A new brand of luggage bag is about to hit the market stands in Ghana. It will sell under the trade name ‘Nigeria Must Go’. The first batch of users who would test the effectiveness of these bags will be Nigerians in Ghana. These are Nigerians who have been given a quit notice, rightly or wrongly, by their host, necessitating their sudden but compulsory return to their fatherland, and thus creating the demand for an emergency travel bag.
Nigeria Must Go is the fitting equivalent of the Nigerian version of the same kind of bag called Ghana Must Go (GMG) which emerged in the Nigerian society two and a half decades ago when the Nigerian Government gave marching orders to illegal Ghanaian immigrants to leave. They needed those bags to pack their loads as they had to leave in a hurry the same way the Israelites, freed from Pharaoh, left Egypt, the only difference being that unlike the Israelites, the Ghanaians were headed not to a promised land flowing with milk and honey but rather back to their then depressed economy. Ghana was then under severe economic meltdown while Nigeria on the other hand was just emerging from an oil boom. Nigeria was thus a dreamland for citizens of most West African countries who trooped in both legally and illegally to find a meaningful existence.
I am told that the Ghana must go episode itself was in retaliation to a November 1969 edict issued by the Ghanaian government all ‘African aliens’ but targeting Nigerians, but that is not the focus of this article.
Today the tide has turned, and the chaser has become the chased, the hunter is the hunted and the benefactor is the beggar. While Nigeria has thrown over 500billion dollar worth of crude oil money down the drain in the past four decades, Ghana has indeed moved on from the destitution of 30 years ago to a strong and stable political sovereignty bold enough to call the bluff of the so-called Giant of Africa-Nigeria. Payback time, one would say, and that would not be far from the truth but most the obvious lesson from this turning of tables is that no condition is permanent.
Ghana has indeed moved on such that most Ghanaians under thirty years of age may not even know the significance of the phrase ‘Ghana must go’. During a recent visit in Ghana, I entered a roadside drug store to buy some pain reliever. Out of fun, I pulled out a one thousand Naira note and jokingly offered to pay the shop owner in Nigerian currency. He laughed mischievously and said derisively: ‘your money is mere paper; it’s worthless. If I need to buy grocery with your money, I would need to carry a whole ‘Ghana-must- go bag of it’. I looked at my Nigerian friend who was with me and smiled. On our way out of the shop we laughed at the oddity of how the phrase ‘Ghana-must- go’ sounded from the mouth of a Ghanaian. Where does Ghana want to go again? My friend asked hilariously as we walked away.
But ironically, Ghana has gone up and forward while Nigeria has gone down and backwards by twenty to thirty years, landing her back to where Ghana was in the era of Ghana must go. So it’s the turn of Nigeria to Go!
Perhaps this development has more than anything else put paid to the lies recently fabricated by the Nigerian President’s media spin doctors and sold to Times Magazine to the effect that Nigeria has come out of economic and political woods under the current leadership in Abuja, thus earning Jonathan a name among the most influential persons on planet earth. A prosperous Nigeria would not have her citizens running to Ghana in droves to eke a living doing menial jobs and petty street trading. A politically stable and economically secure Nigeria would not be so uninhabitable for her citizens to be seeking illegal residency in even poorer neighboring countries.
How did Nigeria fall so rapidly to this embarrassing level of impoverishment whereby her citizens are desperate to get out of her shores at all cost and to just anywhere else, as long as it is outside Nigeria? It is no news that Nigerian’s leaders have squandered and are still plundering her fortunes on all the wrong things, leaving the rest of the people in undeserved despair. Corruption has soared to hitherto unimaginable heights especially under this current President, who has failed to make an impact in almost all aspects of governance including the elementary art of speechmaking.
Ironically one of the symbols of corruption in Nigeria is the 'Ghana Must Go' bag which is commonly used to convey loads of money by government officials, National Assembly members and civil servants in form of kickbacks, bribes for budget or bribes for members of the legislature carrying out oversight functions on various government agencies. The amount of cash involved in these illicit transactions are so mind-boggling that the GMG bags have to be used to convey them.
