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Jonathan’s record so far (5)

By Dele Sobowale
“Of course you cannot know a man completely, his character, his principles, sense of judgment, not till he shows his colors, ruling the people, making laws. Experience, there’s the test”.

Sophocles, 495?-406? B.C, Greek Dramatist, in Antigone.
President Jonathan was Acting President for two months and he has been substantive Head of state since Yar’Adua passed on in May.

Till today, apart from the promise to conduct a free and fair election, what else has the man done to inform us about his character, principles, and sense of judgment? Virtually all the major decisions he has made so far have demonstrated no departure from the poor leadership which has brought us to the sorry state in which we find ourselves.

And he has just compounded the problem by supporting the N18,000 minimum wage bill at a time most states cannot pay their workers with the minimum wage bill currently at N7,500. Governor Daniel of Ogun State announced, quite honestly, that “only a miracle” can make it possible for his state to pay.

Ogun state ranks 24th among states in Revenue Allocation to states. It stands to reason that at least 13 states, if not more, will not be able to pay. Incidentally, N18,000 represents a 240% increase over the existing wage structure under which most states spend over 75% of their revenue on salaries and entitlements alone.

Where they will find the money to pay the new package is obviously something to which Jonathan has not given any consideration as he went to “inaugurate” an unfinished flyover in Uyo.

Since the president has told us that he will contest based on his performance, and he has also embraced the seven-point agenda of the Yar’Adua administration, as well as the joke called Vision 20:2020, can he, and his supporters tell us what progress has been made on power supply, security (especially the war against kidnapping and political assassinations), job creation, housing, education, and the economy?

For those of his admirers who excuse his failures by sending me text messages absolving him of blame for the budget impasse and the fact that he is new on the job, there are only two short answers.

First, you don’t have to be a president to know that you cannot be asking the National Assembly to slash the budget and at the same time be increasing the minimum wage by 240% —something’s got to give.

You don’t have to be president to know that; all you need is primary school arithmetic, a mind uncluttered by trivia (commissioning, inaugurating uncompleted projects, receiving old and self-centred solidarity groups etc) and sitting down to grind out the numbers with your staff.

It is doubtful if the Federal government itself can pay the new wages without drastic cuts in capital expenditure, retrenching staff and without raising taxes or going into worse deficit than we now experience.

Leadership is all about knowing well in advance what might be the consequences of your decisions. Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, has told us how much more the Federal government will need to pay the new wages. And bearing in mind that some other entitlements are based on percentage of salary, the multiplier effects of that decision will be enormous. Is this an election gimmick? Looks like it.

Second, it took the late Murtala Mohammed less than two months to set the direction of government; similarly Buhari and Idiagbon. As long as Jonathan continues to listen to those who dismiss his failures as inconsequential, he will continue to fail us and himself because good intentions, even if he has them, are never enough.

The most urgent question in Nigeria today is: when will the real Jonathan stand up or is what we are seeing all there is to the man?…

“The commission was compelled to print a new set of ballot papers….and had to be distributed to more than 120,000 polling units located in 8,800 wards of the country..”

I have repeated this quotation rendered last week from the report issued by INEC and signed by Professor Iwu because it provides the opportunity to address two matters.

Two weeks ago, in a text message, also quoted here, one of my readers had demonstrated his “courage” by promising to resign if he found himself in a top official position which is about to be compromised. He and others like him will soon learn that “talk is cheap”.

To begin with, please take a look at the figure 8,800 referring to the number of wards in the country. In reality, the wards in the country are less than 8,800. In the 1999 elections, PDP won in 4650 wards, APP 2589, AD 1071 and MDJ 61; the total was 8371 legitimate wards. Who increased the number to 8,800?

The answer is “the Garrison Commanders” of PDP. They not only created about 12 phony wards in each state; they created illegal polling units to increase the units to the 120,000 –again quoted above.

These units were then used to stuff ballot boxes and inflate the votes counted. The only way INEC could have stopped the fraud was to cancel the elections outright and create a constitutional upheaval.

Furthermore, it was pointed out, last week, that the armed forces, read Obasanjo and the “Garrison Commanders again, took over the functions of INEC by distributing the ballot papers which arrived late at night.

Again, once the ballot papers were “captured”, the only way Iwu could have stopped the manipulation of the presidential elections to favour PDP in 2007 was to have called off the elections at the last minute.

It is doubtful if there is any Nigerian alive who will take such a decision and not land his country in unimaginable chaos. With all the ballot papers safely in their hands, there was no way the PDP would lose and there was nothing Iwu could do about it.

He could not even resign –at least not on election day. There is a lesson in that for anyone who still believes that he could resign when he wants.

Despite all the noise being made by the Chairman of the PDP and President Jonathan, anybody who believes they will conduct a free and fair election, even if it means PDP losing, will believe anything.

The “Garrison Commanders, minus Bode George, are still very much around. And the principle of “do-or-die” still stalks the political landscape.

Professor Jega needs to be aware of these things because, like the man who goes to dinner with the devil, he needs a ten kilometer long spoon. He is dealing with 100% world class election fraudsters. And they have already started. Let me point out three traps already laid out for the man from the Ivory Tower who has descended into the cesspool of Nigerian politics.

First, already Professor Jega is caught in the establishment trap. He starts out, not only as a total stranger to the INEC himself, but also as a complete stranger to the people he works with, the vast extent of the organization and its culture (or lack of it).

Given INEC’s reputation as a corrupt institution, he cannot trust anybody. Yet he has to work with them and entrust his fate to them. That is risky.

One politician for whom I have a great deal of respect recently urged Jega to conduct a “total overhaul” of INEC. It sounds like good advice but demonstrably impractical.

If the word total still means what the dictionary says, then Jega will still be conducting interviews two years from now. He doesn’t have two years; he has, at best, eight months.


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