And the dove now does more than squeaking

By Yomi Odunuga
In Nigeria News Feed
Feb 1st, 2014
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For the first time since President Goodluck Jonathan mounted the presidential saddle, Knucklehead can conveniently say he is gradually shedding the self-inspired conceit of a meek and gentle dove. We may not know why it took him almost three years to appreciate the futility of adopting a docile, almost clueless, approach to governance in a country where armed robbers, insurgents and all manner of killers have turned the streets into a canvas of blood. What we vividly remember, when things started taking a turn for the worse in our national life, was admonishing him to sit up to the arduous tasks before him or risk a situation whereby his subordinates would exploit the situation to the point where they could inadvertently inflict serious collateral damage on the country. We did harp on the fact that it was important for the nation to have someone who was truly and firmly in charge—an effective leader, a proactive thinker and not the laid-back reactionary court jester. At that time, we felt he was leaving too much to chance in his warped belief that a tiger needs not proclaim its ‘tigritude’; that a lion need not to roar to announce its presence as the king of the jungle or that as Nigeria’s president, he need not make an impression about being really in control. Shouldn’t it be clear to all that the man with the trademark fedora was the President and Commander-In-Chief of Africa’s sleeping giant? Still, we observed that, in a military where petty jealousy, ethnicity and religious affiliation continue to play a major part in the discharge of a responsibility which ought to be carried out with utmost professionalism, he should be the one barking orders. We thought we could nudge him to rev the engine and stop sitting on his hands while all shades of criminals perpetuate evil across the land. But, as usual, his response came in truckloads of words. He appealed to our understanding. What we got from our President was a detailed explanation of why he couldn’t be any of those things that we really expect of an epochal leader. He said he was simply wired differently – much beyond our collective dreams! Speaking in September 25, 2011, at an interdenominational service to mark Nigeria’s 51st Independence anniversary, here was Jonathan’s lengthy sermon on his personae and leadership style: “Some Nigerians still want the President of this country to be a lion or a tiger; somebody that has the kind of strength, force and agility to make things happen the way they think. I don’t need to be a lion, I don’t need to be Nebuchadnezzar, I don’t need to operate like the Pharaoh of Egypt, and I don’t need to be an army general. I can change this country without those traits. “Some others will want the President to operate like an Army general, like my Chief of Army Staff commanding his troops. Incidentally, I am not a lion; I am also not a general. Somebody will want the President to operate like the Kings of Syria, Babylon, Egypt, and the Pharaoh-all powerful people that you read about in the Bible. They want the President to operate that way. Unfortunately, I am not one of those. But God knows why I am here, even though I don’t have any of those attributes, or those kinds of characters I have used as an example. But through your prayers, God placed me here. The only thing I ask you to do for me, and that is the prayer I pray every time, is for God to use me to change this country. “There are Goliaths everywhere – very terrible Goliaths, the ones that can even kill their father, their mother and even their children in order to stop government. And they are willing to do it. So, we have these terrible Goliaths that are trying to frustrate us, but surely with God we will conquer them. Every Goliath has an exposed forehead; all the Goliaths that are stumbling blocks to the development and growth of this country, God will expose their foreheads for the stone of David.” Like I once noted in an earlier piece, if canticles were all that were required for a leader to excel, Jonathan would be unrivalled. Not even President Barrack Obama’s pitch, poise, elegance and elevated language would have matched Jonathan’s in the art of rendering tendentious excuses to dab incompetence! Our President may not be blessed with the poignant oratory of some of the world’s greatest leaders; he sure has a way with muddling through words. No matter how he puts it, we always dissect the queer message he struggles to pass across. What exactly did we ask of him to warrant the prolonged, needless and effete sermons? Angered by the repeated killings in Plateau State and the pace with which bombs were being detonated in some major cities in the North, including Abuja, with hundreds of casualties and victims, he was called upon to be a bit firm in dealing with the situation on his hands. We said there should be a concerted effort by all the security agents, who were obviously operating independent of one another, to work together and employ more intelligence with the aim of putting an end to the scary menace. Unfortunately, that was the time the President chose to scare us to our briefs: he said members of the dreaded sect were not only in his government but they had also infiltrated the security forces! Ha! We shouted. If that was not a direct assault on the Presidency, then what is? We said we had got tired of government’s long-winded platitudes as thousands of citizens were being murdered in cold blood but our President mistook our angst for a call for a reign of impunity from his office! How? Did David allow the Goliath that was tormenting the Israelites to crush them before wiping him off? Did he not take on the image of a tiger, lion and Commander-In-Chief? Did he not summon the courage to muster the force and agility that silenced the enemies? After David received the blessings from God to confront the Goliath in the lives of the Israelites, would he have succeeded if he had clasped his hands, whining the lullaby of the meek and gentle dove? Did he not gather his troops and proceeded to the war front? Thankfully though, Jonathan appears to be seeing things differently. It may be a little too late but the situation is not entirely irredeemable. I believe his latest rant in Yola, Adamawa State, is a welcome development. Some of us had expected him to bark the orders long before now. It is a relief that he has taken the decision to live by that name as it relates to policy on security matters. Not that we doubted his ability to combine all those traits if had wanted to. At least, we have seen that at play in Rivers State and even in Bayelsa when a certain Timipre Sylva dared him. All he did was to muscle him out of the contest with presidential powers! We just couldn’t understand why he found it difficult to replicate that on national security until things got to its head and he had to resort to removing his over-pampered service chiefs. Listen to him in Yola: “I urge you to cooperate. Sometimes we hear about some kind of mutual and individual competition among Service Chiefs and security personnel. But this time around, we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition that will bring retrogression to this country. We charge you to work together because our country is exposed to cancer and I told the former chief of defence staff when I came back from a meeting in France, that was the time they attacked our five helicopters, and a journalist asked me, ‘Mr. President is it not shameful?’ And I asked him, ‘If you were me, how would you have felt?’ “And I believe we will no longer experience that kind of situation. That happened because of some obvious lapses. We will make sure we work with the National Assembly; we will work with the Service Chiefs and other senior military personnel; we will work with our traditional rulers and governors and senior citizens to see that we move our country to the next level.” Now, that’s how a President should roar! That’s my President speaking. We want to see more of that. We want to see him putting the fat cats in our security agencies on their toes. They either shape up or ship out. We want to see that the huge funds appropriated for security are actually spent on tackling the menace of Boko Haram and other forms of criminality. We want to see that officers and men that put their lives on the line for the safety and security of Nigeria are adequately compensated and funds meant to buy arms and ammunition don’t find their ways into private pockets. We also want an end to the internal heckling and private animosities that led to that national disgrace in which insurgents attacked five of our helicopters and made a jest of our military preparedness to combat terror. We don’t want to hear any of that nonsense that some security agencies would not like to report to the incoming Coordinating Minister of Defence and National Security. It should not be their call but that of the President. In short, we want to see more of a President that roars like a lion, face the Goliath working against the progress of the country and a leader that would henceforth desist from offering lame duck excuses to justify crass indolence!


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