By Ochereome Nnanna
PRESIDENT Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ, this is his official acronym, not GEAJ or GJ) jumped ahead of General Ibrahim Babangida, his main intra-party rival for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) nomination, when, on Wednesday, September 15, 2010, he officially informed Nigerians he would run for president through his Facebook forum.
After reminding us of the circumstances that led to his emergence as President, the pressure on him to run and the consultations he had engaged in, he affirmed he would declare on Saturday, September 18, 2010 at the Eagle’s Square (sic), and not the Abuja National Stadium as earlier on speculated. Obviously, his strategists wisely figured the challenge of filling an 80,000 capacity stadium with people. Far safer to return to the more compact Eagle Square, where every head will be seen on national television.
To his critics who have accused him of lacklustre performance in his 10 months as the nation’s chief helmsman, GEJ rolled out some reminders. According to him, his government doled out a N150 billion bailout package to the textile industry. We are yet to feel the impact, precisely because the money is still being handed out.
The late Yar’ Adua made this promise but failed to deliver. Jonathan also pointed to the highest certification of our Federal Civil Aviation Authority by the US, which enables Nigeria-registered carriers to fly to any US city. The aviation reform process started under the Olusegun Obasanjo regime, though two of his Aviation Ministers, Professor Babalola Borishade and Mr Femi Fani-Kayode, are on trial on charges of pinching some of the funds. The certification did ripen under GEJ’s watch.
Jonathan also claimed credit for appointing a generally well received Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega. However, Nigerians still believe that the comprehensive reform needed for a problem-free, electoral umpire as enshrined in the Uwais Report was largely sidestepped. As a consequence, many questionable Federal Electoral Commissioners and state Resident Electoral Commissioners, such as Madam Ayoka of Ondo State, are still in the system.
Some of the other achievements the President highlighted were: The availability of fuel supply, creation of the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) to guarantee investments in the financial and capital market sectors, the electricity roadmap and steady investment in the electricity sector which, some say, has led to improved power supply. So, what were GEJ’s “two-point agenda” that I speak of? It is contained in this small passage:
“I know you are tired of empty promises. So I will make only one promise to you today. The only promise I make to you, my friends, fellow citizens and Nigeria, is to promise LESS and deliver MORE if I am elected. I call on you to join me to work together in harmony and synergy to forge a nation where we understand our differences instead of pretending they do not exist, and work together towards a perfect union founded on transparency, equity and justice”.
It’s true that GEJ’s predecessors failed in their promises. That is no reason to abandon promises. A “promise” is a roadmap, vision and solemn undertaking to take the nation’s development from point A to point B and C through a well spelt-out strategy. It is through your promises that the quality of your mind will be assessed before election. It is through them that your performance will be graded. The electricity roadmap is a typical promise. A couple of years down the road we will decide whether this promise was more effective than Obasanjo and Yar’ Adua’s failed promise of 6,000 kilowatts of electricity by the end of 2008.
General Ibrahim Babangida has promised to run for only one term, and to galvanise agriculture and the informal sector to provide two million jobs within two years to tackle youth unemployment. We want to hear more about modalities. As he ignites his campaign, GEJ had better forge a charter of convincing promises, but not empty ones! Working without a clearly stated roadmap is like groping in the dark.
The second GEJ agenda, as I saw it in his Facebook outing, is that he wants to build a nation where the Nigeria people understand their diversity, rather than pretend it does not exist. In other works, GEJ is not a Zikist whose vision was for Nigerians to “forget” their differences after the great America model of social engineering. But then, can we assume he is of the Sardauna Ahmadu Bello school, which was the first to tell Zik it was better for Nigerians to understand their differences and build a great nation?
In applying this principle, Sardauna was more interested in keeping the North apart from the rest of country than in opening up to the South. Left to the Sardauna alone, the North might not have been part of today’s Nigeria. Zik and the British colonial masters were largely responsible for the North still being a part of Nigeria.
Or, is GEJ going to implement his nation-building plan by operating the Awoist model of federating the units along largely ethnic or cultural contiguities? Is he going to encourage decentralisation or devolution of power? For that matter, why did IBB suddenly go mum on his earlier new conviction to decentralise power? Has he already backed even before starting?
The greatness of our founding fathers was defined by their uncanny ability to think qualitatively through ideas before creating them into implementable principles.
But our politicians of today only talk without knowing what they are talking about. Our leaders don’t even understand their party’s manifestos. Otherwise, the only difference between Jonathan and IBB and other aspirants would be strategy for implementing the PDP manifesto.