My initial plan was to write on the plight of the girls abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State on April 14 who have now been held for over 100 days. I had hoped to draw attention to this painful fact especially as many schools ended the academic session last Friday. But while some of our compatriots have devoted themselves to ensuring that these girls are not forgotten, our leaders at different levels continue to play politics with the abduction. From the initial denial by some government officials to the brickbat thrown at each other by the Federal Government and Borno State government, and the indifferent attitude of some citizens, most of us should share part of the blame that the girls are still in captivity.
But I think our problems are more than the abduction. We are assailed on different sides by a pot pourri of challenges that appear to defy any solution while one does not have an impression that the Jonathan presidency has a full grasp of what we are battling. It is necessary to remind our President that this ship is sinking and he, more than any other person, must rise up and lead our country out of the woods. Really, it is wrong to blame President Jonathan for all the woes besetting us but I think he needs to show greater concern and superior managerial skills than what we have seen from his government.
The past week has seen a former Head of State and an Islamic scholar escape bomb attacks while a park in Kano was not so lucky. In both cases, scores of people have died and property destroyed. As I write this, news broke that a bomb was thrown at a Catholic church in Kano again killing five at the last count while a female suicide bomber was reportedly forced to detonate her explosive vest by the police at the gate of North West University in the same city. Recently, Human Rights Watch released a report that Boko Haram insurgents had killed 2,053 Nigerians in the first six months of this year. These are beside other unreported or undocumented attacks traceable to Boko Haram.
Where do we go from here? It is trite saying we are under a siege; the most important thing now is how do we emerge from the problems confronting our existence as a country. I quite agree all Nigerians have specific roles in the emergence of a new nation but it is rather unfortunate that most of those charged with protecting our lives are making a mess of the most important job. We are in a war situation and times like this demand great people abandoning politics and playing statesmanship roles that can take us out of the woods. I speak to all politicians of different political persuasion that our greatest need now is to stop our ship from sinking further.
For those of us who have watched the film Titanic, a 1997 American film directed by James Cameroon starring Leornado DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, we all remember one of the closing scenes where some musicians continued playing their instruments even when others were running around to get on the few lifeboats available. One just gets the same feeling reading the numerous press releases and counter releases by politicians that while this ship is sinking, the music of politics must play on. You wonder whether our politicians want to govern a totally collapsed country enmeshed in an avoidable war, which is where we are heading unless they act fast.
Recently, a picture made the rounds on social media. It was that of President Jonathan reading a book, which, according to his spokesperson, was a book on West Africa’s history. I think the president will be well served reading another book, Truman, a first full-scale biography of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd American president (1945-1953) by historian and prize-winning author, David McCullough. Truman was running mate to Franklin Roosevelt and like President Jonathan became president when his boss died in 1945. It took a while before Americans regarded Truman as a worthy president, an experience I’m sure our president could relate to, but that’s not the reason why I’m recommending the book.
On Truman’s desk was a small sign. “The Buck Stops Here,” it said. His friend, Fred Canfill, gave Truman the sign to remind him of the enormous challenges he faced as president. Though he kept the sign only a short time, the message would stay with him permanently as he wrote later. He never forgets “the chain of responsibility that binds him, and he is never allowed to forget that he is President.”
I hope President Jonathan remembers this too.