A New Dawn And A New Attitude


Since the official conclusions of 2011 General Elections, I had been battling within me to write this article. Initially, I felt it was not necessary and I began to share my thoughts with the people I had been meeting. However, my experiences on Saturday, 21 May, 2011 and Sunday, 22 May, 2011, prompted me to put my thoughts in writing. Incidentally, the events on the two days focused on football, a game I cherish. On that Saturday, I recollected in a very special way (as it has now become an annual event), the third death anniversary of a sincere brother and friend, one of the hardworking and patriotic Nigerians I have ever met, Dr Patrick Olusegun Olutola. Out of his 58 years on earth, we shared our lives together for 21 years. In my reflection, I imagined what the cerebral, genuine and quiet philanthropist and humanitarian, Dr Segun’s views on the happenings in our country would have been.

Early in the day, after my prayers, I continued the book I was reading, ‘WITNESS TO JUSTICE, An Insider’s Account Of Nigeria’s Truth Commission’, Msgr Matthew Hassan Kukah’s latest work. Gradually, I was getting unusually worked up and I decided to suspend the book. Later in the day, I thought I needed a break, and I drove to the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, to watch a Nigeria’s Amateur football League match between the only known football club in Ekiti State, Fountain Football Club (it needs lots of work and encouragement), and Union Bank Football Club from Lagos, led by the inimitable Mr Henry Nwosu, MON, former Nigerian international. While there, I contacted another great international, Chief Adokiye Amiesimaka, MON, popularly known as CJ (chief justice). He played football for Nigeria as a Law student in the University of Lagos. He was happy to learn that I was watching football. Really, I was not enjoying the game and I wanted to leave, but I spotted Mr Nwosu and I felt I needed to greet a Nigerian football hero and to show appreciation for using his God-given football talent to serve his country. Yes, we need to celebrate our genuine heroes and heroines.

At the end of the game, the two of us met. We exchanged pleasantries and I thanked him immensely for being a wonderful player. I then phoned the CJ again, now based in Port Harcourt, so that he could speak with his former teammate, Mr Nwosu. With ‘Hello, CJ’ greeting by Mr Nwosu, other banters followed. Indeed, one would be fascinated with the way the two ex-internationals related on the phone.

The second episode was on Sunday evening concerning the 2010/2011 English Premier League (EPL). It was the last day of the EPL. It was called Survival Sunday. All the last matches involving all the 20 EPL teams were played simultaneously. At the end of the season, the three last teams would be relegated. The battle against relegation was fierce. There were thrills and emotions. The last six teams were struggling for survival. It was tough. There were permutations. The fans of those clubs fighting relegation were relying on telephone contacts to know whether their teams had been relegated or not. Actually, watching the scenarios, one who was not directly involved with those clubs would enjoy the excitement. It was a day of real sadness and joy for the different supporters.

I have narrated the above two football stories in reference to the mood of the moment in Nigeria. On Sunday, 29 May, 2011, the current Nigeria’s President and President-Elect, Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe (have you noticed that this name is gradually disappearing?) Jonathan, will be inaugurated as Nigeria’s President. It is our hope that after the inauguration, the president will start working towards his electioneering campaign promises. Travelling round the country before the elections, Dr Jonathan sought the people’s votes and promised Nigerians good and efficient governance. Now, it is the time for Jonathan to turn his private good luck (fortune) to a public one. Without wasting time, he needs to begin to match his words with positive and concrete actions. He needs to deliver and he is to start walking his talk. Time waits for no person. Even whenever and wherever he gives ultimatum for a positive change, he must also follow this with action for effects.

With the organization of the last general elections in Nigeria, in spite of the hiccups, Prof. Attahiru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has shown that, with collective will and sincerity of purpose, many Nigerians are real honourable people. We insisted that our votes must count and indeed, they counted. Through the ballots, the politicians who believed they were lords of the manor and having the old attitude of business as usual and politics of do-or-die, thereby relying on rigging, with their god-fathers (in few cases, god-mothers), were disgracefully voted out. Eh, the ballot is mightier than the gun.

Notably, this is a new dawn with a new attitude. It is a gradual transition from a civilian (selected) government to a democratically elected government. The turn-out at the last polls was genuine patriotism at work. However, the journey towards true democracy is not yet over. It is an on-going and tortuous one. My submission has always been that democracy is not a 100 meters dash. It is a long distance race with different hurdles. This race demands skills, stamina, sacrifice, commitment, discipline, honesty and determination.

