It was the excellent former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who declared statesmanly thus: “When those in office regard the power vested in them as personal prerogatives, they inevitably enrich themselves, promote their families, favour their friends. The fundamental structures of the modern state are eroded”. These great words by a great man who patriotically turned his small city-state from third world to first world country rang in my head as my thoughts flew to Nigeria over the weekend.
Squandering of the goodwill of the good people of Nigeria! The spontaneous goodwill the Nigerian people had for President Jonathan has been squandered irretrievably. The Aso Rock lord has unwittingly dug his political grave by metamorphosing into a despicable ‘ally’ of the rich and the elite to the detriment of the poor masses. For someone who had on different fora lamented his poor background and the inability of his parents to buy him a pair of shoe while growing up in the village to turn against the down-trodden must be a study in the psychology of power and its metamorphosis.
That is the best way to describe the politico-social crisis in Nigeria provoked by the Federal Government’s abrupt absurd removal of subsidy on petroleum products last New Year day. The general strikes and demonstrations nationwide has entered their third week with the President remaining adamant on his position and policy of maintaining the removal of the fuel subsidy. That does not portray a good leader or a listening servant one but a local tyrant hell-bent on committing political suicide. Forget about the 97 Naira pump price decision taken this morning in deference to the pressure on the streets, it is not enough and not acceptable!
Deploying armed soldiers to the streets in order to intimidate or harass protesters is not the solution, neither can the solution be the reversal to 97 Naira a litre of fuel (something which represents 50 percent increase). The ultimate solution lies in the return to the status quo which is 65 Naira a litre. Besides we all know that in Nigeria whatever goes up never comes down, so the prices of almost everything that has risen sharply will hardly come down again. By climbing down his high horse however Jonathan has demonstrated one thing for sure: the lack of quality analysis of his odious new year day ‘resolution’ against the people.
The Minister of Finance Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has proven herself to be an IMF/World Bank agent planted in the GEJ administration to do a given specific job of destabilising homes of poor Nigerians by the fuel subsidy removal. One might not blame this woman of money because she does not know what poverty means. Well-fed and stupendously rich Okonjo-Iweala was specially recruited to do the hatchet job of ‘turning the economy around’ on the graveyard of poor Nigerians. And President Jonathan has bought into the evil scheme hook, line and sinker. He has exposed himself as a weak and confused leader masquerading as a strong man.
According to Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister in Obasanjo’s presidency Okonjo-Iweala had desperately sought to remove fuel subsidy during the ‘Baba’ years but the Ota political god vehemently resisted the move insisting that it would hurt the poor majority. We may label him whatever suits our fancy but OBJ remains a patriot and a pragmatic leader who knows his onions in power. Let us give him credit here: he did not remove any subsidy before achieving what he modestly achieved in power; he did not remove the subsidy before paying off our foreign debts and leaving behind a huge fund as reserve which the Jonathan administration has depleted.
The NLC President (Comrade Omar) and his TUC counterpart (Comrade Esele) must be commended here for their great leadership qualities displayed thus far. By leading the protesters in Abuja and addressing them radically saying those things that needed to be said I doff my hat for them. And in Lagos the momentum was sustained in Ojota. The spirit of the late legal luminary Gani Fawehinmi must be with the ‘liberators’ hence the tranquil atmosphere so far. Nigerians had never before demonstrated a higher sense of unity and organisation. Since the cause is just and right the people’s power must prevail!
President Jonathan is now left without his much-vaunted Good luck; yes, good luck has since fled abandoning Jonathan to face the consequencies of his ill-timed and ill-advised policy on deregulation. On 65 naira we stand! While the Bayelsa man seemed determined to undermine his ‘democratic’ government we, the people, are very much ready to assist him do just that. To build an egalitarian society something must give: the people must have the last say and the last laugh!
In the end when the fire has died down and the fury melted away the people must win this ‘war’ imposed on them as a new year Greek gift by a supposedly democratic government they ‘elected’ to serve their interests. The organized labour and civil society groups must not blink! Any further negotiation must be based on: On 65 Naira We Stand!
That there is a crisis of governance has been confirmed by the desperation of the power that be. With threats and murder and intimidation the Jonathan cabal are setting themselves up against a moving train; what was hitherto thought to be impossible in Nigeria is manifesting itself in broad daylight across cities countrywide: the people fighting against power and ultimately for power! I believe victory is certain even on the streets with little or no violence. The government at the centre must buckle under the brutal effects of the popular revolt.
President Jonathan wants to be seen by all and sundry as that courageous leader who did the impossible, who did what military dictators before him feared doing. But that is not how to measure courage in any leadership. If he is courageous enough he should not have been lamenting how Boko Haram has infiltrated every segment of our society including his moribund presidency. According to Pastor Tunde Bakare he is seeing even Boko Haram in his ‘bedroom’ and backyard bemoaning his fate and lamenting that the terrorists are worse a national calamity than the Biafran pogrom of late 60’s.
Something is telling me that President Jonathan is becoming arrogant and pompous abandoning his much-vaunted humility and the moving story of how he came this way. Coming from Niger Delta region that produces the oil wealth of the nation is enough to make the President think of himself as an ‘indispensable’ leader whose tenure is tied to the unity of the country and its future. But he is absolutely wrong! Whatever makes him ever think that we owe him pampering duties is still left for imagination. The resources that are found in Niger Deltan soil belong to Nigeria as a country and not to a region contrary to what warlords like Asari Dokubo are saying.
Constitutionally bestowed with monstrous powers comparable to those being wielded by ‘god’ (or satan if you like) Jonathan is behaving lately as a man made mad by power; absolute power, they say, corrupts absolutely! Corrupted by absolute power he wields in a relatively democratic setting President Jonathan has changed dramatically from all indications. Come to think of it, no man, no matter your background, would not fall for the trappings of power especially the Nigerian version imbued with omnipotence.
I never believed that President Jonathan is corrupt before now but I now believe! Yes, he is immersed in high-wire corruption hence his shifty unclear position over the fight against the national malaise. Given the high level of corruption in Nigeria it is impossible for Jonathan to resist the temptation to remain ‘whole’; one way or the other he will be made to partake in the jamboree. And he is cutting his own share of the huge ‘cake’ with an axe instead of a knife!
In the two opposing worlds of President Jonathan the one is his past which haunts him and the present that holds him captive. He is torn apart between serving God
in truth and mammon; he is torn apart between patriotism and ubiquitous corruption. He has become the master in whose court jesters bow and tremble. He is now the almighty Jonathan, the man of all powers!
In the first world in Bayelsa Jonathan as a kid never had any shoe(s) and trekked long kilometres to school; he read his books and did his homework with the help of candle lights in the absence of power supply, he ate local delicacies and sometimes went to bed hungry! But in his present world opulence, opportunity and ‘good luck’ defines it all: he is living in paradise called Aso Rock literally surrounded by his compatriots who live like animals in a modern jungle, in a Nigeria blessed with huge oil deposits! In the present world he finds himself hypocrisy is a religion and social solidarity a dead idea!