By Kassim Afegbua
Truly, we are in difficult times in Nigeria. Anywhere you turn, the responses one gets as a direct output of interaction, are hisses and sighs. Such dismissive conclusion isn’t the best way to show satisfaction.
It is simply a way to express dissatisfaction with the system, with government and all its appurtenances. It has grown from the physical to the metaphysical with very sordid realities as the thematic essence of our national life.
From the North to South, from the East to West, Nigeria at present is generally beleaguered by poor leadership and a compliant follower ship thus leaving the strength of social discourse in the hands of famished stomachs too frail to raise a voice.
As the country continues to vacillate in this circuitous voyage to nowhere, government apologists, always too ingenious would readily declare that “walahi, the Jonathan administration is delivering on promise”. Ask them to name the specifics; what you get is a scornful look that suggests that a lie has just been told.
The ongoing polluted discourse about fuel subsidy removal or no removal prompted me to ask myself if actually there is a document called the manifesto exclusively owned by the ruling party, the PDP and which expectedly should form the basis for its political covenant with the electorate.
Judging from the way and manner the PDP was hurriedly formed in 1998 to answer the call for democratic governance; it could be excused if it was unable to script a document called a manifesto. Surprisingly, in order to fulfill the requirements of INEC registration, it hurriedly put together a manifesto and after registration, the story ended there.
Thus, it went into the 1999 election preaching the essential ingredients of free enterprise and assuring Nigerians that better days were ahead. As soon as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo won election, he reportedly told party members who cared to listen that whatever quantum of investment they might have made, it should be considered as sacrifice and that he was not prepared to patronize anyone on account of his contribution to his victory.
He went a step further to introduce new policy proposals from the Theophilus Danjuma-led Presidential Policy Advisory Committee and put to rest the issue of the PDP manifesto. That was the end of everything that has to do with manifesto in the ruling PDP.
Does PDP have a manifesto? Is fuel subsidy one of the issues contained in its manifesto? If yes, how come it did not form part of the issues canvassed during the last campaigns for the election of President Goodluck Jonathan? If no, why the sudden introduction of subsidy removal after the elections?
Was it an afterthought or perhaps the PDP and President Jonathan deceived Nigerians in order to get their votes and later turn around to visit them with untold hardship as we presently have on our hands? Any serious-minded political party is expected to work by its rules and regulations contained in its constitution and manifesto or any other document for that matter.
This idea of preaching prosperity during elections and delivering poverty after elections rubbishes whatever integrity such a party possesses.
It is also shameful that a Party as dominant as the ruling PDP cannot honour its own rules. If fuel subsidy removal was not an issue before the election and if it does not exist in the old manifesto of the PDP, why does the Party think this is the appropriate time to introduce it; trying to be clever by half?
Weep not for me, weep for PDP
The PDP surely needs some serious reforms that would properly weed out all the anti-progressive elements that presently dominate the conscience of the Party. The mad rush for patronage and grand material acquisition does not allow for common sense to prevail in its decision-making process.
If PDP were to be that concerned about the plights of Nigerians, if it were to be worried about the 35 percent unemployment rate, if it were to be conscious of the declining confidence in the polity, if it were to be pained about insecurity, perhaps, it would not continue this on-going rehearsal about removing fuel subsidy.
The sheer arrogance of “damn it” which the Party has imposed on Nigeria and Nigerians making Jonathan unreconciled to his new role as President, has further eliminated the thought-process that could possibly generate great ideas to take us out of the present morass. It is like a lunatic asylum with everyone accusing the other of lunacy yet; all are pigeon-holed within the geographic space of the asylum, running amok in search for salvation.
Defining the underlining principle of such a precarious balance, you wonder why extraordinary care must not be taken to ensure safe landing. But in the thinking of the PDP, whether we crash-landed does not matter insofar there is money to share. Every adventure is dissected on the basis of what is in it for the “men”.
I expect the PDP if it were to be a serious-minded Party, to come up with a position that suggests a way out of the present subsidy logjam. Like compliant party members who have sinned against humanity, the morality to take a different position from that of the President and government has been eaten up by greed and corruption.
Otherwise, if subsidy does not exist in the manifesto of the Party, what stops the leadership of the Party to call the President to order and insist that the right thing must be done?
Rather than come out in such patriotic fervor to salvage the situation, the leadership simply concurred in such dubious manner and has since entered into another round of propaganda machinery to hoodwink Nigerians into believing that subsidy means bread and butter. Does it mean that government cannot take this discourse beyond the rubrics of subsidy removal or lack of it, or it is simply telling us that without removing subsidy, the country will capitulate?
Weep not for me, weep for President Jonathan
Since it is obvious that President Jonathan is not working with the manifesto of his Party, it does appear that he comes across ideas whenever he sleeps and wakes up. President Jonathan does not seem to have reconciled his past with his present. I mean no disrespect here, but what is starring me in the face is the image of Goodluck Jonathan as a Deputy Governor and not a President that he is at present.
He still carries on as if he does not have the powers to take certain decisions. He is in government as President, but he is simply not in charge. He doesn’t seem to understand the dynamics of the country. He is neither in control of his Party nor is the Party in control of him.
The governors of the PDP states often times hold the President hostage on issues that affect their common interest and on several occasions, the president has had to rescind his decision to suit the ego of his body of governors. With such mind set, how does he derive the political will to carry out his statutory responsibilities on behalf of Nigerians?
President Jonathan needs to wake up. He needs to realize his new status as President of Nigeria and not Governor of Bayelsa State. He needs to see beyond the geographic space of his political Party and see the country as his constituency.
He must deploy ample time to look at the challenges at hand than going to states to commission projects. Till date, President Jonathan has not visited Maiduguri, Yobe, Bauchi and Jos on a fact-finding mission to at least show solidarity with those who have become victim of violence by no ordinary design of their own.
Government must show concern for her citizens both in prosperity and in poverty. It must show signs of helping the rich to sustain their investment as well as helping the poor to plan for the future; some kind of reassurance that the future is safe for them. But President Jonathan is doing none of that.
I am a sad man as I write this. I asked myself a simple question; how can government of Jonathan talk about cartel in the oil sector when the same people that are being accused are those who donated billions to his presidential campaigns? President Jonathan’s campaign remains the most expensive campaign in the history of political campaigns in Nigeria and nobody is raising query?
Who is deceiving who? How do you budget so much for the rehabilitation of Aso Presidential Villa when there is so much poverty in the country? Where will Jonathan derive the morality to question those big spenders when they tend to undermine the economy of the nation? Where does Patience Jonathan get all the money she has been spending to run her ‘unconstitutional’ office and nobody is talking?
There is so much squander mania going on and the rhetoric is the same all over with lip service becoming the order of the day. I weep for Nigeria, but more for Jonathan because this legacy of non-performance that is becoming the verdict of history in his two years in government will forever be remembered especially against the backdrop of his breath of fresh air mantra. The story is a rolling stone that gathers no moss.
It is a story that will be told someday but in every essence, it exposes the incapacity of the ruling party to contend with developmental challenges more so when there is no identifiable manifesto in the front burner of public discourse. It is a lamentable scenario. It is a condemnable reality. I rest my case.