By dele momodu
Fellow Nigerians, this must be the worst of times for our President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, who’s facing a barrage of criticisms from members of the opposition and society at large. This time last year, it would have been unimaginable that Mr President’s romance with the highly sentimental and emotional people of Nigeria would soon go up in smoke. I have never seen any man waste so much goodwill in so little time. The transfiguration of Mr Transformation has been too rapid and total. Historians and psycho-analysts will surely examine and determine how a man who waltzed around the cities and some villages of Nigeria as a Messiah only last year has virtually become a pariah in his own country within a twinkle of an eye.
Here was a man who ran one of the most blistering political campaigns ever known in this part of the world. The money expended on the PDP rallies would have erected a few Burj Khalifa’s in Dubai. One would have expected such a man, who held so much promise of a breath of fresh air, to have urgently settled down to tackle the myriad of problems afflicting Nigeria and Nigerians. But that was not the case. The Jonathan who was sworn in on May 29, 2011, was ostensibly different from the one who seemed to be a man of the people during his whistle-stop campaigns. In short, Nigerians were short-changed. The new Jonathan behaves more like a Minister of Foreign Affairs, the way he circles and traverses the earth like an astronaut. It is as if our latest President came determined to break the record set by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
For a man who inherited too many liabilities, one expected to see a visionary and selfless leader who would speedily put some austerity measures in place, by cutting government prodigality and profligacy to the barest minimum, embark on aggressive infrastructural development, revamp our educational institutions, provide job opportunities, create an enabling environment for business, attract local and foreign investments, clean up our over-polluted environment, deflate the convoluted political class, and above all, try to lead by example.
It does not bear repeating that no one has ever been luckier in life. In 13 eventful years, our President has been permanently in power as Deputy Governor, Acting Governor, Governor, Vice President, Acting President and President. Theoretically, he was well-prepared and sufficiently groomed for power. Those claiming that he has been in power for only one year are misinformed. He has been in full control since the death of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. If my Arithmetic is good enough, President Jonathan has in reality spent more than half of a normal term. Under his tenure more oil money has flowed in. What more could one ever ask again from God and one’s country? This amazing largesse from the Creator was enough to humble any soul and inspire him to higher ideals. But we found a President ever willing to maintain the status quo, not minding that this same system had failed his predecessors.
But to whom much is given much is expected. Many Nigerians had invested all their hopes in a man of humble beginnings who should understand the excruciating pains the ordinary citizens have endured. They did not expect a replacement of one oppressor with another. The people had pinned their hopes and aspirations on a man who appeared meek and expected him to perform sporadic miracles. Nothing less would assuage them. But early into the Jonathan presidency, the signs were ominous. It was obvious the President was not prepared to rock the boat and that all he wanted was to mark time and enjoy his full terms in office with as little discomfort as possible.
However, acutely frustrated Nigerians would not accept this. Too many things were going wrong at the speed of light. And there were many questions begging for answers. To compound the President’s headache, some irritants, called critics, waged an unrelenting war against him on social media which was supposed to be under his firm control. It was one of the weapons he used to portray the image of our own Obama. His spin-doctors even told us he was technologically savvy. But that was then. The times have changed and his opponents are getting on top of the game. They have launched a sustained attack on him and his weak policies. The new strategy is to pummel him into his corner and ensure a comeback is practically impossible when the next election comes.
Unfortunately for Jonathan and his media team, since nothing concrete has been happening in government, the presidency has had no cogent defence against its vociferous accusers. He has not helped matters himself by wasting money and frittering resources away with reckless abandon. His budgets have revealed a leader who spends more on a few politicians than the larger populace. The feeding allowance to the first family sounds like a fairy-tale. Nobody in this world would believe our leaders earn far more than President Barack Obama, his cabinet and American legislators. In addition they receive more emoluments than any soul on earth. What makes matters even worse is the lack of visible performance on all fronts which has earned his government notoriety and opprobrium.
In a fit of panic or whatever, he has had to jazz up his public affairs department by employing our big Brother, Dr Doyin Okupe, a gifted propagandist who’s expected to help bully his aggressors. He’s to join the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku and Special Adviser on Media, Reuben Abati to form a formidable team against invaders. How far they can go remains to be seen but there’s no doubt that Dr Okupe has raised the tempo of media action in Aso Rock. His strategy is to use attack as the best form of defence. But it is not going to be that simple.
