President Goodluck Jonathan had nothing meaningful to tell Nigerians – and foreigners – on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence. He merely used the privilege to continue his presidential campaigns that have already filled the airwaves.
All through a long and winding address that was not made available even to the press until 7am on October 1, the president made no policy statement. For almost all of the time, he reeled out the “achievements” of his administration and made promises he did not hope to keep.
Last year, the takeaway from his independence anniversary speech was his decision to set up a committee to prepare the framework for convoking a national dialogue. The National Conference led by Justice Idris Kutigi has since ended and submitted its report, but nothing has come out of it. Another panel has been set up to review its recommendations. A statement on how the National Conference report will be utilised was expected, but he said nothing in the address that took him 23 minutes to read, except a promise to “implement the report” because “every promise I make, I will fulfil”.
There was really nothing new that the president said. Nothing new about the activities of terrorists and calls for efforts “to support our men and women in uniform”. Nothing new about Ebola and the efforts to contain it. Of course, the “power sector reform is on course” and his administration has “commenced the process” of building the second Niger Bridge and the Oweto Bridge across River Benue. And he has directed a panel to create 3million jobs in the next year while he “makes giant strides in the agricultural sector”.
Questions that Nigerians expected President Jonathan to answer in the independence anniversary address, which he dodged, included:
*his decision to run or not run for president next year, after all PDP leaders have endorsed him and thousands of groups have joined the campaign
*the $9.3million cash scandal involving Nigerians and an Israeli in South Africa
*the collapse of a building at TB Joshua’s Synagogue of All Nations that killed over 150 people including 82 South Africans, and
* collapse of the education system in the country as indicated by the failure of 70% of candidates that sat for WASSCE this year.
Even the picture of the president on television did not betray confidence. Or strength. Or faith. Perhaps everyone should join him in wishing, “Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.