Goodluck Jonathan: The accidental president who wasted opportunities?
I love this GEJ pic, dat smile nah wayo wayo smile walahi!
The fact is, had I been in Nigeria today, (and I still don't understand why we in the diaspora can't vote...) I would probably be tussling with my decision right up to when I have my ballot papers in my hands! So no I am far from sold on the notion that GEJ deserves another 4 years governing Nigeria.
Quite frankly I wish there was a third candidate, but no matter how credible that third candidate would be, it is clear that the APC and the PDP are the two political heavyweights in Nigeria today so the president will come from one of those two parties.
For full disclosure I was at the forefront supporting a GEJ presidency during the brouhaha as regards Umaru Yar'Adua's passing and the madness that followed him being certified as "Acting president" whatever the heck that meant. I also supported him when he decided to run for a full term as president.
Everything looked great... "On paper"...
On paper, GEJ appeared to be an ideal president for a "new democratic Nigeria". Consider the following which i consider positives:
- His humble beginnings: As he likes to remind us he walked to primary school without shoes daily. So he is a man whom started life like many of us and found himself at the very top in Nigeria, a characteristic many Nigerians had been clamoring for in their ultimate leader. We had enough of recycled generals and wayo wayo business men.
- No Godfathers: So here was a man who had no "godfathers" in his rise to the top, we might qualify this and say he had just a few as no doubt Obasanjo pushed him in to the VP slot on the Yar'Adua ticket when he could have had Donald Duke or even Peter Odilli occupy the slot. And he might have gotten some small help when he was moving up the ranks at the defunct Niger Delta commission OMPADEC. Thus he was a man who should have had the interests of the people at heart not the interest of an endless list of Nigerian Godfathers.
- His educational background: If my memory serves me correctly, since Dr Azikiwe, there has been NO Nigerian ELECTED president with an earned Ph.D, note the word "earned" not an honorary one, but one you studied for and earned. Yes it might be in Zoology, but it is an advanced educational degree nonetheless. In a country with a endless number of smart graduates it was terribly sad that none ever rose to the position of being able to govern the country. By the way I have read the controversy on if he has the Ph.D or not and quite frankly evcen his M.Sc is still an advanded degree as we all know.
- His background as a working man. An added plus was the fact that this was a man who like every other graduate out there went to school, graduated, did his NYSC and worked in various positions from being a teacher to an environmentalist and and inspector, this is unlike many of our past leaders who simply joined the army and rose to the top and gained popularity or the others that were businessmen who profited from contracts given to them by their government friends and thus amassed stupendous wealth which in turn allowed them to become major players in Nigerian politics today.
- Last but not the least, he comes from the region of Nigeria that produces most of Nigerians oil and therefore the countries revenue. However that region had not produced a president since the countries independence, in my opinion that was not right. That I know is another argument for many who do not support him. I am frequently reminded that before oil, cash crops propped up Nigeria. That is another argument for another day though.
So again on paper, GEJ was an ideal candidate for Nigeria at the time. But as we would say in Naija... Oga nah paper we go chop...
Did he really want the job...
However one must wonder if he even actually planned to run for president one blessed day? Did he ever have the ambition to be president of Nigeria? If one does not have the ambition to aspire to a certain office, then one does not plan for it and it is quite possible when one assumes that offices (accidentally as we see here) one might confused at what needs to be done AND would easily be swayed in one direction or another. I dare say GEJ might be guilty of this.
It is instrumental to note that in the run up to the 2007 election, GEJ was not one of those clamoring to become president from the South South, That task was taken up by Governors Odili and Duke. But Obasanjo surprisingly picked GEJ for the job and the rest as we say is history.
We of course had long time presidential hopefuls in Dt Pat Utomi, Buhari and of course Atiku to mention a few, all whom had grand plans for Nigeria after wanting to get into Aso Rock for such a long time. So suddenly GEJ wakes up finds Ya'rAdua is gone and the country is now in his hands. When you consider this is a man with no real political machinery and grassroots organization like Atiku had in the PDM or even Obasanjo and IBB due ot their past lives in office, there was nobody there pushing him on with a specific agenda... except... his fellow Niger Delta heavyweights like Chief Edwin Clark. Suddenly he gained the support of his people, and his many in the South South by default became his grassroots organization up to the point where Asari Dukobo became a supporter of GEJ.
So it would appear that as Yar'Adua's situation became worse, GEJ's support grew and his became better. Now it is instrumental to note when he won the prolonged battle with the northern "mafia" to take over as president, no longer "Acting" in Hollywood or Nollywood, I believe it was that battle that finally began his transformation from being an accidental president to one with a plan to seek and enjoy Aso Rock. He came with some kind of plan.. The transformation agenda... from what to what?
Fighting the Powers that be on borrowed time...