It would be nicer if we are attacked with details of performance and not a rehash of the same old government excuses. We’ll love to know how many kilometres of roads have been upgraded to international standards with all the money allocated to the Ministry of Works over the years. We should be told how much it has cost the nation to upgrade our power generation to a paltry and unambitious 4,000 megawatts, probably less than what would power an Olympic games’ village. It would be nice to see how the President has launched a revolution in the Education sector. I would personally love to know the political philosophy that drives the vision of our President. Who are his heroes and role models? What books does he read for stimulus? Where does he hope to take Nigeria at the end of his first tenure? What has he done to warrant the prediction of a compulsory victory at the next polls, whether we like it or not, as gleefully announced by Dr Okupe? Does he see Nigeria only in terms of turn by turn and his qualification only on the basis of place of origin and zoning system?
Rather than provide answers, the handlers of the President have become completely paranoid. And there is nothing as dangerous as a neurotic government. It sees enemies where none exists and disregards genuine advice when it is offered. Won’t I be a beneficiary of good and responsible governance? As for me and my house, we don’t have anything personal against anyone. We just want a good country where many things work well. We do not want our intelligence insulted by government agents who think we don’t deserve the good things we see in other places. They should descend from their high horses and talk to us with respect. Leaders of nations that are doing well won’t talk down on critics. They accept criticism as an integral part of democracy.
Every statement they issue these days is an attack on perceived and imaginary enemies. Their querulous disposition is understandable and pitiable but it won’t help their boss who certainly needs more friends than enemies. This is a President under intense fire from every angle within and without. The man who purportedly brought Facebook to Nigeria, as gleefully suggested at a colourful ceremony, has totally absconded from his favourite medium. As a matter of fact, he has broken the world record as the most abused leader in ancient and modern history. His unrelenting critics have taken over the social media where they are daily firing darts at him. And the impact is being felt in the Presidential villa. It seems so bad that Reuben Abati issued a release this week in which he called social media critics “unintelligent and mischievous.” He also said the intelligent ones are wasting their time to promote unproductive tendencies. It is a sign that the heat is on if my Brother is sounding this tough.
Leading the group of opposition politicians and critics on Twitter is Mallam Nasir El Rufai with over 100,000 passionate followers. I plead guilty to coming a distant second with nearly 54,000. We have a few other young but politically-conscious Tweeps like Japheth Omojuwa with 36,000, Kayode Ogundamisi aka Canary with 22,000, Chinedu Ekekeee with over 9,000, Babatunde Rosanwo with over 11,000, Patrick Obahiagbon the bombastic grammarian and former member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, with over 19,000, Dino Melaye former member Nigeria’s House of Representatives with over 12,000, Femi Fani-Kayode former Minister with nearly 5,000, Tolu Ogunlesi journalist, satirist and international award winner, with over 21,000, Tokunbo Afikuyomi with nearly 2,000, Rosemary Ajayi with over 1,000, Kathleen Ndongmo with over 6,000, Funmi Iyanda with nearly 15,000, and several other influential bloggers. I must mention that Linder Ikeji has become a household name who has combined general interests with politics on her soar-away blog.
It is noteworthy that despite the relative brouhaha caused by social media in Nigeria, it is morning yet on creation day. The social critics need to fully mobilise our huge population nationwide. The erratic pace of telecoms is a dampener but things are picking up. Apart from Nasir who has crossed the 100,000 mark on Twitter, no politician has come anywhere close. As small as our community of social critics looks, its impact is being felt in powerful circles. The fuel subsidy crisis went viral as a result of the social media explosion. It is only a matter of time before elections in Nigeria would be largely influenced by technology. Those who hope to keep our people perpetually in bondage are clearly missing it. The youths hold the key to our future. When they make up their minds about change, nothing can stop them.
The Nigerian ruling elite is so far lucky that our showbiz community is not overtly political like their American counterparts who used their stupendous influence and reach to cause the miracle of a Blackman becoming the most powerful leader on earth. Just imagine what would happen with a combined mega-force of Don Jazzy at 401,000 followers, D’banj at 306,000, Peter Okoye of P Square at 165,000, Wizkid Ayo Balogun at 332,000, Banky Wellington at 235,000, Davido at 137,000, Naeto C at 141,000, Eldee the Don at 205,000, Sound Sultan at 102,662, Tiwa Savage at 153,816, Basketmouth at 111,339, M I at 184,372, Dare Art Alade at 99,423, and so many others.
I dream of that day the showbiz community and the advocates of reform decide to work together. The change we crave will happen like magic.