Let them eat [cassava] bread – Nigeria’s President E.G. Jonathan

December 8, 2011


by Tola Adenle

Part letter to President Jonathan, part commentary on today’s Nigeria.

“…  for the country to achieve the desired development, Nigerians must be ready to tame their exotic taste that makes them prefer imported goods to the ones made locally” – President E.G. Jonathan presenting the “cassava bread” at a “Federal” executive meeting.

“Fine talk”, as a sibling loves to say, especially when she mistrusts the intent or premise of an utterance that is illogical and misses a point by miles. The melodrama of the agriculture minister presenting a loaf of cassava bread with a crooked label to the president which the president, in turn unveiled with fanfare is, pardon me, ridiculous if not illogical.

Mr. President, you – like other wealthy Nigerians – may not be aware that gari, the most basic food from cassava tubers, is barely affordable to the masses as the price is almost at par with the imported tasteless rice.  I’m also sure this non-”exotic” addition to the Nigerian menu is NOT going to be any more affordable than the regular bread.

I think, therefore, the president must have mixed up his audience in using the phrase “tame  their exotic taste that makes them prefer imported goods to ones made locally” while claiming to be selling his countrymen and women an idea he would want them to believe its time was here.  It is within the circle of the rich in Nigeria that people speak with pride and pleasure of holding parties “at which nothing local is served”, Mr. President.

It could also be a president who is doing his best to appear to be leading – as General Obasanjo did as military head of state in the 70s -  a do-as-I-do push for buy Made in Nigeria fabrics, assembled cars, etcetera.

The cake of this new out-and-about President, who is pushing ”a number of things that must be done to make our economy multiply” – started to rise as far as he & the PDP are concerned started rising at Lokoja, a cake that has fallen flat because the baker forgot the rising powder.  To connect with citizens of a country you cannot be leading as the president apparently started with at the Lokoja campaign of the PDP gubernatorial candidate where he uttered above, and it only got worse.

In an attempt to talk about his “transformation agenda” which he tried to link to job creation – a wonderful idea in itself – he forgot that he’s supposed to be president of the whole of Nigeria which includes not only PDPers but PRP, LP, ACN, etcetera.  To say the least, it was an embarrassing  parochial stump speech.

The Nation news report was out the same day that the U.S. ambassador’s visited the Labor Minister and told the world that America and President Obama support the “oil subsidy” removal!  Here are bits and pieces of President Jonathan’s baffling speech at Lokoja in a story titled “Jonathan worried about youth unemployment”:


“… President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday expressed fear the trend could trigger a revolution if unchecked …  From next year when we will start to run our transformation budget, we must create jobs for our young people. If we don’t create jobs, in the next four years, youths will revolt. We need capable hands to actualise our transformation agenda.

“He was in Lokoja for the grand finale of  the campaign rally of his party’s candidate in Saturday’s governorship election. 

 “We at the federal level of government  want to include Kogi State in our transformation budget. We want a governor who believes in our policies, a governor who has all it takes to carry out the transformation agenda. And we have the confidence that Idris Wada and his running mate have the capacity. 

 “We don’t want somebody who will turn the state to his personal property. Not someone who will chase us away from the state.

 “There are a number of things that must be done to make our economy multiply do not come up with policies that will create jobs.”

Here are some Qs and a suggestion for Nigeria’s Number One citizen:

  • Fire your speech-writer, Good Doctor is an urgent priority.
  • Whose budget have you been running since 2011 January since you were the de facto president in the last two years?
  • What is the meaning of “including Kogi in our transformation budget” and what can non-PDP states expect from your administration: non-inclusion in your “transformation budget”?

Please see:  http://www.wazobiareport.com/news/Nigerias-President-Jonathan-where-are-you-while-Ibadan-withers

as evidence that Jonathan does seem to believe he owes obligations to PDP-controlled states.

  • Finally on the subject of being a president to all,  what does the country’s president mean by “We don’t want somebody … who will chase us away from the state.”

It seems there is no clearly-charted policy plan but a plan of taking each day as it comes, and each action in isolation that sees the country lurching from one disastrous move to another, with no defined reference point.

