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NIGERIA: Does President Jonathan Sleep?

 The altar of our national temple has been desecrated. Everything about national sanctity has been profaned. We are tragically trudging towards declined humanity. And our president is symbolically leading all of us to the cemetery of the heartless.

What kinds of humans are these? Are we in this part of the human space, made to have compassion? Are we made with values that are sacred or values that are worthless? Our actions are despicable and unconscionable. We are very insensitive and disrespectful to every spirit that is noble. We are a nation of strange creatures, impervious to truthful gossips and unfazed about “strange things”.

On April 15, some members of the Boko Haram stormed Chibok, a hitherto unknown community in Borno state, abducted 200 plus something girls and vanished with them into a different ‘planet’. We cried. We wailed. We cursed. We protested. We shouted. We prayed. We niggled over it. But what happened to our assembly of pretence? What happened to our communal deception? What happened to this collective insincerity? What happened to our rueful theatre? What happened to our national orgy of fantasies? What happened to our photo-induced protests? What happened to our political sympathies? What happened to every man and woman that stormed the streets in anger and protests? One by one we went back to our private enterprise; to hawk if we are traders; to holler if we are white-collar workers; to engage in negotiations if we are businessmen; to campaign if we are politicians; to meet or beat deadlines if we are journalists; to receive lectures if we are students; to do sundry things if we are “Jama Jama”; to keep collecting offerings if we are pastors; to keep preparing “Ontu” if we are Alfa and to go on with the manipulation of the oracle if we are herbalists. We have abandoned the girls and their families to their fate. I know the dead are left alone in their graves after the last dust has been thrown but I have not seen where the living is given the treatment accorded the dead. Are we accepting the fact that the girls are dead? Why then are we treating the living like the dead? Must we tyrannize the agonized with anymore grief?

Why do I keep having the feeling that we are gradually forgetting the girls and their families? Look at our president for instance, since the incident; he has not visited the families of the girls (for security reason(s)). But if Mohammed will not go to the mountain, can’t the mountain be moved to Mohammed? What stops the presidency from making arrangements for the girls’ family members to visit the president at the villa? If an enfant terrible like Femi Fani-Kayode can visit the villa at the invitation of the president, why can’t the poor parents of the Chibok girls be given the same privilege? Even if this is not acceptable or convenient for the presidency, is Aso Rock having a drought of initiatives that none of the egg-heads at the Rock can think out an arrangement that will make the president to personally and physically comfort the parents of the girls? Why for the love of God are the girls and their families being treated like outcasts who do not belong to this nation?

The attitude of the president to the Chibok saga generally is undignified, ungracious, inappropriate, incautious and provocative. While one is not suggesting that the entire system of the state should be totally grounded and paralyzed because of the abductions, I am incensed at the fact that the president failed to realize that until the girls are found, he needs to be selective on his official outings. It was, for instance, very insensitive of President Goodluck Jonathan to have gone to Ekiti to campaign for his party’s candidate in the governorship elections. What was he trying to achieve for the party that his Vice President, Mallam Namadi Sambo, and the party’s national officers could not achieve?

Though the PDP needed to do extra work to enhance the image of its candidate, I did not think that the presence of the president at a time he too was having credibility crisis would have made any difference. It is a strategic blunder for any party to always think that the presence of a “big man” at their rally is a booster to the party’s electoral chances. A “big man” that lacks colour and integrity is a minus for the party. Quite expectedly, Jonathan was confronted by protesters who demanded the return of the Chibok girls. If the PDP felt that they needed to bring the president to Ekiti to shore up their electoral fortunes, what did they expect other candidates whose parties never controlled the center to do?

As if that was not enough embarrassment, the president got involved again in the selection of the new Emir of Kano. I know Jonathan had some personal issues to settle with Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a man he removed from office as the governor of Central Bank, but must the president take the battle too far? I find it difficult to understand why we cannot separate personal issues from official assignments. The president was so partisan in the whole emir saga that he failed to realize that it was the exclusive preserve of the state governor to appoint a new emir based on the advice of the emirate council. Jonathan got himself into trouble with the Kano state governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who fired thus: “Mr. President does not seem to know where his power starts and where it stops. The appointment of an Emir is purely a state affair…….. I am happy to say that nobody has questioned the eligibility of the new emir………… we are very happy because he is well educated. What business has the government with the appointment of the Emir of Kano? If there is emir of Nigeria, let him go and appoint him. My feeling is that they have more than enough security problems, especially finding the Chibok girls than sending police to go and block the emir of Kano’s place just because of Sanusi.”

The situation would not have degenerated to this level of impertinence if the president had not interfered in what was purely an internal affair. The question is; couldn’t the president have allowed his vice president, who understands the politics of the emirate to handle the situation”. The president should not be surprised or amazed that everywhere he goes, he is being reminded of the Chibok girls. It will remain like that until all the girls “waka come meet their parents”.

One is not saying the president should not perform his official functions but he needs to excuse himself from what are purely political activities until further notice, at least to show some respect for the feelings of the parents of the girls. He should delegate all political activities to Mallam Namadi Sambo who is also a politician. The president does not have to treat his vice president as if he is politically naïve.

We need to revisit the ferry accident in South Korea to see how civilized nations behave in such situations. The ferry accident happened on April 16, a day after the Chibok abduction. There were about 476 people on board and 187 people were officially confirmed dead while some were declared missing. Most of those affected were students like the Chibok girls. It was an accident but the people still felt that it could have been prevented if the government had been alive to its responsibilities.

Ten days after the accident, the South Korean Prime Minister, Chung Hong-won resigned amid criticism of the government’s handling of the accident. Read what he wrote in his resignation letter: “The cries of the families of those still missing keep me up at night…… the right thing for me to do is to take responsibility and resign as a person who is in charge of the cabinet….. on behalf of the government, I apologize for many problems from the prevention of the accidents to the early handling of the disaster…….”

Sixty nine days after the abduction of the Chibok girls, President Jonathan still sits tight “on the throne of his fore fathers”. He is not only sleeping, he is also snoring. That was somebody accepting responsibility for an accident but here our own president does not see anything wrong in the abduction of 200 plus something girls. As far as he was concerned, he is not the mai-guard at the school that he should accept responsibility. God, what manner of people are we? Very soon he will come out to declare his intention to seek another term. Let’s wait and hear what he will tell us if the girls had not been found. Those who have conscience cannot sleep because of the cries of the families of those whose children were missing. But those who lack conscience are sleeping and snoring, ignoring the cries and wailings of the families of those whose daughters were abducted. Beyond “Patiencetic sarcasm”, we should all remember that “there is God o!!”

–     -Thomas writes from Lagos

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