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Date Published: 07/09/10

Jonathan and Reversible Reactions By Nasir Abiola


In elementary Chemistry, we were taught the principles of reversible reactions – like when nitrogen reacts with hydrogen to give ammonia. In all, we can only have a product when we change the status quo of the reaction condition (i.e. pressure, temperature and concentration). In this type of chemical reaction, the reactants cannot be held responsible for not forming the desired product.

Suddenly, Nigeria has turned to a chemistry laboratory where only reversible reactions take place. This wouldn’t have come as a surprise if it had happened during the era of late President Umaru Musa Yaradua (he was an analytical chemist).

But then President Goodluck Jonathan is not chemist! So why all the experimentation? First it was the ten billion naira supplementary budget meant for the celebration of our golden jubilee. After public outcry, the presidency found a way to shift the blame away from itself by announcing that the supplementary budget was proposed by a committee set up by the late president (Yaradua). This is a classic case of ‘government by abdication’! Are we saying that the presidency did not vet the committee’s proposal before forwarding it to the national assembly? Following that, the president withdrew some names he had already nominated for INEC commissioners due to public complaints that they are card-carrying members of a political party. How on earth can you nominate people for such sensitive positions without carrying out a background check?

The latest of President Jonathan’s ‘induced reaction series’ is the ban placed on the national teams from participating in any international football competition. As usual, after series of criticism and pressures from the public (facebook in particular) and FIFA, the president backtracked on his decision at the eleventh hour.

The speech delivered by the president during the swearing in of the current ministers gave us a wrong impression about the man at the helm of affairs. To be fair, he sounded firm and decisive! People believed that Jonathan, as an academic, will not make any decision without due consultation. Maybe too much of consultation was what made Yaradua government run at a snail speed. But then he was very decisive, and not fond of reversing his own decision. Take the military assault on the militants in the Niger Delta before the amnesty package. The man remained focused despite public criticisms. We also remember how unacceptable the Seven Point Agenda was to social critics. But the man never reneged on his multifaceted approach to solving the country’s problems.

In an ideal society, the hope of the people is to have a leader that listens to public opinion. But this doesn’t mean the leader should not be decisive. A leader who operates a reversible decision system is only trying to abdicate responsibility. The decision to ban the country from participating in international competitions simply revealed that Jonathan understands the problem with our football to be active participation. And that non participation will enable us to be more focused. Maybe Jonathan and his team of advisers did not know that you cannot be too sure of how good you are until you are tested. Maybe they did not know that during the periods when competitive matches are not being organized by FIFA, countries are rated by how well they performed in international friendly matches.

If Jonathan is truly a listening leader (as some people now perceive him), then he should duly consult with people before taking any action. Even when a leader does not have a good grasp of the subject matter, wide consultation with technocrats can give a good insight into what the problem might be and how best it can be addressed. A leader that changes his decisions after the slightest hint of public outcry is not the same as the one that acted based on public opinion. When a leader operates like this, he is only trying to prepare an escape route for himself. Because when the decision made according to public outcry fails, he would not be held responsible (shebi na wetin dey want). But when a leader draws his decision from a pool of opinions and advice given by his people, he shall be held responsible for the final outcome.

As it is in reversible reaction – where you do not get a product unless you alter the prevailing condition(s), the same may be applicable to our dear country. Unless Jonathan is firm and ready to assume responsibility for his actions, we should not expect any result from his actions as they may all turn out to be a reversible process.

Nasir lives in Abuja.


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