The concept of the ‘first hundred days’ began with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who became America’s President at the low point of the Great Depression. In just one hundred days in 1933, he got 15 major bills through Congress which were key in improving the economy. In a hundred days since inaguaration on May 29, our National Assembly has only worked half the time, with 15 major bills pending and a further 32 waiting for a second reading.
What this country is experiencing is not just down to Goodluck Jonathan, but he has been President nearly 500 days and must take responsibility for the deterioration under his watch. It may be a little ‘unfair’ to compare him with FDR, but what stood him out was his realization of the difficulty of America’s situation, and the decisive steps he took to make things better.
Goodluck Jonathan does not act like a man who knows the magnitude of the challenge he has inherited. He does not seem to realize that the convergence of a non-existent security apparatus, endemic corruption, neglect of education, a unitary system that thrives on sharing proceeds from oil sales and a constitution that is an obstacle to true federalism creates a perfect storm that could very well pull the Nigerian ship assunder.
Even at this early stage, the slogan is one of lowering the bar. ‘Promising Less and Delivering More’ is the message the President and his handlers are sticking to. Deliberately vague policy statements. Scant specifics. Minimum exposure to the tough questions. The Media chat of Monday, 12th September is the clearest evidence of this.
His likeable air, however effective with a largely illiterate population, will not stop bombs going off or provide electricity. FDR was referred to by Oliver Wendell Holmes as having ‘a second class intellect, but a first class temprament’, but Nigerians are doubtful if their President is in possession of either.
It is perhaps necessary to ask the question: are we too critical? Some might say yes. The reality may be closer to what Akin Akintayo refers to as ‘the refusal to be satisfied with low expectations, easy wins and gimmickry‘.
By 2015, the PDP would have had control of the political system in this country at all levels for 16 years. They could have done whatever they wanted. They could have turned Nigeria into paradise. They haven’t. I refer to the PDP not so much as a party, but because they represent an agglomeration of our political elite.
Nigeria’s current predicament is the result of the constant promotion and elevation of mediocrity. Every time a corrupt, non-performing public official is given a free pass because he is ‘our son’, every time a contract is awarded to the least capable bidder because of patronage, every time ‘federal character’, ‘zoning’, or ‘rotation’ is used to smuggle in clueless individuals, this nation sinks a little deeper.
The bar for what is regarded as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in our society has been lowered to an alarming extent. It is everywhere: in our music, our movies, our sports, mediocrity is accepted and promoted. The same things we tolerate in our politics, are the same things we tolerate in our aspects of our national life.
Nigeria is a nation of rationalisers, ‘toleraters’ and ‘managers’.
Unless and until we begin to demand the best from ourselves and from those who want to lead us, until a meritocracy is enthroned in this country at every level, we will continue to lament. At this rate, our children will too.
May God forbid.