Critiquing Jonathan’s Inaugural Address

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The 4th Inaugural Address of the 4th Republic lacked the believability of Obasanjo’s May 29, 1999 address at the same Eagle Square; or the courageous Umaru Yar’adua sound bite on the theme of servant – leadership; or his candour “on flawed electoral process”.

Coming to the address itself, the President misused it, and belittled its importance, when he said he was paying tribute or so to his mother, father and even Patience. One does not pay tributes to his loved ones in inaugural addresses. For God’s sake, this was a world stage where the president was expected to lay bare the roadmap for fulfilling the numerous promises he had made and where he intended to lead the country.

The President even mentioned the Vice President’s wife – Amina – even though her name was not in the official text of his address. An afterthought? The President was devaluing a great occasion and removing the seriousness of the situation. If this event had taken place in Otuoke or the Aso Villa, the President would have been at liberty to mention all these people.

Twelve paragraphs into the address, the president fired a warning to those who would “exploit differences in creed or tongue, to set us one against another”. This, coming well before the president had himself spelt out his plans or programmes for Nigeria. It is inappropriate for the president to continue the attack on opponents in the before revealing his own agenda.

In the 13th paragraph, very few people would agree with President Jonathan that Nigeria is “a land of justice, opportunity and plenty.” Contrarily, Nigeria is a land of injustice where the few opportunities that exist are cornered by the powerful. There may yet be plenty, but again the vast majority of Nigerians live in penury.

In terms of specificity, Jonathan’s address also falls short. Although the president mentioned the word – jobs – four times in the address, he failed to specifically say how he intended to create them. For instance, in the 20th paragraph, the president expressed his determination to “grow the economy, create jobs, and generate enduring happiness for our people”. Again in paragraph 23 he reckons that “a robust private sector is vital to providing jobs for our rapidly expanding population” and in paragraph 27, he underlined the need for ‘massive job creation for our people”. Can the president do it? He didn’t say how.

On Niger Delta the president sounds defensive. Said the president: “In the interest of justice, equity and national unity, we shall actively promote the development of the region.” I think that the argument for bringing rapid and all embracing development to the Niger Delta has been won long ago. This imperative for investing in quality life in the Niger Delta was started as far back as the Babangida era and continued under the Abdulsalami Abubakar , Obasanjo and late Umar Yar’adua administrations. So if there is any failure in that respect the president’s kinsmen should hold him responsible. Jonathan’s argument for the development of the region in his address is therefore trite.

As for fighting corruption, the president is doubtful. Jonathan has neither the credentials or the will, nor the capacity or commitment to fight corruption. Anybody who witnessed the cash-for-vote expenditure incurred by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2011 elections would not take the president serious on his claim that he would fight corruption.

Similarly, the PDP’s wilful violation of the Electoral Act was palpable all through the multi-million naira campaign that brought Jonathan the presidency. But more remarkable was the part played by the president and his men in welcoming back to the society, a certified criminal called Chief Olabode George. Instead of distancing himself, the president even travelled to Lagos and held meeting with George on how to “deliver Lagos” to the PDP, a meeting boycotted by the party’s more discerning members in Lagos.

No, President Jonathan will not fight corruption and in fact the anti-corruption credentials of his two predecessors will outshine his. This is not to say that Jonathan’s political opponents will be spared from charges of corruption. In the days ahead, like his godfather Obasanjo, Jonathan’s government will slam corruption changes on political adversaries. There is even a contradiction here; whereas the president said he would fight corruption “so that the limited resources of this nation will be used for the growth of our commonwealth,” (paragraph 30) he had previously, in paragraph 23, observed that “Nigeria is blessed with enormous natural wealth.”

Furthermore, the president appears to have a revised manifesto towards the end of his address with his repeated: “I will continue to fight…. for your future…… medical care ……. first-class education… electricity … efficient and affordable public transport system…. for jobs”, (the fourth time) and he ends with: “I will never, never let you down.” Has the agenda been reduced to five (5) – medical care, education, electricity, transport and jobs?

The President’s speech was loudly silent on the very critical issue of security. Security, especially in the Northern part of the country had deteriorated under Jonathan’s watch. Bombs are exploding in army barracks in Abuja and Bauchi and in Jos, Kaduna and Maiduguri; and the President continues to lament. The President said he had a blueprint for peace in Jos, but continues to hide the blueprint in his bowler hat. The Boko Haram threat in Maiduguri has remained intractable.

Najakku wrote from Birnin Kebbi


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