Now the issue of not having a grassroots organization or loyal players within the Nigerian political and military power-base in Nigeria is what appears to have seriously hampered GEJ's ability to be a more effective president.
Consider the following: First he had to fight the battle to go from being Vice President to Acting President and finally President, and he embarked on this fight with a very shaky coalition of the political elite. We should not forget the likes of Adamu Ciroma stating clearly that GEJ did not have the mandate to be president. Such was the battle that needed to be overcome.
Secondly as he fought this battle, he had to keep one and a half eyes on the back of his head to make sure he and us, did not wake up one blessed morning to to the thankfully now distant memories of military music playing on our radio and TV sets. He really had not clue if and when the military might step in and kick him out of office. Again this is a man without connections and a base, nobody might have been telling him the real truth of what was going on in the corridors of the military establishment. We thank the military for not doing that.
Finally, in the fight with the northern elite he had to make many "strange bedfellows" many of whom were "friends of friends" within the political elite as by being a common man like you and I, he had very few political heavyweights of his own to rely on.
So by the time GEJ got to a point where he could feel comfortable within the walls of Aso Rock, 2-3 years had gone by. I will say until he actually ran for and won the presidency on his "own" in 2011 he was operating on "borrowed time".
But today is a new presidential record deserved...?
Now that said, the fact remains that he has now been president for Nigeria for almost 6 years. And if you add his time as Vice President and President he has been at the top of the Nigerian political establishment for 8 years. We would expect that is enough time for him to have made a positive impact on Nigeria. Even with the 2 years needed to build his foundation and base. A good and skillful politician I dare say would have done that and more.
Considering his less than stellar performance, I will say, it is far from an exciting thought to now have to have his presidency govern Nigeria for four more years to cumulative in a a record 10 years in office! I do not believe GEJ has performed to the level that deserves the reward to becoming Nigeria's longest serving democratically elected president. Such a reward should only be reversed for those who have made a significant positive impact on the lives of the people. An accidental opportunity should not subject millions of Nigerians to uninspired un-charismatic leadership.
Nigeria is a country that requires a measure of charismatic and cunning leadership and most certainly decisive leadership. It is an ABSOLUTE slap on the face of Nigerians and its armed forces that it cannot defeat Boko Haram, it is a double slap that the African Union is calling for a multi national military response of 7.500 troops to deal with Boko Haram. Since when can Nigerian not provide 7,500 well equipped and trained troops for war? If Nigeria was the military and financial backbone of ECOMOG providing over 4,000 to 5,000 troops for a war that we fought thousands of miles away from our shores in both Liberia and Sierra Leone over several years how come we cannot now deal with trouble in our own back yard? Un-understandable! It is very difficult to rationalize the problems being faced. And more importantly it appears it is an artificial limitation not one of a lack of military ability, training, expertise or military capacity.
So GEJ has wasted an opportunity to have shown himself to be a cunning and decisive president that is needed in a country like Nigeria. He declared a state of emergency for several states in the north being over run by Boko Haram over a year ago, however, things have gotten worse rather than better.
Many within Nigeria are saying the corruption levels have shot up, I continue to doubt that limits the progress that can be made by the country. However if a country does not feel safe and secure, then it is hard to feel it is making progress even in other areas.
A wasted opportunity...
Another missed opportunity via his "Transformation Agenda" is GEJ does not seem to have been able to produce an easy to identify signature / landmark economic achievement(s) that Nigerians can easily and readily point to and use as an indicator / barometer that progress is taking place. For example, Abacha used the PTF and GEJ's opponent, Buhari, is now exploiting that move, to give Nigerians the impression that government revenue was going to the good of the people. Obasanjo on another example can take responsibility of the proper liberalizing of the telecommunication sector that has now allowed almost every Nigerian to owe a cell phone and many even two! And thus revolutionize how Nigerians do business in their everyday lives.
The ONE sector where GEJ could have made a significant economic impact which would have pushed him head over heels of those that came before him was to have solved the nations power crisis. If Nigerians had felt significant progress in this sector, chances are despite the insecurity created by Boko Haram he would still enjoy much stronger or majority support within the population
Yet, today despite several gas plants coming on steam, despite the liberalization of the power sector, despite the splitting up of NEPA (okay PHCN), despite agreements signed with GE, despite contracts given and being renegotiated with the Chinese on hydroelectric generation, the country remains with elliptical electrical supply.
So as a result when Nigerians look around them today, what they can see is the insecurity and nothing specific to point to as an achievement of the GEJ administration. They do not feel "transformed" But there IS progress taking place. But the un charismatic nature of the president and his inability to quell the insurgency are very valid reasons why many feel its time for him to pack his bags, baggages and luggages and leave Aso Rock...gege...
So I can't say I blame them for thinking that way at all. I would be on that bandwagon as well, that is as I noted at the start of this piece, I then look across the aisle and see the man fighting to replace him...
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