Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Article: The Goodluck Edge, The Dynamics And Parameters Of My Endorsement

Goodluck Jonathan
 By Robinson Tombari Sibe
The first public write-up I did on President Goodluck Jonathan was an article I posted as a note on facebook on July 2nd 2010. The article criticized his decision to ban the Super Eagles from International Competitions after a disgraceful Showing and was titled: “The decision by the President to ‘quarantine’ the super Eagles from the world stage is clearly an own goal”. Therefore, I am not one of those who would claim all of his decisions were absolutely flawless. President Jonathan within two days impressed me personally by setting aside his ego to reverse that decision due to public outcry. Few weeks later, I publicly declared my support for President Goodluck Jonathan in an article I wrote in July last year titled – “North, South, East or West: Jonathan is Best”. In that article, I labored to convince my readers on why I think President Goodluck was the better candidate (even though he hadn’t declared at that time) amongst the lot that had indicated interest, notably Gen. Buhari. My difficulty in swaying my readers was mainly because the time he had stayed in office was too short to offer clear-cut scientific and empirical assessment in favour of his regime. My strongest point was rather emotional which was his ability to listen since in today’s democracy what we need is a people-centric president with tremendous ability to listen to the masses. However, at that time, I didn’t shut the door on others as I challenged the opposition to come up with a better candidate for consideration. Since then, the only major entrant was Nuhu Ribadu. I shall briefly discuss in the most lenient way why I will not vote for the two persons mentioned above and why I will stick to my first choice of President Jonathan.
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu was appointed by Former President Olusegun Obasanjo to head the EFCC. He is widely acclaimed to have kick-started the anti-corruption crusade in our current democratic experience. Albeit, there is a strong argument against him that he selectively prosecuted perceived enemies of government. However, he fell out of favour during the reign of late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. He had his ranks stripped off him, got maltreated at NIPPS and ended up in a self exile. But thanks to President Goodluck Jonathan who through his magnanimity instructed that the charges against him be dropped and his ranks restored. Today, he is the flag bearer of the ACN. As a youth who wants a generational shift in leadership, I have listened keenly to his arguments on why he should become President but disappointed by the shallowness of his proposition. All Nuhu keeps saying is that he will “sweep” a corrupt PDP out of office considering his “excellent” records in the anti-corruption battle. He lists the years the PDP has ruled including the one he served as the anti-corruption czar, as grossly corrupt. One begins to wonder what excellent anti-corruption records he parades since he seems to confess himself the high level of corruption in those years. Although I am not a Politician and certainly not a big fan of the PDP, I would want to remind Nuhu that whatever “excellent records” he claims to have achieved was under a PDP regime that appointed him, gave him the powers and fast tracked his promotions. If I am to give Nuhu an excellent mark then I have to give the PDP government that gave him the conducive environment to “flourish” an excellent mark. If we think Nuhu did well in fighting corruption, then we should also give the PDP that gave him the power and leverage same excellent marks. Unfortunately for him, I do not even rate that regime he served in high on anti-corruption, so I cannot even reconcile what he is saying with the reality. His proposal therefore simply defeats itself and is grossly hypocritical and opportunistic. One also wonders what has become of him lately considering that he had at some point described one of his new allies as “a looter of international dimensions”. Perhaps, it takes more than being just a “good cop” to become a good President. He has not been able to even exert himself on his party (that is not any better) let alone the electorates. Ribadu has failed to show Nigerians how he hopes to solve the power crises, diversify the economy, create jobs, etc. It takes more to achieving a greater Nigeria than just sweeping a party out of office and Ribadu has failed to convince me he has the capacity. The picture I see is that of hypocrisy and opportunism. Sad but painfully true!
