Is This For Real?

Is This For Real?

Pat Utomi

This past week has left me wondering whether I am really living in the coutry where I was born and which has produced such great minds as Wole Soyinka, Uthman Dan Fodio, and Chinua Achebe, or if I am existing in some parallel universe? The current state of our national leaders, their utterances and actions begins to make me wonder if somehow ‘comical Ali' of Saddam's Iraq has possessed those in authority in Nigeria. I say this because some of their comments and actions are so outlandish that one wonders how they can say and do these things with a straight face.

Take for instance our president. Perhaps the most important gathering of all world leaders is taking place in New York today as the United Nations General Assembly meets. A spot has been reserved for all major world leaders to address the General Assembly and later to have audience with the U.N Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and then with U.S president Barack Obama. This meet had been planned well in advance and Nigeria being a prominent nation in Africa was expected to have a prominent slot. But the president has at the last minute canceled his appearance and sent his minister of Foreign Affairs to represent him which is not so bad. But what is troubling is that after indicating that he is unable to go to the U.N, the president proceeded to announce that he would be visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Abdullah to (wait for it) ‘participate in the opening of the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and meet with the Nigerian community'. What is the sense in canceling the A list diplomatic event of the year which would serve to reinforce Nigeria's claim to African leadership, more so as we aspire to a United Nations Security Council permanent seat, for a formal visit that could have been rescheduled with no harm done to Nigeria's image and standing as a leader in Africa?

And is it not sad that while Nigerian universities are not on session because of the longest ASUU strike in a civilian administration, our 'servant leader' is going to another country to open a university? Is the irony lost on him? Even if it is can his advisers not look him in the face and tell the truth to power? One hopes the Saudis are not mocking the president by inviting him to open a university. In diplomatic circles, a reproach is often disguised as a honour.

This was the same attitude displayed by the president when he took off for a routine visit to Brazil when his country Nigeria was on fire during the ‘boko haram‘ crisis. Tell me is this the level of statesmanship expected to propel Nigeria to achieve its vision of being the world's 20th biggest economy by the year 2020?

As it is with the president, so it is with his Inspector General of Police. How could the IGP have said that Ribadu never visited Nigeria after the late Gani passed? This was such a careless statement moreso coming from the head of the police who had just unveiled his vision of a police force that is intelligence driven. Now if the head of the force is not privy to intelligence report of Ribadu's visit which even a street trader in Lagos was aware of how are we to feel confident that things will change for the better under his watch?

Not done with confusing the public, this administration sits idly while two of the most high profile law enforcement officials give conflicting statements leaving the public unsure of who to believe. The credibility crisis between the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the chairperson of the EFCC actually stems from the credibility crisis which affects this administration. It however is not too surprising that since the administration came into being via an election which the president himself publicly admitted had credibility problems the functionaries and appointees also have credibility problems because it is difficult to give out what you do not have?

For instance, we have a president who promised us electoral reforms and set up the Justice Uwais Electoral Reforms Committee, and 5 months after the committee submitted its recommendations those recommendations have been put to no better use than to gather dust. Meanwhile the senate has described the recommendations as not being sacrosanct while PDP is selling gubernatorial expression of interests forms for the princely price of 5.25 million naira.

Some may also recall the president saying to the BBC just before he was sworn in in May, 2007 that ‘if my son or my father is found to be corrupt, they will not be spared'* (Please see below for link to this quote). It is ironic that after giving this assurance the president is now in a situation in which the man who is in charge of his mail and correspondence, who watches over confidential matters of state has been alleged by the British Crown Prosecutor's office to have been involved in money laundering. And yet nothing is done. In fact Nigerians may be forgiven if they think that this is a non issue as far as the president is concerned.

Just as I thought the week had produced enough drama, I was shockingly undeceived when the news emerged that a government which parrot's the mantra ‘rule of law' had denied Nasir el'Rufai a passport, which as at the last time I checked was a fundamental and automatic right of any Nigerian citizen, even where such a citizen is seen as an enemy by the powers that be.

And so Nigeria watches helplessly as the drama unfolds and some will perhaps ask what happened to their president who promised to be a 'servant leader'.

I close with this: History will forgive a leader who makes bad decisions, but can history forgive a leader who makes no decisions?

Once again, God bless Nigeria.