The story of Emmanuel Bamidele Orevba, the man who died for President Jonathan, is uncommon in these parts. Mr. Orevba wholeheartedly supported and campaigned for the president’s victory in the last elections, saw his dreams come true, but alas his heart gave up in excitement. His was one of the stories President Jonathan expertly wove into an inauguration speech long on inspiration and talking points but a tad short on specifics.
Unlike his predecessor four years ago, President Jonathan spoke like a man with a credible and broad-based mandate. He ran the gamut of the nation’s problems –economic development, power sector reform, infrastructure rebuilding, job creation, quality education, improved healthcare delivery, food security, fiscal responsibility, Niger Delta and national security. Those who waited to hear specifics on strategy though, were left disappointed as he papered the speech with grand rhetoric and high-sounding inspiration. Personally, I found the positive beat of the speech quite fitting.
Just as in his campaigns, the president continued with his transformation catch phrase. “The leadership we have pledged is decidedly transformative.” “The time for lamentation is over. This is the era of transformation.” “The day of transformation begins today.” I agree with the president that we need national transformation. I want to believe in the president’s sincerity and his ability even. But a word of caution –efforts which aren’t total, complete and dramatic, cannot count as transformation. And there my doubts come alive.
The president’s sincerity to transform will be judged on the issue of national unity. “We will not allow anyone exploit differences in creed or tongue, to set us one against another,” he said. Nigerians will be looking up to him for example, hoping that as has been the case sometimes in the past, he will not don the ethnic toga when it suits his politics. That he would fish out and punish the conspirators in our midst.
In the speech, he thanked his wife for “galvanizing and mobilising Nigerian women for democracy.” We would be waiting to see him fulfil his pledge of thirty five percent ministerial and ambassadorial positions to women as a show of appreciation. The president also said that “all Nigerian diplomatic missions abroad are to accord this vision of defending the dignity of humanity the highest priority.” He has the opportunity to show how seriously he meant that by how he deals with the issue surrounding the Nigerian ambassador to Kenya, Ambassador Chijioke Wigwe, who bruised and battered his wife, soiling Nigeria’s image in that country. The man should be removed and his diplomatic immunity stripped so that proper investigations can take place.
We would judge President Jonathan’s sincerity to transform on corruption and placing the “common good before all else.” He must be the first enlistee in the fight against corruption. The wealth of the nation should be for the commonwealth and not to be indiscriminately and lawlessly doled out to associates and sycophants. We would expect him to dissociate himself from those who have pauperized the nation in the past. We will not stop reminding him of the ceaseless promises he made on the campaign trail. Common good must guide him as well, in his choice of ministers.
President Jonathan said: “Being a Nigerian is a blessing. It is also a great responsibility.” I am sure that Mr. Jonathan knows that it is even more so for him. I agree with him that the “moment is right” for Nigeria’s transformation but I don’t agree that “the signs are heart-warming.” How he handles himself and the economy in the coming months would go a long way in changing the signs. Personally, I would endeavour to heed his call when he says: “Cynicism and scepticism will not help our journey to greatness.” I hope he wouldn’t mind my constructive criticism though. The president ended his speech by saying that he will “never, never let you down.” I can imagine the family of Mr. Emmanuel Bamidele Orevba hoping earnestly that that will be the case. I too am hoping.