Friday, November 28, 2008

The president's choice of transport

The president's choice of transport


Paul I. Adujie

New York, United States

The public debate in connection with plans by the executive branch of the federal government of Nigeria, to purchase a jet aircraft, has generated great controversy, and for the most part, it has centered on whether such a purchase amounted to a national priority which warrants such huge expenditure of our very scarce resource; Critics of the president have also pointed to the current president, as if this debate is about a person, an individual, instead of discussing as an issue that affects Nigeria’s public symbol, national identity.

Most commentators and newspaper editorial boards, have tended to use the poor public perception of the current president, in favor of their "do not buy a jet for president Obasanjo-arguments" the president’s critics, have used the president’s performance, or lack thereof, coupled with what appears to be an ebbed public approval ratings, to determine their stance on the do not purchase the jet postulations, and as a consequence, the wrong criterion is being used by the president’s critics to determine whether the current president of Nigeria and future presidents of Nigeria must ride old bicycles, Okada motorbikes or Molue to public engagements, especially, given the penchant for frequent travels by the current president, those who do not like the president what him to trek or ride a donkey to France, America or South Africa?

First and foremost, it must be realized, that this is about the president of Nigeria, during the next thirty years, and not about the current president, whose tenure ends in 2007 and I do not believe that President Obasanjo will remain in office beyond his constitutionally permitted term beyond 2007, contrary to all theories and wild speculations, that is, the rumor that he plans to succeed of perpetuate himself as president beyond 2007 or even for life! Even after his term expires. It is an absurd and ridiculous rumor.

That being the case, we must then consider following additional factors, (a) Most Boeing Jets possess life span of several years, in fact, several decades, up to thirty years of good, safe and secure use, in fact. (b) The security and safety of the current president of Nigerian is of utmost importance (c) The safety and security of all subsequent Nigerians who would become president of Nigeria, is equally important, to that extent, the purchase of a good jet, is a national security investment. (d) President Obasanjo’s anticipated use of the jet that is being contemplated will be very limited, and for a period of approximately 3 years, perhaps, even considerably less than that, given the fact that the sale have not been consummated, let alone the additional work and refurbishments and reconfiguration that we hear that the aircraft may require before eventual delivery to the government.

In any case, the current president cannot use the jet beyond 2007, his constitutionally permitted term in office, which expires at that time. Accepting the premise that president Obasanjo will not perpetuate and succeed himself in office beyond 2007, further requires us to accept that he will not use presidential jets beyond 2007, unless he is receiving a courtesy ride, thus, any purchased presidential jet(s) remains in Abuja and will not be taken to Otta Farms! Be not afraid.

Nigerians must see the exulted office of the president, any president, as an ephemeral or transitory, even as it is accorded all due respects, prestige, and provided safety and security, therefore, a new jet for the president, is clearly safer and more secure, despite this, the executive branch has opted for a used aircraft, ostensibly, in order to save Nigerian taxpayers the additional expense that would have been expended on a brand new aircraft, this is arguably a prudent move, on the part of the executive branch of our government. But, I strongly believe that "cheap is expensive" in this instance, so, a brand new aircraft will be preferred, as it is only a little more expensive and not considerably so; A brand new plane is cheaper on the long term, it is more cost efficient and most cost effective, because the cost of repairs and refurbishments will be avoided and so-called questionable warranty issue, will be foreclosed, hence going for the cheap second-hand/used aircraft is expensive, why buy a second hand product, which is nearly as expensive when it is compared to a new of same product? Then swing around to spend a substantial amount or quite a bit to refurbish? All these, while the used product is said to have questionable warranty at best? And not considerably cheaper than the new one?

The presidential jet brouhaha bothers me, because, many critics and even perennial detractors of the current president, are again jumping unto the bandwagon to condemn current president for the investment he is clearly making, that will benefit generations of Nigerian presidents and Nigeria in the years ahead; The purchase of a jet by the current president, in essence, is not about the current president or even about future presidents of our beloved republic, instead, it is about our national symbol and the identity of any Nigeria who would be president.

A Nigerian who become the president of Nigeria, "ceases" to be an "individual" for himself/herself and therefore, this epiphany transforms the man or woman who is Nigeria’s president, into an embodiment of Nigeria, an institution or public "property" as such and his or her safety, security and protection/prestige assumes national and international significance of great proportions, hence, an attack on a Nigerian president at home or abroad, is an attack on Nigeria, unlike a similar attack on an "ordinary" citizen such as myself, hence any Nigerian should be will to take a bullet for any elected president in Nigeria, I would.

The safety and security of a Nigerian president is therefore viewed differently, ensuring the president’s well-being should touch and concern all of us, even if the president belong to a different political party or even if we disapprove of his/her policies, personally, if I had the money, I would pay for a presidential jet to ensure the safety and security of the current Nigerian president and or any future subsequent Nigerian presidents, and I would do so, faster than many other Nigerians who are devout Christians or Muslims would rush to buy luxury cars and homes for their pastors and or Imams and other religious or even titular traditional leaders, these religious types, engage in these false charities, in the hope that "God" will reward them in religious or spiritual uplift here on earth or in after-life of blissful heaven.

We must not put this president or future presidents of Nigeria, through public insults and humiliation, by castigating them, and denying them the perquisites, facilities, safety and security of their high office; We must not require them to ride bicycles, okada motorbike or molue, just because he or she belongs to a different political party, or pursues policies that we may dislike, or because they practice a different religion from a different region from us, We must not deprive the current Nigerian president and future ones, these things, just because he or she is not sexy. The current president and future ones remain our national symbol and identity, serve as our representative and embody the Nigerian spirit, Nigerian unity and goodness, deserving utmost safety, security and protection from all of us, the state of the economy not withstanding; Let the president have a new jet and not a bicycle.

Feb 2004

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