Jonathan, In The Eye Of The Storm

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Goodluck Jonathan

He, certainly, invites public sympathy. From his lamentation,
he was at pains, disappointed and distressed even, that the people he labours
day and night to serve and turn their fortunes around are busy shooting darts
at him.

You could see it in his near wrinkled face and pensive mood
as he addressed the body of lawyers.

His speech at the last general conference of the Nigerian
Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja on August 27 pulled at peoples’ heart strings.

“I think I am the most criticised President in the whole
world”, he said.

Even though he later recanted his statement at the Nigeria’s
52nd Independence Anniversary Lecture held in Abuja on September 18, the point
had already been made.

Plucked by fate from the comparatively somnolent position of
the Vice-President and thrust into the turbulent position of number one man in
Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is one man with one job few people would,
in truth, envy.

His is certainly a crown of thorns few people would want to
wear.

Jonathan’s remonstration is an indication that it  is not easy to lead a nation, let alone an
ethno-religious diverse country like Nigeria. His remorseful remark also bears
much reflection in the acceptance of his policies and actions by the Nigerian
populace.

Although, there are no statistics to back Jonathan’s claim,
the frequency of attacks, arrows, slings and bullets he receives from poltical
opponents, professional critics, poorly informed but vocal detractors, agent
provocateurs, the Nigerian hoipolloi and even the mass media is an indicator
that Jonathan may not be totally wrong.

He may not be the most critised President in the world, for
he has contenders in Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and even the famous
American President Barrack Obama who many Americans have dubbed anti-Christ and
satanic; but Jonathan has no contender among his contemporaries in Nigeria.
Never has any Nigerian President been criticised as much as Jonathan, more
often for the problems he did not create. Not even the most brutal late Sani
Abacha received such barbs.It thus appears the hostility against past leaders
is rubbing off on Jonathan.

Everywhere he goes, Jonathan tries to appeal to the
conscience of the people to be patient with him and to cooperate with his
government, while at the same time, reeling out his modest achievements
and  how he intends to actualise his
transformation agenda.

At the NBA conference, he reiterated his assurance to
improve the standard of living and turn Nigeria into a development haven.

“Our administration has introduced various policies and
initiatives to build a strong and dynamic economy, inspire investors’
confidence and attract investments into critical sectors.

“Our Transformation Agenda seeks to turn Nigeria into
development realities. There is now increased focus on the diversification of
the economy, away from almost total dependence on oil and gas.

“Furthermore, our various policies will ensure that Nigeria
reclaims its pride of place, especially in the areas of commerce and
agriculture. We are also exporting the vast opportunities in the mining sector.
Rapid industrialisation is also receiving attention as all hands are on deck to
ensure that the power sector is reformed and strengthened to support sustained
industrial growth.

“The Power Sector Reform Act 2010 which is the flagship
legislation in this regard is being faithfully implemented to achieve the
desired outcome. I am hopeful that before 2015, significant progress would have
been made in power generation and distribution,” he said.

President Jonathan went further to say that, “His
administration is also committed to the development of critical infrastructure
to support our industrialisation drive and efforts to attract investments. To
this end, our roads and airports are currently undergoing resurfacing and
remodeling to bring them in line with the demands of the 21st century”.

Jonathan also touched on areas of security and constitution
which have become festering wounds on the soul of the nation. He assured,
“Government is working assiduously to combat the state of acts of terrorism in
the country.” To this end, he said, “the Terrorism (prevention) Act 2011 has
undergone comprehensive review and a new Terrorism (prohibition) Bill 2012 has
been proposed”.

He nonetheless noted that, “the realisation of laws alone,
without effective prosecution will not yield the desired objective”, saying
“government is therefore committed to strengthening the capacity of our law
enforcement agencies for optimal performance”.

As President Jonathan addresses the nation today, he would
likely repeat the same promises, explain to the Nigerian populace how his
administration has fared in the past 16 months. And possibly too, the President
may express his disappointment for the impatience of Nigerians with the
nation’s development.

It is however, unlikely that the ordinary Nigerian whose
income is being depleted by the rising cost of living and who daily queues at
filling stations to buy fuel that is almost beyond his reach would easily buy
the assurances that may likely thunder forth from the President’s speech.

A litre of fuel now sells between N95 official price and
N200.  A bag of cement costs as much as
N2,200, while the prices of food stuff have skyrocketed beyond what common man
on the street can afford.

The peoples’ disillusionment is understandable. For the past
52 years, they have been  awash with such
promises and assurances from their leaders, to no avail.

They have been victims of what Dr. Olatunji Dare calls
“serial misrule, of policies that subvert rather than advance public
well-being, of clueless and lack of vision in higher places, of having their
names taken in vain, without corresponding adherence to their interests and
values”.

At every independence anniversary, the sing-song has
remained the same. Comatose economy, infrastructural decay, poor social
services, insecurity, corruption of over-the-table kind, socio-economic
imbalance, ethno-religious intolerance, minority marginalization and a lot more
of other deep structural misfortunes that have dogged Nigeria’s path and have
also been served as Nigeria’s birthday cake since October 1, 1960.

