By Bisi Lawrence
Slipped in the bath, knocked my head against a wall, and passed out. When I regained consciousness, it seemed a hundred days had passed.
And it could have, only it was actually no more than a hundred minutes. That’s how quickly it flies, and that is how seemingly deceptive it can be in its flight, this thing they call time – especially when you seem to be unconscious most of the time.
The hard fact of the matter is that it counts all the same, whether you are conscious or not. It goes by a strict set of rules and makes you accountable for the way you respond, or not, to its passage.
It was never reported that our President slipped in the bath, or knocked himself out in the process, for the simple fact that, thank God, it never actually happened.
There had been moments though, that he seemed to give a fair representation of someone in his position, who could have appeared more conscious of what’s going on. But surrounded by sycophants, some of them erected as Ministers, Ministers of State, Senior Special Advisers, Advisers and plain quota fillers, one could get quite distant from the time of day.
Several of them, apologists even in appearance and careerist by disposition, came up promptly with the issue of time, when well-meaning Nigerians opened up on President Goodluck Jonathan’s performance in his first hundred days in office – and power. The critics were very blunt about the aspect of power, both in respect of authority and also with regard to the sweet juice of industry. The “defenders” quickly fell back on time. “Haba!” they cried, “how can you judge a man’s performance in just one hundred days in office. Just one hundred days – there must be a conspiracy in all this!”
I wonder how many of them had ever been out cold, for one hundred minutes, not to talk of days. But, beyond all that, the topic was not the President’s achievement in his total term of four years as evaluated through the prism of his performance in a hundred days.
Knowledgeable and concerned citizens were only commenting on Jonathan’s line of action as established in that period. It is definitely weak to declare that the time is too short — or, in other words, that one hundred days is too short for evaluating what was done in one hundred days, even if it seemed to have been disposed of in a manner that paid scant attention to pressing issues around you.
Of course, some activities took place. Significant among them were appointments into ministerial positions. And most significant was the return of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the Ministry of Finance.
Her immediate predecessor in office, Olusegun Aganga, was sent to cool his heels in the Ministry of Trade and Investment. He was fortunate not to have been kicked out like Odein Ajumogobia, with whose impressive performance as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, we would find no joy in comparing the average presentation of his successor. Some of the appointments were supposed to have been made to fulfill the Constitutional demand of one minister from each State.
That would account for the quantity, which is clearly over the brim, but needed not to have affected the quality in such an eyebrow-raising manner. .
But good Ngozi scaled over all that. She came in on her own steam, and not for the making up of any quota. She is not going to be paid in any foreign currency unit also, and would be earning just what the other cabinet members are earning. But that is where the bus stops.
Others alight here while the Finance Minister rides on. And that is simply to illustrate that there are “levels” even in ministers. She is the one who must be obeyed. Anyone who did not kowtow tightly enough would hardly know what hit him.
This has led some “wag” to refer to the gentle lady as “Prime Minister”, already. Doubtless the President is desirous of working with a united cabinet. Probably, he is not conscious of the cleavage already created by his distinct declaration of “the first among the equals”.
But then, let’s face it, the Finance Minister has a full plate in front of her. Her paramount duty, it is said, is to “create jobs”. First of all, the kinds of jobs to be created would have to be determined by appreciating those who are already in search of a job, and those who would be ready and qualified for employment. She is also expected to channel ways of improving the economy. It took her no time to point out the faux pas in a budget in the Capital Expenditure is totally overshadowed by the Current Expenditure. Her competence, of course, is not in doubt. As the coordinating minister of the economic team, as well as the leader of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc, she would have a welcome challenge that she could face with all her intellectual and professional prowess.
However, having worked at the peak of the IMF/World Bank administration, one cannot help wondering how much of her is still tied to the policies and perceptions of this twin organization whose aims have not always been to the benefit of developing countries. In particular, we may mention the “Cement Armada” of the middle ‘nineties, when Nigeria was cleverly nudged into importing more cement than she could absorb quickly, thus having to pay millions of dollars in demurrage charges. This has since been linked to a deliberate attempt to puncture our economy that was then posing a threat to the global economic welfare of Western powers, which both the IMF and the World Bank are unabashedly committed to protecting. Linked with the world financial duo, was also the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, which all but entirely ruined our economic development.
It was arguable that Okonjo-Iweala resigned to return home in her first coming, and that her relationship with those foreign concerns were purely professional. She even got our debts forgiven. But the ease with which she glided her way back into the crest of the World Bank/IMF organization would suggest that she may not have totally broken her ties with them, in the first place. And that may raise questions of, at least, divided loyalty, since only the very naive could, in this day and age, believe in the good intentions of those organizations towards Nigeria. Such a thought might seem odious, but it is here asserted, with every sense of responsibility, not to impugn the Finance Minister’s integrity. In fact, her appointment is probably yet the only oasis in a vast desert of bland motions in the past hundred days.
The Boko Haram is real. Every Nigerian is alive to the fact now with the attack on the UN building in Abuja. We have had experts from the top anti-terrorist organizations in the world. But the best they could do at this time is to make sure that the perpetrators do not escape. The important measure would be how to prevent another occurrence of the same kind. We need reassurance that every effort is afoot to achieve this. We need it from the President himself in an address to the nation.
The scary conflict that has ripped the judicial system of this country apart is as important as any crisis of that nature can be, especially with the part played by the President himself. He owes the nation a clarification about his government’s position on the issue. At moments of stress, the leader of a nation should feel obliged to talk directly to his people.
Among the appointments the past hundred days witnessed and welcomed, is that of Dr. Rueben Abati. His erudition and persuasiveness remove the tedium of listening to official announcements, but still fall short of a presidential pronouncement. We have heard reports, even live and voice reports, of what the President feels about several issues. Almost anyone can talk like the President. A select few can even talk for the President. But only the President himself can talk as the President. Only then is he close to his “fellow country men”. Only then is he not just the President, but also our President, and we are re-assured he is conscious of what is going on around him. President Goodluck Jonathan needs to do that more often in the next one hundred days.
Echoes: Egbons, it helps when one is truly outraged about an issue when writing. Your column today, “Our Collective Shame “, is spicy and vintage Biz Law. Nothing more to add.” (Dele Adetiba. – Aug. 27th, 2011)
Thanks. I’m sure you did not expect this to be published – eh, vintage Biz Law?
Echoes: “Your article, “Our Collective Shame “, was great, but you did not mention “Baba Iwa “, Justice Shomolu, or Sigismund Lambo, etc. Maybe you’ll write another piece. “ (Chief Fred Ehenemba, Warri – 0708.205.6301)
You too did not remember Justice Begho, right there from Warri. There were so many of them – intrepid, sagacious high priests in the temple of justice. One can only mention a few at a time.
Echoes: “The first law I learnt as a Cub Scout was, “ Obey first before complaining. “ And in my secondary school in the 60’s, my late Principal, J.A. Washington, added, “I obey” – with a rider, “on instruction. “ Sorry, but Salami was wrong in not obeying the NJC, no matter what, but with a protest. President Goodluck Jonathan was right. (Patrick Agbale, Festac, Lagos).
I am not inclined to agree with you. When we are talking about the law, we are not exactly focusing on Cub Scout Rules. But, you may be right, I have often been wrong.