This past week, two men of political prominence, each achieved freedoms of a different sort in different circumstances and on different planes of existence. The first, our late president, a man, with whom we were never properly acquainted – at least not to any appreciable degree – became free of his encasement in human flesh; free from the trials and tribulations therein and therefrom. His soul set free to soar beyond its bodily travails; free to seek its repose in the bosom of the Most High; God rest his soul and peace be upon him.
The second man remains firmly anchored to this plane of existence pinned down by the law of gravity and the gravity of the challenges which face our nation and for which he now assumes full responsibility. In becoming substantive president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has become free of the limitations of impermanence and uncertainty attached to those who undertake functions of others in an acting capacity. He is now free to chart his own course in providing leadership to the nation.
And since it is to the incidence of fortuity, rather than the exercise of forethought, that Dr. Jonathan owes the attainment of his presidency, it would come as no surprise to political observers, if it were ever to emerge to the public consciousness, that in his private consciousness, he regards himself as something of the chosen one in contemporary Nigerian politics. Indeed, it would difficult for anyone – friend or foe – to dissuade him from the persuasion that, overshadowing his political persona is an aura of national predestination, under whose influence he can do no other, other than to obey its leadings.
But being the chosen one in a nation like Nigeria can be fraught with difficulty. The presidency, which to so many is the Holy Grail of Nigerian politics, can quite easily become a poisoned chalice. It is a position which is as prestigious as it is problematic.
The sheer amplitude of the challenges confronting such an office holder is sufficient to humble anyone minded to bring about positive change in our nation. And more so, in his particular instance, as one with barely a year left of his tenure, within which to make a meaningful difference in the life of the nation. This, of course, is discounting any possible political permutations pertaining to the renewal, or otherwise, of his candidacy and tenure in next year’s elections.
But nonetheless, Nigerians expect him to busy himself solving and dissolving the various challenges which bedevil the nation. Much of his time since becoming – acting and now substantive president – appears to have been spent appointing officials and disappointing others. The time has now come for spirited action on his part. But given the multitude of problems, with which he has to contend, it would seem sensible, if he were to focus his energies on no more than two critical areas of national importance and treat them the overarching priorities of the remainder of his tenure.
One such area requiring urgent attention and action and from which he should not recoil, is the Niger Delta situation. Unlike previous presidents and Heads of State, he is a son of the soil as well as of the oil. He is much better acquainted than any of his predecessors with the topography and peculiarities of that region, and the arena of suffering it has become for its many indigent indigenes. So, he should set about resolving it or at least make meaningful inroads into doing so.
Another area of concern, which has been ignored by successive governments for years, and has thus become intolerable and shameful, is the level of poverty in our nation. A situation graphically portrayed in shocking detail in a recent BBC documentary ‘Welcome to Lagos’ (misleadingly titled, and aired perhaps in pursuit of an agenda – revealed or concealed). Having watched the broadcast, it is easy to conclude that the BBC set out to rubbish Nigeria. But, if the truth be told, no foreign organisation can rubbish us more than our successive governments have rubbished those citizens and communities featured in those broadcasts; neglecting their plight by allowing them to subsist in such rubbish dumps in the first place.
Poverty alleviation must move beyond mere political sloganeering to become a critical area of government attention, intervention, and action. The federal government has to take the lead in this area. At a minimum, it should begin to liaise with States like Lagos, to tackle the issue of urban migration; whilst working with them to: promote investment in infrastructure development; and establish community banking outlets to provide loans for small business enterprises, as a starting point to lift them out of poverty. Differences in political allegiance(s) should not be allowed to defeat this purpose.
As one who did not actively seek the presidency, but had it thrust upon him, he should indeed consider himself the chosen one and work tirelessly for the betterment of the nation and particularly its least privileged. He should act with the vigour of a man with little time left of his tenure and nothing else to look forward to, except the securing of a noble and lasting legacy of service; regardless of whatever else may transpire next year.
Most, if not all, Nigerians, wish the new president success in his efforts. One sincerely hopes that repays this goodwill and is able to transcend narrow political interests and govern for the good of the people. If he does, then of a truth, he will rightfully be considered the nation’s chosen one.
Godspeed and Good luck to you, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, God knows you will need it.