When ‘good luck’ is not enough by Olatunji Ololade

jona

Jonathan’s legacies

FEW men are born with a luck like Goodluck Jonathan’s. The Nigerian president’s trajectory up the pile of politics is rapid and phenomenal, hence its description as accidental  a stroke of good luck. Born into a poor family of canoe makers, his late father reportedly claimed in a biography of the president, that he named him ‘Goodluck’ because he had an inkling that he would be fortunate. Fortune certainly seemed to have favoured Jonathan. Unconfirmed reports claimed that as Assistant Senior Prefect of his secondary school, he was made the head prefect when the latter was expelled. And Jonathan, having studied zoology at the university worked as an education inspector, lecturer and environmental protection officer before venturing into politics in 1998. But just as his rapid rise to power in the federal civil service owed a lot to luck, so did his ascension to governorship.

His flight to power was fortuitous; he emerged governor of his native Bayelsa State in 2005 after his predecessor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was impeached over money laundering charges. Jonathan took over as governor and two years later, he was hand-picked by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to run on the PDP’s ticket as vice-presidential candidate in 2007. Again, the much harped-upon element of luck played in his favour; his boss, President Musa Yar’Adua fell ill and died. After months of political wrangling and barely 12 hours after Yar’Adua’s death, Jonathan was sworn in as the new president and commander-in-chief of Nigeria’s armed forces. That was quite impressive for a man who had never been elected to a major public office by his own merit.

His bearing up the path of political acclaim and power was so smooth, so devoid of frantic manoeuvering that it must have begun as an affect; the gesture of someone who understood that power might be attained by the suppression of mortal vanities, like desperation. That affect is rather seamless, which makes analysing his stewardship not just perplexing but often edifying.

As president, Jonathan gave a first impression of opaque and contained power: he seemed persistently frazzled and moved rather awkwardly and ineffectually. He projected fickle poise and presidential vigour; charm was hardly his best attribute as he burnt through the confidence and goodwill reposed in him by a greater section of the electorate in record time.

Soon, the thrill of his famously seductive speeches cum pleas for support before the 2011 presidential elections rapidly wore off the psyches of a habitually sentimental electorate. Thus in his first 100 days in office, President Jonathan desperately sought the comfort of forged glory, spuriously leaning on its crutches in an organised media chat whereby he failed to justify the confidence reposed in him by the electorate. Critics identified his exposition as too routinely disjointed and blasé for a PhD holder; he inspired no promising sound bites.

Pundits regarded him as more of an administrator than a leader even as a greater section of his critics earnestly claim he failed woefully in both capacities. But how did President Jonathan really fare? A cursory look at the performance of various sectors on his watch reveals the country’s damning realities.

Power generation

At the backdrop of this grim situation, the nation has to contend with persistent power outage. Of about 35,000 MW energy needed to light homes and power industry in the country, Nigeria generated less than 10 percent at 3,463MW up till March 20, 2014 when it dropped to the previous abysmal level of 2,500MW or seven per cent. The government, however, blamed the situation on “a significant drop in gas supply and a number of fire accidents along the Benin-Sapele highway.”

There is no gainsaying the country’s current electricity generation for its over 173 million citizenry is abysmally low. While the Federal Government has spent N533 billion (about $3 billion) to resuscitate the power sector, the outrageous expenditure has amounted to naught as Nigerians enjoy less than six hours of electricity per day, where they enjoy it at all, while spending about N800 billion annually to fuel their generators.

The power situation is so bad that even government establishments, including those under the Presidency as well as the Aso Rock Villa where President Jonathan was a tenant, utilised generators as a major source of power supply with the government-funded Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) as stand-by.

Studies last year showed that business concerns generate about 28,000 MW of electricity with over a trillion naira, while households, according to NERC’s estimate, spend about N800 billion a year on self-generation. In a radical twist, however, Kabir Usman, the Director General of government-owned Centre for Management and Development, CMD, said there are about 60 million generators in Nigeria at the ratio of one per household of 2.5 people with an annual spending of N1.6 trillion.

More worrisomely, the 2, 500MW of electricity being generated by Nigeria cannot guarantee stable power for 173 million people or propel the country towards industrialisation. By comparison, South Africa, with less than a third of Nigeria’s population, generates over 44,000MW of electricity. There is, therefore, no way Nigeria can enjoy a stable power supply with a meagre 4,000MW in power generation. Despite all these, President Jonathan shockingly told the CNN in an interview that his administration had made remarkable progress in giving Nigeria adequate power supply.

