Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Who is deceiving Mr. President?
He had this to say “I just returned from the United Nations General Assembly in the US. (Barak) Obama, when he spoke, commended Nigeria, but back home we are being abused. When we had the Security Council meeting outside the General Assembly, Nigeria was commended, but here we are being abused. When the Presidents of South Africa, Gabon spoke they commended Nigeria but here we are not being appreciated.” Since his inauguration as President of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has made many embarrassing gaffes, but this in my opinion, towers them all! Unbelievable!
Since when did praises from foreign Presidents become a yardstick for measuring the achievements of a leader, especially on pressing domestic issues? President Obama praised you, so what? Does Obama know what Nigerians are going through? Does Obama experience the power outages we experience, even before he became US President? Do Obama and all these world leaders drive on Nigerian roads, send their children to Nigerian public schools, or treat themselves at Nigerian public hospitals? Will somebody please wake Mr. President up and ask him to smell the coffee? The level of naivety, indiscretion in speech, cluelessness, outright lack of confidence and depth displayed by Jonathan is appalling, sad and unfortunate, for a man who sits as President over 150 million Africans.
History and global trends have shown that the disposition of the Western bloc of super powers, led by America, towards leaders of developing nations has nothing to do with the type of leadership such leaders give to their own people but by the alignment of such leaders on global issues that either strengthen or threaten the West. The West does not care if a leader provides good roads, potable water, steady electricity, excellent education to his or her citizens as much as they care about that leader’s position on terrorism, communism, and other issues that affect its (the west) dominance in world affairs. Hence it is absolutely delusional and ridiculously naïve of a leader to judge himself and the legacy he would leave with his people by what the West, America or other world leaders think or say of him.
For decades, former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of DR Congo (formerly Zaire) was a staunch ally of America and the West. At a time when Mobutu’s human rights records were a total failure, when his level of corruption had so crippled his country’s economy that he reportedly borrowed his country money to pay the salaries of its civil service, at a time when there was not a single well-paved road in that country as all the roads were riddled with potholes, including the road that led to his Presidential Palace, at this time the Congolese people were dying in their thousands of starvation, the hospital system was collapsed and the total country was in a death-like situation. Yet America stood solidly behind Mobutu, simply because they needed him at that moment.
They needed him because it was the thick of the cold war. The Soviet Union was on a rampage spreading their communist ideals to several nations of the world, and this was a huge threat to Western capitalism and democracy. Africa was neutral fertile ground yet to be conquered by either side. Mobutu was a strong and well known African leader and the West quickly allied him as whichever side of the global economic struggle that won Mobutu was likely to win Africa. At this time America cared less about the sufferings and deathly situation of the Congolese people or Mobutu’s monumental corruption and poor human right records. Time and again, Mobutu was a special guest at the American White House, and one American President, Ronald Reagan even showered encomiums on him, describing him as “a voice of good sense and goodwill.”
However, in time the Soviet Union fell, and the cold war ended, America no longer needed an ally in Mobutu, then he suddenly became a dictator in the eyes of the West. America denounced his leadership and demanded that he institute a democracy in his country. He was no longer a welcome visitor in America. He had outlived his usefulness. In place of those encomiums now came cold shoulders and constant denouncement. Mobutu had been fooled, in his frustration he made this comment about the experience “I am the latest victim of the cold war, no longer needed by the U.S. The lesson is that my support for American policy counts for nothing.” By 1983, Mobutu was a special guest at the American White House, but by 1993, only 10 years after, he could not even get a visa to enter America! Such can be the treachery of the West in their dealings across the globe. President Jonathan, please do not be fooled!
On the flip side of this story is the story of Thomas Sankara, former President of Burkina Faso, a man who was highly popular with his people but not with the West.
