By Bisi Lawrence
There are those who might feel, perhaps to a justifiable extent, that the stance of President Goodluck Jonathan to state affairs does not appear manly enough. They feel that he seems to be rather laid-back and somewhat subdued on some of the occasions that he might have appeared more vibrant and assertive. They wonder why he gives the impression of what Americans would casually characterize as a “wimp”.
At those times, such people would have been much more at home with fiery words of steely resolve, or solid, uplifting statements cast in a robust language of re-assurance. They would have appreciated more spectacular appearances on the television in a series of well-timed “Address To The Nation”. They would even have welcomed one or two sudden press briefings at which some deafening oral thunderbolts would be released.
But our President does not project himself as a man of many words, or a man who believes in a lot of flowery statements. He just speaks, at least in public, and says what he has to say –? and moves on. He believes in the reality of a factual statement as the total sum of its presentation and moves on, sometimes leaving not a lot of comfort behind.
Factual as a statement like “If the Boko Haram could kill me, they would”, which was ascribed to the President may have been, it does not add much to our sense of security. (For one thing, we reject its mere possibility in the Name of Jesus Christ). But then, it also adds nothing new to our body of knowledge about terrorists.
The Palestinian terrorists who held Israeli sportsmen hostage at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972 declared for all times, that the battlefield had for ever been removed from any particular area. Everyone had become a target. The battle ground is now at your doorstep. But all the same, we will still protect our own.
Since President Jonathan does not seem inclined to make a strong bid for a prize in rhetoric, however, Nigerians would gladly accept what he has to offer by way of action instead. The time for prompt action is here. The action has to be swift, short and sharp. The nation cannot be cowed under a massive siege mentality indefinitely.
The action therefore has to be several notches above the milky slops that overflow from our security sources at those times when there is a cry – or an outcry, even – for definite action. The terrorists scoff at all that, and address our security with disdain. President Jonathan is right on the beam to shelve the recently proposed meeting of senior police officers. There are vapours of escalation in sight.
With the bombings and shootings, we thought we had seen it all. However, the involvement of the element described as a “suicide” accompaniment, is a new one on us in this part of the world. But in several parts of Asia, that is known to have been thriving for centuries.
As a matter of fact, assassins were the first suicide killers known to history. They were reared in special training institutions where they underwent stringent forms of mental discipline, but were also physically pampered. On the eve of their mission, they asked for, and received whatever form of pleasure they desired. After which, devoid of passion or pity, and drained of any earthly desire, they went on to carry out their mission.
We have learnt from the lore of guerrilla warfare, from which terrorists derive a lot of faith and strength, that those who attack society from within the community, have to be unearthed from their safe positions and brought into the open, without allowing them the initiative of ordering their own movements and actions. In simple words, a “search-and-destroy” template would be the ideal method of confrontation and conquest. It must also be structured in a campaign that is sustained for as long as it takes.
That is why the importation of some foreign security agents, welcome as the event is, can be considered as a temporary measure only. With our full appreciation and great hopes for what it would achieve, we must still act on the realization that this is a Nigerian situation that Nigerians would have to handle themselves. We need to train our men and women for the enormous task ahead, for it is nothing short of that. But do we really need to announce every move, every aspect of the arrangements we are making, to the whole world?
The burning issue of how the movement is funded has to be pushed to the front burner. An army, they say marches on its belly. It would be useful to know how the marauders find sustenance. It is said that the band of terrorists own better and superior weapons. It would be helpful to discover how they source for maintenance. In short, the identity of their sponsors would blow the box wide open to reveal their programmes and purposes.
The nation waits for results. What is at stake is the very lifeblood of our existence – the right to live in freedom: freedom of movement; freedom of worship; freedom of association; freedom of speech. A country without that, is a country without life.
Pig in a poke
The season of “Take-a-bow-and walk-away” i s upon us one again. Many people have decried its various inadequacies and obvious ineffectiveness. Every minister’s nomination has to be approved by the Senate through an examination which we choose to conduct on the open floor of the house. This should be a very serious exercise since its outcome is important to the ordering of governance in the nation. But down the years, it has barely been able to lift itself above the level of a charade.
