Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: In the Name of the President - Let the Campaigns Begin?

It is complicated. And it would be even more complicated. Certain events happen in the life of a nation and those events change the course of history for that nation. Nigeria is no exception. For good or ill, some individuals are thrust on a nation as leaders and their actions and in-actions, consciously or sub-consciously, mould the nation's path to greatness or otherwise.

In all of these however, fate plays a very key role. All efforts are sometimes made to look like a fool's errand when fate strikes. But what is fate? It is that which is inevitable. Its signs are all around us but we, most times, don't see them. They operate in an invisible manner until fate itself happens on us. When some inexplicable things happen to individuals, in such an unpalatable manner, people say it is fate.

Fate is hardly linked with goodness. Ayanmo (destiny) is usually associated with success. Kadara (fate) is that which is used to explain away the ill-fortune of men and women. But 'sense' could be made of fate the minute men introduce logic. It is when logic comes in that linkages are made of some signs to arrive at the reason(s) why certain things happen. Those signs are products of choices arising from decisions we take.

In taking decisions, there is an old prayer beseeching God Almighty to grant "the serenity to accept the things we can not change; the courage to change the ones we can; and, above all, the wisdom to know the difference". But poor man, no matter how hard he prays, still arrogates to himself the power to do and undo; to change his destiny believing that "his destiny is in his own hands".

What that does is that it renders the supplication for serenity, courage and wisdom inconsequential. What paradox!

Enter folly. If man believes in his own ability to chart his path to greatness, why then does he needlessly place a burden on God to help him achieve what he already thinks he can achieve? For believers in that Supreme Being, God, they are also admonished to work hard because there is no food for a lazy man.

So, man may, therefore, not be all that foolish to try to do something to achieve his goals. However, in doing something, man must recognize that, over time, his ability or inability to read situations properly lead to choices that do not help his objective. And that does not make him foolish.

In the Book of Proverbs, 26, 3-7 (with emphasis on 4 and 5), the following verses say:

"A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back

"*Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him

"*Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit

"He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage

"The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of a fool".

Why should you not answer a fool? Because you do not want to be like him! But why should you answer a fool? So that he does not think he is wise!

In his 1709 AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM, Alexander Pope, noted that folly could be intense: "Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead; For fools rush in where angels fear to tread." If fools rush in where angels fear to tread, such folly must be truly intense. And the problem with a fool is that in attempting to fool others, he must indeed first fool himself.

In governance, when Presidents try to feel the pulse of the people, an attempt at hawking folly is always made for those who would buy it. A script writer once noted that people would drink sand in the desert thinking it is water; but a counterpoise by the same sript writer insisted that people would drink sand because they do not know the difference between sand and water.

President Theodore Roosevelt once referred to the presidency of America "as the 'bully pulpit' from which to raise issues nationally, for when a president raises an issue, it inevitably becomes subject to public debate". That was exactly what happened on the first day of 2013.

Just as President Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan did last year when he suddenly and rudely increased the pump-head price of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popularly called petrol, some individuals posted campaign materials for the president's re-election. His adviser on media has denied any involvement of the presidency in the matter, insisting that he does not want to be distracted. "Those who have done this to him are being truly unfair. And they only want to distract him". Perish the thought; junk it. We reach for a local jargon, TU-FIA-KWA (stop that trash).

Was it not this same presidency that denied that there was ever any meeting where the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, agreed on zoning, eight years a-piece for North and South, on December 22, 2002?

Was it not this same presidency that denied the participation of incumbent President Jonathan (then deputy governor of Bayelsa State, representing his boss, Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha) at that meeting? A meeting where he voted yes for zoning? Was it not his presidency that sold a dummy to Northern leaders that it only wanted to concentrate on healing the nation before the 2011 general elections, only to turn round and contest?

The presidency is the BULLY PULPIT. It even operates more like that in a developing, poverty stricken land like Nigeria where cash-and-carry politics is the order of the day. Therefore, President Jonathan should begin to think of how to present his case for re-election (which is guaranteed by the constitution any way), having serially refused to be bold in coming clean.

The strategy of the fool, being a fool, is to assume that the other person has been sold a dummy. That, it is hoped, is not the way President Jonathan wants to go. He should be bold enough to outline the issues regarding re-election as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with the works of his hands and spare Nigerians the heat of a bonfire for which he is today stockpiling wood.

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