Thursday, 31 October 2013

National dialogue: Why Jonathan cannot be trusted

Many have written about the pros and cons of the national dialogue. The difference between the writers, however, does not lie in whether they think the national dialogue should go ahead or it should not, the difference has been in the intention of each writer. Some have taken an opposing stance on the issue simply because of the name of the man who proposed it, i.e. Goodluck Jonathan, while some are defending the national dialogue idea with all they’ve got because the proposal comes from the source where their bread is buttered. Whether or not the national dialogue goes ahead would not have any telling effect on the majority of Nigerians. We know this except we choose to pretend about it. That we are where we are today is not because we have not had our own share of dialogue as a country; it is because all of us have been talking while none of us, it seems, is listening. If we really want change in the form of a dialogue, we need not release a new song into the long list of distraction tracks that this dialogue has come to be over the years. All we need do is take a look at the past. We have some answers to guide us.

The value of a promise is directly related to its source. If one’s father has a record of failing to do the things he promises to do, one would eventually learn to understand that the value of a promise from the mouth of such a father amounts to nothing but mere words. One would not know why some are opposed to the national dialogue because it was proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan, but if they need a reason apart from they just refusing to agree with whatever has to do with that name, there is at least one valid one: President Jonathan is not a man of honour, he does not keep his words. There’d be no need to argue whether he promised to spend one term only or not; the President and his estranged political cronies will sort that out. One begins to wonder why politicians would go to the market screaming about one of them not keeping to his word when not keeping to one’s word is one of their brand identities. Politicians who keep to their word are the ones who break the code of politics the Nigerian way. So, this is not about the President keeping to that particular promise. That’s between him and his internal adversaries.

The President has incessantly broken his words with Nigerians. He cannot be trusted even when he appears live on national TV at 7am and greets, “Good Morning fellow Nigerians.” You should at that point doubt the time. A panel is not judged by its composition but by its results. The President has been an expert at constituting panels and committees and even a better expert at throwing their reports in the dustbin. The Nuhu Ribadu Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force was one of the carrots dangled at Nigerians in the wake of the N2.6tn fuel subsidy scam. After months of toil and sweat, with Ribadu himself abandoning a consultancy job in Afghanistan, the report has since become history despite its findings and recommendations. The Muhammadu Uwais Panel report on Electoral Reform had some telling recommendations, one of which included the need to do away with a situation where a man gets to appoint the referee of a game he is also a participant. The President who keeps mulling about building institutions obviously showed his gross lack of appreciation of that word when he chose to defy the recommendations on reforming our electoral system and instead chose to do things the very same way they used to be done before the Uwais Panel offered a way out. The report is somewhere gathering dust while Nigerians live on trusting that the President would continue to be unbiased in elections even though the system ties the successes and failures of the electoral process directly to him. The President appoints the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. We’d not need a national dialogue to fix this anomaly and when we had a chance to fix it, President Jonathan sat on it.

SURE-P was supposedly set up to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians in the face of the increase in petrol prices. Today, SURE-P is equated with what some call “GEJ Alert.” This is a bank alert they get on their phones every month in the name of SURE-P. This was never the plan or purpose but since this fits the President’s 2015 agenda, it has since become the norm for SURE-P. The programme is a shabby response to demands from citizens who had complained about where the money to be removed from subsidy would go. The only people who will say SURE-P has not failed are the people directly or indirectly benefiting from it. Dr. Christopher Kolade would not pick his Bible in a true church of God to swear that SURE-P has been everything they told him it’d be. SURE-P was a scam from the very beginning and it is very much in line with its origin as was intended by President Jonathan’s transformation agenda of corruption.

Before you start considering the national dialogue, kindly pay attention to these words: “On assumption of office as President, I swore to an oath to always act in the best interest of the people”… “To save Nigeria, we must all be prepared to make sacrifices. On the part of government, we are taking several measures aimed at cutting the size and cost of governance, including ongoing and continuous efforts to reduce the size of our recurrent expenditure and increase capital spending. In this regard, I have directed that overseas travels by all political office holders, including the President, should be reduced to the barest minimum. The size of delegations on foreign trips will also be drastically reduced; only trips that are absolutely necessary will be approved”

“For the year 2012, the basic salaries of all political office holders in the Executive arm of government will be reduced by 25 per cent. Government is also currently reviewing the number of committees, commissions and parastatals with overlapping responsibilities.” These are the President’s own words delivered in a hurriedly put together National Broadcast on Saturday, January 7, 2012.

No doubt, the President was acting in the best interest of Nigerians when he travelled to Israel with the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, despite the damning allegations of corruption hanging over her head. You may have to read the words again to see that the President has gone back on every promise. As I write, we have more committees, salaries have certainly not been cut even by one per cent, and the travels have only increased. These are excerpts from a speech not the whole speech; these are not from his many speeches but just one of them, yet we can plainly see that words do not mean a thing to President Jonathan. He just utters them. He says them to fit his agenda and motives per time.

Is this the man Nigerians want to trust with the waste of several more billions on a supposed national dialogue? The dialogue will not be binding on anyone because it is not sovereign, so then this is just another political show with the sole purpose of getting the President some possible political goals as the politics of 2015 heats up the political arena. Will Nigerians be fooled again?


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