Despite being a young military man, Sankara’s sense of nationalism and total selfless devotion for the uplifting of his country remains a watershed in the history of governance in Africa. He led his country to achieve many firsts in Africa. Through his policies on agriculture, he was able to lead his people to double their production of wheat, a staple food source for the Burkinabe. He inspired communities to build their local schools through self-labor and over 350 schools were built. He is the first African leader who clothed his entire army with fabrics grown and sewn in Burkina Faso. His record in public health remains unbeaten in Africa till date, through his unprecedented polio vaccination program. Sankara was so loved by his people that most mornings he jogged across the capital city of Ouagadougou alone for his personal exercises. However, he would not live long, for he was a scathing critic of the West. He opposed importation from the West and urged Burkina Faso and other African countries to strive towards self-dependence. He also opposed the IMF and World Bank strategies imposed on African countries for development. He canvassed for a cancellation of the debts of African nations because in his words “If we do not pay this debt, our creditors will not die, but if we pay it we will die.” He was also a scathing critic of apartheid rule in South Africa. His moves reduced France’s heavy profits from Burkina Faso and his days were numbered. He was assassinated in a palace coup by his friend and confidante, Blaise Compaore, who was inspired and goaded on by the West.
These are facts of history about the role America and the West has played in Africa’s recent history. It is highly unbecoming for the President of Nigeria to be carried away in such empty encomiums that mean little to the encomium givers, for it does not take Obama and Hillary Clinton anything to shower him encomiums to his face and go into their oval office later to refer to him as “our African stooge!” Wake up President Jonathan! You are the President of Nigeria! Africa’s most populous nation and by far a big brother to many other African nations! You cannot afford to be this naïve and puerile, not being able to see beyond the surface and read between the lines. Woe unto a country, whose king is a child, is what the scripture says. Yes, it is a very happy development that for the first time in Nigeria’s history, a Niger-Deltan is our President.
For years, the people of the Niger Delta have suffered greatly while Nigeria has lived off wealth produced at the expense of the Niger Deltan. Yet, for over 40 years, no Niger Deltan ever occupied the highest seat in the land. It is a good thing that at last we have an Ijaw man, from the oil producing area of Nigeria as our President and C-in-C. However, this opportunity must be justified and beneficial to the country as a whole.
Whoever has the ears of President Jonathan should please inform him that he should not be deceived by the praises of the American President and other Presidents. For they are not his citizens, and they measure him by different standards than we do who are Nigerians and feel the brunt of the injustice and insecurity of our society. We want to see him act fast on urgent issues that matter crucially for our everyday lives and existence. The American President himself is working his guts out trying to pass a job plan that is expected to salvage his country’s economic situation. We also want to see a President who is inspirational, confident, decisive, and one who takes action when necessary. He does not need to turn into a lion or a Nebuchadnezzar to do that. We don’t need a President who will constantly inform us or give us the impression that there are certain people in Nigeria who are too powerful for him. He should act decisively when necessary, whether his decisions are correct and elicit praises or wrong and he gets butted for it, at least, he’s got to show leadership, for our country surely needs one right now.
One thousand world leaders might applaud you Mr. President, but please remember that we, the citizens do not feel you yet. Our roads, our schools, our economy, our hospitals, our electricity, the security in our streets, these are the things that matter to us, these are the things that count, and that is where at least eighty percent of your energies must be diverted, for Nigeria is on the brink of death and anarchy, and these are the expectations that we Nigerians will judge you by when posterity calls. After you have been the West’s Nigerian President, please come back home and be our own Nigeria’s President and focus on domestic issues, for they are many that bedevil our nation right now.
Lastly, from the speech of President Jonathan, I have come to conclude that he either reads comments on Facebook and other online social media, or he has someone who does so for him and actively reports back to him regularly. For some of the things he said are trite Facebook clichés. Well, for the online army of Nigerians who comment daily on burning national issues, if there has been any time when we ever needed to scream the loudest about the need for change in our country, that time is now. Perhaps our cries might get to the hears of Mr. President and he can glean from the myriads of suggestions of solutions presented and of course, not rest on his oars thinking that he is doing a good job, for currently he is not at all.