixed the festive announcement of his bid to return to office. At most, he would have made a sober and brief announcement then quickly go make to work. No crowds, no music, no banners. Just work and more of it. That is what leaders do. No decent president splashes about in public gaiety while an invading force captures land and afflicts the people who are on it. If truly a commander in chief instead of reveler in chief, he would dedicate himself to making sure the armed forces have the fighting spirit and the right strategy to get the job done. He would visit the ministry of defense to inject the lazy building with energy and purpose. He would assure that he got daily briefings. He would have asked for books and hired experts to verse him in counterinsurgency theory and practice.
Instead, President Jonathan behaves as an absentee commander in chief. Worse, he behaves as if the insurgent challenge is in another nation. For instance, when was the last time he visited the front line to talk to the troops or to succor the displaced? To continue as we are is to invite failure and all that comes with it in an armed conflict. Why any president would want his name attached to such a dubious feat is beyond my powers of reasoning.
Our president has been lackluster and devoid of vision and purpose. What he lacks in luster, vision and purpose, he compensates for in ambition, cunning and blind shamelessness. Jonathan has become adept at manipulating the levels of power to his partisan advantage. Yet, after six years in office, he has not learned how to be president of a nation. He has not learned how to face the awesome duties of his awesome seat. A leader can’t seek to enjoy the seat but ignore the burden that comes with it. Despite the fake applause that came with his announcement, even his supporters are troubled by one indisputable fact. If he could not master the elements of office after six years, there is little that another four years will provide. If he remains our man, then we remain in the deepest trouble.