Jonathan, PDP and All That Jazz about Patience

Posted: September 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Levi Obijiofor

 

 

It must come as a surprise that a day after President Goodluck Jonathan asked Nigerians to await his miraculous transformation of the country in 2013, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) also pleaded with the nation to be patient with the slow pace of government. PDP National Publicity Secretary Olisa Metuh acknowledged that the Federal Government had failed to lift the economic conditions of the people, including the failure to deal with the serious security challenges across the country. It was a candid admission from a party that is widely regarded as the grandmaster of political chicanery.

 

At official celebrations to mark the 14th anniversary of the establishment of the PDP, Metuh said: “There have been some shortcomings, it has not been smooth all the way, there have been some hiccups; we are not an excellent organisation, Nigerians should exercise patience, it will be okay next year.” Jonathan spoke in Onitsha, Anambra State, when he commissioned a brewery last Thursday.

The choreographed performance by Jonathan and Metuh suggests the PDP is nervous about public disappointment with the achievement report card of the government and the party in the past 14 years. It is odd that Jonathan and the PDP leadership are asking Nigerians to be patient till 2013 before they could expect to be lifted out of the dungeon of hardships into which they have fallen. Why has 2013 been designated as the year of great expectations? I would have believed Jonathan and PDP leaders if they were magicians. Miracles don’t happen overnight. The president and the PDP are no magicians who can hypnotise us so we can see infrastructure, good roads, potable drinking water, well equipped hospitals and socioeconomic progress instantaneously where none existed before now.

We have been informed that when 2013 rolls in in four months, everyone would start to enjoy a higher standard of living and improved life expectancy – just like that. Our political leaders have expertise in melodramatic pronouncements. It is hypocritical for Jonathan and the PDP to raise everyone’s expectations on a platform of hope. Blessed are the hopeful for they shall continue to live in a dreamland known as Nigeria. Someone once wrote that hope is the chief breakfast cereal of many Nigerians.

On what grounds should we be hopeful? Many politicians talk about the legendary Nigerian character, our resilient nature, the idea that we can withstand the challenges of everyday life. It appears we are constructed to absorb pain. If we have all these inner elements, why can’t we fight back? Why can’t we wrest our destiny from the callous hands of those who believe they have the divine right to impose themselves on us? The answer, I would argue, must be because we are a cowardly race. We talk loud but cower in full view of politicians. We have been herded into a narrow alleyway. Politicians feed us what they feel we want, not what we request from them. We have no space to move forward or backward. Some people say we cannot challenge political leaders because we are historically a subservient nation of few agitators. Perhaps they are right.

What Jonathan and the PDP hierarchy are saying in essence is that things have to get really bad in Nigeria before we can expect our pains to ease. So, we have to wait till the government rises from its snooze. This is why 2013 is now seen as a convenient year for the government to unpack its bag of miracles. In that year, the mournful mood that has gripped the nation will simply disappear.

Our political leaders are a special breed. They live in a world that is different from ours. They cannot perceive what we see. They don’t experience the hunger that churns our stomach; they don’t feel the aches and suffering that stab our hearts every day. They don’t shop in the same marketplace as we do. All talk about rising food prices is music to their ears.

The nation is in a state of crucible. Sooner or later, the nation will either emerge unharmed from the current economic and political cesspit into which it has fallen or it will be consumed by large-scale instability and insecurity in the north or it will be destroyed by the unilateral declarations of independence by ethnic nationalities in the south. This is the picture of a nation on the precipice of collapse. As economic hardships bite harder, as crime and political violence surge, many citizens have taken the law onto their hands. When a country fails to guarantee the safety, security, and welfare of its citizens, people use illegal ways to solve their problems.

Appeals by Jonathan and the PDP for us to exercise patience till 2013 are strange in many ways. For 14 years, the PDP celebrated its grip on power. For 14 years, the PDP misused the power conferred on it by the people to enhance the socioeconomic conditions of the people. The PDP leadership treated Nigeria like a private estate. They took the nation like a lawn tennis court. They played. They danced. They drank champagne and other forms of sparkling wine. They laughed raucously because everything they wanted they grabbed with ease. They were under no obligation to cater to our needs.

When people complained about poor governance, they were told that life was much better under the PDP government than it was during military dictatorship. When people complained about high prices of foodstuff, the PDP government looked them in the face and offered two bizarre suggestions: wait for imported foodstuff to arrive from overseas countries or engage in large-scale farming. Extensive farming, we were told, would guarantee excess foodstuff for everyone.

For 14 years, the PDP governments, from Olusegun Obasanjo through Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to Goodluck Jonathan, shut their ears to quality advice. For 14 years and beyond, the nation cried and asked for clean drinking water, for good roads to facilitate hassle-free driving, for decent houses, for hospitals equipped with diagnostic facilities to enable doctors to identify and analyse people’s illnesses, for stable electricity to generate power at homes, hospitals, offices, and business premises, and for general improvements in the lives of the people.

When the sick and the frail asked for well equipped hospitals where they could be treated, they were shown dilapidated buildings where they met their fate. When people asked for clean potable water, they were directed to improvise with rainwater and floodwater. When people asked for good motorable roads, they were told to be grateful to the government because the conditions of the roads have improved more significantly today than they were in the past. When people asked for stable electricity, they were asked to wait till 2020, not 2013, when the government will be in a position to guarantee uninterrupted supply of electricity. Those who are so impatient to wait till 2020 can always use electric generators.

For every single request, the PDP machinery had a ready-made response. Twenty-nine years ago, Paul Harrison described vividly in his book entitled – The Third World Tomorrow: A Report From the Battlefront in the War Against Poverty — the situation that is currently playing out in Nigeria and other developing countries in which corruption has eaten deep into the social foundation of society. According to Harrison, the message delivered to the poor in developing countries is similar: they must be patient, they must endure all the pains because a brighter future awaited them. Specifically, the message was that: “You had to pass through purgatory to reach paradise. The poor would have to wait, their turn would come to inherit the earth. Some might have to do without bread today so that everyone could have jam tomorrow… It was only a question of how long this would take, and how tolerable it was, morally and politically, that the majority should pay the price while a minority cleaned up the benefits” (Harrison, 1983, pp. 24-25).

This was the “trickle down” philosophy of development, a defective viewpoint that was used by corrupt political leaders to justify their grip on power, and their blatant raid of the national treasury. Although Harrison used this expression to capture the disparity in socioeconomic development between rural areas and urban centres in many developing countries, you could easily see a similar relationship between affluent political leaders in Nigeria and the impoverished mass of the population. Former Tanzanian statesman Julius Nyerere once alluded to the state of misery in Africa. His remark represented a metaphor for the failure of African political leaders to provide for the basic needs of their people.

Asking Nigerians to be patient till 2013 will not offer solutions to their problems but it will surely show them how badly their country has performed in key sectors such as the economy, education, employment, sports, infrastructure development and servicing, as well as healthcare. When Jonathan and his media advisers in Aso Rock complain bitterly that newspaper commentators are too critical of the president, they seem to forget that columnists use key indicators to assess the president’s performance.

 

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