A boy without shoes to man without pity

A boy without shoes to man without pity

Salisu Suleiman

Last year, in the run up to the presidential elections, a few Nigerians saw through the ruse of the world's most corrupt political party and warned that the PDP simply wanted to impose a weakling on Nigeria and milk the country dry in the process. We tried to tell Nigerians that we had nothing against Jonathan as a person, only that his antecedents as Bayelsa state governor do not qualify him to manage the affairs of a country as large and complex and a people as difficult as Nigerians.

Very few heeded those warnings. We were labelled northern apologists, unwilling and unable to accept a southern Christian president running Nigeria. Of course the claims were preposterous because just a few months earlier, many of us had marched in the scorching sun of Lagos and Abuja in support of Jonathan against a Muslim northern president who was violating our Constitution. But the voices of reason were drowned; the PDP machinery, with access to unlimited government funds bribed, blackmailed and bludgeoned its way into power.

To make matters worse, no other Christian and southern candidates presented themselves for consideration, so every opposition to candidate Jonathan was conveniently passed off as anti-south and anti-Christian. Many of those opposed to Jonathan had far greater prospects of benefiting from a Jonathan administration than from a northern president, but knew that the man simply didn't have the mettle to tackle Nigeria's myriad challenges. It was tragic, watching intelligent Nigerians falling for the hoax of the son of the fisherman who had ‘no shoes', seduced by the promise of ‘fresh air' and the ‘transformation' of politics and administration in Nigeria.

And so Goodluck Ebele Jonathan came to office with a landslide.

How many people asked what Jonathan's economic policies were? How many Nigerians could point to anything the man had done as governor of Nigeria's least populated state but with one of the highest revenues? Did Jonathan make any promises to tackle corruption? Did the president make any commitment to cut down on the costs of government? Did we ask questions when thousands of groups emerged overnight, all very well funded, to promote the Jonathan agenda? Did we even ask what the agenda was? Where are those groups today? Did Nigerians not vote for ‘Jonathan' and not the PDP?

So what are Nigerians protesting about? Why are Nigerians marching against the removal of fuel subsidies and the resulting dramatic increases in the prices of transport, food stuff, petrol, firewood, kerosene, rent, school fees, and other things? Why didn't we ask important questions when we had a chance to? Many people thought it was humorous when Jonathan avoided the presidential debate organized for candidates and chose to debate himself. Are we only just seeing through the veneer of deception? Who is having the last laugh now?

The situation we find ourselves should not be surprising. If anything, GEJ has always demonstrated an uncanny similarity with President Ibrahim Babangida to get into and remain in office. IBB ‘settled' his cronies with fief-like political appointments to go and ‘chop'; GEJ gave them what to ‘chop' directly by doling out cash, including dollars from our excess crude oil account and foreign reserves. In the first four years of the Yar'adua/ Jonathan administration, our foreign reserves were depleted from $47 billion to about $33 billion; excess crude account from $6 billion to almost zero and our foreign debts shot up from about $3 billion to $40 billion. Did Nigerians expect not to pay a price for this profligacy?

The reason behind Jonathan's removal of petroleum products is not because government wants to commit the funds to other more pressing areas as claimed. If that was the case, why should the Presidency propose to spend N300 million in 2012 just to buy dinner sets for the villa? Why is the president ordering a new jet to add to its already bloated fleet when most Nigerians cannot travel without a ‘security report' from all routes and towns along the way? Why should government spend almost three-quarters of the 2012 budget on salaries and allowances of a mere 1% of the population when 20 million Nigerian youth are unemployed? Why should a former teacher refuse to honour its agreements with ASUU? Did we not fall for ‘fresh air' without asking whose fans will blow the air?

And what is it about the psychology of Nigerian leaders so that craves praises from the West?

It is a fact that when the World Bank and the IMF praises the government of any developing country, the ordinary people of that country are in for a hard time. IBB was the first to deregulate critical sectors of the economy to acclaim from the West. We are yet to recover. OBJ ceded Bakassi to Western eulogies, demoting our brothers into second class citizens in their ancestral lands. GEJ has removed subsidies to cover up huge gaps in our finances and at the behest of the West. Overnight, a majority of already impoverished Nigerians have been pushed into deeper poverty.

It seems that the boy who grew up with no shoes has grown up to be a man with no pity.