A loosely bound group of yesterday’s men and women seems to be on the offensive against the Jonathan administration. They pick issues with virtually every effort of the administration, pretending to do so in the public interest; positing that they alone, know it all. Arrogantly, they claim to be better and smarter than everyone else in the current government. They are ever so censorious, contrarian and supercilious.
have no original claim to their pretensions other than they were
privileged to have been in the corridors of power once upon a time in
their lives. They obviously got so engrossed with their own sense of
importance they began to imagine themselves indispensable to Nigeria. It
is dangerous to have such a navel-gazing, narcissistic group inflict
themselves with so much ferocity on an otherwise impressionable public.
We are in reality dealing with a bunch of hypocrites.
exceptions so few, they really don’t care about Nigeria as a sovereign
but the political spoils that accrue from it. And so they will stop at
nothing to discredit those they think are not as deserving as they
imagine themselves to be. President Jonathan has unfairly become the
target of their pitiable frustrations.
superfluous appearance, lies an unspoken class disdain directed at the
person and office of a duly elected president of the country. It is a
Nigerian problem, perhaps. In the same advanced societies which these
same yesterday men and women often like to refer to, public service is
seen and treated as a privilege.
People are called upon to
serve; they do so with humility and great commitment, and when it is all
over, they move on to other things. The quantity surveyor returns to
his or her quantity surveying or some other decent work; the lawyer to
his or her wig and gown; the university teacher, to the classroom, glad
to have been found worthy of national service. When and where necessary,
as private citizens they are entitled to use the benefit of this
experience to contribute to national development, they speak up on
matters of public importance not as a full-time job as is the case in
What then, is the problem with us? As part of
our governance evolution, most people become public servants by
accident, but they soon get so used to the glamour of office that they
lose sight of their own ordinariness. They use the system to climb: to
become media celebrities, to gain international attention and to morph
into self-appointed guardians of the Nigerian estate. They mask self
interest motives as public causes and manipulate the public’s desire for
improvements in their daily struggles as opportunity for power grab.
are perpetually hanging around, lobbying and hustling for undeserved
privileges. They exploit ethnic and religious connections where they can
or join political parties and run for political office. They even write
books (I, me and myself books, packaged as cerebral stuff); if that
still doesn’t work, they lobby newspaper houses for columns to write and
they become apostolic pundits pontificating on matters ranging from the
nebulous to the non-descript. Power blinds them to the reality that we
are all in this together and we have a unique opportunity to do well for
the taxpayers and hardworking electorate that provide every public
official the privilege to serve.
Unsatisfied with the newspaper
columns, they open social media accounts and pretend to be voices of
wisdom seeking to cultivate an angry crowd which they feed continually
with their own brand of negativity. They arrange to give lectures at
high profile events where they abuse the government of the day in order
to gain attention and steal a few minutes in the sun; hoping to force
an audience that may ‘open doors’ for them, back into the corridors of
power. These characters are in different sizes and shapes: small, big;
Godfathers, agents, proxies. The tactics of the big figures on this rung
of opportunism may be slightly different. They parade themselves as a
Godfather or kingmaker or the better man who should have been king.
suffer of course, from messianic delusions. The fact that they boast of
some followership and the media often treats them as icons, makes their
nuisance factor worse. They and their protégés and proxies are united
by one factor though: their hypocrisy.
It is in the larger
interest of our country that the point be made that the government of
the day welcomes criticism and political activism. This is an aspect of
our emergent democracy that expands on the growing freedom of
expression, thought and association but there is need for caution and
vigilance, lest we get taken hostage by the architects of odious
Nigerians must not allow any group of
individuals to hold this country to ransom and no one alone should
appropriate the right to determine what is best for Nigeria.
accidental public servants who have turned that privilege into a
life-long obsession and profession must be told to go get a life and
find meaningful work to do.
Those who believe that no one else
can run Nigeria without them must be told to stop hallucinating. The
former Ministers, former Governors, former DGs, and all sorts who have
been busy quoting mischievous figures, spreading cruel propaganda must
be reminded that the Jonathan administration is in fact trying to clean
up the mess that they created. They want to own the game when the ball
is not in their possession. They want to be the referee when nobody has
offered them a whistle.
They seek to play God, forgetting that the case for God is not in the hands of man.
of the virtues of enlightenment is for persons to have a true
perspective of their own location in the order of things. What they do
not seem to realise or accept is that the political climate has changed.
one of them was in charge of this same estate called Nigeria, he shut
down the Port Harcourt airport and other airports for close to two years
under the guise of renovation. The Port Harcourt airport was abandoned
for so long it was overgrown with weeds after serving for months as a
practice ground for motoring schools. It was reopened without any
improvement and with so much money down the drain, and the pervasive
suspicion that the reason it was shut down in the first place was to
create a market for a new airline that had been allowed the monopoly use
of the other airport in the city.
Under President Jonathan,
airports across the country are being upgraded, rebuilt and modernized;
in less than two years, the transformation is self-evident. Perhaps the
greatest hypocrisy from our see-no-good commentators comes from the one
who superintended over the near-collapse of the aviation sector who is
now audacious enough to claim to be a social critic.
first time since 1999, the Nigerian Railway Corporation is up and
running as a service organization. The rail lines have become functional
from Lagos to Kano; Ewekoro to Minna, and very soon, from Port Harcourt
to Maiduguri, Abuja to Kaduna and Lagos to Ibadan. They couldn’t do
this in their time, now they are busy looking for money that is not
missing with their teeth.
When questions are asked, they claim
they invented the ideas of due process and accountability. They once
promised to solve the crisis of electricity supply in Nigeria.
what did they do? They managed to leave the country in darkness with
less than 2,000 MW; abandoned independent power projects, mismanaged
power stations, and uncompleted procurement processes. The mess was so
bad their immediate successors had to declare an emergency in the power
sector. It has taken President Jonathan to make the difference. Today,
there is greater coherence in the management of the power sector with
power supply in excess of 4, 200 MW; a better conceived power sector
road map is running apace, and the administration is determined to make
They complain about the state of the roads. Most of
the contracts were actually awarded under their watch to the tune of
They talk about corruption, yet many of them have
thick case files with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the
courts and the police on corruption-related charges. One of them was
even accused of having awarded choice plots of government land to
himself, his wives, his companies and other relations when he was in
charge of such allocations! Really, have we forgotten so soon?
yesterday men and women certainly don’t seem to care very much about
the Nigerian taxpayer who has had to bear the brunt of the many scandals
this administration is exposing in its bid to clear out the Augean
stable. They’d rather grandstand with the ex-General this, Chief that,
Doctor this and ex-(dis)Honourable Minister who has no record of what he
or she did with the funds the nation provided them to deliver results
to protect our interest so that we don’t end up continuing to make the
same wasteful mistakes.
It is enough to make you shudder at the
thought of any of them being part of government with access to the
public purse; but then we’ve already seen what some of them are capable
of doing when in control of public money, authority and influence; and
to that the people have spoken in unison – they have had enough.
are wiser and are now familiar with the trickery from these persons
whose claim to fame and fortune was on the back of their public service.
point at the risk of overstating what is by now too obvious: We have
too many yesterday men and women behaving too badly. We are dealing with
a group of power-point technocrats who have mastered the rhetoric of
public grandstanding: carefully crafted emotion-laden sound bites passed
off as meaningful engagements. That is all there is to them, after many
years of hanging around in relevant places and mingling in the right
corridors, all made possible through the use/abuse of Nigeria. Our
caveat to their audience is the same old line: let the buyer beware!
Dr. Abati is Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Goodluck Jonathan