Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Dear President Jonathan, Please Gracefully Absorb Your Merited 'F' Grade On Security, Economy etc.

President Jonathan
A quintessential fibre of a discerning leader or anybody who aspires to a leadership position is mastering the art of timing.
To borrow from the Holy Scripture, there is a time for everything under the sun. A reasonable and astute leader appreciates the import of ‘stepping aside’ when the ovation is loudest and strives not to sacrifice the well-being, posterity of the country in the altar of his personal aggrandizement. Every man has his time. Some had their time but missed it.

Late Nelson Mandela won the heart and admiration of many people by just doing a single term; today he is a legend. General Abdusalami Abubakar spent less than a year as Head of State and handed over power to a civilian administration. This gambit earned him local and international deference despite Nigeria’s external reserve plunging during his stint as Head of State. 

After taking Nigerians on a roller coaster, former military President Ibrahim Babangida (a.k.a Maradona), had no choice than to hurriedly device an exit strategy by setting up an ‘Interim Government’. When he saw the handwriting on the wall, former President Olusegun Obasanjo beat a fast retreat, jettisoning his much vaunted ’third term’ manoeuvre. Now exiled Blaise Campaore, erstwhile President of Burkina Faso pushed his ‘good luck’ too far. He lacked an exit strategy and abdicated, fled his country after a failed bid to extend his 27-year rule.

True to his name, President Goodluck Jonathan arguably passes for one of the luckiest Nigerians. He got on a platter of gold, positions that some people paid the supreme price and sacrificed all that is sacrificeable without getting. In 2011, President Jonathan no doubt enjoyed overwhelming goodwill. Many folks out there simply voted for him because his name is ‘Goodluck’. Then some parents were quick to name their new born babies “Goodluck”. There were also those who voted for him because he looks gentle demeanor while others considered the fact that a South Southerner has never been president of Nigeria. To be fair, President Jonathan may be a 'nice' guy but it appears this trait beclouds his ability to wield the big stick when it is exigent he does so.  

How time flies! Fast-forward to 2015, the dynamics have changed. The reality is that having a streak of goodluck can usher a man to an exalted position but it takes much more than goodluck to carry out the dictates of an office. Nigerians are now less carried away by the sentiment of goodluck or being amiable. 
Now the immense goodwill and whatever sentiment that worked in the incumbents favour in 2011 has profoundly depleted. Capacity to perform and integrity will play a major role in determining who emerges Nigeria’s next president. Sequel to the unbundling and penetration of communication, print, electronic/social media, the current level of political enlightenment and interest in Nigeria is unprecedented. Nigerians are now asking hard questions.

Despite a paper-tiger re-basing of the economy which an expert referred to as a "purely a statistical extrapolation of a cumulative period than an achievement’’, can we say in all honesty that Nigerians are better off now than they were 5-6 years ago notwithstanding the oil price boom in the last five years? 

While proponents of President Jonathan arrogate him being the best President ever to come out of Nigeria, critics think otherwise. Been there done that, former President Obasanjo is certainly not impressed with Jonathan’s lackluster performance in office. Averse to hiding his feelings, Obasanjo has left no one in doubt where he stands. At the risk of comparison and perhaps to explain why Baba as he is fondly called, is disappointed, let us quickly juxtapose some indicators then and what obtains now. Established that Boko Haram insurgency predates the current administration, how do you reconcile a rag-tag Sect which according to Shekau, started with sticks and machetes now controlling Armored Personnel Carriers (APC’s), anti-aircraft guns and outmaneuvering the Nigerian Military? Sure you can't always stop a bird from flying over your head but you can stop it from building a nest on top of your head. Tell it to the marines that it is not a shame some daring goons with little or no formal education/military training, successfully carved out a ‘Caliphate’ from the Nigerian territory while Jonathan lasted as President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and under the watchful eyes of his national award recipient military strategists (Service Chiefs etc.). Despite his ill-health, late President Yar Adua managed to tame the Niger Delta militants.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (a woman) plans to DISBAND Argentina's Intelligence Agency because a prosecutor, one Mr. Nisman was killed and the country's intelligent, security agencies were yet to fish out his killer. Thousands have been butchered, hundreds abducted in Nigeria by Boko Haram yet President Jonathan (a man) cannot man up and mend, rein in his #Security apparatchik. What a country! Nearly six years down the line, President Jonathan and his Security Chiefs, acolytes and feckless spin doctors whine about, finger-point, blame everyone else but themselves for the international embarrassment that Boko Haram has inflicted on Nigeria, the so-called 'giant of Africa'. Rather than take responsibility, the Nigerian military hierarchy is relentlessly sacrifice scapegoats in the name of court-martial. Dear President Jonathan, please it's don't take it personal, kindly receive your merited 'F' grade on Security.

