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Advice to President Jonathan on new jet

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By Dele Sobowale

“To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven”, Ecclesiastes 3:1.


I apologise for the repetition, last week of what had been published the week before. The error was mine while sending my script to the news room. The series will however continue next week because of its vital importance to our country. Meanwhile, an urgent and important message to Mr President.

I wish you a happy 2014, my President; because indeed, you are our President. You are even Rotimi Amaechi’s President despite the deep disagreement which had suddenly drawn the two of you apart. God will, I hope, intervene to bring peace to our country – which badly needs it in order to survive another 100 years as a unit. I honestly pray for God to guide you in all the important decisions you have to make henceforth. I know God will never fail human beings; only men fail God.

I am not a Cardinal, an Archbishop or General Overseer. There are men/women of God who can do a better job of preaching to you than I can. For that matter, there are wiser, more experienced and more erudite people who can offer you advice than me. After all, you have at least one hundred Special Advisers; so who is Dele Sobowale to want to offer advice, unsolicited as it is, to the President of Nigeria?

I stake my claim to advise my President on two things. First, I am a citizen of Nigeria, one of the 170 million souls you now lead. I don’t want to be led astray or into another nationwide conflict. Second, I belong to that group of Nigerians, called Area Boys, who live strictly on our own brand of street wisdom. In any situation, we always know when we are beaten before the fight starts and we tactically withdraw. You see, my President, there is nothing more wasteful of lives and opportunities than fighting for lost causes. You are about to get engaged in one unnecessary battle.

I am sure you already know what the subject matter of my advice to you is. It is that unfortunate jet for which a request was made in the 2014 Budget. Let me quickly get to the point and then explain why. My President, if you have not done so, please write to the National Assembly, asking for the N1.2 billion budgeted for the plane to be deleted totally. You can rule Nigeria for one, five or as many years as God decides for you without the jet. But, you can make even one year hell for yourself and the rest of us by insisting on it. You will probably not get it anyway.

File: Photo NDA—From left: Governor Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna State, welcoming President Goodluck Jonathan and President Alassane Ouattara of Cote D'ivoire at the Kaduna Airport for the Nigerian Defence Academy convocation, weekend.
File:  From left: Governor Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna State, welcoming President Goodluck Jonathan and President Alassane Ouattara of Cote D’ivoire at the Kaduna Airport for the Nigerian Defence Academy convocation.

Why am I asking you to do this? Again, let me share Area Boys street wisdom with you. I am frequently asked to give advice on things such as this. My personal philosophy has always been: “Grant graciously what you cannot refuse”. Already most people in the nation are aware of the request for the aircraft. I bet you, Sir, over ninety per cent are opposed to it; especially when they also know you have at least eight other jets. What on earth will this one do that others can’t? One uncouth fellow asked: “Is he going to the moon?”

Even, if you don’t give a damn about how the people feel and you no longer bother about media criticism, as your Minister for Information had declared, there is still grave danger ahead for the office you now transiently occupy. The National Assembly, NASS, is no longer as complaisant as it used to be with regard to wasteful spending by the President. In fact, you now face the most hostile NASS of any President in history. Furthermore, 2014 is the year of party primaries and selection of flag bearers. Those members of the NASS going for elections again must position themselves as the champions of the masses and they will do it at your expense by deleting the proposal from the budget that will be approved. That will leave you with two options – ignore them and buy the jet or accept defeat and forgo it. Given the growing number of the opposition in the NASS, ignoring them and buying the jet will be the worst mistake you can make. They will simply get you impeached. Even your close allies in the NASS will not be able to defend you if that happens.

To be quite candid, I don’t know what your advisers were thinking when they allowed you to slip that into the budget. Did Dr Ngozi point out the pitfalls to you or the fact that in a world in which Mandela is being honoured for self-less leadership, no President with eight aircraft can reasonably ask for one more without appearing heartless to his people and the entire world? If they did not, somebody has to do it.

You can call me the self-appointed messenger; or worse. I will not mind.
My President, I am on my hands and knees; please send a letter to the NASS and ask them to remove the jet from the budget. This is not the season for new jets. I can live with N34 million to feed lions and tigers. You probably need more than puny Alsatians to deal with those “over-ambitious” after your job.

By all means feed the lions and, if necessary feed your adversaries (including letter writers) to the tiger. But, forget the jet. That will amount to feeding yourself to “wild beasts”. I honestly don’t want you to go down in avoidable disgrace. That will not be good for you, for the Presidency and for Nigeria.
I wish you well, my President. And, give my regards to Madam.

Even a fool now knows that the Federal House of Representatives is almost lost to the APC and has become hostile to the President. The Senate, meanwhile, is still numerically in favour of the PDP and Jonathan. However, none of the House members, or Senators, from Akwa Ibom had decamped. Once the House members cross carpet the APC will command an unassailable majority in the lower house.

At the moment, all the Senators from Akwa Ibom are in the PDP camp. Governor Akpabio had since early this year made it clear that he coveted the Senate seat held by Senator Etuks. But, the Governor will have to wait until 2015 to lay claim to the seat – if, at all, he gets it. In the meantime, Senator Etuks, if pushed to the wall, could, at any time cross over to APC and swell the ranks of the “rebels”. Jonathan cannot possibly like that.

Unfortunately, that is not the only problem likely to bring conflict between the President and the Governor. Akwa Ibom politics is rapidly becoming a quicksand of sorts even for its most experienced politicians. Towards the tail end of Attah’s eight years, zoning was adopted as the guiding principle for succession to governorship. Anangs, that is Akpabio’s ethnic group, was given the next shot at the governorship despite the numerical strength of the Ibibios. It was well understood then that the Oron nation will succeed the Anangs. There was no talk of merit. About two years ago, the entire zonal arrangement was thrown into jeopardy when it was felt that Akpabio had jettisoned zoning for “merit” – however defined. The governor is now on the horns of a dilemma. He will lose support whether he favours zoning or merit. NASS representatives may decamp which ever way he moves and Jonathan’s problems at the NASS and in 2015 will deepen on account of Akwa Ibom’s local politics.

This is beginning to look like the political kiss of death.

We wish all our friends a prosperous 2014. Christian Conscience is organizing the first Prayer Summit to wish the State and all its residents a prosperous 2014. Please join us on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at Christ the Light Church Alausa, Ikeja at 12.00 noon.

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