Health

Contrary to President Jonathan’s touted achievements in the healthcare sector, Nigeria has been consistently ranked within the category of low human development index in all UNDP Human Development Index reports. Life expectancy in Nigeria is placed at 52 years, while other health indicators reveal that only 1.9 per cent of the nation’s budget is expended on health and 68.0 per cent of Nigerians are stated to be living below $1.25 daily. Other recent reports have also ranked Nigeria as the worse place to be born, one of the worse places to be a mother as well as one of the countries in the ‘serious’ category- the one but last category in the Global Hunger Index. All these combined or taken in isolation, make it difficult for Nigeria to achieve the levels of improvements in the healthcare sector as it claimed in the midterm report.

The most significant indicator of the decline in the state of healthcare over the years, and particularly, in recent times, is the fact that state dignitaries, as well as other privileged personalities, including high profile business persons, continue to seek medical treatment outside the country for all manner of ailments from the most common to the most complex. The Nigeria Medical Association has stated that the country loses over N600 billion annually to what it calls ‘medical tourism.’

Unemployment malaise and the NIS death count

The situation in the country presents a grim portrait of cynicism and hopelessness. And nothing accentuates this despondent state more than the scandalous episode of March 15, 2014; the incident involving thousands of traumatised and unemployed youths locked in a deathly struggle for the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) jobs. The NIS had advertised vacancies for 4,550 entry level officer positions but in response, 6.5 million unemployed graduates applied for the jobs each paying the N1,000 fee non-refundable fee for the application form.

Apparently swooning from the financial implication of registering applicants that exceed the number of advertised positions, the NIS proceeded to conduct a 35-minute aptitude test for half a million shortlisted job seekers, outdoor, in large city venues across the country, all in one day.

By the time the pandemonium was over, about 23 applicants had been trampled to death and hundreds more sustained grievous injuries. The nation watched in horror as the catastrophe evolved with many parents and guardians watching helplessly as their children and relatives were forced to engage in a humiliating scramble for survival. Besides losing their dignity as humans, all of the applicants also lost their non-refundable application fees. In their reaction to the incident, the Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, and officials of the NIS blamed the multitude for flouting stipulated test centre procedures.

While President Jonathan claimed to have created 1.9 million jobs in five years, the nation’s unemployment reality establishes his touted achievement as a pinprick to the malaise. Available statistics show that1.8 million Nigerians enter the job market every year, 5.3 million youths are unemployed and overall, 20 million Nigerians are in the job market, and these are very conservative figures.

Outrageous governance bills, $60 billion debt and dying economy

The NIS tragedy emphasised the country’s unemployment quandary. Nigeria has arguably one of the richest and largest natural resource deposits in the world. Government and the structure of government, however, constitute a challenge to development. For instance, the total cost of servicing government and public officers has continued to exceed 70 per cent of annual budget in the last 12 years, while just a little is left to service capital projects or human development.

Even so, the Nigerian leadership confidently announced a new gross domestic product (GDP) of $510 billion on April 6, 2014, up from the GDP of $290 billion, and thus becoming the largest economy in Africa after overtaking South Africa’s GDP of $370 billion. Nigeria’s output has reportedly been experiencing a continual expansion of about 6.5 per cent yearly over the past decade with a current population of 173 million, compared to South Africa with three per cent average annual growth rate and a population of 51 million. The new GDP figure was obtained by changing the base year from 1990 to 2013 for calculating its output to reflect newly emerged sectors of the economy such as telecoms, information technology, music, online sales, airlines, and film production. The figure instantly shrank Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio from 19 per cent for 2012 to 11 per cent for 2013.

In the face of contradictory realities, President Jonathan, goaded by his economic team, led by finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stubbornly maintained that the country’s economy was in good shape. However, his bubble burst when the naira plummeted against the American dollar thus fluctuating in the ranges of N230 to $1 and N195 to a dollar. Nigeria’s economy has since declined from bad to worse; in exasperation, the finance minister announced recently that the country was broke.

Apparently appalled by the president’s and his economic team’s spurious statistics, Professor Charles Soludo, a former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), advised President Jonathan, prior to the election, not to campaign on his six years record in office as he had failed Nigerians.

