Opinion

Iniobong Umoh: President Jonathan And The Elusive Second Term

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has been a lucky man all his life. This is an undisputed fact. Any doubting Thomas only has to look at how he has been elevated from one political level to the other to get to the most coveted political position in the country.

Vice president Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in as substantive president of the federal republic of Nigeria on 6th May 2010 following the sad and unusual circumstances surrounding the death of late President Umaru Yaradua. He took over power and served out the remainder of the four years tenure terminating in May 2011.

One might say that he wasn’t prepared for the job, mentally and otherwise. He was just a humble unassuming gentleman who became president due to a constitutional exigency. He was learning on the job, he was learning how to talk and act like a president.

On 1st October 2014, the nation was celebrating her independence day/golden jubilee anniversary when a deadly bomb blast occurred in an area that was just few kilometers from Eagles square in Abuja killing 15 people and injuring many others. A terrorist group known as MEND claimed responsibility for the blast. However the president while addressing the Ecowas parliament in a colloquium on the day after the blast absolved Mend from being behind the incidence. He said that mend were his people and his people could not be behind the attack to discredit him, their son who was in power. This statement set the stage for the many other unpresidential and unguarded statements that were to come during his tenure. Nigerians started realizing that Goodluck Jonathan saw himself as the president of a section of the country, a divisive rather than a unifying figure.

President Jonathan is currently seeking re-election in the presidential polls holding in two weeks time. A lot has been said and written about his chances of clinching the required number of votes. You reading this article probably has formed an opinion on his candidature. He is facing a stiff challenge from Muhammadu Buhari the candidate of the opposition Apc party.

When an incumbent is standing in for re-election, the searchlight is beamed on his achievements. X-raying Goodluck Jonathan’s performance over the past five and a half years leaves much to be desired. An objective review shows that the failures greatly outnumber the achievements.

Mr President runs a system of government which accommodates cronies, praise singers and sycophants.

During the investigation into the October 1 bomb blast, Chief Raymond Dokpesi and retired general Ibrahim Babangida were fingered as possible master-minders of the plot by the Dss. I can recall watching the 9pm NTA network news and listening to Cyril Stober as he read out the content of a text message allegedly found on the mobile phone of one of the many suspects arrested for the crime.

“Have you collected the balance from Dokpesi?”…“Let’s meet at IBB Headquarters”… “Na we do am”…“We will destabilize Jonathan since he does not want to put money on the table”…

Chief Raymond Dokpesi was the director general of the presidential campaign organization of general Babangida who was then gunning to replace Jonathan in 2011. The Ait founder was quizzed by the state security services. Fast forward to 2015, Chief Raymond Dokpesi is presently the chief of staff of the president and general IBB has been referred to as “my father” by president Goodluck on a recent visit to the former’s house.

How these two gentlemen moved from being possible terrorism sponsors to being close confidants of the president is bewildering.

Nigerians all across the federation defied the weather to stand in long queues and cast their votes for Goodluck Jonathan during the April 2011 elections, because we saw him as a simple man with no pretentious airs, someone with a life story that we could relate with, someone who had no shoes to wear to school. We felt he was a breath of fresh air, that he would right the wrongs of the past.

On election day, i suspended all my activities and stood in a long queue at the primary school that served as the polling unit in my neighbourhood and voted for Goodluck Jonathan because I saw him as a symbol of hope, that finally someone from a minority tribe can aspire to rule this country.
It is now two weeks to the 2015 presidential elections and I will rather sleep all day in my house than go out to vote for Goodluck Jonathan.

What changed?

Mr President assumed office on May 29, 2011 with a lot of goodwill behind him. 22.4 million voters from all parts of the country entrusted their collective destiny into his hands. He was supposed to deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians.

He is seeking a fresh mandate now, it is only fair to assess him based on what he has been able to deliver so far.

The truth is that Nigerians are presently disenchanted with President Goodluck Jonathan. It is the majority opinion on the streets that he has failed to deliver. In fairness to the president, one can argue that he met things/institutions in a grounded and decrepit state because of poor leadership by previous military regimes and the civilian regime headed by Olusegun obasanjo, who was more interested in junketing around the world and in fighting political opponents.

So what exactly are the achievements of Goodluck administration in health, education, transport, agriculture and other vital sectors of the nation’s life since May 29, 2011?

A supporter will reel out the following as his achievements….