Gen. Buhari first came into power through a military coup just about 3 years after Mubarak took over in Egypt. Yes, Egypt’s Mubarak! It therefore beats my imagination that while the rest of the world are forcing leaders of the Mubarak era to retire we are going back to that era to dust ours back to life. That aside, it’s interesting to see Gen. Buhari attempting to benefit from a democratic process after truncating one, however imperfect it was. Gen. Buhari was in power for almost two years but did not deem it fit to even announce a transition time table let alone conduct an election. He outlawed Political organizations and any other that challenged his authority. The infamous decrees that his administration enacted to clamp down on journalists and media organization are still fresh in our history. He showed great disregard to humanity and to the judiciary by appropriating to his regime the right to detain someone for over 6 months without charging the case to court. Gen. Buhari went on to serve as the head of PTF in the dreaded Abacha government. There is the common believe that he is a very disciplined man but one begins to wonder what a disciplined man could be doing in a regime that held the nation hostage. I really would love to know what he was doing in a regime that jailed Chief Abiola for claiming a genuine mandate given to him by the people,  jailed Shehu Musa Yar’adua (both eventually died as a result), hanged Ken Saro Wiwa and hunted down anyone that dared criticize them. I would also love to know the Projects he executed in the Niger Delta region that produced the Petro-dollars he administered as Head of PTF. The General has never come out to apologize or denounce any of these actions of his past meaning he has no regret and given the chance, he’ll do it again and again. He lost the opportunity to do so when he chose to ignore the invitation to appear before the Justice Oputa Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is surprising that a man who claims to have no “skeleton in his cupboard” stayed away from a commission whose proceedings where transparently aired on national TV. Only recently, he showed his lack of faith in the rule of law as he was quoted in the media urging his supporters to LYNCH anybody caught rigging. One begins to wonder why someone who wants to become President will be so excited to sow a seed of anarchy and instigate violence through his call to lynch. That said, I think it is a risk to entrust our fragile democracy in the hands of someone like Gen. Buhari. In a speech by Barack Obama on his visit to Ghana, he stated that: “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions”. I can’t agree any less. We need to build strong institutions with people that have democratic values and not “strong men” like General Buhari.
Now back to Jonathan. I felt obligated by my conscience to write this piece following the various forwarded messages I have seen recently with inflammatory remarks and distorted picture of the Jonathan Presidency. In the past weeks, I have seen opportunistic politicians in the guise of presenting alternatives take advantage of innocent Nigerians desperate for change. Like most Nigerians, I am not satisfied with the achievements of the PDP in the last decade. However, I also looked around and noticed that the other parties are not offering any better programs as well. They simply are preying on innocent Nigerians seeking alternatives. But in seeking alternatives, one must be careful not to go from bad to worse. I have seen my support for President Jonathan precipitate from the emotional to the factual. Starting from his tremendous listening capacity as mentioned earlier, the President has showed that we can count on him. In today’s world, we have seen mass movements and people-centric revolutions sweeping across Africa and the Middle East. We want a government that the masses will drive change; A government that will be sensitive to the wishes and the aspirations of the people. Of the three leading contenders, President Jonathan is the one that is most malleable and ductile to the wishes and aspirations of the people. In terms of concrete achievements, the President has also done well considering the fact that he has been in office for only about 9 months. I assessed the Jonathan presidency using two parameters: (a) analysis of how well he has come through with his promises (b) General Good Governance Indexes.
Analysis of how Well He Came Through With His Promises:
Upon assumption of office about 9 months ago, President Jonathan outlined his programmes which he tagged the three E’s – Electoral Reforms, Energy Security and Electricity. Later, he added Education as the 4th E.
Electoral Reforms: His immediate task was to ensure that the coming elections were devoid of the large scale malpractices recorded in the past. The President took a bold step in actualizing this promise by appointing a credible man, Prof Jega, which has been applauded by all, including the opposition. It is noteworthy to mention that President Jonathan had never met Prof Jega before but gave him the job based on his excellent pedigree therefore displaying a strong will and commitment towards achieving a credible election. President Jonathan has also ensured that INEC was given all that was required of them to ensure that the commission succeeds.
