LETTER TO PRESIDENT JONATHAN BY
A CONCERNED CITIZEN OF NIGERIA
Dear President Jonathan,
My friends call me Sokii, but you, well just call me Segun. I have watched you in the last one year jump from pillar to post under the pretext of governance; clinging to the inconsequential and deliberately ignoring that which the times demand of governance in today’s Nigeria. From the moment you were sworn in as an elected president, it’s been a galore of gaffes and conscious distraction of Nigerians from the things that actually do matter to them. Within weeks of your Presidency, your first executive move was to amend the constitution so as to allow for president and governors to serve just one term of six years in office. Not sooner than the dust raised by that move settled, you declared an economic war on the Nigerian people with an imposition of fuel tax, called fuel subsidy removal, which was just a way designed for you to avoid confronting your friends and officials who defrauded the country you preside over.
Mr President, you may recall that last October, during a church service to commemorate Nigeria’s Independence Day, you lamented that we condemn you at home while Obama commends you abroad. Even then, we argued that Obama’s commendation of you – whatever it was meant to achieve – was ill-timed and ill-informed. We reasoned that we were the ones who elected you our president and so were best qualified to assess your performance in office. Today, the table has turned. Does Obama still commend you? Just in case you haven’t heard, the United States government has seen you for whom you are – a president who presides over a criminal empire without making any meaningful efforts to curtail corruption. Before you dismiss my message as another baseless rant from a disgruntled opposition member, kindly read this, Sir:
In its year 2011 report on global human rights released Thursday by the State Department, the U.S. said the three tiers of the Nigerian government was ridden with “massive, widespread and pervasive corruption,” that failed to receive appropriate punitive response from the authorities. “The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity,”the report, submitted by Secretary of States, Hillary Clinton, to the U.S. Congress said. “Massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption affected all levels of government and the security forces,” it continued. So this is what your government has come to be known for.
Still in that church service, Sir, you told Nigerians that God was the captain of the Nigerian ship. So I had expected you to show more than a passing interest in surrendering the fight against corruption to God. But I was surprised that when the rare opportunity came, last Sunday, during another church service – this time to commemorate your one year in office – you refused to support the man of God who pleaded that you and your administration officials took the fight against corruption to the alter of God. What were you afraid of, Mr President? That, Sir, speaks volumes about your sincerity in the corruption war. And that brings me to the role you played in the hurried moving of N155 billion out of our account under a questionable circumstance. It was done a day before Okonjo-Iweala resumed as your Finance Minister. And the characters involved in the transaction, the Etetes, is the reason I will need your explanation on this.
I will go straight to your Democracy Day speech. As expected, it could not boast of any visible achievement other than economic indices and statistics that were quite divorced from the stark realities on ground. You showed an amazing excitement when you announced your administration’s empowerment of 1200 youths who benefitted from your Youth Enterprise with Innovative Programme, YouWin. I was surprised that such was considered an achievement by you, Sir, let alone being included in your anniversary speech. Mr President, may I humbly inform you that 70 per cent of the Nigerian population is comprised of people who are thirty five years and below. Each year, Sir, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) churns out at least 100 thousand young Nigerians who throng into the labour market in search of nonexistent jobs. This is in spite of the fact that a larger percent of those who passed out before them may not have gotten jobs. So why should we be excited about 1200 people in a population of 160 million? Is it a deliberate celebration of mediocrity or just an attempt to appear serious with the job we elected you to do?
In reference to electricity supply, you said, “By mid-2010, the national power output was about 2,800 MW. By the end of 2011, we reached a peak of more than 4, 000 MW. A National Gas Emergency Plan has also been launched to redress the problem of gas supply which are essentially due to poor planning.” Curiously, you didn’t tell us where we were by end of May, or mid-May, the period you were reeling out the achievements. So I ask now, Mr President, where are we on power generation? How many megawatts have we achieved between 2011 and mid-May, 2012? Where we are on electricity generation, Mr President, is on the region of total darkness. The wattage is negligible. Nauseating sound of generators still buzz in my neighbourhood daily, and darkness is the light in the villages where poverty even bites harder. That must be why you jumped it.
