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President Jonathan and his centenary burden

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IMAGE: President Goodluck Jonathan »

Right from that Friday, September 23rd, 2011 when the 19 of us were formally inaugurated as Nigeria’s Centenary Celebrations Planning Committee, I knew Mr. President was in trouble. I did not envy our chairman, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, either. I knew too that by extension, ours was going to be in the main a thankless job. But Project Nigeria was worth the foreseeable headache. I had taken time out to chew sufficiently on our terms of reference (ToR) and could not but walk away with the sad truth that Mr. President had asked us to walk the minefield. For, the odds were glaringly up in arms against us: yes, 100 years was worth celebrating; in fact I doubt if it’s optional. But given the prevailing mood of the nation, especially the current security challenges, I was convinced that both constructive and professional Nigerian critics were going to have a field day. Truth is that the timing might not be particularly opportune, but I am afraid, it was no policy matter over which a presidential discretion might have been exercised accordingly; rather it is an historic reality that cannot be altered by man – president or not. Neither is it Mr. President’s fault that it is happening when he is doing a four-year walk through Aso Rock.

But give it to Mr. President that it was after he had rigorously applied his mind to the peculiarities of our times that he directed that our centenary will be one hundred percent funded by the private sector. He has also ensured that the celebrations would be project-oriented. Unprecedented! Unfortunately but typical of us, not too many Nigerians have found the grace to acknowledge Mr. President’s commendable restraint from funding our centenary from our commonwealth. And his reasons couldn’t have been more profound. He reckons that through private sector participation, the people of Nigeria would as a matter of right co-own the celebrations. For him also, the private sector should voluntarily give back something to the land where they had cultivated and harvested for the past 100 years. More than anything else, President Jonathan by that singular act practically identified with the people and their economic hardship which he is toiling day and night to vanquish. Yet, none of these would deter us!

So by the time the committee set sail, going by the mood of Mr. President and his predilection for a functionally people’s celebration, there was already the consciousness that we needed to be extra sensitive, extra-conscious in our activities. It therefore was no surprise that after our meeting of Friday, September 21, 2012 where the committee adopted a framework for the centenary for onward transmission to Federal Executive Council for approval, the FEC showed no hesitation whatsoever in granting approval on December 5, 2012. Same document received governors’ enthusiastic seal on December11, 2012 at their regular National Economic Council (NEC) meeting. It is the framework that we now have as the Centenary Concept Document (CCD). All of these had paved way for the hugely successful centenary flag-off the nation had on February 4, 2013 which had all Nigeria’s ex-Heads of State except one physically present to publicly reaffirm their faith in Project Nigeria.

I therefore was somewhat peeved to read Punch newspapers editorial of January 27, 2013 which stated inter alia “…Jonathan on January 14 forlornly observed that Nigeria was too old to disintegrate. “In 2014, we are going to celebrate our centenary; our 100 years of existence. You cannot stay in a marriage for 100 years and say that is the time you will divorce.” He is wrong. Such claim is a farce and does violence to history. Holding a country together is not anchored on wishful thinking and false pretences.” Now the question is: how does Mr. President seek to hold Nigeria together by means of “wishful thinking” and “false pretences”? Or put differently, can any mortal hold Nigeria together? The answer is an emphatic NO. Nigerians cherish and want Nigeria; all they are asking for is a better deal, which they legitimately deserve. We always seem to miss the point, especially where we ought not to. Nigeria is not a creation of President Jonathan and he has no greater stake in it than the ordinary man on the streets. He just happens to be the choice of providence for us at this point in time. Worse still, some talk about the centenary as if it is Mr. President’s fancy. Hell no! It isn’t. Our centenary is not a matter that can be found in the arena of debate, please; it is our historical reality. I concede that all has not been well for the nation these past 100 years, but again show me a country that has not got its own peculiar worries. Elsewhere, I had argued that I have not seen anyone who chops off a particular part of his body just because it’s ailing and gives the rest part some kind of discomfort. We all seek healing instead.

Are there anomalies in the land? YES, there are. Is our centenary an auspicious time to look into them for purposes of proffering solutions? YES. That is why I quite agree with Pastor Chris Okotie when he wrote in April 7, 2013 edition of The Guardian that “…What is expected of a president of this country at the dawn of our centenary is to pursue new national plans that could rekindle our lost dreams, unite our fragmented federation and set us on the path of national recovery and rejuvenation. We ought to have evolved a strategy that would leap- frog the nation into the BRICS group of emerging economies in the first decade of our next millennium, which is roughly the year 2025.” This is the way to go. After all, we are part and parcel of the anomalies we are quick to retell and retail. I dare also say that we are all part of the solution that appears far-fetched, especially with our destructive Dichotomy Mindset.


Article Credit: Daily Independent Newspaper

Updated 6 Years ago

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