There is only one way to know you are really at the top as a Nigerian; many things get thrown up at you. The reason is not far-fetched: “You are easier to see when you are in flight,” is the apt way a young philosopher called Jude Abaga put it. Those at the top must choose between what deserves to be paid attention to and those they should pay some naira and kobo just to stop them from throwing their mud. One fundamental mistake of the Jonathan administration, however, is that it has been overly busy replying everything thrown at it. This may be because the administration itself enjoys the mud game.
The job of a leader is to get the job done or be reminded about the undone job. When you reply by abusing those who remind you of your responsibilities, you put up the act of an irresponsible leader. Leadership is about taking responsibilities. This is what the Jonathan administration has shirked from for too long. 2011 is already two years old but we have yet to get a major conviction of the subsidy thieves. The economy is growing faster than ever only not as fast as the growth of poverty. There are as many poor Nigerians today as there were people living in Nigeria in 1998, i.e. 112 million. That is how far we have come or should I say gone. In the midst of this anomaly, the President and his privileged friends gathered in Abuja the other day to celebrate his mid-term successes; a shame considering the dominant Nigerian reality.
We keep losing sight of the fundamentals. One of the things this administration prides itself in is the YOUWIN initiative. This project has had more things written about it than its collective worth. How can we talk about grants to 1,200 citizens in an economy where four out of every five graduates remain jobless? Where do we even begin with non-graduates and here we are talking about some 70 million youths? Even if mediocrity were our national symbol, wouldn’t there be a limit to how much we can display it? It is okay to provide jobs for 1200 young people; it becomes a thing of shame to look at the camera, lights, sound and all in pomp and pageantry calling for such to be celebrated. Have we really sunk that deep?
As a President, you’d be the epicentre of many hypocrites and sycophants. When you fart, they’d tell you they just perceived one of the best smelling scents ever and they’d go ahead to ask you what perfume you are wearing. If you shit for body dem go tell you say why you no dey shit for body every day because “shit looks great on you.” You are soon living in a box of lies, hidden in a hamper full of deception, envy and even hatred; half of them don’t care about you, they just want you where you enjoy listening to them. Half of the rest care but only as much as their stomach stays connected to your constant supply of money. War-time British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for fear his men would keep some of the gory details of World War 2 from him, set up a system that ensured that he saw the war just the way it was; bloody and edgy. He was in touch with Britain’s reality at the time.
Nigeria is where it is today because those at the helm of affairs have lost touch with the nation’s reality. Have you ever wondered the logic behind calling ours a transformation when we haven’t even started with the basic of change; food, clothing and shelter? We are some 15 million houses short per year, we have even today one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. We are one of only three countries with incidences of polio. The others are Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are in a transformation yet our governors fall on their legs and the next day they have their heads checked up in London. The poor stay dying in hospitals without drugs, their children cannot afford expensive private schools so they must make do with government schools with no books and teachers with low morale. We have roads but they are mostly talked about for the many they kill every day. If this is what they call transformation, then those fooling President Goodluck Jonathan are worse than those who say, “shit looks good on you”!
“Abati fires Ribadu.” “Okupe fires ACN.” “Presidency plots Amaechi’s fall”, and the headlines never stop. The Nigerian Presidency has been reduced to a kindergarten class where fingernail fights and noise are the art of war. No intellectual stimulation, no inspiring responses and like Dr. Reuben Abati said about Patience Jonathan just three calendars ago, no poise and no decorum. The words thrown out of the Presidency often come dressed in shame and shallowness. We can do better. The Presidency can do better. The Presidency must busy itself with moving forward. You cannot be moving forward and in the same breath find the time to address every dirt thrown at you.
The Presidency can do better. The job of the opposition is to distract you. The opposition has no business making you look good. When you then reply every shot thrown at you, you’ve missed the point. The Presidency has become predictable. That is not a good thing. Men will praise you and some will abuse you. Those moving forward must look forward. The Presidency must busy itself with moving forward. At the moment, the only movement it is experiencing is the Sycophancy movement. You cannot surround yourself with sycophants and expect to lead well. Your leadership will always be limited by the prism of illusion ever present in the words of your sycophants.
It is important to always set the record straight. It is even more important if such records have to do with policy and development. It is fine to offer the right perspectives when so-called successes of the administration are cheapened. These are fundamentally different from calling citizens names. “Collective children of anger”, “yesterday’s men” and “sophisticated ignorance” are certainly not the best way to address one’s citizens. Eventually, every office holder becomes a man or woman of yesterday. These things do not last forever.
Nigeria needs us to raise the ante of political debate and engagement. The Presidency has been a dismal example on that front. In fact, if our schoolchildren were to use the Presidency as a model for their own behaviour, they’d abuse anyone who tells them anything other than praise them. No one in government should expect a crown of glory from the people for serving Nigeria but you can crown yourself in glory by the depth and quality of your service. You need not make noise; you don’t have to shout to be heard. When things get better, we’d not need over-paid staff writers to tell us, we’d see for ourselves. No one reports to a man who has just been well-fed that food is in his stomach. A pregnant woman in her trimester knows she is pregnant; she needs no doctor to confirm anymore. The Nigerian Presidency must know that it, not the opposition or critics, is its own primary enemy.
Japheth Omojuwa Can Be Reached Via Mr.O[email protected]