For Want of a President: An Israelite Journey, by Uyi Lawani

Going by reports on various Nigerian media outlets, President Jonathan has set off on a pilgrimage to Israel. It’s his second such journey within the past 12 months. Not satisfied at the short-run sustainability of the unction received at the first time of asking, he has thought it necessary to go for a refresher. He has all of three months to turn the tide of what has been an abysmal performance after 6 years as President. It must take the divine to pull a man out of such a rut. But I support his quest. A man should be wise enough to identify the well(s) of his strength and draw endlessly from it or them. If a pilgrimage to Israel fuels his alleged good luck, and by extension that of Nigeria (since he is our president), then here are my taxes: spend, hasten to go, and may the trip be good.

Or maybe not. An online Israeli news media reports that President Jonathan will be arriving in his private jet and that his entourage which includes a party of 80 will be lodged in 40 rooms at the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem. The last time around in October of 2013, his train included eight governors, seven ministers, three members of the National Assembly and several hangers on, among which is the current president of CAN, Ayo Oritsejafor.

The amount of foreign exchange our country loses on these frivolities must be mind boggling even to the benefitting host communities. Israel has done well to develop and propagate several significant holy sites that attract, nearly year round, tourists and pilgrims (especially of religions with Abrahamic underpinning). They should reap and maximize the benefits of their heritage and history. Our leaders conveniently forget that there is money to be made from such ventures and pretend that there is nothing left of our heritage and history in Nigeria that can be so harnessed.

Off to Israel and Saudi Arabia for pilgrimages and off to Europe for healthcare services and yet they hit their heads on walls in search of job-creating initiatives. Are Nigerians not deserving of jobs in these industries? Not wanting to minimize the economic implications of these trips and the resulting neglect of our industry potentials. That point has been well made by critics. What about the implication for the security and well-being of our president-our national figure head, and our leadership? There is no telling the amount of attendant compromise such exposure of our leadership can generate. How much more vulnerable can a nation be than having our president and leaders laying around on hospital beds in foreign countries especially for ailments that we could, with proper capacity development, handle by ourselves?

President Jonathan is off to the holy mountains in search of divine help to man-made problems. There is a place for the divine but surely not as a substitute for the remit of man. After all, God’s injunction to Adam at the Garden of Eden was clear: the earth is yours to cultivate, to dress and to harvest therefrom. The difference from the point of his fall being that Adam thenceforth felt the pain of his labor. Our leaders are unwilling to feel this pain and so refuse to do any heavy lifting in respect of bettering our nation. They refuse to make choices that put them in the firing line of entrenched interests and up-end an order that continuously milks the blood out of helpless citizens.

I imagine that the president has since arrived in the holy land and the point being made by this cautionary note is therefore moot. So let’s make the best of the trip and its cost to the nation and suggest that the president do the following on our behalf while there:

He should take a tour of the real estate the Israelites roamed on between Egypt and Canaan. The popular claim is that even by ancient standards, a journey that took forty years should have lasted no more than 11 days. Bible scholars will make us believe that theirs (the Israelites) was a lot divined and for the reason that they had been disobedient, unfaithful and wicked in the sight of God.

President Jonathan has dilly-dallied to the point of stretching to forty years what 11 days was wont to resolve. He has gone about setting up committees and panels to report on even the most obvious. He set up a committee to investigate and report that indeed the Chibok girls had been captured. A fact everyone knew prior to the inauguration of the panel. As we speak, the girls remain in captivity and our government gropes in its cluelessness today for failing to be decisive when the times called for it.

In the face of damning evidence regarding the bullet proof BMWs and the Ministry of Aviation under Ms. Stella Oduah, President Jonathan found fit to set up a panel, and take along with him on his previous trip to Israel, both the accused and the investigator. In the end, he couched the softest of landings for Ms. Oduah. She had been at the forefront in his quest for electoral victory in 2011.

The president and his team conveniently forget that he has been at the helm for 6 years and not 6 days. Surely, a government worth its salt should not be struggling to connect the people with the benefits of a much touted transformation agenda. His campaign promises from 2011 are still fresh in our memories. Suddenly feeling a jolt by the mobilization of the opposition, he now seeks the divine in a bid to return in May 2015.

On the basis of his record, President Jonathan needs prayers to get re-elected.

He must pray that we don’t give a damn about the power of our vote the same way he didn’t give a damn about laying a marker for corrupt officials by declaring his assets. He must pray that we all fall asleep and wipe from our memories how poorly he has governed. He must pray that only the Alamieyesiagha’s (the pardoned ex-convicts) who have benefitted from his largesse go to the polling booths. He must pray that Professor Attahiru Jega is as corrupt and inept as Professor Maurice Iwu and will go ahead and compute election results from the recess of his office in Abuja. He must pray that we forget about how justice was scammed by the 20 billion naira police pension scam. He must pray that we forget about the Malabu oil deal. He must pray that we forget about the helplessness of our jobless youth. He must pray for a political “abracadabra” to see him win Southwest Nigeria after the political lopsidedness against them in the 6 years of his reign.

The election, this time around, is the opposition’s to lose. So, I hope President Jonathan returns with a fresh unction. He will be needing it to govern differently if this happens, and if not, to bear the burden of the quickest turn-around of goodwill. In 6 years, he has turned the clamorers of his ascension into those of his deposition.

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