Energy Security: Before President Jonathan was sworn in, the nation was faced with serious problems of fuel scarcity. Nigerians were wasting valuable man hours at Gas/Filling Stations queuing to get petroleum products. Today, that is a thing of the past. It didn’t just happen by chance or a miracle; it took serious overhaul and enforcement to confront the problem. Indeed, within a space of less than 3 months, two GMD’s of NNPC were relieved of their jobs in a sweeping move that brought sanity in the sector. Today, fuel is readily available across the nation using a uniform pricing scheme. Only recently, the Jonathan Government announced plans to build two additional world scale refineries, two fertilizer plants, five fertilizer blending plants, one methanol plant and one liquefied petroleum gas petroleum distribution plant, all expected to be operational before the end of 2014. For every objective minded analyst, you’ll agree with me that this is a laudable achievement in 9 months.
Electricity: This is one area that everyone is interested in as it affects every sector of the economy. We have to realize that there have been a serious decay and neglect of the power sector in Nigeria. Nigeria as a nation has one of the most embarrassing per capita consumption of electricity. Since Power Generation commenced in Lagos in 1896 by the Public Works Department, the country has failed to boost the production capacity to the required consumption rate.  Upon assumption of office, President Jonathan made no mistake in emphasizing the seriousness his administration accords the power sector. The President quickly set up two committees namely: Presidential Action Committee on Power (PACP), Chaired by the President himself and the Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP), Chaired by the highly respected Prof Barth Nnaji. According to the President, while the PACP was saddled with the responsibility of "eliminating red tape and the often over-bureaucratic and inefficient nature of decision making in government", the PTFP is "the engine room that drives the vision of the PACP". The PTFP was mandated to develop the Roadmap and ensure effective monitoring since this has been one of the reasons why the huge sums spent thus far has not been reflected the output.
With the submission of the Roadmap for the Power Sector Reform by the PTFP in August 2010 (which I will urge all to download and study a copy instead of blindly criticizing), the Jonathan led administration has made a bold step in revamping the ailing power sector. This has been followed by solid collaborations with other stakeholders and direct tangible investments by the federal government that have since been commissioned or at advanced stage of implementation. Some of the Projects Commissioned by Mr. President thus far are: the 330/132/33 VA Kumbotso transmission substation that will improve power in  Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe States, and other parts of Northern Nigeria; 150 MVA 330/132 KV Power Transformer in Kaduna; 2X30 40MVA, 132/33 KV transmission substation commissioned at Talata Mafara in Zamfara State; 2 x 60MVA, 132/33KV transmission substation, Kubwa, Abuja; reinforcement of the 132/33KV transmission substation, Apo, Abuja; rehabilitation of various existing Power Plants, etc. Also, the administration has encouraged other stakeholders with Generation capacity such as the Rivers State Government where Mr. President commissioned the 100MW Gas Turbine in Port Harcourt. The government has not shied away from the truth that government cannot run the sector effectively and provide the estimated 3.5 billion USD per annum for the next 10 years in order to meet the Vision 20:2020 target of 40,000MW, therefore the road map provides series of incentives to attract private investors in the sector.
The results of this administration’s efforts in the power sector have been evidently manifest. Only recently, the total capacity was increased to 4,000MW from the paltry 3,500MW that the administration inherited the first time our generation capacity is getting up to the 4000MW mark in 10 years. While this may not immediately reflect in every home following the poor distribution network which the sector reform report addresses holistically, most Nigerians, have started experiencing improved supply. Without a doubt, the achievement in this sector has been quite commendable.
Education: Any government that is serious about the future of the country must be interested in the education sector. Following years of gross neglect and under investment, our schools have been left to rot away and are a far cry of what it used to be. Last year, President Jonathan, himself a former University don, conveyed a high powered Education Summit to chart the way forward for the sector. The results are gradually becoming manifest as the President ensured that for the first time in our history as a nation, education was given the highest allocation in the 2011 budget. Also, all federal universities are to be given N100 Million for entrepreneurial education programs so that everyone, irrespective of his/her course of study will be trained on entrepreneurship so that they can be equipped for the challenges ahead. Also, the President has announced plans to overhaul the Almajiri education system so that it will provide all-round education such as computer studies, civics studies, etc. The President has also proposed the addition of new federal universities in states that didn’t have any to accommodate the huge backlog of students who spend years at home because the existing universities cannot accommodate all eligible students. Although, nine months is not sufficient to access the educational sector, President Jonathan has showed that he takes the sector seriously and it’s at the front burner of his plans.
