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Frisky Larr (MA)
Journalist/Interpreter
Author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.
Bochum, Germany
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Where the hell is President Jonathan?

 

But quiet diplomacy at the wrong place and time intertwined with a precise call for strength and leadership has become the defining character that Jonathan is presently grappling with. Shining with conspicuous absence on the fore of the battlefront, Jonathan’s weakness is now highlighted by indecisiveness through his zigzag course first against FIFA in an acting capacity and in his choice of Speaker of the House of Representatives before finally showing same repeatedly in the Ministers lists before the Senate and now in advocating dialog with the abomination called Boko Haram.


Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

The chain of bad news trailing the election and swearing-in of President Jonathan since April and May is mounting by the day and taking an alarming dimension. So is the feeling of helplessness too. In the face of chaos occasioned by disappointment by losers and sidelined individuals, President Jonathan is displaying some stoic calm in powerlessness and obvious vulnerability.
 

Which way is the ship sailing? The stormy waters rise in the soaring waves of Boko Haram. Routine criminals raze down law enforcement stations at will and wreak havoc on financial institutions. Kidnapping and casual robbery have become so casual that they do not make headline news any longer. A Central Bank Governor rises from amid the troubling storm in the most unfortunate of chaotic times to display autonomy in proclaiming insensitive and ill-timed policies under the most unfortunate labels. Party soldiers in the Legislative chambers have become self-reliant with no respect for the party that sponsored their ascension and the President is supposed to be the head of his party. No one can be whipped in line. The President is showing signs of weakness almost surpassing the fatigued status of passivity experienced under Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. Names are submitted for ministerial appointment and withdrawn again overnight. Aside Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the economic team, not much sense can be made of some appointments made by the President.

Gradually, a complex knot is being tied in a tangle that will prove impossible to undo. At least in the foreseeable future! We will take the issues one after the other.

Politicians from the North did not make any secret of their intention to make governance impossible if Jonathan went ahead to remain President in defiance of what they consider to be a breach of the zoning arrangement within the ruling party. Since being sworn-in on May 28th, 2011, President Jonathan has been overseeing a Nigeria that has become virtually ungovernable with high profile religious militants striking any target at will and with impunity.

A defeated presidential candidate – retired General Muhammadu Buhari – with repeated firebrand rhetoric has dared the President repeatedly too, to arrest him for inciting popular rebellion, if he can. His incitement of social upheaval has never been done in secret. Another comrade-in-arms stated in a public speech that violent change is made inevitable by those who make peaceful change impossible while advocating the change to suit his own purpose. Yet no law enforcement instance was called into the scene. When Nasir El-Rufai came up with credible warnings on public spending however, President Jonathan’s men came up with disagreement on figures and had him promptly arrested and questioned.

It has become clear who in Nigeria, is above the law and there are many who we are yet to know.

Suddenly bombing with improvised explosive devises has become a routine way of life rendering other forms of violent crimes a mere child’s play. President Jonathan makes occasional comments lamenting that Boko Haram would also go after him if it could. Twice or thrice the President has reaffirmed that Boko Haram will be defeated but quietly he has mandated secret dialog. No one knows where he stands. He seems to know the partners to dialog with but fears wielding the ax of the law on them. He probably fears becoming the ultimate victim.

In the midst of the chaos, the Governor of the Central Bank Lamido Sanusi has taken due advantage to declare a forward march of Islamic elements in the Nigerian Banking system. The timing could not be more opportune, while things are falling apart and the center hardly holds. A few years ago when a Northerner was head of the central government, one Chukwuma Soludo at the helm of affairs at the Central Bank attempted restructuring the monetary system in emulation of the autonomy enjoyed by the American Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The northern President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had to blow the whistle on him to launch an immediate retreat. After all, the President was the ultimate power.

For several weeks now, the poorly timed and insensitive declaration of the impending introduction of Islamic Banking has been placed on the agenda by the Governor of the Central Bank and the debate has been raging on. Critics and admirers acknowledge the benefit of interest-free banking, but the concerns and sensitivities of southerners, who suspect a creeping process of Islamization, are not addressed. They are even trampled upon.

It can be recalled that the replacement of Chukwuma Soludo with Lamido Sanusi by the then northern President was greeted with the suspicion of northernizing key government offices. The swift move by the then new Governor of the Central Bank to sell capital-starved and poorly managed banks to foreign private investors was rumored to have been a ploy to establish a rooted presence in the Nigerian financial market, for Islamic investors from Iran, Saudi Arabia and such other countries as seek to advance the spread of Islam through vulnerable countries. Somehow, this suspicion did not prove to be true. Perhaps not yet! This all came against the backdrop of clandestine moves by a former self-styled military President Ibrahim Babangida who sold Nigeria as a Muslim country to his Arab sympathizers and subsequently pulled Nigeria into the Islamic Conference Organization without regard to the sensitivities of the sizeable numerical strength of Christians in the land.