Reactivation of the moribund railway transport system, setting up of Youwin entrepreneur scheme and Sure-P program for unemployed youths, deregulation of the power sector, establishment of almajiri model schools in the north, revolution in agriculture especially in fertilizer distribution to farmers, Increase in Nysc allowance, construction of federal roads and reforms in the electoral process.

What are his failures?

Personally, i believe it is not really a question of failure but that of lack of capacity. I think Goodluck Jonathan simply lacks the capacity to govern this nation. You can’t give what you don’t have.

If the south south region was asked to produce a leader in 2007 to deputise Umaru Yaradua, the likes of Donald Duke, Victor Attah, Pat Utomi, Peter odili etc would have been up for consideration. Goodluck Jonathan would not have been mentioned. Chief Obasanjo deliberately imposed him as vice president because of his “don’t rock the boat” lackluster character that fitted in with his (Obasanjo’s) devious plans.

The first duty of the President and commander in chief of the arm forces of any nation is to guard and defend the territorial integrity of the nation. He is supposed to ensure the safety and protection of the lives of the citizens using all available lawful means. Goodluck Jonathan has failed woefully on security.

The boko haram group by its constant and deadly attacks has ridiculed Nigeria. The image and prestige of the country has been battered. The country has become a laughing stock even in Africa. President Jonathan’s government has been unable to contain the insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives. Currently over 250 secondary school girls are being held by the sect. They were kidnapped 8 months ago. Nigeria, a country with one of the biggest armies in Africa has been unable to rescue the chibok girls.

The president keeps on condemning each terror attack that happens, promising to bring the perpetrators to book. None of the insurgents have been brought to justice, not even a single sponsor has been apprehended. Nigerians are tired. The waves of attack still continues. The small victories recorded by the army are largely insignificant when compared with the scale of devastation unleashed by the sect. Vast territories in the north east are in the hands of the extremists and are being ruled with their obnoxious and fanatical interpretation of sharia law.

The assertion that a section of the country vowed to make the country ungovernable for a minority Christian president is very untenable. If that was the case, then it is the duty of the president to use his powers to root out these individuals and make the country governable or resign if he can’t do so. This is a president that has been quoted as saying that he is not a lion, general, goliath, pharaoh or a king. This is a president that said that he is soft on boko haram because the insurgents are our siblings and that you don’t unleash the army on your siblings.

This mindset I believe made him to approach the boko haram insurgency with a lukewarm attitude. He didn’t give it the attention and seriousness that it deserved in the early stages of his administration. If he had done so, we probably wouldn’t be in this sorry state where Nigerians in the north east are living in terror, fear and uncertainty waiting for the next terror strike.

Goodluck Jonathan’s style of leadership has been that of governance by committees. Innumerable committees have been set up to examine various issues, both important and trivial. Their reports are rarely implemented. Committee reports that indict top government officials never get to see the light of the day. If the organs of government have been robust and functioning, we wouldn’t have to resort to setting up these multiple committees. Nigerians are exasperated with the endless cycle of committees and at the wastage of financial resources that would have been channeled to areas where they are needed most.

Corruption has been a major failure on the part of President Goodluck. The president’s body language supports corruption. The goodwill that he enjoyed at the initial stage of his administration fizzled out when he began surrounding himself with grand patrons of corruption in Nigeria. Under his watch, looting of the treasury has arisen to the highest levels. Some analysts have rated it higher than that experienced during Shehu Shagari’s regime which led to a military coup. Government officials operate in impunity as long as they are in the good books of the president. The economic and financial crimes commission has become toothless and almost obsolete. No prominent government official has been arrested and jailed for corruption. The massive thievery going on in the Nnpc is mind boggling. Billions of dollars have become unaccounted for. When Lamido Sanusi the then governor of the central bank raised the alarm, he was quickly sacked by the president.

Mr President has not seen the need to sack or drop poor performing and corrupt officials. The only time that he dropped ministers was out of political expediency in 2013 when five Pdp governors defected to the opposition Apc party. The serving ministers in Jonathan’s cabinet nominated by them were swiftly dropped. Mr president is more concerned about his political safety and security than performance.
The ex-aviation minister, stella oduah N225 million bullet proof car scandal case comes to mind, the many allegations against Petroleum minister Diezani madueke including the N10 billion chartered private jet scandal has fallen on deaf ears.

