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Wrong steps

By Owei Lakemfa
ACTING President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday February 16,  made his debut on the international stage. It was at the Economic Community  of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State Summit which had been on hold due to President Umaru Yar’Adua’s poor health. It was a befitting one for him as 10 of the 13 expected ECOWAS leaders showed up and the rest were represented.

The Jonathan outing was crowned with his being elected Chairman of the body. His speech to his colleagues that a few of them trample on the will and genuine aspirations of the people, must have sounded musical in the ears of democrats in the sub-region many of who are endangered species. This is the case in Guinea- Conakry, Niger, Gambia, Mauritania and Cote d’ Ivoire.

Just as he is beginning to settle down, power mongers, self-serving bureaucrats, ingratiators, traders in government and those who do not think he has any business  presiding in Aso Rock are busy at work. They are telling him that he is in charge and should show it by taking tough decisions such as carrying out the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry which Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Yar’Adua have hesitated in doing.

Clutching the same worn-out arguments and dubious statistics they unloaded on Obasanjo 10 years ago, they are arguing that since Jonathan swept into power by popular pressure, he should strike while the iron is hot; when his popularity is at its peak. They are already eyeing their private gains from this investment, including funds to be expended in ‘settling’ individuals and awarding contracts for the propaganda war that will need to be waged against the Nigerian people in order to force them into submission.

But so also did their fathers dig holes for past leaders and persuaded them to walk across. General Aguiyi- Ironsi became Head of State at a troubled period in our history . Proclaiming the army as saviours, self servers persuaded him to impose a unitary system on the country. Once he took the bait, they instigated riots  and massacres and before he knew what was amiss, he was in a shallow grave.

General Yakubu Gowon who took over was persuaded that “the basis of Nigeria’s unity is not there”. He swallowed the bait and proclaimed this in a national broadcast. When the country tilted towards a break up as his speech had advocated, he went to a peace meeting in Aburi, Ghana and signed the peace accords. When he returned, he was persuaded that the Aburi Accords were not favourable.

Rather than ask for a new round of talks that can amend the accords, he was persuaded to tear them up and “Go On With One Nigeria”. The result was that we lost over one million people in a civil war imposed on the citizenry by power hungry soldiers and their advisers.

When the war ended, it was time for the military to say goodbye to governance and return to the barracks. At first Gowon agreed, then the persuaders told him he was the saviour and the only person that can lead the country, he fell for the flattery, said the 1976 hand over date was no longer realistic and was overthrown. He landed in exile, fought off allegations  that he murdered his successor and coup plotter, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, and managed to avoid a death sentence.

Alhaji Shehu Shagari was a private man. Power mongers convinced him he was running the country very well. When the opposition pointed out with verifiable statistics that the economy was endangered, time servers scraped together a fraudulent set of statistics to persuade him that everything was okay.

The advisers persuaded Shagari that he was so well loved, and military rule was so archaic that no soldier would be insane enough to think of unseating him. The massively rigged 1983 elections that gave him “landslide and moon slide“ victory were shown as evidence of his unparallel popularity . Three months later, he had been overthrown and was in detention. The time servers simply  switched over to the new powers in office.

Sani Abacha was a very ambitious general. Those who are for “Any Government In Power” fed on his ego and kleptocratic instincts that he is the only person who can lead the country. To prove it, all the five political parties adopted him as their presidential candidate. The poor pocket size dictator must have realised that the country would  survive without him, only when he found that he was standing before the Almighty answering to his crimes against humanity.

The country has undergone a traumatic period in the last three months with an absentee President and a restless populace. The economic down-turn had further impoverished many and even the upper middle class that saved their lives on shares suddenly found themselves  staring poverty in the face when the stocks crashed.

What the populace is looking forward to is a Jonathan presidency that would lighten their yoke. A fresh president that would begin to seriously address the issue of jobs and tackle the energy problem. A leader who would address the criminally poor conditions of living and reverse the trend whereby the people only suffer the effects of governance rather than reap the dividends of democracy.

The Nigerian people do not want to pay more for petrol, transportation, rent, healthcare, education, food or social services. They desire  a better life rather than be compelled to make more sacrifices to subsidise the incompetence of bureaucracy, the myopia of a few and the kleptocracy of the majority in the  political arena.

The Acting President should tarry awhile, consider unofficial advice, order some quiet in the cacophony of voices around him so that he can hear the faint pleadings of the Nigeria people who sound like victims trapped under the rubbles of a category seven earthquake. He should avoid taking the wrong steps.


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