by Olu Akinmade
“In my early days in school I had no shoes, no school bags. I carried my books in my hands but never despaired, no car to take me to school, but I never despaired. These were words that saw an underdog zoologist from Otuoke, Bayelsa State come to notoriety and went on to be elected or selected in his first term as the President and Commander-in-Chief of Africa’s most populous nation depending on where you are watching from.
Amidst the carnival that was the 2011 PDP Presidential election campaign train that moved powerfully from state to state, this rhetoric by the PDP Presidential candidate, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, rang through the whole nation at the time as it was oft-repeated in what was an attempt to sound profound and inspirational with a concluding tag line: “Fellow Nigerians, if I could make it, you too can make it!”.
A lot of people empathised, some jeered, some were indifferent. It worked! As the majority of the unsuspecting populace lapped it up because they could identify with not having shoes growing up. Indeed we can, in one way or the other, identify with not having shoes growing up with epileptic power supply, lack of potable water, poor healthcare, substandard education, zero infrastructure, Insecurity, etc. So yes, we felt you bro..
But beyond the fanfare, empathy, cynicism and indifference perhaps the more appropriate question we should have asked, at the time, was whether GEJ had the right shoes to run the present day national race he was being enlisted for.
The type of shoes you accessorise your feet with in life is determined by the kind of journey you are about to embark on. If you are going for a jog, you put on a pair of trainers / running shoes; If you are going mountain climbing, you put on appropriate anti-skid climbing gear; If you are relaxing at home, you put on flip flops… To continue not to have shoes means you are not planning on going anywhere and that the country with you!
The Christian religious leaders, for obvious selfish interests, were not left behind in this ruse as they played their part in the Muslim/Christian divide and rule adding slogans like “A nominal Christian is better than the best practising Muslim”. Seriously???
The Muslim leaders also encouraged the Muslim faithful to go out in their numbers to vote for their anointed candidate. The regional North/South power rotation case was also made powerfully. In all of these canvassing for their candidates, no one was asked to vote for NIGERIA – For what is best for Nigeria.
Over the last 4 years of President Jonathan’s lacklustre attempt at leadership, you cannot but come to the conclusion that the ‘lack of shoes’ plagues GEJ in more ways psychological than physical to this day as the lack of shoes appears to have left an indelible scar beyond the visible soles of his feet.
In contract law, there is a legal rule called the Nemo Dat rule which in Latin says Nemo dat quod non habet, literally meaning “no one gives what he doesn’t have”. It simply states that the purchase of a possession from someone who has no ownership right to it also denies the purchaser any ownership title. We the Nigerian people have, unfortunately, signed a contract with questionable title.
The same is also true that you cannot lead people where you haven’t been yourself. Leadership requires Honesty, Compassion, Conviction, Drive, Courage, Boldness, Vision, Direction, Creative Thinking, Intellectual Perspicacity among other virtues. Sadly, as a people and in our characteristic E-Go-Better attitude we seem to be expecting the impossible virtues from GEJ. I think the time has come when we need to be honest with ourselves and come to terms with, in some cases, our choice and for the most part, what was ‘selected’ for us.
I haven’t read OBJ’s My Watch but I have read some excerpts with People blasting Baba that he has no right to speak on the matter as he ‘selected’ GEJ for us in the first place. Whilst I know Baba can be as vindictive as the next guy if he doesn’t have his way or say, one thing you can never take away from him is his interest for One Nigeria. Baba is a nationalist to the core. Even if OBJ’s critics were right in their claim that he lost his right or place to speak, I have never admired Obasanjo’s leadership more than now by him showing courage to man up and speak up for Nigeria at a time that it mattered most!
When the PDP circus came back to town 4 years ago, I told some of my friends back then that with GEJ in the saddle, we needed to brace ourselves for very little forward movement the next 4 years, if any. 4 years on and it’s that time again. Does Nigeria deserve another 4 years of shoe-less or leg-less leadership? How can a nation lose 8 whole years because a person still does not have shoes?
A popular adage of the Yorubas says “Ti a ba bi ni, o ye ka tun ara eni bi” which literally means that no matter the condition of your birth, you need to give yourself a rebirth or be Born-Again in every sense of the word.
In more ways than one, like most Nigerians, I did not have shoes growing up but the fact that I grew up without shoes didn’t mean I had to stay without shoes. That lack of whatever essentials I lacked stirred something in me that drove and still drives me to start designing shoes in my mind and If I can’t achieve that I will surround myself with those who can design bright, colourful shoes of the future till we eventually start our own shoe company! The shoes of leadership are developed over time in the valley of experience.
Just like George W. Bush, you really know what GEJ is made of in the psychological shoe arena whenever he goes off script. Case in point, when as a Presidential candidate GEJ promised to build airports and universities in every state of the Federation! Then we had a sneak preview of how deep this shoe thing was. Or was it when the President of my beloved country went on national media recently and cited the ownership of private jets as indices of national prosperity. Nna men, This shoe thing is deeper than we thought!
I have heard people use words like inept and clueless to describe Mr. President but I think that is quite harsh. The guy simply just doesn’t have it. He did not show up for the class Leadership 101. He has never had it and sadly, is not capable of having what it takes to lead. Looking through his resume, I realise GEJ has never held any position that has placed any significant leadership demand on him until he became President! So little wonder that when it is time to lead or show leadership like in the case of the Chibok girls, GEJ opts to focus on ‘Enemies’ whilst pertinent matters of the state go unattended. Only in Nigeria!
I don’t have anything against President Jonathan as I’m sure he is a nice enough guy. My only issue is he doesn’t have the mettle to get the job done! GEJ cannot effectively run the affairs of a local government yet he’s being compared in an ad campaign to doers like Barack Obama, Martin Luther King and Ghandi as ‘doing it’! These Anti-Nigeria clowns close their ad with a juvenile at the same time comical line ‘Those that are with you are more than those against you.
Even on his best day in office this last 4 years, which on reflection I struggle to remember one, you could not expect a ‘Presidential performance’ from Mr. President. So we have a guy at the helm who at best is playing political Ludo with the destinies of millions blagging it every step of the way. This opportunity of a lifetime is one that gives the few opportuned to have it with a shot at carving their names in the Hall of Fame of our nation. Those who can really and truly say: I came, I saw and I conquered. I impacted my generation. I improved the lot of my people.
How did we get to a place where we made decision based on shoes and the name ‘Goodluck’?
Nigeria is blessed as if not so, I’m surprised at how there is anything left with years of plundered resources. Nigeria is truly blessed but our ‘I better pass my neighbour self-serving attitude’ has eaten so deep into our moral mien that with all that is wrong with us be it subsidy removal, or some other issue, we each look at how it affects us, make the necessary slight adjustment and jog on with no consideration for those who have no wiggle room left for any more adjustments. That is how we have gotten this far as a people – Adjustments and Compromises. Successive Military administrations came and we made Structural Adjustment Programs. Civilian era came and we are still making adjustment hence the political class will foist the likes of GEJ on us because it does not regard the power of the Nigerian people to effect a sustained action for positive change without, before long, adjusting back to the comfort of our adjusted lives.
The reality is that, come 2015, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will win the Presidential election into his second term in office and Nigeria will lose yet again! Sadly, there is nothing we can do about it with: The INEC we all pretend to be independent; The PDP political machinery primed and good to go do whatever it takes; The religious and regional propaganda well on the way; The war chest stacked with monetary inducements to sway voters; Hunger fixed for the moment (An olodo of Garri will sway many grassroot voters enough to forget the present hardship).
Yes, Jonathan will win in 2015 and Nigeria will lose yet again for another 4 years.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.