General Good Government Indexes:
Rule of Law: President Jonathan scores very high in respect for rule of law. Within the last nine months, his party, the PDP, has lost several land mark court cases which clearly shows that the Presidency respects the sanctity and independence of the Judiciary. There have been no cases of high handedness by government or flagrant disregard of court orders. For this, he earns very high marks. 
Job Creation: President Jonathan’s administration has made serious commitments towards providing jobs for our youths. Over 2000 workers are back to work in the textile industries through the bailout of about N150 billion for the sector. With growing access to the funds the textile industry will once more come alive and tens of thousands of direct and indirect employment will be created. The President also made available a lifeline of about N500 Billion to jump-start the ailing manufacturing sector. Hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs are also expected to be created with the revival of this sector. Another lifeline of $200 Million was made available to the entertainment sector to stimulate further growth of the sector and create more jobs for our youths. As mentioned before, the Jonathan administration announced plans to re-industrialize Nigeria by building two additional world scale refineries, two fertilizer plants, five fertilizer blending plants, one methanol plant and one liquefied petroleum gas distribution plant, all expected to be operational before the end of 2014. This is expected to create over 200,000 direct jobs. The fertilizer plants are expected to be a big boost for the agricultural sector with an estimated potential of providing an additional 500,000 jobs. In the 2011 budget, the administration also set aside N50 billion for creating jobs through direct hire and private sector support. Surely, there is hope for our unemployed youths.
Other Sectors: The Jonathan administration has been able to also impact positively on other sectors which I might not be able to list all of them. In the aviation industry, tremendous progress has been made. Nigeria has within this period received category A rating by the American Aviation Authorities following investments and reforms in that sector. The Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu was also upgraded by the administration to an international status to open up the commercial city of Enugu and neighbouring South-Eastern states. President Jonathan only few months ago commissioned the first phase of the runway expansion project of that airport. The government also intends to build additional airports in all the states of the federation to open up the local economy, promote inter-state commercial activities and create additional jobs. Several roads across the federation are also been constructed. The coastal road project (which the design is at advanced stages) running from Lagos through the coastal towns down to Cross River is expected to open up the coastal communities for trade and tourism. The Abuja-Kaduna fast rail project is also a notable project that will boost transportation and commerce. The dredging of the River Niger will boost inland water transportation and help reduce the pressure on our roads by heavy duty vehicles transporting large cargoes. Indeed there are several other projects, programs and initiatives which I might not be able to list here.
The above and others which for lack of time and space I could not list here formed the basis of my decision to endorse President Jonathan. I have listened to other candidates and apart from the strong reservations mentioned above against them they have so far failed to give details of how they hope to succeed. They keep saying they’ll tackle poverty, create jobs, and provide adequate power supply, etc without stating in clear terms how they wish to achieve this so in four years time they can be explicitly held accountable for their failures or success. If you want to create 1,000,000 jobs tell Nigerians how you will achieve this. President Jonathan has had the opportunity to express himself in the last 9 months and in my opinion has acquitted and discharged his duties creditably especially considering the turbulence of his emergence and the distractions associated with an election year for the serving President. He has also been able to clearly state his agenda and methodology for success. Like most Nigerians, I am not too happy with his party, but if you look very well, you’ll agree with me that there are also no credible alternatives. What we have in the political space are hypocritical and opportunistic groups without any ideology, parading themselves as political parties. I decided not to throw away the baby with the bath water. President Goodluck Jonathan has in more ways than one proven that he deserves my one vote. That said, Power belongs to God!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please restrict your comment to the subject matter.