Jonathan’s celebration of failure

President Jonathan was in Lagos last week to flag off his re-election bid. The event was in character with the president’s well charted politics of subterfuge, except that this time around, it was not without a touch of sardonic humour. For a president who does not consider stealing as corruption, and who heads PDP where those facing overwhelming financial fraud charges can be party chieftains, senators, and ministers, he cannot understand why the Yoruba make a fetish of placing great value on honour and character. For him, PDP members share the same values.

Thus on parade at Tafawa Balewa square the venue of the event was Chief Bode George who Musiliu Obanikoro says is “in desperate need of social rehabilitation after a stint in jail”. He was pronounced not guilty after serving a jail term over his handling of contracts as chairman of Nigeria Ports Authority. Also on parade was Ayo Fayose, impeached former governor who admitted appearing over 52 times over a period of seven years trying to defend himself against EFCC charges of financial fraud as well as murder charges as at the time he contested and defeated an incumbent Governor Fayemi. Among trusted allies who stood out to be counted during the event was ex Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State who was until recently in court facing EFCC charges of mismanagement of state funds as governor. There was also Femi Fani-Kayode who also still has a date to keep with EFCC in court over allegation of financial crime as minister of aviation. Defected Governor Mimiko of Ondo was also there to be counted among the president’s friends. Olusegun  Mimiko, who on account of his brand of politics can be described as ‘water has no enemy’,  has been a member of as many as there are political parties in Nigeria. And to spite Obasanjo, his estranged godfather, the president appointed Buruji Kashamu, Obasanjo’s main rival in Ogun State the leader of his highly valued Yoruba opinion leaders who would deliver the West in February. Buruji has taken Obasanjo to court over the former’s claim that he is a fugitive from justice in the US. Jonathan’s choice of shenanigans or merchants of pranks to sell his candidacy is the practice among other groups in the country.

The Tafawa Balewa’s outing was also unique in the sense that the president deliberately chose the vulnerable youths he believes will enhance his chances in the February polls as target audience. Trying to cultivate the innocent youths, he had said “I am going to address the people who are voting for the first time, those of you who will attain 18 years this year”.  This group, the president says will define Nigeria’s tomorrow since his generation according to him, has failed the nation. Less than 50% of those the president is trying to exploit obtained five credits in the recently released WAEC result, a clear evidence of the decay in our educational sector.

Of course, those who have studied the president’s politics know his choice of those in the age bracket 18-23 was not accidental. This is a vulnerable group that knows nothing outside PDP and Jonathan in the last 16 years. They do not know anything better than PDP’s newly painted coaches in an age where we now have trains that travel at the speed of aircrafts. They are unaware of multi-billion dollar contracts for the modernisation of our railways awarded twice under Obasanjo and Yar’Adua but got derailed by PDP politicians. They are shielded from the negative effects of government economic policies because they live with their parents. They love African Magic and many want to end up as actors, musicians singing lewd songs or as dancers but not as scientists. The president has after all been throwing money blindly at the actors, not to necessarily develop the sector but for its electoral advantage. If you still don’t believe the president fights rough, consider this unpresidential jibe: “Young Nigerians were doing things fantastically well, they were acting films and were playing music; these very people were snubbing them, but we are encouraging them and the world has accepted them”. This is one achievement those who are against the president cannot take away.

The content of the president speech on ‘insecurity, corruption and weak government’ to the 18-year olds who are not equipped to critically analyse his misrepresentations was no less intriguing.  On security, the president simply passed the buck: “These people did not buy anything for the Nigerian soldiers. They refused to equip them. No attack helicopter, nothing. Ask them what they did with the defence budget for the whole time they were in office.  No country equips armed forces overnight”.

Yes the president may be right to a point. But the message is not for 18-year olds who would need to consult their uncles as directed by the president in order to know the truth. Such message is for the adult who can remind the president that not too long ago, government told Nigerians that the problem was not equipment but sabotage by Boko Haram whose elements, even the president claimed had infiltrated his government. In any case, the president has been part of government for eight years and commander in chief for six years. It is cheap to blame someone who ruled for 20 months back in 1984, 31 years ago. But even then what are the facts?

Available figures on capital and recurrent military expenditure  from 1988 to 2007 covering parts of Babangida and Abacha years, and  eight years of Obasanjo was N820billion compared to  Yar’Adua and Jonathan’s N1.3 trillion (2007-2010) and Jonathan’s N3.1 trillion (2011-2014). The question is how long does it take to procure attack helicopters?

On corruption, the president also passed the buck: ‘If they had succeeded in fighting corruption, corruption would not have been with us here today’. Except for vulnerable youths the president tried to hoodwink, Nigerians are aware it was Yar’Adua and Jonathan presidency and James Ibori (who sponsored their election in 2007 but currently serving jail terms in London after obtaining reprieve from Nigerian courts) that chased Nuhu Ribadu into exile.  It was under the Jonathan presidency that a convicted felon who converted 70% of state resources to personal use got presidential pardon in order to, in the words of Doyin Okupe “make more contributions to the development of father land”. It was under Jonathan presidency the KPNG report on NNPC, Ribadu’s report on the fuel subsidy regime, ‘Oduahgate’ and many others were dumped into dustbin. It was under the Jonathan presidency that the EFCC’s pending court cases against prominent PDP leaders, banking sector and oil subsidy fraudsters remained stalled, because ‘the wheel of justice  in this environment’, according to the president ‘grinds slowly.’

But more telling was what the president failed to say at Tafawa Balewa last week. He failed to allay the fears and anxieties of Nigerians who wanted him to speak on the abducted 250 Chibok girls who have been in captivity for over eight months, crisis of unemployment arising from importation of labour of other societies, government’s planned bail-out for the power sector, the missing $10 billion, we were told a forensic inquiry would unravel and another missing $30 billion from excess Crude Account (difference between benchmark of about $77 and average price of $108 for three years) as alleged at different times by governors Oshiomhole and  Rotimi Amaechi. Begging for answer was also the 16 years successive PDP administrations’ failure to rehabilitate the eyesore called Murtala Muhammed International Airport road. Jonathan after six years in the saddle could not tell the electorate what he would do differently to bring hope to Nigerians who are worried about tomorrow. Sadly what expectant Lagosians took away in the words of Governor Fashola was “a very angry president, a president who is lamenting about people judging his performance and blaming all those who ruled before him, forgetting that he has been on this job for six years?”

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