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Give a damn please, Mr President
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan was quoted during his last media chat to have retorted that ‘he did not give a damn about issues concerning public declaration of his asset’. I was shocked when I first read the reaction in the dailies but took the matter with a pinch of salt because I thought it was possible for him to have been quoted out of context and that his media adviser, Dr Reuben Abati, who understood the full implication of such a statement, could do a retraction. But I have been proved wrong because no retraction of any sort has come from anything to underscore the fact that our President actually meant what he said and would not actually give a damn. I have since moved from being shocked to being stupefied, stupefied; because I thought such an expression was unpresidential and should not have been uttered by our dear President no matter the subject of discussion and under what situation. But, wonders will never end. The President uttered the statement and actually did not give a damn even if heavens fall.
Between that time and now, events unfolding have actually proved that Mr President did not give a damn about what happens in Nigeria so long as Nigerians can sustain the current level of resilience that has kept them going. The President deployed military personnel, armed to the teeth, to Edo State during the just concluded gubernatorial election in the State ostensibly to provide security and to subtly intimidate the voters. But the people of Edo State who would not be bothered or distracted by the presence of the military personnel trooped out in large numbers to show that they would not succumb to any intimidation from anywhere and voted for the candidate of their choice.
As if that was not enough, the President has allowed the army to take over the premises of the PHCN to prevent a popular refrain ‘breakdown of law and order’ because PHCN workers were asking for their entitlements. The PHCN workers refused to be browbeaten by the way workers of the defunct NITEL suffered grieve because they did not act smart when the conglomeration was being privatised. The presence of the well-armed military personnel left the workers who had planned to demonstrate and forcefully drive home their demands mesmerised and stranded. But, we wait to see whether the presence of the military and the posture of government will fast-track the process of making improved electricity available to the teaming population of this country or not.
The press reported that the President approved the recall of the suspended Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Arumah Oteh in spite of the litany of allegation of highhandedness and alleged corruption against it. The House of Representatives, vide its committee on SEC carried out investigations to unravel the truth surrounding the allegations.
Just as we were pondering on these developments, the Governor of Bayelsa State, S. Dickson, the political grandson of the President announced the appointment of Her Excellency, the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan a permanent secretary in the service of the state government several years after she had left the civil service. The news would have been treated as April fool if this month had been April. But, trust Nigerians. Her Excellency was sworn into office in Yenegoa last week after the Governor had personally made a frantic but bold effort to defend the appointment. The President has not uttered a word to my knowledge on the matter probably because he might not give a damn. But he should have given a damn because of the implications of the appointment on his person.
And the President has also not ordered the release of third quarter allocations to the various ministries and parastatals who would use the money to improve the living condition of our people, the people for who the National Assembly hurriedly approved the N4.7 trillion budget for the current year. My understanding is that the budget was prepared to drive the transformational agenda of the President and to make life more meaningful for the millions of our people who lack basic amenities, suffer acute unemployment problems and are daily struggling to make ends meet. The President, through his failure to release money into the economy, has allowed members of the House of Representatives to threaten him with a needless ‘impeachment’ if by September this year he has not fully implemented the budget. The question is will the President now give a damn?
In the real sense of it, does the President need to give a damn or not? If not giving a damn means not caring about something, according to the dictionary, can the number one citizen of Nigeria, not care about issues that bother on our collective welfare, good governance, stable polity, secured nation and pervading influence of corruption? Will President Obama of the United States of America, Prime Minister Cameron of Britain and President Evans Atta Mills of Ghana retort that they could not give a damn on television when being asked questions on probity in public office and setting standard for good conduct for other public officers? I doubt. Why then would our President not give a damn about declaring his asset publicly after he had done so under the former President Musa Yar’ Adua when he was Vice President?
Agreed that the President had not declared his current asset publicly since he assumed office as President or that he simply did not want to answer the question.
Could not he parry the question or refuse to answer it rather than being angry and indicating that he could not give a damn? I doubt, too. There is no doubt that several people are disappointed by the President’s remark and would want him to retract it or apologise for speaking that way. He is our President and human, and it is human to err.
Since the President has sworn to defend the country and its citizens, provide our basic necessities of life, provide security and show good conduct, I like to offer a piece of advice. Certainly, intimidation, frequent deployment of military personnel, poor implementation of the budget, lack of security, lengthening the chain of graduate and youth unemployment and inability to frontally confront corruption are antithetical to democratic ideals and the President has to give a damn about them. Giving a damn about them will ginger the President to preside over a government that will be responsive to the needs of the people to who he will give account in the next three years or so. When the President gives a damn, security personnel will know that he is serious about his avowed commitment to eradicating corruption and all forms of insecurity. When he gives a damn, he will order the release of all budget allocations to fast-track development and address youth and graduate underemployment. He will order the Power Minister to pay the severance claims of PHCN workers and give them their just reward. When the President gives a damn, Nigeria will work better and our commitment to the nation will be rekindled. The President has to give a damn because not giving a damn will set a negative precedence, make the war against corruption and insecurity difficult to win, reduce our worth and estimation in the comity of nations and leave us vulnerable.Share