Our primary role now is to monitor our elected representatives at every level. We are to applaud those of them representing us well and we admonish others who are not doing well. If the latter refuse to yield, then we are to be firm and use the power of recall to obtain their INEC certificates of return. That is, we have the power to garner support from our constituency and recall these politicians with old attitude. It is constitutional.

As I once wrote: ‘We are to make sure that our democracy is well-guided so that it will not be controlled by individuals and groups who are bent on promoting their own selfish ideas and agenda. Generally, human beings can do anything to get whatever they want. They do not mind embarking on people’s destruction programme to achieve their aim… They do not mind burning other people’s houses to boil their egg.’ We are to put an end to this type of selfish and destructive attitude. The electorate should learn to use their power of recalling any elected person who fails to live up to expectations. They should not wait for another year of elections to act. Our people need constant education on this.

The people’s welfare should be the focus in the new dawn. Government policies and decisions are to be towards the common good. Times are hard and many people are very angry at the way our human and material resources are being exploited and wasted. In people’s protest votes against the ugly trend of recklessness, most of the political office holders were voted out with ignominy. It is a pity that such people still want to be relevant in Dr Jonathan’s government. They are seeking political appointments.

Nigerians rejected many of these people at the polls because of their lack of positive performance and finesse. They did not work for the benefit of the common good, but for their own interest. Therefore, the president will definitely be doing our beloved country, Nigeria, a monumental disservice if he surrounds himself with such people and their like. Undoubtedly, if he does this, he will lose the people’s confidence. He must always remember that many people who voted for him did not vote for his party, but for his person. Nigerians have given the mandate to Jonathan as their president. This is the time for the president to be decisive and be brave in leading and doing things properly and correctly. Thus, he must not fail Nigeria and Nigerians.

On Saturday, 16 April, 2011, Nigerians, irrespective of their political inclinations, religious affiliations and ethnic backgrounds, trooped out to vote for Dr Jonathan, the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). His victory painted a national picture. On the other hand, the votes got by his closest opponent, retired Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari the Presidential Candidate of the Congress for Positive Change (CPC), were sectarian ones.

From the outset, it was glaring that Jonathan had a vigorous, packaged and colourful campaign unlike Buhari. He travelled round the country and presented himself to the people. He had lots of campaign strategies. While Buhari seemed to concentrate his energy on the Northern part of Nigeria, though he went to very few selected areas of the country too. And the man wept. As we always say, the rest is now history. Notably, for any person wishing to make a positive change in any society, this is not a good strategy.

The real winners of the general elections are the Prof. Attahiru Jega-led INEC, President Jonathan himself for engaging in politics of renewal rather than the do-or-die politics, and of course, Nigerians, for their commitment and sacrifice for their votes to be counted. In our celebration of the new dawn, we are also remembering the people who lost their lives and property and those who sustained serious injuries due to the violence that erupted in some parts of the north after the presidential election.

One is aware that the government has acted by giving some monetary compensation and it has made other promises to the families of the 10 slain corps members. This is sign of a new dawn. I believe such actions should be extended to the families of other Nigerians who lost their loved ones as a result of the crisis. In spite of this, the greatest compensation is upholding justice in this aspect. Without justice there cannot be true peace. Absence of justice is absence of peace. All the people, no matter their status, who were overtly or covertly involved in the criminal and evil act must face the law. Unlike what happened to the reports of the Oputa Commission and Uwais Electoral Reforms Committee where the government refused to release the reports, we hope the Ahmed Lemu Committee’s will be released to the public and acted upon too. This will be a great challenge to the president.

I appeal to our president who always tries to remind us of his humble beginning at Otuoke, Bayelsa State, to always bear in mind too the golden words of the American Bill Cosby, who holds a doctorate in Education: I do not know the recipe for success, but I know that the recipe for failure is trying to please everybody. This is a message for all of us too.

With the new dawn, we need to learn to be celebrating our heroes and heroines. We need to celebrate them and we should not wait for any ‘survival day’ in their lives like the above described survival Sunday before we come to their assistance. All Nigerians of goodwill are to work together in this new dawn of new ideas and new deeds in sincere camaraderie as expressed in the telephone conversation between the football stars of yesteryear, Amiesimaka and Nwosu. ‘God, create in me a clean heart, renew within me a resolute spirit’ (Psalm 51:10).

•Most Rev. Ajakaye is the Catholic Bishop of Ekiti.

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