I’m just as mad as the next man about the failings of the Jonathan administration. Many a Nigerian has wondered how he hired some of those people who work for him and why they serve him so poorly and,worse, why no one does anything about it when they fail him.
The job of the President carries strict liability. He must accept responsibility for all happenings. When bad things happen, we know it is because of the reign of a bad king, the President. Rarely do good things occur, or they happen so grudgingly, they are so few and far between.
In an era of ‘Ghana must go’ wallets, there is so much envy of the rich. You can feel it. And the trouble with the Nigerian rich is that they are mostly men and women who made hay while the sun shone, which makes the envy worse. And all this envy is taken out on the one man who is the symbol of everything, good or bad, the President.
People sometimes look at me reproachfully when I publicly confess that I am a fan of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance. I quickly try to explain that she is one person among the high and the mighty who speaks naturally and frequently about income inequality in Nigeria, and the dangers of widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
A fortnight ago she was speaking about how corruption subsists and will fester because Nigeria does not yet have adequate tools to fight it. H ow I wished t he A ll Progressive Congress (APC) had drafted her or someone like her for President. This campaign would have been a truly ‘change’ campaign, a “change you can believe in” as Mr. Barack Obama proclaimed in 2008. But I digress.
The Jonathan administration can be infuriating sometimes. Its first action which truly rattled me was the seizure of newspapers and the prevention of the circulation of the papers in several cities by military personnel. It went on for a few days and, mercifully, stopped.
The military people said they were searching for terrorists’ bombs in the newspaper vans. The Presidency people said they have nothing to say about it because it was a “security issue.” For a newspaper man who experienced government suppression of the Press first hand and in all its forms in the triple tyrannies of Buhari, Babangida and Abacha I was about to exclaim “there we go again.”
Now, an ‘O’ level student of Government doesn’t need to think twice to know that what the military was doing was brazenly unconstitutional. So, where was President Jonathan’s domestic policy adviser, or his State House Counsel or, for that matter, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to order the soldiers to “cease and desist” on the very first day.
I had hoped the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria NPAN) would send a hefty bill to the Aso Villa for those violations with an ultimatum, hoping the government would ignore it so the NPAN can go to court to ask for declarations and punitive damages for violations of Press freedom. I imagine it all ended in a friendly ‘ol boy’ phone call to forgive and forget.
This kind of violation would be inconceivable in the United States where respect for the Constitution is the beginning of governmental wisdom.
Then there was the $9.3 million cash in the suitcase in the plane from Abuja seized in South Africa. Had the South African Customs not found and seized the cash what evidence was there that the money wouldn’t have disappeared? The Ministry of Finance didn’t know about the money, neither did Defense, nor Foreign Affairs nor Department of State Security. Using the office of the National Security Adviser to buy arms is a double edged sword.
Trundling cash around the continent is not just illegal but smelly. Whoever was responsible for that transaction made the Jonathan administration look queer, inept if not corrupt. The Igbos have a saying that if you are not a thief, never step on the footprints left by a thief.
The phantom ceasefire with Boko Haram was the saddest of all Jonathan Administration’s bunglings.It made many Nigerians miserable. It was inexcusable. It marked the lowest point. The Federal Republic of Nigeria, a victim of 419? Tell it not in Jos. Publish it not in the streets of Ado Ekiti.
The above are the few that stick out with me above others. Each is scandalous. None can happen in the United State where there are layers of checks and balances to preclude their happening. But if any of that happened, there would be hell to pay.
The virtue of Jonathan is not that he is perfect. It is that he knows that he is imperfect. So, he is bound to work harder, read more, study issues more and be better informed. Because he got there by fortunate occurrences, he wouldn’t have arrived with a g rand vision. S o, he would be open to whatever works. Because he is an intellectual, he won’t be averse to theories about anything. He wouldn’t have inferiority or Mr. Know-All complex, or the Obasanjo complex also known as the Messiah complex. He is not afraid of talented, accomplished women as everyone can see.
He is a builder – 12 universities, 120 Al-Majiri schools. He plans to build speed trains after reviving the snail trains and added some standard gauge lines. How many power plants has he built? Dozens. But certainly with the huge Gembu hydro under construction, four coal plants being planned, and all the integrated Independent Power Plants built and ready to go, Goodluck Jonathan finally slew the power dragon, the nightmare that had defied all administrations before his. Two outstanding problems remain – gas and transmission. When those are tied up Nigeria’s power problems would be history.
Jonathan’s body language is not that of a greedy, corrupt man. Corruption in Nigeria is structural and, pessimists say, Sisyphean. To make a dent on it, a sovereign national conference needs to be convened. Nibbling at the edges is still okay which is what the EFCC and ICPC do. T he ICT tools like IPPIS,electronic wallet to enable farmers access fertilizer directly are a ll g reat. B ut a s C hief Philip Asiodu, the ‘super permanent secretary’ and statesman said a few weeks ago, when a Nigerian senator earns four times the pay of an American President, a clear case of unjust enrichment, how is a president going to start a fight which would end with his impeachment? Unjust enrichment is the beginning of all corruption. Why has Gen. Buhari been quiet about the pay of the National Assembly?
That Jonathan is a patient man is fairly obvious. He is deliberative. He doesn’t rush to judgment. He doesn’t force the process. He sometimes exhibits strength of character.
He defied the doubting Thomases and convened the National Conference, one of the most momentous events of Nigerian history, in which thorny national issues were discussed candidly in an atmosphere of freedom.
But above all, Jonathan wins because he has a democratic temperament, a genial, non-threatening personality and a sportsman-like spirit which made APC possible and created an atmosphere of freedom and liberty unprecedented in Nigerian history. He could have destroyed APC and squashed the party if he were a typical Nigerian politician. But he is of a different make-up.
The Action Group in the 60’s and the Peoples Redemption Party in the 80’s were victims of political malevolence and ill will. The APC would not have survived an Obasanjo regime, much less threaten it. Jonathan guarantees democracy, his opponent imperils it.