By Josef Omorotionmwan
Nigerians are a peculiar breed. This shows up everywhere. In a football match with another country on our home ground, Nigerians would start off encouraging their team; but as soon as the Nigerian team falls into goal deficit, Nigerians would switch their support to the visiting team and, depending on their level of disappointment, they might begin to haul stones at the Nigerian players.
This is the Nigerian spirit: no matter who is involved, the spirit punishes indolence and rewards excellence.
Suppose the leader suddenly surrenders? Sometimes, we pray and hope that our President is not about to give up on the system.
President Goodluck Jonathan was being economical with the truth when in his opening address to the 52nd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Abuja on Monday, August 28, 2012, he provided a frightening glimpse of the Nigerian situation. For the first time perhaps, President Jonathan came to the awakening that Nigeria had a load of problems.
The President sees himself as “the most criticized President in the world”, except that “his critics failed to understand that the current challenges predated his administration”.
In a tone suggestive of a man who is beating a retreat from responsibility, the President now admits: “We don’t have the magic wand, except the miracle worker who with the wave of the hand, probably will help to throw all these challenges away and prosperity will appear”.
Hear him further: “Sometimes, even people who have held offices in government criticise me to the extent of personal abuses. Sometimes I ask, were there roads across the country and Jonathan brought flood to wipe out these roads? Or we had power and I brought hurricane to break down the entire infrastructure?”
These are cheap escapes in which the President left the Nigerian spirit behind. Otherwise, he would have begun from the beginning. It is now convenient for the President to remember that he is the most criticised politician in the world. He has forgotten that he was once the most praised politician on earth.
The media that have today become “politicized” and “unreliable” were the same media that fought his opponents to a standstill, when during the final days of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, certain elements were bent on frustrating him from the presidency, particularly when the PDP machines were bent on Jonathan respecting the party’s so-called zoning policy.
Yes, Nigeria’s problems, like many others, are not new. Jonathan knew that much when he was asking for the job. And in the Nigerian spirit, Nigerians encouraged him, believing that he was coming to clear the existing mess.
It is on record that in the beginning, President Jonathan was encouraged to the extent that he stands as the only Nigerian President who came into office on votes from across party divides.
Nigerians voted for Jonathan, not for him to tell them that there are problems, which, of course, the people already know. Rather, they expect to hear that their President has solved their problems.
In any case, the media, the new critics of Jonathan’s administration, are the mirror of the discontent of society. In essence, they represent the supporters’ club – they applaud you when you perform and boo you when you don’t!
In adjudging himself the most criticized President in the world, President Jonathan ought to know that at his level, the totality of his environment comes into play.
His friends and family cannot be removed from his life. We are not in a hurry to forget the controversy that trailed the church gift of his Italian friend, Domenico Gitto, to President Jonathan’s hometown of Otueke in Bayelsa State.
We wonder how many people know that Gitto has since died perhaps out of depression from heavy debt pile-up in Nigerian banks. At the time of his death, on June 26, 2012, the full extent of his indebtedness was not ascertained but it was immediately known that his company was indebted to three Nigerian banks to the tune of N21 billion.
Talking of criticism, the First Lady has not been too helpful, either. It has been one controversy after the other. And all this must necessarily impinge on the President.
Whether we are talking of her status as a ghost worker in Bayelsa State during the era of Governor Timipre Sylva, or her controversial appointment as Permanent Secretary, or, for that matter, the public opprobrium of Governor Chibuike Amaechi in her hands on the Port Harcourt waterfront settlement, it has been controversy galore.
Again, there is no way some multi-million Naira investments said to be owned by the First Lady will not attract press attention and be lifted to the front burner. People will talk and our President will complain.
The dog of the President is also the President of dogs. And when it concerns the President, no news is good news. He cannot shy away from public view.
If he refuses to declare his assets publicly, it is news. But if he opts for open declaration of his assets, it is also news. In all these, where does the Dame, the Permanent Secretary, the First Lady, stand on the issue of assets declaration? More criticisms may still lay ambush for our President!
Our counsel is simple: Let President Jonathan turn on the Nigerian spirit. Like in the game of football, if he performs, he can still become the most praised, but if not, he must contend with being the most criticised.