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Date Published: 07/31/10

President Jonathan and HIs Politics of Cowardice By Churchill Okonkwo

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It's becoming increasingly clear that President Jonathan isn't just some not-ready-for-prime-time candidate for office of the President but a man whose political antecedents have never been subjected to any real scrutiny and election. Faced with making his first real decision in life, Precedent Jonathan’s tactics of waiting for the PDP hierarchy, the governor’s forum from all the regions in the country, the traditional rulers, ALL Nigerians … to declare their unalloyed support for his ‘secret’ presidential ambition is an act of cowardice.  

When on February 10, 2007, then Senator Barack Obama declared his presidential ambition (about a year to party primaries); he didn’t wait for the entire Democratic Party heavy weights to endorse him. He was not rattled by the ‘Clinton Machine,’ he wasn’t so much worried about the ‘Blue and Red’ states and he didn’t have access to the party machinery nor did he engineer a coup that will put favorable individuals at the helms of his party’s structure.   

What he did was to call on Americans to join him in his “improbable quest.” What can be said of Jonathan? Does he have any serious quest in seeking Nigerian leadership in a free and fair election? Can he feel destiny calling? Can he sense that the time to arrest the drift in the polity is now? Can he slough off his fear? Paraphrasing President Obama, can he make good on the debt we owe past and future generations?  

As Obama spoke, he reminded his audience that he is ‘fired up.’ Conscious of the challenges that faced him, we saw a young man who knew where he wants to go, stood up and told Americans, ‘Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom ...’ What our own ‘will-be President’ is doing is courting ex-convict and known corrupt politicians in his bid to ensure guaranteed ‘success’.   

To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way. President Barack Obama, as a Kindergartener, wrote an essay entitled “I Want to Become President” way back in 1965. Five months to 2011 presidential election, all Jonathan can do (other than his secret campaign) is to “assure” Nigerians that 2011 election will be free and fair as if it is the office of the presidency that conducts election. What Mr. President is exhibiting is his life-long principle of political cowardice.  

Winston Churchill said that ‘courage is moving from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.’ Where is the courage and enthusiasm in Jonathan in leading the country? We have seen that in Yar’Adua, an unwilling president that was woken from his slumber in Kastina and forced on Nigerians. In Jonathan now, we are witnessing the same cycle all over. Jonathan is a man with semi-coherent understanding of how serious the national problems are.  

For Jonathan to set himself apart as a great leader, he has to start by avoiding the "cringe" factor. I'd rather have President Jonathan quit now than endanger the progress of the country by wimping out later. That was what Yar’Adua did when the cabals overwhelmed him. That is what Jonathan is presently preparing Nigeria for. He needs some transformation if he seriously aspires to lead Nigerians.  

True transformation requires changing who you are so you can change what you do, and produce significant, lasting change. Transformation happens when we embrace what we don't enjoy and instead use those times as inner growth opportunities. To undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness Jonathan should quit thinking primarily about himself, his own self-preservation and power retention. 

There has not been a single problem in Nigeria that has been courageously approached by Jonathan since assuming leadership of the country. He is not willing to step out of his comfort zones and try new things.  The Police Force and Customs are still rotten and riddled with incompetency and corruption, his reaction “National Honor” to Onovo and Abdullahi; after months of declaring a state of emergency on the power sector, nobody can tell us in concrete terms where we are, what the target is and what the blueprint is. 

For keeping mute on what his presidential ambition is five months to presidential election; for failing to disassociate himself from corrupt politicians and convicted ex-governors; for not having a clear understanding of national problems are and how best to approach them; for myopically banning the national football team for failing to “perform” in South Africa when NNPC is being declared insolvent; the NPF, PHCN corrupt and ineffective; for keeping mute on the Halliburton and Siemens scandals, I’m afraid to tell Nigerians that their president is a coward. 

What Nigerians need is the assurance that Jonathan is authentic and ethical.  They need to know that they can believe in him – the real him; but from his principle acts of cowardice, Nigerians will have to look elsewhere for the purposeful leadership and direction.    

Churchill.okonkwo@gmail.com  

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