As President Jonathan addresses the nation, it is unlikely
he would not keep the tradition of rehashing this dirge and feeding Nigerians
with the same birthday cake they have been forced to eat since independence.

The general notion is that successive governments, since 52
years ago, have been beautiful in rhetorics, but short on delivery. Jonathan’s
government, by public opinion and development indicator, is not an exemption.

There is no doubt that most of the nation’s woes were not
Jonathan’s creation. Most of them had been there before he came to power and
may possibly outlive his tenure. The nation’s four refineries had been down,
roads had been in bad shapes; there had been general infrastructural decay and
a sea of unemployed youths; economy had been tottering in the doldrums, while
hydra-headed corruption had been the nation’s albatross.

But the people’s anger and disenchantment is with Jonathan’s
tall promises that fall short of delivery and the slow pace he pursues his
Transformation Agenda.

In his inaugural speech, after he was sworn in on May 29,
last year, President Jonathan was tall on promises. He reiterated his campaign
promises, to transform the economy, create jobs, improve the living standard of
the people, rebuild the infrastructure, create greater access to quality
education and improved health care delivery and generate enduring happiness for
Nigerians.

Good vision, good talk. Given Jonathan’s humble background,
the people who had already turned out in their large numbers to give him a
Pan-Nigerian mandate believed him.

But no sooner had Jonathan begun his tenure than he had to
contend with security threats from a group of terrorists known as Boko Haram.
Today, the issue of insecurity appears to have overwhelmed Jonathan’s vision
for the country. The President himself admitted
that Boko Haram insurgency was distracting his government. On different
occasions, Jonathan was a visitor to scenes of bomb attacks and bloody violence.

At each turn, Jonathan’s campaign and inaugural day promise
to fight for the future of the common man on the streets is being questioned by
the same electorate who voted him with much enthusiasm.

Infrastructure is depreciating by the day, while security
agencies appear to have no known solution to the Boko Haram menace and other
heinous crimes. Across the length and breadth of the nation, the death toll
from road accidents, arising from poor road network, is alarmingly high.
Unemployment has grown a notch higher than usual.

In less than two years into his four-year tenure, Jonathan
has received more knocks from the Nigerian populace than any of his
predecessors. On daily basis, his policies have become the target of public
scrutiny and criticisms. The mass media, the civil society organisations and
the opposition parties, especially the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the
Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) led the pack, and are so unsparing with
their criticisms.

There is  a general
impression that the clumsy and unintelligent manner with which Jonathan’s
administration tackles security threats has been responsible for the increasing
whirlwind of violence in the country. The fear now is if the sanguinary
tendency will not go a notch higher.

President Jonathan is being accused of being too petrified
to hold people accountable for heinous actions.

Even in the wake of the Presidential election when former
Head of State, General Muhammad Buhari and former Vice-President Abubakar Atiku
dared him that his government risked violence change if it resisted peaceful
change, Jonathan’s government merely played to the gallery with tough talks, no
actions.

Jonathan, however, attributed most of the criticisms against
him to  the politics of 2015. He also
took a swipe at the mass media which he accused of playing politics with the
profession.

Jonathan may not be totally wrong. Since he became the
Acting President on February 9, 2010 through the ‘doctrine of necessity,’
following the hospitalisation of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua in Saudi Arabia,
some sections of the country, particular the core North, have become
uncomfortable. The death of Yar’Adua on May 5, and the swearing-in of Jonathan
as a substantive president the next day heightened the political tension in the
North and as well disorganised the political permutation in the country.

Jonathan’s declaration to run for the April, 2012
presidential election turned out to be the high point of political permutation.
The North, by its calculation and zoning formular adopted by the ruling party,
was to take a second term shot at the presidency. But Jonathan and his
supporters, relying on the Nigerian Constitution, distorted the permutation.
Since then, there have been a heavy downpour of criticisms and media attacks
against Jonathan mostly by those who felt short-changed by the political
re-arrangement.

In the wake of the PDP presidential primaries which
President Jonathan won landslide in
February, last year, the President was accused of trying to subvert the
zoning proviso in the party’s constitution. The Northern political group, Arewa
Consultative Forum (ACF) whose membership was made up of PDP top shots, led the
pack of the opposition.

The sweeping newspaper headlines: “Arewa Rejects Jonathan”
and the counter-bluff from Jonathan’s campaign team “They (Arewa) are of no
consequence” were examples of extreme intra-party conflicts, powered by
bitterness, which the PDP launched against itself before and after the
emergence of Jonathan as PDP Presidential candidate.

Since then, there has been a growing discontent among the
rank and file of the PDP, such that several efforts have been made to reconcile
the warring factions to no avail. It was these intra-party differences that the
opposition parties seized to launch vitriotic attacks on the PDP government. It
was also on the basis of these differences that the current attacks and
terrorism being launched on the Nigerian State by  Boko Haram are allegedly premised.