“My advice to President Jonathan and his handlers is to stop wasting their time trying to campaign on his job record. Those who have decided to vote for him will not do so because he has taken Nigeria to the moon. His record on the economy is a clear ‘F’ grade. As one reviews the laundry list of micro interventions the government calls its achievements, one wonders whether such list is all that the government could deliver with an unprecedented oil boom and an unprecedented public debt accumulation…If we appropriately adjust for oil income and debt, then this government is the worst in our history on the economy. All statistics are from the National Bureau of Statistics,” said Soludo.

The incoming Vice President-elect, Yemi Osinbajo, in the same vein, lamented that Nigeria’s local and foreign debts now stand at $60 billion. Osinbajo, who painted a gloomy picture of the nation’s economy, lamented that most of the states cannot pay salaries on account of the country’s dwindling resources.

“Local and international debt stands at US$60 billion. Our debt servicing bill for 2015 is N953.6 billion, 21 per cent of our Budget. On account of severely dwindled resources, over two-thirds of the states in Nigeria owe salaries. Federal institutions are not in much better shape. Today, the nation borrows to fund recurrent expenditure…This is also against the backdrop of a highly unequal society in which, by some reckoning, the largest chunk of the benefits of our national wealth accrues to a small percentage of our population,” he said, adding that an estimated 110 million of the country’s population are living in poverty thus confirming that the biggest national problem is extreme poverty.

Corruption

While President Jonathan promised Nigerians to eradicate corruption in all sectors of the economy, current realities indicate otherwise. On his watch, Nigeria’s rating by the global anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International, has fallen. In 2009, Nigeria was rated 133 out of 180 countries, while in 2013, the country was rated 144 out of 177 countries.

More worrisomely, the list of outstanding corruption cases escalated during his tenure. They include: the missing $20b oil money, the Malabu oil scandal, the fuel subsidy scandal, the police pension fraud, kerosene subsidy, and the sudden drop in the total amount realised from the Victims Support Fund from N80 billion to N60 billion. More importantly, Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, who presided over the NIS tragic swindling and death of job seekers, and Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who presided over the most befuddling and opaque oil industry in history, have rather received presidential cuddling instead of sanctions.

Also, SURE-P, which was conceived to mitigate the hardships imposed on Nigerians by increase in fuel prices, has transformed into a cesspit of corruption and conduit for siphoning public funds that could have ameliorated the suffering of ordinary Nigerians.

Falling oil prices

Despite recent subsidy payments made to oil marketers, fuel queues have begun to appear again in the country with Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) selling between N120 and N260 at the few filling stations selling. This grossly contradicts the N87 pump price approved and guaranteed by President Jonathan following a slash in pump price from N97 few days before the March 28 elections. The petrol shortage is said to have begun again due to the refusal of independent oil marketers to load fuel. The independent marketers reportedly stopped loading the product because the Federal Government ignored them in the recent payment of subsidy arrears.

The sum of N154.2 billion was paid last week to the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria by the FG in order to halt the fuel scarcity in the country. The initial subsidy payment is part of a total sum of N354.4 billion which the FG owes independent and major marketers as well as the depot owners.

At the backdrop of the deepening oil scarcity, BudgIT, a financial intelligence services group, argued that the 2015 budget projections on oil appear overly optimistic. “Technically, it costs $21.06 to produce a barrel of Crude Oil in 2014 under the JVC agreement (Joint Venture Corporation), up from $11.31 per barrel in 2009  while the average operating cost of getting a barrel of Crude oil from the ground, which was previously at $6.38 in 2009, is now $9.94. Nigeria appears to be gradually out-pricing itself from the Crude oil market and urgently needs to review its petroleum laws. Nigeria has also not been able to optimise revenue from the oil and gas industry because its pricing model is outdated and without the PIB, bold reforms have not been adopted.”

Recent estimates, stressed BudgIT, showed that Nigeria produced an average of 1.902million barrels per day in December 2014 with over 35m cargoes still unsold. The Economist magazine puts the operating cost of extracting shale oil at $10-$20 per barrel for large fields. If the price war is anything to go by, the conventional oil producer will be looking at keeping oil below $50 per barrel and hoping the Shale oil lobby in the USA does not have its way with subsidies. As it is, the crude oil price is already trading below the budget estimates through fiscal year 2015, pegged at $65 per barrel.

