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The Go-Slow President

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Posted to the web: 7/8/2007 5:07:51 PM

here’s this self-evident fact we must have by now come to terms with, going by what’s going on in our country: we would have been damned if the old man of Ota hadn’t in his farmer’s wisdom given him to us as president. Now, the new man has started showing us, through words and deeds, that his heart is indeed flowing with so much love for us, just like the man who passed on the baton of leadership to him. In three weeks flat, the man has shown us, through his policies and pronouncements, that he is truly our servant-leader: a man who leads us his servants to where he wants us to go. That’s why I have decided to dedicate this column in celebration of the servant-leader, toasting to his wonderful achievements in just three weeks of assumption of office. You bet, I won’t give a damn or lose sleep if you decide to label me a sycophant, boot or agbada-licker. Accuse me, if you so wish, of seeking appointment or juicy contract or planning to buy up the NNPC [since the refineries have been sold], still I remain unshaken. I dey kampe, to borrow the words of Baba. And for me, there’s certainly no going back: we all must toast to the leadership wizardry that is being exhibited by the servant-leader. So, friends, countrymen and dear Nigerians, raise your glasses and let’s celebrate this morning our rare fortune of having as our leader a man who fittingly calls himself the servant-leader. The leader whom we serve through VAT and fuel price increases. Now, check this out: our servant-leader so loves us that he has decided to sustain the fantastic legacies of his predecessor, another great leader whom we are still mourning his exit from power. Just like his mentor, the new man must believe, and I agree absolutely with him, that Nigerians were voted the happiest people in the world, because things are relatively too easy for us. No unemployment in the land, majority of our people have more than three square meals a day, while every Nigerian lives in his own home. No one is so poor in Nigeria today that he has no shelter over his and his family’s head or lives under the bridge. So, even as the old farmer tried to rouse the people from their perceived indolence by imposing tough policies on the people, our dear servant-leader has started early in the day to demonstrate his abiding belief in the philosophy that our people must be toughened or disciplined to face life’s realities. So, he allowed himself to be sold the idea of increasing both the prices of petroleum products as well as the Value Added Tax, even though the citizens groan that their lives had been progressively devalued since the 1980s when the gap-toothed leader presided over the common till. And when the people, through their workers’ union, lament that things have become so rough for them that an additional N10 increase in the price of fuel and a double-digit jump in new tax regime, would compound their already miserable lives, the man who calls himself servant-leader, turns deaf ears. Grudgingly he suspends the VAT shoot up and concedes only N5 reduction from the price of petrol. He tells labour leaders to go to hell, that their demand for a total reversal to the old prices would never be honoured. Just like his old master, the servant-leader accuses the labour leaders of pursuing a political agenda, meaning they have been sponsored to ground the country by protesting against the policy of government. Even as I write this, the city of Abuja is grounded by labour’s protest. The man or woman you meet on the street is angry at what’s going on; shocked at the pronouncements of government in their reaction to labour’s action, and certainly disappointed that these atrocious policies and government’s insensitivity to the plight of the common man is happening in the administration of the man who calls himself the servant-leader.A servant-leader, by my humble understanding, ought to be a leader who listens to the cries of the people. A leader who serves the people with bread for breakfast and not scorpions; a leader who takes the welfare and well-being of the people as paramount; a leader who truly serves with a human face, not one who enunciates inhuman policies. There has been no logical explanation or rationale for the latest round of price adjustments. And coming at a time when we were told by the former president of surpluses in our foreign reserve and domestic oil earnings, those who made the argument for further increases could rightly be accused of insensitivity and callousness.If I were Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, I would immediately reverse the new price regime and apologize to the people via national media for the embarrassment and hardship caused them ; that I was misled into acquiescing to the argument of new prices for fuel and VAT. That gesture would wipe off the negative perception of the Yar’Adua administration occasioned by the present national impasse.For a man battling the burden of legitimacy, whose hold on power is precarious with a critical electoral challenge at the Tribunal, those who saddled Yar’Adua with the new measures certainly don’t wish him well. What they have done is akin to laying mines or planting bombs and asking the man to lie on it. From the recent happenings in the country, there are many who hold the strong view that we not only have a go-slow president, but a man still tied to the apron strings of the former president and the mafia that also once held Baba hostage: the mafia buying up Nigeria, the mafia dictating the pace of the new government, the mafia asking the new president not to surrender to labour’s demand, because he will be seen as weak.There is another sense in which many may not be too stunned at the seeming unsure and unsteady progression of the new administration: we have a president who is fulfilling the dreams of another. A man who never nursed the ambition of being president but was hustled into the race and helped to mount the mantle. So, he is torn between doing his master’s biddings and hearkening to the demands of the people, working in the best interest of the people as a true servant-leader. Either way, a dilemma ensues. But again, if I were Yar’Adua, I would immediately severe whatever bonds that ties me with the former administration. I would seek to be my own man, listening and doing only what would benefit the people. I would not seek to alienate myself from the people by espousing anti-people policies. I would tell all those who ask me to tax the over-burdened poor to go to hell. I would talk in concrete terms and actualize programmes that will bring succour to the generality of the people. I will not in three weeks in power be defending fuel price increase or increase in VAT prices. I will be a leader of the people, for the people.The way Baba’s men are allegedly swarming around the new man of power, unfortunately, sends the wrong signal that with the new Yar’Adua administration, old things haven’t passed away, while anticipation of new things may be a pie in the sky. Last line:Nigerians must salute the courageous leadership of the new president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar, for rightly standing his grounds that the government should revert to the old prices of fuel and VAT, before any meaningful negotiations can take place. Comrade Omar gives us all the hope that in him, we have a leader we can rely on in our fight against reactionary government policies. Not much was known of Omar when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the charismatic labour leader, led the workers’ union. This led to the fear that labour would lose its fangs with the exit of Adams. Omar may not be fire-spitting like Adams, but he’s demonstrating that he’s no less courageous. So far, so well, Comrade. Aluta Continua!

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