I don’t know about you. I confess to being thoroughly embarrassed about Nigeria with all that I see on the Internet, on Twitter, on Facebook and every television channel and News Media I turn to these days. The embarrassment does not come from the plight of those 300 Nigerian school girls alone, but from the ridicule, the corruption and the level of incompetence and buffoonery displayed by President Jonathan and his first lady and much of the Nigerian ruling class.
I cannot help but take this title from a popular Apala musician, the late Ayinla Omowura who in one of his songs composed to ridicule one of his jealous wives asked the woman that if she is not ashamed or embarrassed, the people in her community are ashamed of her. For once the Reuben Abati’s and the Doyin Okupe’s of this world who never see anything they don’t like in Mr. President and his Government would appear to have gone into hiding as the international outcry about the plight of those girls dominate the airwaves. As a father of 4 girls with one of them residing in Abuja, as we speak, I feel the pains of those mothers and fathers who are daily shown on television begging the international community to come rescue their girls from Boko Haram as the Jonathan Government has totally failed them.
I am sick to my stomach as I watch those parents write-off Jonathan as a do-nothing President…
I am a technocrat and not a card-carrying member of any political party in Nigeria but I would be lying if I tell you I like what is going on in Nigeria and how the country has become the butt of every joke in late night talk shows around the world. I feel that way as I watch the power-drunk first lady take over the role of her husband by ordering the arrest of one of the surrogate mothers who attended a meeting called by the first lady. I feel that way as I watch the first lady shedding crocodile tears and threatening to personally go into the Sambisa Forest to release those girls. I feel that way as I watch the heart-broken mothers and fathers shown on every channel you turn to crying and sobbing and fearing the worst for their children who may have been raped and violated in every way imaginable by heartless terrorists carrying all sorts of terrible diseases you can imagine.
I feel that way as I watch the Boko Haram rag tag army and their egomaniacal leader paraded on television all over the world. Boko Haram is giving the so-called well financed and well equipped Nigerian Military and the Nigerian Police a nightmare as they feel totally helpless to do what they are paid to do. I feel that way as I watch the Commander-in-Chief and his top military officers and the so-called Inspector-General still holding on to their jobs while their credibility has been reduced to nothing.
I feel totally deflated as I watch the President and the first lady seize on every photo opportunity to appear with world leaders like the Pope and the Queen of England to give themselves some psychic satisfaction they are still relevant in world politics while their country is crumbling under the weight of their own incompetence and dereliction. The images that readily come to mind is the image of Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. I feel that way when I watched the President dancing in Kano while nearly half his country is on fire, so to speak. I watched the President and his first lady kissing the ring of the Pope and that immediately reminds me of President John F. Kennedy ‘s one or two visits to the Basilica during his tenure in office.
I never saw the President, the first American Catholic kissing the ring of the Pope because he wanted to show the world how religious he was. It was an eye service per excellence. President Jonathan and the first lady had done that before television cameras just to impress his ignorant citizens back home. I have witnessed many Heads of State visit the Pope on television. I don’t believe that kissing the Pope’s ring is part of the official protocol for any visiting Head of State. Public speaking is not one of the strong suits of President Jonathan. He does not come across as somebody sure of himself and as somebody able to intelligently read and deliver the scripts prepared for him. I see his opening address at the current Economic Summit in Abuja as totally out of touch with the reality on the ground. The man just doesn’t get it.
The world-wide frustration with Nigeria has spiked in the last two weeks or more. The world leaders have stopped short of openly criticizing the President and his inept handling of the Boko Haram insurgency in particular. Those world leaders by protocol have stopped short of telling Nigerians what to do about their own Government and its gross incompetence. The next election is roughly one year away and the President and his Party are still hoping to be re-elected in a land slide. The history of Boko Haram in Nigeria since 2002 has been terrible. It has revealed the weakness of the Nigerian Administration and their inability to seek international help before the situation got out of control. Nigeria which has a reputation as a peace keeper in the United Nations was just not able to call on the UN or the international community to come to their rescue in the nick of time. The Government was busy pursuing shadows while totally neglecting its responsibility to secure the whole country and not just a cross section of it. Billions of dollars are being spent by the Government to equip the Military and the Police but much of that money is being diverted and pocketed by the few big shots in Aso Rock and the Legislature and the Military Establishment.
President Jonathan has considered the Boko Haram insurrection as a localized one which would resolve itself with time. Rather than accepting responsibility, he is busy blaming the Governors in the 3 states of Yobe, Adamawa and Borno who did not control the Army or the Police. What were they supposed to do? Now the insurrection is spreading and moving down south. There have now been several bomb blasts in Abuja, the nation’s capital which has become an easy target and a sitting duck for such mayhem. I saw President Jonathan come to declare open the World Economic currently holding in Abuja. The whole city has to be shut down to guarantee the safety of the delegates from all over the world and delegates to the National Conference which has been meeting in the capital for about a month now. There cannot be economic stability without political stability.
The President is already jumping the gun again by calling the intervention of the international community as the beginning of the end for Boko Haram forgetting that the killing of Osama Bin Laden and most of the Al Qaeda leaders by the Americans is part of what has led to the militancy of Boko Haram and many other terrorist groups around the world. Nigerians are grateful to the international community for finally stepping in to help Nigeria. President Jonathan will tell you his Government is doing its best but his best is just not good enough.
President Jonathan is not a strategic thinker at all. He wants to talk and behave like a leader. He is nothing more than a paper tiger. If any part of the country is in turmoil, the President should have realized the rest of the country is going to be impacted in many ways. Insurrection and mayhem in any part of the country should be viewed as a threat to the whole country. I recall Obafemi Awolowo as leader of the Opposition in Nigeria arranging a legal team to go defend Alhaji Shugaba who was deported from the defunct Northeastern Nigeria for political vendetta many years ago. Awolowo had recognized that injustice to one Nigerian is injustice to all. He mobilized lawyers to go defend Alhaji Shugaba and he saved the man from the hands of his political enemies and oppressors. That is part of the legacies of Awolowo who never became President but he knew enough to go do what he did as a national leader of consequence. The Boko Haram insurgency was a much more serious threat to Nigeria that President Jonathan should not have ignored or delayed the way he did.
President Jonathan’s Government is guilty of misplacement of its priorities. I recall the arrest of a Nigerian-born medical doctor at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in November 2013 for merely expressing an opinion on Nigeria on the Internet. The man, a respectable medical practitioner and lawyer with so many clinics in New York was arrested and detained in Ikoyi for hours. He was wrongly accused of inciting the Military to stage a coup in Nigeria. Many lawyers in Nigeria including Lawyer Aturu and the United States Embassy in Nigeria had to be involved because the gentleman, Dr Emmanuel Fashakin, is a US citizen who does not belong to any political party in Nigeria. He was arrested and harassed for hours before he was released. A Government that has time for such persecution of innocent citizens did not have the time to think of seeking help from the international community to confront Boko Haram before it was too late Boko Haram says that Western education is sinful and they would do anything to turn Nigeria into a phony Islamic state they canvass. President Jonathan if he knew any better, should have nipped the insurrection in the bud. Whatever his Government is doing now is too little too late.
Nigeria deserves a better Government than the one we currently have. President Jonathan and the P.D.P have outlived their usefulness and it is time for them to go. It’s time to “bring back our girls”. The world is confident that something would start happening now that the international rescue team has hit the ground running. I can only hope that the Nigerian Government would let them do their work.
By Dr. Wumi Akintide