As I write this on my way to work (thanks to the Blackberry), I really am finding it difficult to place where my emotions stand exactly between anger, disgust, emptiness, helplessness, denial; especially when I think of those who met horror deaths on Sunday via the Dana Air crash. I read the papers, and as the writers try to provide insights into the victims when they were alive, as they talk of the fact that Mr. Ajuonuma bought a late ticket; that the Anyenes were a couple that exhibited how inter-religious marriages are not always a sob story, that Mrs. Dike just wanted to ensure that her son (who also died in the crash) gets all he needed to be better than her; all I can pick up is that, in the lines of Elton John, like candles in the wind, the lights of the 159 plus people who died from the crash had been blown out way too quickly, their destinies abruptly terminated, their stars burning out and fading like comets. I cannot exactly say I know what they feel – I have suffered the loss of someone close to me, but it was not in this same circumstance; we sort of knew it was coming – but one can imagine the horror, the pain, the sense of finality, and then, the anger that those left behind would be feeling, some of whom have now become widows, widowers, fatherless, orphans. Both high and low in society, they are now bound by a common cloak – black – occasioned by a common pain. My thoughts and prayers go out to them, for the good Lord to soothe their pain with His Balm in Gilead, and give them a reason to smile soon enough.
As we try to cope with this national tragedy, I have also witnessed something I’d like to think as sinister. Online and traditional media that have carried the story of the crash are now implying that these deaths were unnecessary and could have been avoided, had the management of the airline been more interested in the state of their planes and the lives of the passengers, than in turning a profit. Those 159 plus Nigerians would not have suffered such a horrible fate had the administration of our aviation industry been more interested in ensuring the safety of the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who fly on a weekly basis, rather than in indulging in corruption and a lax monitoring of the extent of compliance of airline operators to international safety standards. Those 159 plus Nigerians would still be alive today had some people been more concerned with the public good than they were with keeping their jobs. It is sad and disheartening to know that we are more likely to declare days of mourning, fly the flag at half mast, and send consolation messages, than we are to conduct an inquest into the state of the aviation industry and weeding out the players who are not serious about safety. It is disgraceful that the Minister for Aviation still has a job, even though history serves her well, as her predecessor who ‘oversaw’ the ghastly Sosoliso and Bellview crashes in 2005 and 2006 still had a job in the midst of public outcry for his head. But ultimately, the buck stops at a certain doctor’s table, who unfortunately for himself – and can I dare say for many Nigerians as well – finds himself saddled with the title of President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Mr. President mourns…but does it stop there?
It is easy, and hard at the same time, to feel sorry for Mr. President. On the surface, he appears to be the unassuming type, who didn’t want the spotlight, only to have it cast on him by circumstances which you can describe as acts of God – just as I pointed out in an earlier article. He cannot exactly be blamed for the failure of the aircraft to land safely, seeing that he is not skilled in aeronautics engineering. He is human after all, so maybe his tears as he visited the site of the crash on Monday may have been genuine as he was sordidly reminded of the brevity of life, regardless of position or status. But alas, this was not to be, as the report of his tears was met with cynicism from Nigerians, who scoffed at the genuineness of a man openly expressing his sympathy at the fact that lives were lost.
I want to feel sorry for him. It is sad to see that his every step is met with public disapproval and scepticism; that the electorate does not believe in his capacity or ability to help them or improve their lives. Arguably, with this rate of public dissent, one can even say that Abacha would beat him in a popularity poll if one was ever conducted, and considering the fact that many have opined that Abacha was Nigeria’s worst and most corrupt despot, it goes to show how low Mr. President’s stock has fallen – a fall which started from when he was installed as Acting President.
But I will not feel sorry for him. I join the ranks of millions of Nigerians who think that this is just another case of crocodile tears; a ploy to paint himself to Nigerians as a man who cares for them, when we are just about certain that he doesn’t; a cheap stunt to win public sympathy ahead of 2015 (especially since even the women who went with him to the site of the crash remained stoically dry-eyed). I will not feel sorry for him, because I am of the opinion that no sooner than he reaches Aso Rock, he’d forget he ever leaked water from his eyes; because in another few years, another mishap of this nature may well yet happen, due to corruption and maladministration, which have been hallmarks of this administration; because, besides the Dana Air crash, there was the crash in Ghana, and the continuing Boko Haram insurgency which has continued, unabated, to kill and maim in the North, which is contrary to what Mr. President had promised, where he assured Nigerians that by June, Boko Haram would have become history. We cannot believe him, because he has broken one promise after the other; has increased the sufferings of Nigeria through his stupid economic plans – top of which is subsidy and increased electricity tariffs, despite the economic disquiet from which the nation is suffering – and has failed in his duty as Chief Security Officer to either provide us with security, or at least create the impression that he is. Every day, a Nigerian somewhere loses the will to continue with the “e go beta” belief, because the system inherited and promoted by Mr. President has been rather ruthless in killing hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Rather, the exertions of Mr. President has been directed towards promoting debilitating economic policies, “condemning and commiserating” victims of Boko Haram attacks rather than coming out to tackle the problem; approving salaries for public officers which they clearly do not deserve, without care as to how it affects the spending power of the average man on the street, about 80 percent of whom already live below $1 a day.
I watched George W. Bush address the nation after 9/11. I saw the pain in his face and the conviction with which he promised Americans that Osama bin Laden would pay for the lives of the 2,907 who died that day. But he backed up the tears and the promise with action, and though it took 10 years and a different president to do it, he can rest assured that he took out another of America’s enemies, Saddam Hussein, while he was at it. I cannot say the same for President Jonathan. He fails every time to evoke public confidence, courts dissent with his every move, and shows that he really does not give two pence (or kobo, if you like) whether the public likes his decisions or not – as he displayed during the subsidy protests of January, and when he unilaterally changed UNILAG’s name. Maybe he is not solely to blame; maybe his paid advisers – and I’m not solely referring to some leftists in government who have conveniently abandoned their ideology (that is if they had one in the first place) – are not giving him counsel worthy of theimmoral and obscenely huge salaries they are getting, but he is still Mr. President, responsible for the safety and wellbeing of 150 million Nigerians, and with every life claimed by a Boko Haram attack, every accident on Lagos-Ibadan, Benin-Ore Expressway caused by the poor state of the roads, every life lost in electoral violence, etc, a modicum of public confidence in his ability to protect the populace is lost until it gets to the point where no one expects his government to do well by them – which is almost where we are now.
It would be important to let Mr. President know that a majority of Nigerians are wary when Nigerian public office holders shed tears over the state of the nation. They are not quick to forget that despite Mrs Allison-Maduekwe’s tears over the Benin-Ore Road, it has remained largely in a state of squalor, sending many to early graves; that after General Buhari ‘wept’ over the polity in the wake of the 2011 general elections, bloodletting characterised the aftermath of that same elections, which installed Mr. President.
Diezani: The tears have since dried up
The point being made is: we don’t want the tears. We want action. We want to see reforms in the aviation sector that will improve the safety of lives of passengers. We want to see action in bringing out the sponsors of Boko Haram, so that our countrymen and corpers who live and serve their can go about their businesses without fear of death or mutilation or both. We want to see corruption being fought, not the EFCC striking out cases before it. We want a revamped system that puts people in office on the basis of merit. Because until we have this, Mr. President’s tears is not worth its value in salt – and we will always fail to grab the import of a grown man – much less, a President of the most populous black nation and Giant of Africa – leaking salty water from his eyes.
Skillz just spoke