Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Article: Jonathan, Berlusconi And The Politics Of Sweet Talk

President Jonathan
(Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river. ~Nikita Khrushchev)
By Rufus Kayode Oteniya
Reading an article recently in The Economist entitled ‘Berlusconi: The man who screwed an entire country’, I couldn’t but draw a striking similarity between President Goodluck Jonathan and Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Silvio Berlusconi.
The two leaders are very popular in their respective countries and have enjoyed immense goodwill among their countrymen now or in the immediate past. Their popularity is not borne out of their achievements but for what they say. They are both gifted at knowing what their people like to hear and exactly, that is what they tell them.
In Berlusconi early days in government, he would always remind the people how he had been able to build a business empire from nothing; a feat that has made him one of the richest men in the world and at various times, Italy’s richest though now, the 3rd richest according to Forbe’s latest ranking. He would always also remind them how planned to use his Midas touch to transform Italy; a transformation that never was. And since the global crises began, Berlusconi would often remind his countrymen how they are better off than the other Europeans because they are the least hit by the global crisis.
Berlusconi has governed Italy longer than anyone since the end of the Second World War. He has held the position of the prime minister on three separate occasions: from 1994 to 1995, from 2001 to 2006 and currently since 2008 and in all these years, Italy has witnessed a consistently declining economy. Despite his failed reforms, he has remained very popular until lately simply because he had mastered the art of knowing the sweet things to tell the people and always keeping them hoping for a brighter future while doing very little to bring it to reality.
Thanks to his numerous escapades with young girls - some of them minors and some financial recklessness involving him and his numerous businesses, Italians have woken up to know that at best, Berlusconi does not mean good for their country and they are now saying NO to him and his party, though a little too late. He had already screwed an entire country! The economy has been battered! It’s now dawn on the people that Berlusconi is in politics to protect himself from going to jail for his numerous financial scandals and also protect his business empire. Now, it is clear that the saying is true that a good politician under democracy is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
In the last local election, Berlusconi and his party were rejected by the people and they even lost in Milan. According to Dr. Anthony A Kila in his article entitled The Italian Festa,  “Silvio Berlusconi was biologically, commercially and politically born in Milan, the city considered by all to be his stronghold…” He lost it! And he woefully lost the battle in his power base. Italians completely rejected him again in a recent referendum!
President Goodluck Jonathan has just won the election (fair or unfair). Most of his strong supporters would likely tell you tales like he’s humble, his one of us, he’s sincere, he’s got good plans for Nigeria, he relates directly to us on Facebook, he’s a lucky man, he’s a South South man and they hardly speak of his track records despites his being in politics for over 12 years.
On his part also, he has told us many times his story of not having shoes while growing up; he often reminds the people how he never thought he would get to where he is today; he routinely reminds his followers on Facebook his policy of saying little and doing much while always ending that he would always fight for our interests and never disappoint us. No week goes by without telling us his plan to fight corruption. Before the elections, he would often tell us how he planned to deliver free and fair election. All these sweet talks have endeared the president to the hearts of not a few Nigerians.
Even though his slogan is saying little and doing much, President Jonathan never said little, he was always saying much and more often than not, what Nigerians love to hear.
His electioneering campaigns were full of promises as detailed by the veteran journalist, Sonala Olumhense in his article ‘Non-governing Governance: A Mountain Of Promises.’ The campaign promises were so many such that if the president can fulfil only 20% of them, posterity will judge him as one of the best presidents of our time.
In reality, President Jonathan has done little while saying much. He has spoken and broken too many promises. For the sake of space, I would like to look at only two of his unfulfilled promises in the power sector here:
As the Vice President to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua who was as at that time AWOL, and while directly supervising the energy sector then, Dr. Jonathan, while Speaking on 23 November 2009 in Kaduna at the inauguration of a production line for Peugeot 306 Sedan reiterated that Federal Government was putting necessary machinery in place to meet all its targets in the power sector, beginning with the generation and distribution of 6,000MW scheduled for December 2009 and that Nigerians would no longer need to use generators for their industrial and private power from January 2010.
About a year later, then as the substantial president following the death of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, his predecessor, Dr. Jonathan on 17 November 2010 while speaking in Abuja at a meeting with former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the chief executive officer of JP Morgan Bank of the USA, Jamie Dimon announced to the nation that if his administration’s plans for the power sector are fully implemented, Nigeria should be generating enough power for use in homes, offices, and commercial enterprises by April 2011.
Nineteen months since he made the first promise and seven months after the second one and two months after the last set time for stable electricity, nothing is stable about our electricity other than stable black-outs.
While the former promise was an unconditional, the president applied a caution in the latter. He gave a condition that if his administration’s plans for the power sector were fully implemented.
I am quite sure that Nigerians would like to know if his administration’s plans for the power sector were fully implemented. If yes, why do we not have steady electricity supply as he had promised? And if no, why did he not implement his plans?
Since there was no change in the administration and the president was also directly in charge of the Ministry of Power, then, he must be totally responsible for this failure. On assuming office, first as the acting president and later as the president, Jonathan took over the Ministry of Power so that he could directly supervise his policy regarding power and as a result he had no excuse for policy implementation.
Jonathan has a history of saying something and acting another thinking Nigerians will always be gullible and support him regardless of his inadequacies or just banking on his name, Goodluck.
Before you start asking me to give him time to settle down for his new term, kindly know that these promises were not premised on his new term. He knew elections would be held in April, 2011 before making his promise; he knew a new term would begin on 29 May 2011.
I know you’d say Jonathan didn’t start Nigeria’s power problems. Yes! He didn’t. He campaigned and promised to solve the problems, he made ‘unforced’ promises to solve them and we elected him to solve the problems.
Let the president capitalize on the goodwill that he is enjoying while it lasts. Let him walk his talk on electricity so that his name will be engraved in gold when the true history of Nigeria is written.
We are not asking for too much. Just gives us light and we’ll take it up from there. Nigerians are creative, hardworking and ingenious people but without light, little can be achieved. If he fails to do this, he might be causing some who had had shoes while growing up to lose them as adults and by that time Nigerians will have no choice but to treat him the way Italians treat Mr. Silvio Berlusconi.
God Bless Nigeria!
(Oteniya can be contacted at:
+2348166870008 (SMS Only)

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