The efforts you put in advertising your cassava bread, if not tragic, would have been funny. You cannot re-write history, Sir. Cassava bread is not novel. Your constant efforts to lay claim to it as your achievement in office is worrisome. For the records, on 1st July, 2005, Obasanjo’s government made it mandatory for bakers to include 10% of cassava flour in the production of bread. I followed that administration closely. Yet even at that ,you cannot force people to eat what they do not want. Telling us you eat it makes no difference in our lives. Our billions are stolen by the day, anyway; and you watch without taking any punitive action against the criminals.
Your penchant for majoring in minor, if not entirely irrelevant issues, should worry every sound mind. Your change of Unilag to MKO Abiola University just by a presidential fiat betrayed your love for vanity; your lack of appreciation for substance. And as expected, it stirred up eruptions in the school. Yet rather than quickly reconsider your stand, you declared to many who think you made another gaffe; “no going back”. I know political expediency informed that decision. But unfortunately, that was politically incorrect. It has boomeranged, and will not shield you from the harsh verdict of your critics, which is that your first year in office as president was a total failure.
It was a shock to me that you ended your speech without making any mention of the fuel subsidy scam – the biggest in Nigeria’s history. You said nothing about your plans to prosecute the offenders. In case you don’t know, Mr President, the amount involved in that fraud is N2.6trillion, more than half of our annual budget. If that is not weighty enough to cause you to act, I wonder what will. I have a hunch some 19th century folks have been giving you lessons on how to rule Nigeria in 2012. They may have presented the IBB model and you bought it hook line and sinker. But that will be risky for you, Sir. Unfortunately, you are heading Nigeria at a time when there is only one way to face the task: fight corruption and shun patronage! You cannot do this job the way you want, or the way your predecessors handled it. The cumulative effect of the mess your predecessors put Nigeria into has saturated our landscape, forcing people to demand serious leadership from their president. Distractions will not just do. And you must understand this, Sir.
And talking about serious leadership; did you hear, Mr President, that Mrs. Joyce Banda, the President of Malawi – an African country – sold off her country’s presidential jet and fleet of 60 limousines? President Joyce declared that she was “happy to offload” the jet and the cars, and she would be traveling on passenger airplanes like every other citizen. Mrs. Joyce Banda understands basic economics and means well for her people. She appreciates the truth that a poor man who seeks future comfort must delay gratification. She is a living example of a serious leader. Can the same be said of you, Mr President? I will not wait for your response, Sir. I know it will never come. The same cannot be said of you. You do not mean well for Nigeria, Mr President. In 2010, you ordered 3 more presidential planes to increase an already over bloated fleet of presidential jets, underscoring your penchant for wasting public funds and downplaying the depth of poverty in our land.
You can’t mean well by having 10 presidential jets when the reality on ground demands that you travel with commercial planes. You can’t mean well with a feeding budget of almost 3 million naira per day in a country where 112 million people live on less than N300 (three hundred naira) per day. You can’t be seen to mean well with the number of cars in your presidential fleet. The British Prime Minister, who runs a civilization and economy that is light years ahead of yours, has no official jet.
You have effectively wasted the last one year, Mr President. And for a country with steady drop in life expectancy, we don’t have the luxury of time. We have the need for speed. We need a president who is ready to work, not distract us with an uninspiring campaign for cassava bread. We need Boko Haram’s onslaught on the Nigerian state to be addressed by your government. We need our people to be lifted out of poverty, not some phony statistics. We need leadership, not mediocrity. You, Mr President, have not been a leader in the last one year. But will you be in the remaining three years? I don’t think so. I only hope you prove me wrong.
Your body language tells me your eyes are fixed on 2015. But that is a tragedy on its own; for you maybe, not for me or Nigeria. Most of your moves are made with the intention of securing your seat in 2015. But I am also shocked that neither you nor your advisers understand that the surest way to winning re-election is to work and be seen to have worked. I will be glad to see you declare for re-election. The thoughts of having you as the first sitting president in Nigeria to be emphatically defeated excites me. Kindly follow your secret quest for re-election, Sir. I’d like to see the next sentiment your team will sell to the electorate.
You could see, Mr President, that I didn’t have time to pretend about the message I wanted to pass across. You already have enough praise singers to last you a lifetime. Pardon my directness, it was meant to deliver the message in a manner you will be stirred to act. Do have a great day, Sir. I hope the domestic staff will remember to not prepare imported rice for Sunday. Kindly remind them of your “resolve to always eat local rice”. Today should be for Abakaliki or Ofada. And lest I forget; happy anniversary, Mr President!
Written by: Segun a.k.a “Sokii”