As noted by the former National Security Adviser (NSA) to
the President, General Andrew Azazi, “The issue of violence did not increase in
Nigeria until when there was a declaration by the current President that he was
going to contest. The Peoples Democratic Party got it wrong from the beginning.
The party started by saying Mr. A. can rule, and Mr. B. cannot rule, according
to PDP conventions, rules and regulations and not according to the
constitution”.

The outbreak of post-presidential election violence in some
parts of the North was also partly an indication of wrong extrapolations that
the Nigerian presidency is the fiefdom of a particular region, just as the myth
of the North –South dichotomy has thrown up deep structural issues and national
questions that bother on national cohesion.

Today, the Federal Government appears to have been buffeted
by the issue of insecurity in the country, heightened by the activities of Boko
Haram.

In January this year, Jonathan’s many problems were
compounded by the sudden removal of fuel subsidy. The decision, considered too
hasty by many people, drew public flak and almost suffocated the nation’s
economy. It took Jonathan’s government nine days of stirring protests by
Nigerians to beat a petulant retreat.

The President, however, alleged that the Occupy Nigeria
anti-fuel subsidy removal mass protests, organised by civil society groups, in
Lagos and Abuja were sponsored by an unnamed class of people.

“Look at the demonstrations back home, look at the areas
these demonstrations are coming from, you begin to ask, are these the ordinary
citizens that are demonstrating. Or are people pushing them to demonstrate?,”
he alleged.

But the civil society groups, the opposition parties and a
section of the mass media faulted Jonathan’s allegation, saying he had
alienated himself from the people.

The suspension of Justice Ayo Salami as the President of the
Appeal Court, the renaming of University of Lagos (UNILAG) after the late
politician, Chief M.K.O. Abiola, and the reinstatement of Mrs Arunma Oteh as
the Director-General of the Nigerian Securities And Exchange Commission (NSEC)
were some other thorns in the flesh of Jonathan.

Recently too, the House of Representatives dangled an
impeachment axe against President Jonathan over alleged poor implementation of
the 2012 budget. The budget according to the House, was implemented below
expectation.

Many observers, however, described the House threat as a
smokescreen to get its own pound of flesh from Jonathan.

Since the inception of Jonathan’s presidency last year,
there has been a muscle flexing between the House and the presidency. First was
the endorsement of Hon Mulikat Akande as the Speaker by the PDP leadership. The
PDP caucus in the House, in alliance with the opposition parties, rejected
Akande and picked Hon. Aminu Tambuwah as their Speaker.

In January, this year, the House was also in a cold war with
the President over the sudden removal of the oil subsidy, even when the
National Assembly was still debating over the issue.

Also recently, the
House leadership accused the presidency over the Hon. Farouk Lawan and
Femi Otedola bribery allegation, which the House interpreted to mean a ‘sting
operation’ to smear the character of the House leadership, particularly the
Speaker. Even now, the recall of Oteh by the President is still generating
ill-feeling in the House

In spite of the daunting challenges that face Jonathan’s
administration, the President has managed to record some modest achievements in
the last 16 months of his administration.

These include the minimum wage Act 2011 that he signed into
law in March, 2012 for Nigerian workers, the on-going upgrading of local and
international airports in the country, the on-going repair of major roads that
have been in bad shape for almost 20 years and the rejuvenation of the comatose
railway transportation system after 20 years of lull in the sector.

President Jonathan will also be remembered for signing into
law the famous Freedom of Information Act, and for his government’s
determination to unbundle the power sector after 52 years of monopoly. The
appointment of more women into his cabinet in line with 35 per cent he promised
them, and the conduct of a free and fair election in the country, among others,
were other high points of his administration.

Already, there is an on-going constitutional review in the
country. This is line with Jonathan’s promise to give Nigerians the peoples’
constitution and as well redress the imbalances in the country, as well as
remove the ambiguities in the constitution.

Meanwhile, President Jonathan, according to the former NBA
President, Mr. Joseph Bodunri Daudu, was
described as the most  tolerant
President Nigeria has ever had, in spite of heavy criticisms against him.

Many stakeholders have, however, blamed the economic and
socio-political malady in the country on imbalanced development and lack of
good constitutional framework, while few others have heaped the blame on poor
leadership.

As Jonathan grapples with the nation’s challenges, many
curious observers have argued that Jonathan was promoted beyond his competence
and natural ability. The weight of the nation’s myriad problems, according to
them, is too much for him.

But President Jonathan has promised to surprise and possibly
shame his critics and detractors, who have painted him with the tattoo of a
failure.

“But I want to tell this audience that before I leave, I
will be the most praised president,” he told his audience at the last NBA
conference in Abuja.

Jonathan may not be the best president Nigeria has ever
produced, but he is, certainly, not the worst.
As Nigeria’s 5th elected president, his place in the nation’s history is
guaranteed. But whether his name will appear on the front page of history or as
a mere footnote is a matter that would be decided between now and 2015.

 

Boye Salau