May be we should not really blame you for what appears like a president who is overwhelmed with all he has to contend with because it’s being a fast and furious journey for one who’s been described as a basically decent human being, an oxymoron for a politician.  But if we are to stop blaming you, then you may need to do a very honorable though unheard of thing in these parts:  tell Nigerians you “are sick and tired and can’t take it any more!”

The president’s place in history would be assured, perhaps even more than what a full term as presently being run, guarantees him come 2015, anyway.

Here is another piece – part of my April 25 2010 submission for my Nation on Sundaycolumn for these times.  Now seems like back then – talking of “moments” in a narration:

Jonathan, a defining moment

Thanks to a “fan” who would like  to remain anonymous, I’m blowing up one of the items meant as post scripts for this week into the main essay …  The “fan” had just come across a posting which I wrote on a website as a comment on a news item that caught my eye during Alhaja Turai Yar Adua’s take-over of government apparatus.“Be aggressive, Danjuma tells Goodluck Jonathan” was the story’s title onSaharaReporters.com and here are excerpts from my blog of March 4, 2010, follow:

“Okay, Good Doctor, I was never a fan because of the way your principal walked on a carpet of blood of slain Nigerians to Aso Rock but I’ve since eaten my words about you never reaching the presidency from YOUR OLD POSITION … on your laps have been thrust an unusual opportunity: to remake Nigeria … confound those of us who naturally lump you with Alhaji Yar Adua (AYA). You have nothing to lose but a chance to go down as a great hero. Seize the time; ignore the so-called governors’ forum; YOU OWE THEM NOTHING. Tell yourself … that you will not run come next year but give Nigerians a good electoral reform and work on power … This is your time. No godfather put you there but Nigerians’ determined will … Do not worry about any political future because yours is now.”

 The “fan” agreed with my take on why Dr. Jonathan must ignore those clamoring for him to consider running in 2010 but suggested I needed to develop an essay for my readers on the subject.  Perhaps to open my eyes beyond politics, he sent attached a Bible tract from one of the daily Bible readings that Christians read and often pass around.  The passage reminds me of a few ‘Crossroads’ poems I’ve read in the past:  we and others find out more than we or the others know about ourselves – at life’s crossroads … at such junctions, our decisions often define who we are, and the rest of our lives …

People share – among other things – thoughts of Confucius and spiritual ideas from Hinduism with me from time to time and I’ve often found many of these profound and enriching.  I hope my non-Christian readers would find this excerpt based on an Old Testament material that the reader sent me not only enriching but as being very appropriate in the matter of whether the Acting President should run for president next year, or not.  We are all connected by a common humanity, and so do learn from others, no matter the culture, race or creed.  Here is the material for which the writer chose the theme, “choose for yourselves this day…” from the Book of Joshua, Chapter 24 verse 15:

“… First, in our life, defining moments show us who we really are. Our defining moments usually come as a surprise and happen during times of crisis, such as facing a personal failure; taking an unpopular stand, suffering without complaining; being asked to forgive or making a hard choice. Sometimes, defining moments occur when we don’t see them for what they are. It’s only afterwards, as we look back, that we understand their importance. Either way, they define who we are … defining moments show others who we are. Most days we can wear a mask, but during defining moments we can’t. Our image means nothing. Neither does our resolve or connections. We’ve no time to put a spin on our actions. Whatever is truly inside us is revealed to everyone. As a leader, defining moments tell the people following you who you really are, what you stand for, and why you’re leading. Handled well, a defining moment can bond leaders and followers for life. Handled poorly, it can end your ability to lead. Thirdly, defining moments determine who we will become. You’ll never be the same person after a defining moment. That’s because defining moments are not normal, and what’s ‘normal’ doesn’t work in these times. Defining moments are like intersections in our lives – they give us an opportunity to turn, change direction, and seek a new destination. They present options and opportunities. In these moments, we must choose. And the choice we make will define us!” [Emphasis mine.]

Any addition on my part to these words would be superfluous. 

April 25, 2010



Nigerian newspapers and online news sources
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