It is however a fact that emphasis on "Interest-free Banking" with an attendant denial of anything religious in the project would have made the "Islamic Banking" project far more acceptable to the suspicious public. But the deliberate emphasis on the word "Islamic" has simply heightened suspicions of the pursuit of a clandestine agenda. The debate is raging on and the President of the country is nowhere to be seen or heard. Sharp-tongued appraisals suspect a quiet Jonathan concession to those Boko Haramic sponsors who are known to him. A concession that may have included wide-ranging autonomy for Lamido Sanusi without presidential interference! A speculative option, which under normal circumstances, should be beyond all thinkable imaginations! In a country where it is not impossible to see pigs flying however, any option remains imaginable.

Nothing has served more to underscore the lack of direction and powerlessness of the President than the zigzag course he charted in the presentation of his party's choice for the Speakership of the House of Representatives. It should be borne in mind that the President is by virtue of the statutes of the ruling party, the leader (not Chairman) of the party. The House of Representative’s saga however readily called back to mind, the shameful pose of President Jonathan before FIFA in the wake of Nigeria’s shameful exit from South Africa 2010. It was also a disgraceful rigmarole.

A candidate was picked in agreement with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party. Sensing the unpopularity of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a new female candidate was agreed on overnight. Nothing could best tell the Legislators not to take the Presidency seriously.

What was most shameful however is the failure of the opposition party to recognize the depth of trying times that Nigeria is currently engulfed in. The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) teamed up with elements of the ruling party to elect a northern candidate for promising it a juicy bounty. Precisely this northern speaker is what backgrounders in the north were waiting for. It may take some time or perhaps not. They will definitely get their new northern man to do their bidding in the campaign to make governance difficult if not impossible for the President of the land for daring the northern might. It is latest at this point that many secretly wished that Nigeria still had a crazy strongman at the center who would have marked dissenting voices for ultimate prosecution by the anti-graft agencies. After all the behavior of Legislators in the House of Representatives has thrown Nigeria back in the quest to liberate the land from the grips of the northern mafia! Nigeria now has a Vice President, a President of the Senate and a Speaker of the House of Representatives all from the north surrounding a lonesome President who has no natural characteristic of strength and self-assertion.

This is all the more reason that President Jonathan's choice of Reuben Abati as his presidential spokesman is simply bewildering. Aside from Reuben Abati’s irresponsible and unqualified style of journalism practiced in the campaign to undo and mar Olusegun Obasanjo as a person and President, his contribution to Journalism in Nigeria has been one of inciting cheap popular applause the “Arakadede” style. A reason I qualify him as a beer-parlor Journalist. Reuben Abati it is who has contributed the most to the perception of Journalism as a profession that doesn’t necessarily have to be the base of objectivity and neutrality in the gatekeeper function but simply cheap sentiments and self-interest. Here I will be glad to refer readers to a section in my book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” that deals with Reuben Abati. This is a man who has always operated in a cloud of rumored improprieties and undue scandals.

The appointment of Reuben Abati readily reminds one of the appointment of Governor Gbenga Daniel as Jonathan’s Campaign Coordinator in the Southwest during the last electoral campaign period. Observers had difficulty understanding the stated agenda of Goodluck Jonathan in the appointment of Gbenga Daniel to such a high profile position, while he actually needed the services of Olusegun Obasanjo more than anything else during those trying times and now. Even though there are no palpable signs of an acute rift between Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo, the choices made by President Jonathan often seem to signal a lack of direction and resoluteness in this battle of destiny to salvage the soul of Nigeria from the vultures of the northern mafia.

The only discernible explanation for the President’s choice of Reuben Abati is no doubt, the utilization of Abati’s propaganda and spin-doctor skills. One cannot help but suspect a President who is positioning himself for all facets of the impeding war of attrition with his detractors including the battle on the intellectual front. While the sponsors of Boko Haram are busy executing the physical onslaught in wanton slaughtering, the eloquent ones in the quality of El-Rufai are launching a new intellectual front on the pages of newspapers. This is an area in which Reuben Abati may function as a competent counter-force.

If the President however sought an outstanding role model for the advancement of credible journalism for the future generation, Reuben Abati is definitely the wrong choice in the wrong position, which can be forgiven halfway in view of the suspected motives.

But quiet diplomacy at the wrong place and time intertwined with a precise call for strength and leadership has become the defining character that Jonathan is presently grappling with. Shining with conspicuous absence on the fore of the battlefront, Jonathan’s weakness is now highlighted by indecisiveness through his zigzag course first against FIFA in an acting capacity and in his choice of Speaker of the House of Representatives before finally showing same repeatedly in the Ministers lists before the Senate and now in advocating dialog with the abomination called Boko Haram.

Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

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