• Saturday, June 15, 2024
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February polls, presidential fury and generational waste

Jonathan, investors open talks with A/Ibom on gas utilisation

I hate to see Presidential Goodluck Jonathan lose his cool. He doesn’t look good when he fumes. And frankly, it’s not very presidential whenever he puts on the toga of a tough Joe, talking tough on opponents or perceived adversaries.

The last time the president wore a different mien from that of a gentle lad with good luck oozing out of him, he nearly pissed the whole nation off by declaring that he didn’t give a damn over a matter in which a mere clarification was sought. It was an unexpected faux pas on live television, which further injured the reputation of this man that assumed power merely on the sentiments of a deprived background.

Not being a Nobel Laureate with a gift of the garb like Professor Wole Soyinka, it was a strange, fiery Dr. Jonathan that decided to unleash the verbal dragon again, when he flagged off his campaign for re-election in Lagos last Thursday. And what a drama to behold, again on live television, hearing the president speak uncontrollably and announcing to the world that his generation had failed the nation.

There was no coherent manifesto that spoke about what he intended to do in concrete terms to better the lot of Nigerians. There was no articulation of how to improve on power generation or job creation. His understanding of corruption was as stupefying as his treatise on how to deal with it. And his appreciation of the economy seemed limited to the vainglory of Nigeria assuming the status of Africa’s largest economy, which came only as a result of the rebasing of its Gross Domestic Product.

It didn’t appear to bother the president that Nigeria is the only oil producer that imports refined products and is unable to reduce the pump price of petrol now that the price of crude oil has hit an all-time low of below $50 a barrel. How the economy could avoid a bad crash if the crude price continues to witness a sharp drop and how government would fund capital projects and pay salaries as and when due did not feature in the president’s campaign. There was no justification for continuity at the centre or a reason for continued sacrifice. He was only out to show his capacity to display fury, to demonise opponents and declare, to the chagrin of all, that his was a failed generation.

Read also: February polls: Let’s just get it over with

Were he an octogenarian like Soyinka, he probably would have been forgiven for that unsolicited generational curse. For it was the Nobel Laureate, who, in the 1990s, examined the poor and parlous state of public education in Nigeria, with half-baked graduates and incessant industrial actions that kept students in campus for six or seven years for a four-year course, and then declared that his was a wasted generation.

But he did not stop at that admission of guilt. He offered a recipe – that for university education to witness a positive rebound, it would require a total shutdown of two years to pave way for a complete rebuild. But there is a wall of difference between Soyinka and Jonathan, and indeed between what each represents as far as the appreciation of the Nigerian project is concerned.
Soyinka spoke in his personal capacity, as an intellectual and a university don who considered himself a stakeholder in matters of education. He did not speak as a minister who was supposed to find solution to the myriad of problems bedevilling the sector, let alone as a president who ought to be seeking re-election on the strength of his past achievements.

Why then would Nigeria’s first PhD-holder president to whom history has been very kind, hitherto, suddenly begin to compete with his image makers and spouse in the art of vituperation? How could the president have declared his generation a failure in one breath and, in another, celebrate the new nouveaux riches that his administration has thrown up? Was that a sign of desperation as the election gets nearer and the reality of a possible change dawns? Did the president betray his handlers’ lack of depth in political campaign or did he mean to declare his administration and cabinet a failure and was simply at a loss as to how to plead for a second chance?

Last Thursday was not the first time that he would throw stones and pebbles in Lagos. In 2011 when he campaigned in Lagos as the president completing his former principal’s term but who needed his own four-year substantive term, it was a wily Jonathan who declared that the “rascals” in the South-West needed to be chased out in order to bring meaningful transformation to the region. However, with the exception of Ekiti, where, ironically, the paradox of rascality in government is playing out in a spectacularly dramatic way, Jonathan’s transformation theory is yet to find acceptance in the core South-West.

Could it then be that the president is overwhelmed by the failure to deliver on his promises of 2011, which has now made him to unwittingly declare himself a letdown? But then, it is true that failure stares us in the face in Goodluck Jonathan’s Nigeria, a republic that he has superintended over in the past five years.  By announcing a failed scorecard, therefore, he is unwittingly asking the voters to hold him accountable for the failures of his administration and party; and they are quite a legion.

Under Jonathan’s watch, insecurity has degenerated into a calamitous menace that a section of the country now harbours one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world. In Jonathan’s Nigeria, more blood has been shed, more people have been killed and more innocent pupils abducted without trace since the civil war ended 45 years ago. Yet, this is a republic where the Commander-in-Chief has refused a visit to Chibok, the Babylonian city of Bornu State that reminds us of an unimaginable failure of government and empathy.

In Jonathan’s republic, there is no electricity to power either the homes or the economy. And as crude oil price continues to fall badly, the president’s failed ‘generation’ is unable to identify let alone apprehend and bring to justice those who steal 400,000 barrels of crude per day.

The man who lacked shoes a while ago is now kicking and raising dust. He is redefining corruption and arguing against punishment for impunity among the political and sleazy corporate class at a time that the nation desperately seeks redemption over mere luck.