by Tunde Fagbenle
Let me quickly say “well done” to President Goodluck Jonathan and his speech writers for that well written and passably well-delivered Independence Anniversary speech of Mr. President. It is perhaps the best I’ve read or heard of him since he became our president, and, certainly, the most believable in terms of some of the achievements he chalked up for himself and his government. It was, by and large, well-tempered, even duly sober, and balanced.
Even if his assurance of a safe Nigeria is hollow, it appears true that our forces are beginning to gain the upper hand in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents and President Jonathan’s mention of the launch of a Victims Support Fund, “an independent multi-sectoral charity,” to “augment government’s statutory intervention,” was welcome. For whatever it was worth, the National Conference held and President Jonathan assures the implementation of its report. How he intends to do that beyond setting up committees, as usual, and dancing round a hand-wringing National Assembly to no end I do not know.
As I wrote in this column of September 7, 2014 titled, “Ebola and Fashola’s winning ways,” the credit for the rapid response to and containment of the Ebola incursion was that of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola and his proactive, all action, government.
President Jonathan takes credit, and it should be granted, for bringing about an INEC with a semblance of freedom and independence to ensure credible elections and deepen our 16th year democratic journey. He chalks an improved power sector, “giant strides in the Agricultural Sector,” and in infrastructure, “building roads, bridges, and new rail lines,” etc; “implementation of the Nigerian Content Act in the Oil and Gas Sector,” and even the rebased economy as “progress.” The speech was huge in promises, with the launch of this and proposals for that.
But, sadly, that speech still left a sour taste in the mouth when he dwelt on the Ebola Virus Disease and began to beat his chest loudly, giving his government credit for the rapid responses that led to its containment in Nigeria. Hear Dr. Jonathan: “My directives to the Federal Ministry of Health saw the ministry leading the charge in curtailing the spread of this deadly scourge and managing its impact.” Haba, Mr. President!
As I read the speech, I waited for the moment, that moment of real statesmanship, when one gives credit to whom it is due, even if it happens to be one’s adversary. Lo, it did not come. Those speech writers failed Mr. President and Jonathan failed himself for not quickly recognising the omission and adding it, even if ad lib, of which he isn’t much gifted, as he read the Ebola part.
As I wrote in this column of September 7, 2014 titled, “Ebola and Fashola’s winning ways,” the credit for the rapid response to and containment of the Ebola incursion was that of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola and his proactive, all action, government. Even a one-year-old child knows that. And how gracious it would have been of the president to just mention specifically, even grudgingly, the role of Fashola and his Lagos team in all of this — a role already universally acclaimed — beyond the trivial generalisation of welcoming “the spirit of collaboration, unity and partnership” of nondescript persons, and thanking “all Nigerians for working together to prevent what could have become a major epidemic.”
Taking credit for what is not one’s is akin to thieving and frowned upon in all decent societies. In academic circles it is an unpardonable crime. Giving credit to whom it is due does not take away from one, on the contrary, it adds to one. Wish President Jonathan had just said:
“I wish to recognise here and thank my friend the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, for his prompt and efficient handling of the threat with the index case brought to his state. His efforts helped greatly in preventing what could have become a major epidemic. It is partnership such as this that I hope all will bring to bear at all moments of national crisis.” Bla, bla, bla.
Shame, he didn’t. And that’s saying it as it is!
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.