Let Them Eat Cake: The Five Stages of the Jonathan Administration’s Grief, By Oluwafemi Akinfolarin
I have a mental picture of the last few weeks in the Presidential Villa in Abuja. People walking around in a daze, unable to believe they would soon have to leave their cozy offices and financial sinecures. Officials forgetting to eat their meals. The president’s wife, refusing to leave the seclusion of her private chambers, except to make a quick trip to Okrika for the governorship elections. Staff members wondering what their fate would be in the new dispensation and hurriedly ensuring the content of their offshore accounts are secure. The funereal atmosphere at Federal Executive Committee meetings, as ministers morosely wonder if they had done well enough to feather their nests. A truly tragic scene when you consider the self-inflicted nature of the wound.
In line with the above, the current administration has shown all the five stages of grief since its election loss; in quick succession and completely out of sync. First came ‘denial’ with Mr. Ex-Minister Orubebe making a huge scene at the INEC collation centre on election results announcement day and swiftly gaining Wikipedia infamy. Another form of denial was the accolades poured on the president for conceding defeat with the theme being, ‘we did not lose the elections but to preserve the peace of the Federal Republic, we will concede’. Denial in its purest form because concede or not, the elections were lost to everyone but the blind.
Denial has been swiftly followed by bargaining instead of anger. So the Minister of Petroleum headed for former Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar’s residence to negotiate a soft landing. Other notable personalities in the administration paid secret visits to the Daura home of the incoming president to plead for continuity in governance by keeping them in their posts. Notable heels are making conciliatory noises in the press while some others have quickly returned stolen funds. All forms of bargaining.
Bargaining can also be seen in the hurried appointment of new helmsmen into new positions a month to the end of the life of the administration, as well as the handing out of plum gifts to government admirers as seen in the hurried approval of the new Edwin Clark University.
Not surprisingly, after the incoming president had to audacity to talk about probing members of the current administration, Anger came on to the scene. First, when told to submit hand over notes to a transition committee, the FG responded by warning against a parallel government and then shifted the date of submission of the hand over notes to a few weeks to the May 29th hand over date to trump any review of those notes before the handover.
However the most cynical and cold hearted display of anger is the ongoing double whammy of fuel and electrical power scarcity, which stems directly from an abdication of the governance duty. The current fuel scarcity has dragged on for nearly two weeks while the electricity supply in Lagos has drastically reduced since the election. To understand the impact of this current situation on the ordinary Nigeria, consider the story of my friend’s hairdresser. She runs a salon which she has had to shut down for the last few days because PHCN no longer provides even the normal epileptic power, and to make it worse, she can’t even get petrol to power her generator. Her single source of income is gone and her kids are facing starvation. Same goes for the neighbourhood welder who previously used to stay up late to work because that was when PHCN deigned to provide light, but has now been forced to take up employment as an apprentice mechanic. Anger has led to this administration basically handing off running the country or how do you comprehend the ministry of finance failing to make subsidy payments while clearly understanding the implication of that decision?
Personally, I have a mental image of the minister of petroleum and the president shrugging when told about the abysmal issues of power and petroleum and simply saying ‘well they didn’t vote for me’!
The worst part of the above is we still have 2 more stages of grief to witness. Depression and acceptance. God save us.
Oluwafemi Akinfolarin, a Lawyer, writes in from Lagos.