Nigerians have an amazing knack for hyperbole and the misapplication of words. Most times this happens when a simple incident is exaggerated to dizzying heights or when words are taken out of their usual context or totally misinterpreted to suit the absurdity of the incident or story being told. Having lived in Nigeria my whole life, I have come to accept the exaggerations and misapplications as being more or less a part of our collective culture. Most times these exaggerations and misapplications are harmless and could serve as a dose of comic relief. At other times, they can make you marvel at the utter disregard for common sense and logic inherent in those who peddle some of those outrageous stories.
In the last few days a word has been tossed around with reckless abandon by some individuals whom I suspect may either have no idea what the word really means or have chosen to deliberately change its context entirely. Regarding President Goodluck Jonathan’s concession of defeat in the just concluded presidential elections, a lot of people are hailing him as a “hero”. My initial thought when I heard that term being ascribed to him was to disregard it as just a one off thing that would wear off in a few hours. However, after discovering how much traction the word was gaining, I felt compelled to speak up about it.
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Unless the meaning of the word “hero” has somehow been amended to mean someone who concedes to the will of the people without argument, then I honestly do not see how we can refer to him as a hero. To accept that President Goodluck Jonathan is a hero would be akin to saying someone that stops at a traffic light is a hero or someone that pays a fine or his taxes is a hero. When one does what one is required by law to do, it is illogical to proclaim the individual a hero. Heroism requires an individual going over and beyond the call of duty, doing something that requires exceptional bravery and courage. Please, don’t tell me conceding defeat is not an easy thing to do and that makes him a hero. Granted, his concession of defeat saved us the harsh inconvenience of a tense nationwide political standoff. Then again, it was more for his own benefit. Considering how things went south for Laurent Gbagbo, I doubt if he would want to walk that same path.
If one negative action is not enough to condemn a man for a term of office full of prosperity, then one positive action shouldn't be enough to redeem a man for a term of office fraught with wrongdoing. President Jonathan had lots of opportunities to be a hero during his six year stint as Head of State. The first responsibility of the President under the constitution is to safeguard the lives and properties of citizens under his care. In this regard there is no doubt in the mind of any right thinking individual how the President has fared. With a litany of corruption scandals, deaths of citizens in the North East, invasion of territories by the insurgents, it leaves one wondering how anyone can hail him as a hero. Let me refresh our memories on some of the many opportunities President Goodluck Jonathan had to step up and be a hero, as it seems we have forgotten too soon.
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About 24 hours after the Nyanya bombings in April 2014, the President went to Kano to welcome Malam Ibrahim Shekarau back to the fold of the People’s Democratic Party. In a move that will forever ring in infamy, he got on stage and danced heartily. That gross action and dance has since been christened the “Kano Ikebe Dance”. Would a hero dance and make merry 24 hours after a national tragedy in which almost a hundred of his countrymen under his care were gruesomely murdered? Answer that in the affirmative while quelling your conscience if you dare.
How can we forget the almost three week silence of the President following the Chibok abductions? Despite all overwhelming evidence in proof of the abductions actually taking place, President Goodluck Jonathan personally and through some aides kept tossing blame at the opposition alleging a wide conspiracy theory aimed at discrediting his government. It took three weeks for him to acknowledge the abductions had really occurred and another two months or so before he agreed to meet with the parents of the girls. Even this, was at the insistence of Miss. Malala Yousufzai! Is he still a hero to you?
How about the Buni Yadi massacre regarding which the President in his characteristic manner remained silent with no words of condolence to the parents? Does he still seem like a hero to you?
Have we forgotten so soon the various scandals, most of which went unaddressed, during his term as President? There was the subsidy scandal, the Oduah BMW scandal, the missing $20 billion for which the forensic audit is yet to be made public, the NIS recruitment scandal for which Abba Moro is yet to be sacked as Minister of the Interior, the sacking of the CBN governor for blowing the whistle on the missing $20 billion, I could go on and on. A hero would never let these things happen without taking decisive action to remedy them. So, please if you’re lost as to who to tag a hero, then perhaps you should stick to your comic books and movies. You’re better off being captivated by fictitious heroes than erroneously ascribing heroism for mediocrity and baseless issues.
Now I hear some of those calling him a hero have stepped up their game by saying he deserves the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Achievement? What achievement? Is this comedy week and no one told me? The Mo Ibrahim Prize celebrates excellence in African leadership, which was something this administration was totally lacking. The prize recognizes and celebrates African leaders who have developed their countries, lifted people out of poverty and paved the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity. So far, the only requirement which the President has so far merited is he has served his constitutionally approved term and has conceded to the will of the people by stepping down after losing the election. That alone isn't enough to get him anywhere near the prize.
Someone once remarked that our starting point of measuring achievement and success in Nigeria is usually the highest and worst point of mediocrity. This can be seen in an instance where a state governor pays salaries of workers on time and people go about paying for glossy newspaper spreads congratulating him on a job well done.
Whether due to bad governance, sycophancy or intellectual emasculation, for many years since the commencement of a democratic system of government in Nigeria, people have constantly used high sounding words to describe what is in most cases mediocre gains of politicians or issues not worth celebrating. You could think of it as a case of underachieving while over celebrating. I believe these descriptions of President Goodluck Jonathan as a hero is one of such shows of mediocrity. People need to focus on issues as simply as they are without fanfare. The simple questions in this case are did President Goodluck Jonathan do the honorable thing by conceding defeat? Yes. Does he have my respect for doing so? Yes. Will he be remembered as an elder statesman for this one simple act? Yes. Is he a hero for conceding defeat? No! This isn't me adding insult to injury, this is me just saying it as it is.