By Douglas Anele
Largely, President Goodluck Jonathan is a man under intense pressure, notwithstanding his cool, calm and dapper looks in newspapers and television. I strongly believe that our political leaders deserve opprobrium for their outward show of opulence and indulgent materialism when a vast majority of ordinary Nigerians are facing severe existential challenges daily.
As I have stated several times in this column, a level-headed comparison of the physical changes in President Barak Obama of the United States and President Jonathan since they became leaders of their respective countries gives some insight into the degree of physical, mental, and emotional sacrifice both have made in the discharge of their duties. Although he retains his lean, boyish handsomeness, the American President has aged considerably, with expanding grey hair and deeper lines on his face.
Now, even in the worst of times and severe criticisms from different quarters, our own President continues to exude an aura of opulent wellbeing and meticulous grooming far removed from the grind of daily living experienced by most Nigerians. No matter the exculpatory shibboleths from President Jonathan’s hirelings in his defence, the fact is that, merely looking at him one cannot see any sign of a leader organically connected with the sufferings of his people. Our President looks so well fed and well groomed, with an air of imperturbability around him, that one wonders whether he really spends enough time thinking about how to transform Nigeria positively. It is a singular fact about the ruling class in Nigeria that their lifestyles are discordant with prevailing existential conditions in the society.
Lunatic corruption, official impunity, nepotism, indiscipline and shambolic economic planning have continued to be a leitmotif in the present civilian dispensation, a syndrome incubated and nurtured by previous administrations. The war against corruption under President Jonathan is ineffective: virtually all the VIP thieves from 1999 to date, instead of serving prison terms, are free citizens enjoying proceeds of larceny.
Of course, the judiciary is neck deep in corruption too: there are corroborable allegations that some magistrates and judges write different judgments on particular cases, and the one they will deliver depends on the person who gives the biggest bribe.
From the foregoing, it is clear that Mr. President still has a lot of work to do. Nevertheless, it is false to claim, as some politicians in All Progressives Congress (APC) do repeatedly, that President Jonathan is the worst leader to have governed Nigeria. The problem of nation building is incredibly complex and requires qualities such as creative imagination, selflessness, discipline, incorruptibility, and cognitive cum emotional intelligence especially among the leaders to make real progress within the shortest possible time. It is true that President Jonathan has not manifested suitable combination of these qualities since becoming President over three years ago and that his economic team, led by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has performed below pass mark. Yet, in terms of rehabilitation of old and construction of new roads, airports and other transport infrastructure, the present administration has achieved some meaningful results. A very good example is the noticeable improvement in the Lagos-Benin expressway, and the solid rehabilitation work still going on in portions of that road. Some of President Jonathan’s actions, such as non-interference in judicial decisions concerning election petitions and privatisation of key aspects of electricity generation and distribution are commendable.
The main problem is that Mr. President is yet to show that he is ready to take and implement certain tough decisions necessary for a paradigm-shift towards efficient and prudent management of our national resources, as well as iron will to subdue corruption among the “high and mighty.” Therefore, even if one is not convinced by the antiquated ethnic vituperations of some key members of the Northern establishment in ACN, President Jonathan has to really improve his job performance to enhance his electability in 2015, if he eventually decides to seek a second term in office. Concerning current political manoeuvrings, the rate at which members of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are decamping to ACN is ridiculous, although for Bisi Akande and others it is a positive sign of nunc dimittis for PDP. In fact, the ideological bankruptcy of ACN leaders is evident in the enthusiastic welcome they usually give to PDP decampees, irrespective of the negative political baggage some of them are bringing from the ruling party. Worst still, prominent members of ACN are seriously persuading former President Olusegun Obasanjo to leave PDP and join the party. Have they forgotten so soon the opprobrium and insults some of them unleashed on Obasanjo when he was in office, and afterwards?
How can Bola Tinubu and his group sincerely hope to win Obasanjo to their party after all the name-calling and abuses? In a sense, ACN is behaving like a political vulture feeding on a weakened PDP. Consider the recent decampment of Atiku Abubakar, erstwhile Vice President under Obasanjo. If ACN leaders are rejoicing that Abubakar has joined them, they should be careful.
Aside from the incredible wealth Abubakar and other expiring politicians who moved from PDP to ACN had amassed over the years mostly through government patronage, the acceptability cum electability of each decampee has dwindled considerably to the extent that PDP can still win the Presidency without them. In my humble opinion, APC is too desperate to dislodge PDP from Aso Rock, but it lacks solid ideological backbone to do the job. The very PDP chieftains stalwarts of APC had excoriated in the past are receiving enthusiastic welcome from cash-and-carry politicians in the new party.
Now, given the number of decampments from PDP to ACN, the latter is increasingly becoming an old sour wine in a new wine bottle. Soon, the battle for control of the party would take on a very desperate turn as the new arrivals from PDP vie for key positions in ACN, which will clash with entrenched interests of those in ACN already. It is amazing the extent a typical Nigerian politician can go to get power and position.
Certainly, judging by its mediocre performance since 1999, PDP ought to be replaced in 2015 by a better grassroots party organised around social democratic principles or ideology. However, ACN is not the alternative party many Nigerians are hoping for, because it is a clone of PDP. More concretely, agbata ekee politicians solely motivated by greed and crude Machiavellism dominate ACN, just like the ruling party. As I indicated earlier, the overarching agendum of ACN is to produce the President next year. Yet, up to this moment, the party is yet to articulate a pragmatic blueprint or programme of action that would tackle the critical issues of contemporary Nigeria. The single-minded desire to produce an ACN President in the next election is too narrow and conspiratorial. Indeed, that is where the real test of the party would come, namely, selection of a formidable candidate to contest against President Jonathan, assuming he emerges as PDP’s candidate.
There is no guarantee that the good, the bad and the ugly in ACN would blend harmoniously to produce such a candidate – there are signs that it will be a herculean task for the party to produce a candidate without rancour and bitterness among its members. As a result, any person who thinks that ACN is a credible alternative to fumbling PDP should re-examine his or her position.