The root cause has simply been the fact that the portfolio for which a nominated minister is intended is not revealed at the time of his examination to the Senate. It is so ridiculous. The past exercises could be accounted to be a part of our growing-up process, but one should now have assumed that we have come of age, at least in this aspect. The empty show hid its defects when the interviews were not being televised, but the ludicrous dimensions became apparent when the public began to see to what droll level we have reduced such an important affair of state.
The high (?) point of the farce is at when a former legislator, ex-cabinet member, or “friend of the house” –? (like Bunkonla Saraki might be considered this time around, being a former State Governor) – takes the stage. The Senate President, David Mark, would excuse the candidate after a short pow-wow and a bow. Just a bow, that’s all, and that’s that. No wonder then that we have had to entertain some embarrassing gaffes from some of our former ministers. We need not mention names. Some were later eased off the council, but a few others managed to hang on to the end. And one must add that they were not necessarily among those who were given a quick relief at their interview.
It is not that one expects a nominated minister to be grilled like a stubborn felon. But the nation is entitled to be re-assured, through a judicious inquiry to his educational and professional background, how he would cope in his position of responsibility as a servant of the people. But then, how do you really find out all that when you are not sure of what question to ask, not being aware of what duties would be assigned to him?
That choice of the assignment in itself should even ordinarily benefit from an input from the Senate. How can you ask a panel to interview candidates without knowing what the interviewees are meant to do? Talk about buying a pig in a poke! Or how can a panel measure the competence of a candidate in performing a task which is not revealed to the panel? What is the big deal about concealing the responsibilities of a known candidate, anyway, if you need to know more than his personal character?
It is time we laid to rest all this elevated version of “blind man’s buff’, no one needs it. Through it came the surprise of an oil executive into the position of a Minister of Works, or whatever. Her performance in the former position (apart from a fetching apparition in stunning pink overalls) compared with her output when she was brought home to oil matters, shows clearly the point that some people have been making about their preferences for technocrats in ministerial office.
The Senate was said to have at first insisted on having the offices for the proposed ministers made known. But the Senate President, a former military officer, who has an enviable (unenviable?) track record of adhesive cooperation with the Executive, found a safe ground on which to retreat. He blandly stated that the Constitution does not say so. But the Constitution does not say no to it either. It simply stipulates by inference, that a ministerial appointment shall undergo confirmation by the Senate. The manner of the candidate’s presentation is left open. I mean, is there any clause in the Constitution which makes a television coverage of the event mandatory?
The President neither contravenes the Constitution by adopting a particular system; nor does the Senate violate it by insisting on a different pattern. What do we want with this “ghide-and seek” arrangement anyway, when we are operating a “transparent” government?
Echoes: There is a man named Tony Okoroji whom you should meet. He has been carrying the burden of copyright problems almost alone in this country. It is a worrying situation when gifted people cannot freely benefit from the proceeds of their talents. The case Baha Sala, which you mentioned, still rankles. Gangsters casually mined the man, just like that. This horrible practice would even affect geniuses on the verge of development when they find discouragement starring them in the face. What can you suggest? .. Solomon (+44791941899).
Well, I used to know Tony Okoroji years ago, when he was himself an artiste sporting canvas shoes, and singing Yoruba songs with an Ibo accent – quite a lad! Of course, he’s now what we call a veteran, and doing a good job at what he believes in. He wants the intellectual property and honour of artistes to be protected so that they might reap the rewards of their efforts. Ye, I’d like to meet him. The entire fabric of our Copyright situation is not just frayed at the edges – it’s in tatters. He has his work cut out for him, especially in a situation of mistrust reared by ignorance. My suggestion, keep trucking!
Echoes:I text to concur with the totalitas of your article titled “Welcome FoI, rip zoning.” Just as I announce to Nigerians that Hon. Tamhuwal’s speakership gives the hausalitarians, odduwalitarians, igbolitarians. ljawlitarians and other ethniclitarians the right to vie for presidency in 2015 … Ehimare (08076823815).
Well, all those “litarians” and others, as a matter of fact, already have the right to vie for the presidency in 2015, as long as we are talking about Nigerians. Are we?