Insecurity

While declaring to run in 2011, Jonathan threatened: “Kidnappers, criminal elements and miscreants that give us a bad name should be ready for the fight that I shall give them.” On January 31, 2011, he reiterated his pledge to improve security and vowed to defeat Boko Haram, the sect that has been terrorising the northeast. He promised to completely transform the national security architecture of the country, eradicate kidnappings, pursue all bombers and terrorists, and to exploit modern means to eradicate political violence. It’s the twilight of his tenure and Nigerians know better. The president’s poor handling of the abduction of more than 250 high school girls in Chibok, Borno State by the dreaded terrorist group severely dented his image as a leader. The President was variously accused of insensitivity to the plight of the people who voted him into office, as he would rather fly to Burkina Faso than visit Chibok, Buni Yadi, Potiskum and other northeast areas, where thousands of people have either been killed or maimed by the Boko Haram sect.

For instance, Jonathan went to Kano to dance at a rally of his political party a day after the devastating bombing of the motor park at Nyanya on the outskirts of Abuja, in which close to 100 people were killed and 14 days after the girls were abducted. As at press time, the missing Chibok girls have spent over one year in captivity.

Before the recent successes recorded against the deadly group (which was even attributed to ‘mercenaries’ from South Africa), the Nigerian Army had suffered gross politicisation and downward plunge in morale on the watch of President Jonathan, which saw the armed forces persistently take to its heels on several encounters with Boko Haram’s ragtag militia. The Nigerian military thus mutated into a shabby and petrified shadow of the gallant force it once epitomised in the eyes of the world.

Agriculture

Agriculture was visibly the selling point of President Jonathan’s leadership. It was allegedly due to his agricultural transformation policies that farmers in the country ventured into investments in assets. President Jonathan claimed to have bolstered mechanised agriculture in the country through his developmental policies in the agricultural sector. On his watch, loans for farmers were reportedly easier to access; beneficiaries claimed that farmers’ loan facilities increased from less than one per cent to seven per cent in the total loan portfolio of banks.

The agricultural sector allegedly transformed under his administration to account for 22% of Nigeria’s GDP, more than oil and gas which only account for 15.9%. Under Jonathan, Nigeria recorded a more than 50% reduction in food imports. Prior to his presidency, there was a food import bill of N1.4 trillion. But now, it is less than N700 billion, according to federal statistics. With the innovation of dry season rice-farming, Nigeria has reached 60% self-sufficiency in rice production. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Nigeria is now the largest producer of cassava in the world. The Jonathan government also claimed to have built six strategically-located perishable cargo airports in Ilorin, Jalingo, Jos, Lagos, Makurdi andYola, in close proximity to Nigeria’s food baskets.

A curious case of PR

At the backdrop of socioeconomic failure and political upheavals, President Jonathan sought succour in public relations (PR). The Federal Government, led by President Jonathan, contracted an image-laundering deal valued at $1.2 million (about N275 million) a year to Washington, DC, United States-based public relations firm, Levick Strategic Communications. Levick accepted the deal to help manage President Jonathan’s image, which suffered severe bashing over his poor handling of the abducted Chibok girls.

Levick Strategic Communications was engaged to assist with a range of government affairs and public relations matters. The agreement was with effect from June 16, for an initial term of 12 months. According to the contract, professional fees for Levick staff will be billed at the rate of $100,000 per month (about N15,573,000).

Sportsmanship in defeat

His early acceptance of defeat at the March 28 presidential polls whereby he got defeated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate and Nigeria’s new President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, has, however, been severally touted as a mark of sterling patriotism and true sportsmanship in the face defeat – a rare happenstance in the annals of Africa’s fractious democracies.

Notwithstanding his established failures in leadership, President Jonathan described himself as the best leader to be produced by Nigeria. According to him, no leader since the country gained independence in 1960 had done better than himself for the country. He said so in reaction to a comment by former President Obasanjo, in which the ex-President described Jonathan’s performance as below average. In the same vein, Jonathan’s apologists argue that he remains the best thing to have happened to Nigeria in a long while.

Nigerians, however, methodically withdrew the confidence they reposed in him at election time. In the build up to the polls, two revered international publications, The Economist (Britain) and the New York Times, (United States), lent their voices to the tenor of ‘Change’ mooted by the APC’s Buhari. The message was clear to Nigerians: “Do not re-elect Jonathan to Aso Rock.”

“He is a failed leader,” said The Economist; “He is a lousy leader,” claimed the New York Times. It is unclear, whether the publications’ counsel had any influence on Nigerians’ voting pattern; what remains clear however, is that Nigerians desired a great deal more than President Jonathan’s good luck could provide.

NATION