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President Jonathan and unfulfilled promises

By Dele Sobowale

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But, I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
Miles to go before I sleep
Robert Frost, 1874-1963

“Promises like pie-crusts are made to be broken”.
Jonathan Swift,

About two months ago, one of the regular readers of this page asked me if President Jonathan’s ‘humility’ was not sufficient reason to give the man a second look. In a three part series, I dismissed humility as an attribute expected of great leaders.

Instead, I chose “keeping his words” as the first and indispensable attribute of any leader – President or not. Robert Frost was the poet Laureate of the President John Kennedy administration and the quote above was the lead-off to late President Kennedy’s inauguration address in 1960. Clearly, Kennedy, whose Camelot Administration, still remains evergreen in our memories, recognized the importance of Presidents keeping most of their promises.

Jonathan Swift, a novelist and poet, on the other hand, had long observed, with the keen eyes of an artist, that most people don’t, nor do they intend to, keep their words. President Jonathan of Nigeria is now on the stage of history where he would be well advised to make fewer promises and redeem more of them.

Right now, his record on that score is abysmal. That is neither good for us, as a nation; nor for him, as a leader, because he runs the risk of being quickly despised. Let me list some, and only some, of the promises, which the President is committed to discharging – if honour is to be preserved.

On June 27, 2011, Vice President Sambo, received the Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Alexander Polyakov along with the management of Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, situated at Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State. The most significant thing about the visit, was the fact that Polyakov pleaded with the Federal Government led by Yar’Adua-Jonathan-Sambo to implement agreements signed by the two governments during the visit of the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Nigeria in 2009. In other words, the Russians are demanding that Jonathan should discharge the obligations assumed by our country in 2009.

You don’t have to be an expert in International Relations to know what would happen to a country which fails regularly to honour agreements. Yet, this is the risk we run, not only with Russia but with other countries as well. Who knows how many pledges our President has made, in his characteristic off-handed manner? And how many are promptly forgotten immediately after. Because Jonathan’s records, for keeping promises, are, to say the least becoming more disturbing, let us quickly remind ourselves of a few.

First, was the promise to “move quickly”, after inauguration, to get the process of transformation of our economy and nation underway. For someone who had spent four years in the presidency, three years as “spare tyre” and one as President, one would have expected that forming a new cabinet would take little time. Well, it has taken two months from the election till the date the list of Ministers was sent to the Senate for approval and even then, the list, was to say the least, underwhelming.

Not a single name there represents a departure from the past we have all condemned. The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, literally disclaimed the northern candidates. Others also present their share of anxiety.  What sort of transformation can Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke bring about given her track record as Minister of Transport and the lingering fuel (especially kerosene) scarcity, which belong under her portfolio as Minister of Petroleum Resources? Or is it Dr Usman, who had been disseminating falsehood under the Vision 20:2020 policy, who will stop the self-deception which has become government policy? Olusegun Aganga presided over the preparation of the 2011 budget which Dr Okonjo-Iweala has, diplomatically, declared as worthless.

Some of my colleagues in the media who advised Jonathan to “hit the ground running” forget that both the snail and the jaguar hit the ground running. But, you can never make a jaguar out of a snail. Nobody can give what he does not have – as the lawyers say. Question is: what stuff is Jonathan made of?

Second, everybody saw on television the photo-trick called the signing of the Minimum Wage Bill. The mugus of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, were thrilled by it. At UniJankara, we knew it was a scam. Now, the NLC and TUC are threatening a national strike. That was after they were tricked into surrendering their votes “for Jonathan not the PDP”. Is it the PDP that is failing to redeem its pledge now? “A sucker is born every minute” indeed.


“One of the lessons of history is that people never learn from history”.

Back in 2003 when the leaders of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, decided not to field a presidential candidate but to throw their weight behind Obasanjo, I wrote an article titled “REQUIEM FOR AD” in which the demise of the party was predicted. Obasanjo, not only betrayed them, after securing their support, by “capturing” the Southwest for PDP, he sent the AD leaders into political oblivion for their strategic mistake and paved the way for the emergence of Bola Tinubu as the political leader of the Southwest today because he was the only dissenter from that flawed approach to politics.

So when in 2011, Governors Obi of the APGA and Mimiko of the Labour Party led their parties to adopt President Jonathan of the PDP as their parties candidate, I knew why the black man will remain backward for centuries more. Our leaders never, never, learn anything from the past. As it turned out Jonathan promised them Ministerial appointments if he was re-elected. Well, he was. Then his party, the PDP, took over the sharing of the spoils. And they quickly decreed there would be nothing for non PDP candidates. Last week, the President reportedly wrote to Obi and Mimiko to tell them the bad news. He also promised to consider their candidates for other appointments.

If Obi and Mimiko believe that, then they will believe anything. That will be akin to accepting another cheque from a guy who is rapidly acquiring a reputation for issuing dud cheques. If you add Labour, ASUU, house wives searching for kerosene and the broken promise to ensure there will be no return to “business as usual” (which is not even original because Obasanjo said the same thing in 1999) and the false expectation created by the promise to “hit the ground running”, even the village idiot must understand that indeed we are experiencing “a breath of fresh air” – Jonathan style.
Permit me, if I hold my nose. I am suffocating!!!



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