Under this regime men who had been convicted and jailed of corruption are the ones calling the shots. Diepreye alamieyeseigha served his term for money laundering and under president Jonathan, was granted state pardon. Today he is running for a seat in the Nigerian senate. We have men like Bode George around the president. Al-mustapha a notorious murderer and henchman of the late dictator Sani Abacha is widely believed to have been released from prison through the influence of president as part of a 2015 political play. Glaring incompetent and inept characters have been granted national honours by the president.

The military heads who have failed at their assignments have not been relieved of their positions. Poorly armed soldiers are sent to fight Boko haram insurgents who are armed with sophisticated weapons. Trillions of naira has been budgeted for security and the top military brass are neck deep in looting funds. The morale of our soldiers are low, hence the refusal of some platoons to obey orders from the commanders. We have had more mutinies under this regime than we had under previous regimes.

Most of the president’s closest political allies are incompetent Pdp state governors. One of the attribute of a good leader is the ability to inspire your followers positively. The president cannot inspire or demand for good governance from his allies, they run their respective states like family estates. Nigerians watched in amazement as governors of states where public institutions are in a comatose state due to strikes over nonpayment of workers salaries donated millions of naira to fund the president’s re-election bid. Is this not a moral burden on the President? Why does he keep on attracting these kind of people to himself?

One of the worst job racketeering and employment scams in the history of this nation happened under this administration. The Nigerian immigration service (NIS) job scam where desperate job seekers were asked to pay N1000 each for the job application form for the phony recruitment exercise. Almost every young graduate that I know applied for this test, both the employed and the unemployed. Some of my friends and colleagues who stood in long queues at the different banks to buy the forms all questioned my refusal to join them in applying. I refused to join them because I saw through the charade that the exercise was. On the day of the recruitment test, i watched with anger, on television and on the internet, the humiliation of Nigerian youths as they filled to capacity the stadia in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other venues throughout the country. The charade turned fatal as 19 job seekers lost their lives in stampedes.

This was a pivotal moment that president Goodluck would have used to identify with unemployed Nigerians, to show that he feels their pain and to demand for accountability.

In a saner clime the president would have demanded for the immediately resignation of the man in charge of the exercise or sack him without notice in order for him to be charged to court and subsequently face jail time. The corruption friendly president only set up one of his many committees to look into the matter and the rest as they say is history. Abba Morro, the minister of the interior rather than take responsibility turned round to blame the job seekers for being impatient leading to the stampedes. Such impunity! Today, Abba morro the minister of the interior is still on his seat. He is a political loyalist of the president after all. The whereabouts of the over 600 million naira realized from the sales of the forms is unknown.

A man who says stealing is not corruption is a grandmaster of corruption. A man whose response to a question about missing funds under his watch is that America will know if dollars are missing from the treasury because dollars is American currency is not capable of leading country which intends to make progress. The foreign reserve has depreciated rather than appreciate. We have gone through a period of oil boom and the monies realized from oil sales during this period has not been put to good use. The oil subsidy thieves have not been prosecuted because they are influential figures in the government.

So much noise has been made about the rebasing of the Gdp of the country and of the country being the biggest economy in Africa. How this economic statistic translates to a better life for the common man on the street remains yet to be seen.

The president has used divisive tendencies to rule Nigeria, he has been unable to live up to the unifying father figure expected of a president. The Ateke toms, the tompolos and the Asari dokubos of this world are the ones holding lucrative government contracts and issuing national security threats without any form of restraint from security agencies all because these threats are in favour of mr President.

The life of the average Niger deltan has not changed much inspite of the fact that a son of the soil is in power. We are yet to see the dividends of democracy in the Niger delta. Today, Goodluck Jonathan’s best friends and most vocal supporters in the south-south are the Anenihs, the Clarks, the Akpabios, the Uduaghans and other beneficiaries of the present dysfunctional system.

The main challenger Muhammadu Buhari is gaining ground because people are simply disenchanted and yearning for change. Even in his native state of Bayelsa, people have discovered that Goodluck Jonathan is just not the right man for the job. The goodwill has been replaced by resentment.

The presidential election will be close and may even go into a runoff. However with the power of incumbency, President Jonathan will win the election but nothing will change in his style of governance and policy drive. It will be business as usual and Nigerians will have to wait till 2019 to effect the desired change.
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Iniobong Umoh is a multicontextual writer. [email protected]

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