By Ochereome Nnanna
ON Friday, June 10 former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Malam Nasir el Rufai, wrote an article on the back page of Thisday newspapers with the title: “Jonathan’s Tough Choices”. If the headline of this article suggested an objective analysis, criticism and suggestions on the best way forward, the body did not reflect it.
In a nutshell, el Rufai accused the President of executive incapacity. According to him, based on his record in 18 months as President, GEJ has not demonstrated the ability to defy vested interests to grow the economy. The President was blamed for recklessly spending savings he met in the national till, proceeding to dramatically increase both the local and foreign debts in a squandermania spree in the process of “buying” himself a full-term elected presidency.
He was also pronounced guilty of feeding off North/South divisions in the polity which, el Rufai argued, will not allow him to build the cohesion he needs to improve the political and economic lot of Nigerians.
The former minister called the President a poor political and economic manager, whose poor economic policy as reflected in the 2011 budget is bound to end in failure. He described the election that produced the Jonathan/Namadi Sambo ticket’s victory as “fundamentally flawed” and delivered a withering prognosis: Because GEJ is beholden to so many vested interests he will spend the next four years seeking “re-election”, and thus is guaranteed to leave the nation more indebted than ever.
Three days later (Monday, June 13, 2011) the same newspaper offered a group that tagged itself The Jonathan Project the same back page. The rejoinder entitled: “The Ranting of Ungrateful el Rufai”, was written by one Mr Kerley, who described himself as Team Leader.
Also in a nutshell, Kerley adopted the hackneyed sycophant’s approach to rejoinders: el Rufai was an ingrate who benefited from GEJ’s magnanimous clemency which allowed him to return from his self-exile, but because he failed to nick a juicy job in the GEJ government he bolted to the camp of visceral opposition Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Kerley said El Rufai’s article was a sour grape rant by the violence-prone CPC.
He made a poorly articulated defence of the spending of the nation’s resources that el Rufai alluded to. Then he spent a long-winded paragraph reeling out the service awards of General Owoye Azazi, the National Security Adviser, NSA, who, despite his many awards, has not proved his mettle on the job.
While el Rufai was rewarded for his writing abilities with a steady Friday column with Thisday, Kerley’s article was generally dismissed as an effort by a person fronting a group that invited itself to the GEJ banquet table. It lacked the professional touch and fell short in putting across an enlightened Jonathan side of the story.
It was a rejoinder that was best not written due to poor handling. Were it not for the fact that Nigerians know el Rufai’s story very well and ignoble post-election exploits of the political party he is fronting for, he would have emerged tops in this exchange.
El Rufai is entitled to his opinion that the election that brought the President to power was fundamentally flawed, but he cannot drown the firm verdict of the international community that certified the polls, its warts and carbuncles notwithstanding.
Even as a born-again newspaper columnist, el Rufai, who contributed to the restoration of the FCT, cannot run away from the controversy trailing the Pentascope deal involving NITEL while he was in the Bureau for Private Enterprises, BPE.
Most importantly, we are still waiting for him to clear his name in court against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, over the Abuja property deals. Perhaps, as a columnist, he would have all the space in the world to explain to his readers why he escaped to self-exile when President Umaru Yar’ Adua assumed power and returned only when a new helmsman, GEJ, had assumed the throne.
El Rufai’s definitive write-off of President Jonathan is a subject of intense interest we must watch. Based on the President’s 18-month track records he has bluntly told us Jonathan would fail in the next four years, even though the President is yet to constitute his cabinet and unfold his famous “transformation agenda”. Some people will say it is too early to judge Jonathan. The elders say that a child that will honour his father with a cow (and become Ogbu efi) is known from his first tottering steps.
Within days of his re-election in 2003, Obasanjo was already smoking towards his economic reforms. But nearly a month after he was sworn-in, GEJ appears to have gone for his 49 winks. Yar’ Adua had already publicly declared his assets and moved towards setting up the Justice Uwais Panel.
Boko Haram, the Islamic Jihadists, hit the Police Headquarters, just next door to the Presidential Villa. The federal cabinet is yet to take shape and it may be another month before it does since the Senate may not start the ministerial screening till July. GEJ appears to cave in too easily under pressure. And he does not seem ready to proceed to deal with Boko Haram as firmly as Shagari bashed in the Maitatsine sect and Yar’Adua pummelled Boko Haram when they first reared their ugly heads.
I agree with el Rufai that Jonathan has not shown any tough and decisive streak necessary to turn Nigeria around, except an uncanny ability to sack appointees. Anyone can do that.
I am hoping that el Rufai’s damning predictions of failure for GEJ will fail. If GEJ fails, PDP will lose the next election, and just as the people of South Western Nigeria are rueing the day Obasanjo was handed the presidency, the South South (even South East) will regret the sacrifices they made to enable him emerge. The choice belongs to GEJ, and fortunately, he has four years to prove himself.