Anthony A. Kila
With his recent declaration intent to change the name of University of Lagos in honor of the winner of June 12 1993 presidential elections, Nigerian President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has again confirmed what many of us of think of him and his administration: he is leading an error-prone presidency. I personally started to think that about this presidency when in 2010 special presidential adviser, Ima Niboro came to tell us in clear terms that “President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that Nigeria withdraws from international competition for two years to enable the country to put its house in order.” Soccer fans and students of international relations will remember how that story ended: FIFA gave an ultimatum, the Nigerian presidency complied and FIFA president, Sepp Blatter gave our own Dr. Jonathan a pat on the back.
It must be noted at this point that during his now controversial declaration, our President recklessly referred to the winner of the June 12 historical elections as the “presumed winner”, a clear affront to history and to the Nigerian voters that voted, believed and whose legitimate and clear wishes were disrespected. Such error is not just bad-mouthing; it as an indication that this presidency, like the ones before it, lacks enough democratic ethos and pathos to build the nation that many true democrats dream and hope for.
Countries like France, Germany and Italy have dealt with the aftermath of undemocratic regimes and they show good examples of how to rebuild a nation with democratic values. These countries came out of fascism to become antifascist republics founded and governed by those with a fervent passion for democracy; their new leaders were bold and courageous, they came with unmistakable experience and even scars from their fight against dictatorships. They governed with a sense of history, a deep respect for their civil societies and displayed very strong allergy for people, methods and values related to the undemocratic past of their countries.
Like the presidents before him, Dr. Jonathan does not seem to posses such features; he does not seem capable of showing them at least not up to date. A passionate democrat would hold the June 12 date in higher esteem than any of the presidents have done so far, a true democrat would know that those that wined and dined with the usurpers should never be treated like those that fought for the freedom of Nigerian citizens, a conscious democratic leader will be careful and considerate enough to factor in the legitimate sentiments and positions of affected stakeholders in his actions and utterances. A bold president committed to democratic ethos would never call M.K.O. Abiola a “presumed winner” he would call him President-elect.
Notwithstanding his many claims in his celebratory and reassurance speech, the very clear, sometimes shocking, most time irritating limitations of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as president are obvious to many of us and he must be held responsible for them, ultimately the buck stops right there at his desk. That said, we must however remember that this man is not alone in the Presidential Villa. He has friends and associates that talk to him; some people are even paid to advise him. What exactly are they doing? Somebody in there must be seeing his speeches, somebody in that Villa must have heard that when the President visits the country, entire areas are shut down, with no provision for emergency and essential services to the annoyance of citizens, somebody with access to the president must know that most Nigerians do not feel as triumphant as he feels of his performance in office, what are these people telling the president? It is too easy to blame just Jonathan for his many inadequacies; we need to start looking at those around him too. We need to know if they are advising him and he is not listening.
One of the main errors that many people have pointed in his declaration to change the name of Unilag is that the president did not consult. That indictment is based on a simple but strong premise: if he had consulted with people in the know, someone would have told him what many are now telling him. That doubt was recently smashed away by the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUJ), Professor Julius Okojie, who is now on record saying the President did confer widely. He even described President Goodluck Jonathan, as the most engaging president and whilst at it, he went on to also declare that this President is very accessible.
Bravo Professor Okojie! Now you need to tell us more. Who exactly did the president consult with, where and when did they deliberate and what did they say to each other? Can we see the consultation papers? Who agreed, who disagreed and why? The president is ultimately responsible for what happens under his watch but it is too easy to hold just him accountable, we need to start looking at the roles played by the likes of Professor Julius Okojie who thinks it is perfectly okay to change the name of Unilag and that the students are reacting too much to matters that concern them.