Indiscipline and impunity has been taken to ridiculous heights. The President travels around the globe with hundreds of assistants at the expense of the public for reasons ranging from the flimsy to the absurd. Recently he took a hundred and fifteen people on a trip to Brazil purportedly to attend a world environment conference but the reason for the flippant trip, that also coincided with a Bomb blast in Kaduna where hundreds of lives were lost, turned out to be, by his own revelation, a grandstanding stunt to prove to the Boko Haram insurgents that government was still working! Imagine! Since when has the measure of functionality of a government been reduced to the mere ability of a President to fly out of his country?
In the end, the president portrayed himself as an insensitive, weakling instead of a strongman! His jetting out of the country in June, the very month he promised to end Boko Haram, in the heat of intensified exploits by the sect, apparently in defiance of his threat, cast him more of as a run-away president than a brave general. That trip did not have the slightest impact on the activities of the sect. The group has since carried out another attack in Abuja, perhaps to tell him that they are coming closer to his villa.
But On the other hand, would his cancelling the trip to empathize with the victims of the blast have achieved anything? Surely! The people would have seen in him a President that cares for and values the lives of the citizens. That in turn would have given him an opportunity to build trust in the people, for his government. Sometimes the trust and goodwill of the people is a more critical success factor of Government policies and indeed turn out to be the key determinant of success or failure of a President.
That Jonathan has failed as a President is not really a surprise to many of us who saw it coming even before he became Acting President. Here is a man that came to power purely by accident, unprepared and with no readiness to hit the ground running. Two years down the line and it has become even more obvious that this president is a rather too slow a learner for comfort. Jonathan does not know how to be President! He has spent two years grappling with the basics of being presidential in speech, carriage and conduct. It is now clear that he lacks the understanding of what the roles and responsibilities of a President are or should be. For example in a recent (un) presidential media chat, President Jonathan declared to the consternation of not a few that he is not in charge of security in the country! What better evidence do we need to conclude that Jonathan is indeed not in charge of anything at all, be it national economy, power, or infrastructure?
A Commander -In- Chief of the armed forces, who says he is not in charge of security in the face of daily bombings of churches and Police stations and other, public places in the North, has no business being the President. In fact such a blatant expression should even be treated as an impeachable offense.
But it is only in Nigeria that such an admission of abdication of duty, negligence and irresponsibility from a president could go unpunished because even the National Assembly which should call him to order is headed by birds of the same feather with the President. A former President (himself a master thief) recently aptly described them as a den of thieves, as the saying goes, it takes a thief to catch a thief.
Having nothing to offer the nation, and faced with growing disaffection among the citizenry the President has adopted a combative approach in response to genuine criticism of his policies. An assemblage of rabid but flippant media aides churn out unsophisticated and banal press statements now and then to justify his failings. In the last media chat, the President himself came out with a pedestrian, shallow and uncouth diatribe against the people of Nigeria. He derided Facebook users, saying they are using it for negative purposes-criticizing him. This is the same President that a year ago prided himself as the first Nigerian President to connect directly with the people through the social network. Why should the people bear the blame for his squandering of the goodwill they gave him through (by his claims) a free and fair election?
Jonathan said the insults people haul at him could prevent one from going to the market! Now what was that for? Seriously nothing could be more incoherent than this. When I read that, I wondered if he was high on something! Not done yet, he said, that he does not ‘give a dammn’ about asset declaration! Wait Mr.President, this is not about you giving anybody a damn; it’s about transparency, even if we ignore the foul language in your statement, you need to tell the people if you have declared your assets (privately) because that’s what the law requires. That will give the Code of Conduct Bureau the moral tonic and morale booster to go after any defaulters. But when the President gives no damn, why would anyone else give?
With this sort of attitude from a leader, whose friends are known to be behind the oil subsidy scam, and several other scandals rocking this administration, it is not difficult to understand why corruption is on the rise while our wheel of development is permanently on reverse gear. It is not difficult to understand why unemployment is on a geometric progression, there is so much poverty in the land sending off our people to be scavengers in neighboring countries like Ghana which looked onto us for hope in the not- too-distant-past.
So as Ghanaians now say ‘Nigeria- must- Go’, Jonathan and his thieving cohorts in the corridors of power should bow their heads in shame if they have a sense of it. The fatuous argument from some quarters (mainly political hangers-and cronies) that Jonathan is not the cause of the problems Nigeria is facing today; that he met these problems on ground, is batter said the dogs. If Jonathan is not the problem, he should attempt to be the solution; at least that was what he promised to do when he asked for the votes of Nigerians in 2011.