President Jonathan would need to look beyond Goodluck to salvage Nigeria

By IndepthAfrica
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Dec 23rd, 2012
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By Godwin Ijediogor, ngrguardiannews

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on September 25, 2012. AFP PHOTO/ TIMOTHY A.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in New York on September 25, 2012. AFP PHOTO/ TIMOTHY A.

RUNNING a heterogeneous society, like Nigeria, has been challenging to even the most prepared hands, let alone one that got there by design and default.

And for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, it obviously has been more so right from Day One as Vice President, later Acting President and finally President.

For one who became Governor (of oil-rich Bayelsa State) by the default of the impeachment of his boss, Dr. Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, he suddenly found leadership thrust on him, and his initial reluctance to step into the shoes of the governor-general of the Ijaw nation, as Alamieyeseigha was fondly called, ostensibly because of the circumstance of his ouster, his critics say, was a defining moment of his political life.

But willy-nilly, he was able to paddle the craft of state.

The events leading to his choice as running mate, and later Vice President, to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, showed that the road ahead was going to be rough for the first Ijaw man to hold the position.

This became obvious and manifest when Yar’Adua was brought down by the illness that finally took him, as Jonathan, despite being the second-in-command, was alienated, marginalised and hurdles put in his way to becoming acting president, even when it was glaring that Yar’Adua was not retuning to his seat any time soon or for ever.

It took the ingenuity of the National Assembly’s Doctrine of Necessity to empower Jonathan to assume the position of Acting President, amidst grumbling from some quarters, and later President, when the cabal running the show could no longer operate as Yar’Adua’s ghost.

The challenges and man-made roadblocks for Jonathan increased with his taking over of the mantle of leadership of the country, rather than abate.

When it was time for election for a fresh term, the North, relying on the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) gentleman agreement on zoning or rotation of power, sought to complete “its” eight-year (two) term, as did the South(west) under former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

But those in support of Jonathan continuing in office, especially his South-South kinsmen, pointed to the constitutional provision that does not debar him from contesting last year’s presidential election.

In a country where ethno-religious sentiments run high and issues are actually determined based on them, Jonathan prevailed, from the primary to the election proper.

There is hardly any Nigerian leader, beside the late Chief Moshood Abiola, who enjoyed tremendous goodwill and support during election like Jonathan.

The sentiments apart, Nigerians from all walks of life, outside his main power base, supported him, some because they felt he had been marginalised enough, others believing it would be right to have somebody from the minority and oil-producing area occupy the position, and many swayed by his humility and the hope he exuded.

But winning the election has not translated to winning anything else for most Nigerians, as corruption (as clearly shown in the last Transparency International rating), decaying infrastructures, insecurity, insurgency (now taking the form of terrorism), rising (youth) unemployment, moral decadence, natural disasters, uncertainty, harsh economic environment and all manner of vices still pervade the land, and are even on the upswing, in some cases.

Some time ago, there was a diplomatic spat between Nigeria and South Africa over the latter’s insistence on yellow fever vaccination of Nigerians entering the country, and actually deported some without evidence to show they did, despite that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declare the country free of the disease, prompting Nigeria to retaliate.

Now, the WHO wants every Nigerian, adult and children, travelling abroad from May next year to take a mandatory oral polio vaccine “to reduce the substantial risk of the virus spreading to polio-free countries.”

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, at a meeting of the rejuvenated Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) in Abuja recently, said: “Nigerians may be used to life without constant electricity supply, pipe-borne water and good roads, but certainly Nigerians are neither used to the recent spate of bombing in churches, mosques, schools and homes nor hunger and youth unemployment.

“Nigerians now want action capable of ameliorating their sufferings. The pains of insecurity, loss of loved ones and hunger are begging for immediate action and we call on all at the various levels of government to stem this untoward national catastrophe.”

He was quick to add: “The magnitude of our present national challenges needs more than mere government intervention.”

Indeed, Nigerians did not expect and are not expecting the President to work miracles; indeed, he cannot, given all indices and antecedences in the country, and considering the challenges he inherited and those brought about by his administration’s actions and inactions, but they deserve a better life than they are living today.

The mounting challenges have made many Nigerians to conclude that Jonathan is a weak President and lacking the will power to implement or take some actions that could have bettered the lot of most Nigerians, especially given his rumoured ambition to contest the 2015 presidential election.

But his supporters, such as Henry Daniel Ofongo, representing Southern/Ijaw Federal Constituency of Bayelsa State in the House of Representatives, thinks the President is actually a strong leader.

He said in an interview some time ago: “As far as I am concerned, Jonathan is not a weak leader. The only thing I know is that, he is adding a human face to governance.

“He is not a soldier and doesn’t have such background. Based on where he comes from – a Christian who believes that you don’t have to take a tooth for tooth, an eye for an eye – he believes that if someone is doing something wrong, you need to reason with the people and come to an understanding.

“That doesn’t make him a weak leader. We know that some people who failed elections believe that they have to cause problems in order to make sure that the system is ungovernable.”

The fact that the challenges are assuming alarming dimensions, despite governments (at all levels) efforts, makes it obvious that Jonathan would need more than goodluck and prayers to surmount the odds and move Nigeria out of the woods.

Ostensibly in reaslisation of the pains Nigerians have been put through in the last one year, the President has assured that next year would be better than the outgoing year, saying his government was determined to bring the desired changes in security, power, aviation and other areas.

Speaking at the presidential Christmas Carol at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Jonathan urged Nigerians to avoid divisive tendencies and embrace unity and peaceful co-existence.

“In the New Year, we will see the changes in the airports, seaports, power and security, as we progress. Surely, 2013 will be a better year for the country,” he reiterated.

And as 2012 grinds to an end, it is one year many Nigerians would wish to forget in a hurry, hoping that 2013 will usher in a new and better year, like the President has promised.

But 2012 has tasked Nigerians’ Patience, not Jonathan’s, and the President would need to look beyond Goodluck to salvage Nigeria.

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