5-6 years is enough time for a focused President, government to make a tangible IMPACT not necessarily to solve all problems. While Obasanjo held sway, $1 exchanged for about N117 Naira. Now, $1 is approximately N210. Though oil price average about $38 per barrel, Obasanjo’s administration left $43billion in external reserve and used $12billion to pay off our external debts. Now despite the oil boom and crude oil selling for more than $100 for the last five years, instead of increasing, Nigeria’s external reserve has continued to plummet, now hovering at $36billion. Currently unemployment and poverty are at an all-time high. The National Bureau of Statistics conservatively pegs unemployment at 24%; Nigeria’s poverty index is put at 71%. Quickly recall that the Human Development Index ranks Nigeria 152 of 169 countries surveyed. As at last December, some federal establishments, State governments owed upwards of 3-10 months salaries. Need we talk about electricity generation and supply which has gone from bad to worse despite ginormous expenditure? The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela implores Nigerians to live very austere lives because of dwindling economy yet she failed to rein in the President’s predilection for opulence. Whereas the U.K Prime Minister – Mr. David Cameron has no single ‘Presidential’ Jet attached to his office, Nigeria’s President has eleven jets at his disposal and is bent on acquiring another one (already provided for in the 2015 budget) to make it a dozen jets. As far as the economy is concerned, a former CBN governor - Prof. Charles Soludo gave President Jonathan "a clear 'F' Grade".

Critics claim Obasanjo’s anti-corruption drive was skewed against his perceived enemies. Under the current regime, EFCC, ICPC is comatose. The incumbent is extremely generous carousing with and pardoning those convicted for corruption. After saying that corruption is not stealing, it is preposterous of Mr. President promising during his campaigns recently that he will henceforth use technology to fight corruption. Is this a subtle admission that he is hitherto wanting in that regard? Alluding to the wanton corruption prevalent in Nigeria, General Babangida was quoted as saying: ‘’we are Saints compared to our successors’’. Granted an accused is presumed innocent until proved otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction, are you oblivious of the public perception of appointing Fani Kayode, same dude currently been prosecuted for corruption by the EFCC as your re-election campaign spin doctor?

Rather than dwell on issues, the 2015 election campaign has so far been marred by mudslinging, sponsored negative documentaries, threats of doom amongst others. It appears the PDP is unwittingly repeating the mistake of the United States Republican Party that got so engrossed with proving that Barrack Hussein Obama was not born in the United States while Obama coasted to victory. The perceived strategy of the ruling party to weaken Buhari’s integrity at all cost casts an aspersion of been jittery, desperate. The negative publicity has backfired, making the Buhari even more popular. Diehard Buhari loyalists insist they will vote for him even if he presents a ‘’NEPA Utility Bill’’ as his academic certificate. At the risk of reciting the obvious, the quest for CHANGE (Sai Buhari) is electrifying, almost like a religion. Even the gods cannot stop a man whose time has come. President Jonathan and his team needn't stress themselves so much ramping up promises if he had proved his mettle. Permit me to recommend a game-changer to Mr. President and his team: the President will win more supporters, voters if he promptly declares before the forthcoming election, his asset and tell Nigerians how much he is worth prior to and after venturing into politics. Igbo’s have a saying: “Ahia oma, na ere onwe ya’’ (a good product sells itself as it does not need much advertisement). 

The ruling party and opposition APC will do well to transcend grandiose promises and coherently explain to Nigerians how they intend to actualize their campaign promises given plummeting crude oil price.

Notwithstanding signing a so-called "non-violence pact", symptomatic of a country on the precipice of war, palpable tension, pockets of violence pervades the Nigerian sphere. There’s impunity everywhere: everybody who is anybody is threatening everybody and nobody is calling anybody to order. Coming on the heels of some opposition party stalwarts who threatened to form a ‘parallel government’ if the election is rigged, some nouveau-riche untouchables, so-called former Niger-Delta militants led by one Asari Dokubo upped the ante, threatening to wage war against Nigeria if President Jonathan loses the 2015 presidential election. Interestingly, the meeting of the now reformed militants took place at the Bayelsa state government house; the Governor and some Abuja politicians graced the occasion.  It is a dangerous precedent to create a society where it is so glaring that some folks are above the law. Wondering if Marilyn Ogar of the DSS (the State Security Service) and heads of the coterie security agencies are on sabbatical? As President Obama opined a while ago, Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men.

