The morning had come after the stormy and thundery preceding night. All was calm save for the chirping of birds echoing in the backyard and the rustling of leaves in the trees outside. “What would you advise me to do?” the new president asked his lovely wife lying by his side. “I guess you must take a break from politics,” she answered. “What did you say?” asked the bewildered president.
“Do you expect me to resign from my office as president of this great country?” His wife replied, “I would never even contemplate such a thing. I only want you to keep faith with the people who voted you into office. I want you to put every amount of effort you can afford into real governance, and not to do things just to satisfy the politicians in your party and ‘stakeholders’ who do not hold any stakes in the people’s fortune.” Would you be specific?” the president asked.
First Lady: Honey, how much regard would you have for someone who lobbies you to be hired to serve in your government?
President: Well, that is a difficult question to answer. You know that in politics, people must lobby to get what they want. Either they lobby for themselves or for others. It is normal practice.
First Lady: That is the first act of politics you must quit. It is my considered belief that if only for service a patriot would take a political appointment, he must himself not lobby for the office. I am suspicious of those who fawn and lobby to serve. I find no honour and sincerity in such conduct.
President: How else would you expect me to find credible hands to serve in my government? For instance, I did not know the chairman of the election commission before I hired him; and you would agree he has done a terrific job.
First lady: Did he lobby for the job then?
President: Well, he didn’t lobby, but…eh, someone told me about him.
First Lady: There is nothing wrong in people suggesting names to you if you clearly state the personalities and qualities you are looking for. In fact, in this age of information boom, you can easily profile any person recommended to you.
President: What exactly are you driving at?
First Lady: You have not been voted by the people to pay political debts to a small group of self-serving politicians. How do you expect the people to feel if you appoint into your government former governors whom the people have rejected on account of poor stewardship? Would you be true to the electorate if you populate your cabinet with people, not because of their ideas, vision, and accomplishments, but rather for their political connection?
President: There are certain things you will never understand about politics. There are people that helped me to win the election. I must pay them back in kind.
First Lady: Since when has public service become a favour to render in return? Remember that your presidency can only be as effective as the people you delegate executive powers to. The composition of your executive council will determine your success or failure. What is the update on electricity crisis resolution efforts and the energy problem?
President: The professor is working tirelessly to carry through the road map in the electric power sector that I announced few months ago. I have also promised to stop importation of refined petroleum products into the country.
First Lady: I hope you realize that your compatriots are tired of promises. I read that our country consumes more than 30 million litres of liquid fuel a day, and yet all our four refineries, even if they produce at maximum capacity, cannot refine up to 20 million litres of liquid fuel a day. So, what specifically do you plan to do to stop importation of refined petroleum products into the country; have you discovered alternative sources of energy?
President: My advisers on energy have suggested I put together an Action Committee on Energy. I am considering announcing the composition of this committee soon. To demonstrate my commitment, every state of the federation shall nominate one person to serve on the committee. The private sector and organized labour shall also have representatives on the committee. I am looking at setting up this committee shortly after my swearing in. Members shall visit the energy headquarters of the world to explore the remote and immediate causes of the energy problem of the country. I shall propose an appropriation of 2 billion US dollars as operating cost for members of the committee. I believe that before the end of my tenure they shall submit a clear blue print which shall form the road map I shall announce in the energy sector.
First Lady: My dear, don’t you think the amount is too huge for the task?
President: You must remember that our country is the giant of Africa and that those members must be paid travelling allowance, sitting allowance, robe allowance (you don’t expect them to be poorly dressed on the visits overseas, or do you?), hazard allowance, shopping allowance, etc. Those allowances are necessary if they must not be compromised on their assignments. You know the legislators receive each more than 13 million naira a month, yet they have not been able to help solve our myriad problems.
First Lady: So, are you in support of the humungous salaries and allowances that legislators in our country collect?
President: My dear first lady, what do you expect me to say or do? If I complain they will blackmail me. Do you know that the executive also takes so much monthly? My concern as president is not to fight anyone but to deliver dividends of democracy.
First Lady: But how can you deliver those dividends when the country is being milked and financially bled at such an alarming rate by public officials?
President: Have you forgotten
that we have oil?
First Lady: So, what plans do you have for my office; I mean the office of First Lady.
President: Now you are talking. Prepare and submit to my office your plans. Please, make sure your plans include all first ladies in the states who are submissive and loyal. Remember, they mobilized the women during your campaign for me, and now is the time to reward them handsomely.
First Lady: Thank you my dearest husband, Mr. President!
President: Politics is very important in this office, and we have to carry everybody along; but that does not mean the electorate. You know, we cannot please everyone. But the stakeholders must be adequately satisfied. The electorate, we shall feed them on hope and promises. This is a safe strategy. Don’t forget that good luck is always with me.
First Lady: Well, you are a smart man. Thank God I got married to you. If not for my patience good luck would not have been our companion. But you must find a solution to the long queues that have re-emerged at service stations shortly after our election. People may soon start suspecting that we deceived them just for the votes. How many months did you promise fuel suppliers you would keep up the act before you turn a blind eye for them to make a killing?
President: Honey, let us continue later. I need to answer this call from the American president. I guess he wants to convey his congratulations on my well-deserved victory.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org ).
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