YNaija Editorial: Mr. President, we’re going to need you to lead

BBC News Africa

 Jonathan promised a different kind of governance. And so far, he has been underwhelming.

Sorry, but we cannot join the frenzy of insults now popular on the blogosphere. The times call for something more serious, something more constructive. We cannot afford two sides of leadership orgasmic with mutual disdain and hatred where each side seeks to outdo itself with shouts of ‘I told you so!’

President Jonathan probably deserves caustic reactions for the current state of insecurity in the land for at least two reasons: first, he is the president, and security of lives and property is his responsibility. The principles of leadership under any condition are clear – you take a job to solve a problem; and if you are unable to solve that problem you take the blame or you quit.

Second, and most importantly, this president promised both fresh air and transformation – but unfortunately has brought upon Nigerians anything but; from insecurity to an unimaginative fuel subsidy removal, even down to the repetitiveness that follows presidential speeches and press statements including ineffectual promises to “find the perpetrators” and “bring them to book”.

Sadly, many seem to have abandoned some perspective, especially in the subsisting internet orgy to discover who can best insult the president and his federal executive staff. But this is profoundly unhelpful, and even destructive.
The removal of fuel subsidy and other unimaginative and insensitive policies of unwieldy and morally questionable governments have been with us from the days of Shehu Shagari, and while it is fashionable to blame President Jonathan’s perceived weakness for the proliferation of domestic terrorism, it is disingenuous to forget so soon that even President Olusegun Obasanjo seemed equally powerless in the face of the terrorism from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Still, Jonathan promised a different kind of governance. And so far, he has been underwhelming. In fact, it is important to wonder at the wisdom of a bouquet of policy thrusts and decisions that he has made ever seen he took over the reins of office. It is important to wonder how come a president who had so much goodwill could lose it so soon – so much so that a Gallup poll indicates more than 90 percent do not trust his government.

It started, sadly, in 2010, when the president sectionalised his mandate by incongruously defending the criminality of Niger Delta militants (“My people” are not behind the Independence Day bombings, he infamously said). Then the president embarked on half-hearted civil-engagement efforts that seemed more targeted at winning elections than meaningful conversation. The subsequent and severe depletion of foreign reserves and the visibly obscene spending that characterised his re-election campaign did not help in convincing a large swath of people who already saw this government as profligate, insincere, and incapable of any real change.

Coming to the now, we remain convinced that, yet again, the president made a very unwise, perhaps ultimately irresponsible, move in setting the nation alight under two-week long protests due to the removal of fuel subsidy. That singular action and the continuation of that unfortunate lack of judgement in military deployment, following the harassment of peaceful protesters in states from Kano to Lagos, whether his advisers tell him the truth or not, has cost put into question the good faith of his administration. The freedom of movement and expression and by extension the right to peaceful protest, being constitutional guarantees.

Then, in the midst of all of this overwhelming atmosphere of distrust, Nigerians from Bayelsa to Bauchi are being bombed – and security of life and property, above all else, is the primary duty of government. What we have now therefore is, unwittingly, a dangerous presidency – one that has even been accused freely by citizens of unleashing terrorism against its own people to achieve narrow political ends. While we are wont to disbelieve that, the Presidency must take responsibility for bringing this upon itself.

When a people lose faith in their leader; when the little support he has stems from anything but trust in his competence, he has lost the pulpit to lead. Unfortunately, now that we are in the final analysis unsafe, more than ever, Mr. President needs to take responsibility and reclaim that trust.

As leaders across the world have discovered, it is impossible to win a war against terrorism or insecurity without the faith strength and buy-in of the people. Tales continue to inspire of vigilant Americans who, trusting in their government, or loving their country passionately, have taken steps to thwart the efforts of terrorists.

It is time for those in the corridors of power to stop the frenzied finger-pointing at real and imagined political foes and take seriously the responsibility to look beyond narrow interests to solve problems for an entire nation – and point the populace to a future that is hopeful.

No matter how difficult it is, or how much pressure he is under, and no matter how many opposition leaders are intransigent, it is the responsibility of the president to lead. And we are waiting.



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