Not wanting to leave anything to chances, some influential and well-to-do Nigerians are said to have relocated their families abroad. Neighboring countries such as Ghana is purportedly witnessing an unusual influx of Nigerians. Mindful of the precursors to the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War and the eventual slaughtering of those who stayed put, many Igbo’s in the North are moving back to the Eastern part of the country in droves. One also read that Hausa people in Bayelsa State axis have thinned out. 

Enter Col. Sambo Dasuki (Rtd), Nigeria’s National Security Adviser who famously suggested during a speech at Chatham House that the electoral umpire - the INEC consider postponing the forthcoming general elections on the guise that many prospective voters were yet to receive their Permanent Voter Cards (PVC’s). Lending credence to insinuations of a surreptitious, hypothetical plan to scuttle the 2015 presidential election, some ruling party big wigs; the likes of Chief Olabode George concurs with the position of Dasuki. Chief George reportedly said during a press conference that, ‘’the NSA sees things deeper than any of us’’. Prior to this hoopla, recall Pastor Tunde Bakare made a similar submission, calling for an ‘interim government’. Are these people are in the know of that we are not aware of? 

In an interview he granted Channels Television, a frontline lawyer and human right activist, Mr. Festus Keyamo contends that the NSA’s suggestion for the postponement of the February election was tantamount to ‘’flying a kite’’ (testing the waters) which the NSA did in an auspicious place – the Chatham. Retired military officers have lent their voices against postponement of the forthcoming elections. One Brigadier General Ayodele Ojo, a former director of Procurement at Defence Headquarters, described the suggestion as ‘’a step towards military rule’’. Brigadier General Williams Obene (Rtd) and Major General David Jemibewon (Rtd) also warned against shelving the proposed election. In my humble opinion, I think most Nigerians will not mind if the time-table for the 2015 elections is slightly rejigged on genuine grounds not an alibi for some deft Machiavellian political engineering. 

It is cheering that the Electoral umpire – the INEC promptly rejected calls for postponement of the elections. Concerned with the not-so-cheery news from Nigeria, the United States promptly dispatched its Secretary of State – John Kerry to Nigeria to meet with top contenders of the Presidential election – President Jonathan and General Buhari. Equally encouraging is President Jonathan’s reassurance to John Kerry that the May 29, 2015 hand over date in Nigeria is ‘sacrosanct’.

The forthcoming election has polarized Christendom; while some highflying ‘men of God’ the ilk’s of Ayo Oritsejafor are propping up President Jonathan, others such as Reverend Father Mbaka ‘prophesied’ an impending doom should President Jonathan insist on contesting the election and if the result of the election is manipulated in his favor. Enugu-based Prophet Anthony Nwoko also ‘prophesied’ that neither Jonathan nor Buhari will win the 2015 presidential elections’’. An era of prophesies, another prominent ‘man of God’, one Apostle Johnson Suleiman also reportedly ‘prophesied’ that ‘’the 2015 presidential election will be like another June 12, inconclusive, yet Jonathan declared winner’’. He goes further to say, ‘’with the level of bloodshed I saw, it was better Goodluck goes now to his village quietly’’.  Time will tell how the aforementioned ‘prophesies’ and predictions pan out.

Is the perceived subtly orchestrated maneuver to postpone the 2015 elections President Jonathan’s exit strategy, political soft-landing? In Greece, opposition Radical Syriza Party swept the polls and Alexis Tsipras has been sworn in as new Greek prime minister. So far so good, if Opinion polls, goodwill and patent capacity to steer the Nigerian State out of imminent shipwreck are reliable indicators, the APC candidate - General Muhammadu Buhari seem to hold all the aces. One thing is sure; Nigeria is pregnant with suspense and has a date with history. The Expected Date of Delivery (EDD) is February 14, 2015. As we say in military parlance, soldier come, soldier go but barrack remains. Head or tail, Nigeria is bigger than any individual or group of people. 

Written by:
Don Okereke
(Security Aficionado/Analyst/Consultant, Writer/Blogger, Change Agent, Ex-serviceman, Patriot)

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January 28, 2015