By Femi Aribisala
Jonathan is the most highly-educated president in the history of Nigeria.
The English have an expression: “give a dog a bad name in order to kill it.” It refers to the malicious misrepresentation of someone in order to discredit him. This has been strategy of the opposition to Goodluck Jonathan to date. This opposition comprises an unholy alliance between the APC, the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Northern Elders Forum as well as the Boko Haram. In complete disdain for the office of the president of Nigeria, the membership of these institutions has gone to great lengths in despising, disdaining and abusing the person of Goodluck Jonathan.
One favoured insult is to refer to him as “clueless.” Taking a leaf out of the infamous notebook of George Bush who told all kinds of lies against John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election in the United States, now referred to as “snow boating;” President Jonathan’s traducers are seeking to establish falsehood about him and his administration just by sheer force of repetition. It is therefore necessary to ask the question if, indeed, Goodluck Jonathan can be rightly described as “clueless.” What exactly is “clueless” about Goodluck Jonathan?
Shehu Shagari was president of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983. He had very limited formal education and never attended a university. Nevertheless, he was not called “clueless.” Olusegun Obasanjo was president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. He did not go to university before becoming President: he only enrolled after he left office. Nevertheless, he was not labeled “clueless.”
But some would like us to believe Goodluck Jonathan, who has been substantive president since 2011 is “clueless.” However, Jonathan is the most highly-educated president in the history of Nigeria. He has a B.Sc. in Zoology; an M.Sc. in Hydrobiology and Fisheries Biology; and a Ph.D. in Zoology. It is preposterous to describe such a man as “clueless.” Indeed, there are few Nigerians with comparable educational credentials. Who are those “clueful” ones ranged in opposition against him? Surprise, surprise! They are former military dictators with no university training whatsoever and dubious politicians with forged university certificates.
Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State wants to be president. But what he displays most of the time is cluelessness. When he captures newspaper headlines, it is to shout things like: “Jonathan wants to kill me;” or “Jonathan is not qualified to contest in 2015.” Somebody needs to advise Kwankwaso that abusing and disparaging the president is no substitute for having substantive policies on how to govern Nigeria.
Legacy of “cluelessness”
Who can be more clueless than many of the Northern politicians who have been in power in Nigeria in the past to very little effect and are still clamouring for power today? These men have defrauded the North and the country over the years? They have ruled for some 38 years but failed woefully to promote meaningful economic development in the North or the South.
In their years of Northern rule both at the state and the federal level, not a single model Islamic school was established in the North that teaches Mathematics. Instead, the children of the “talakawa” are restricted to Koranic memorization and recitation. No single Islamic model school was established in the North that teaches Chemistry. The singular focus was on Arabic grammar. No single Islamic model school was established that teaches Biology. The children of the poor were limited to Islamic history.
Northern politicians failed to draw inspiration from such excellent Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, where Western education is not deemed to contradict Islamic education. Instead of educating the youth, some of our Northern politicians kept them as fodder for instigating insurgencies for their selfish power-political gain. It is no wonder therefore that, in the 21st century, when a “Third World” country like India has landed a spacecraft on Mars; an insurgency has arisen in the Nigerian North-East claiming that “Western education is a sin.”
Northerners opposed to Jonathan, like Muhammadu Buhari, Ango Abdullahi, Adamu Ciroma and Junaid Mohammed have never demonstrated any belief in the education of the masses. Their children don’t attend almajiri schools and beg on the streets. When in power, they pay no attention to the mass illiteracy in the North. This makes them no different from the Boko Haram that maintains western education is sinful. Now that we have a South-South president from Otuoke in Bayelsa State who is committed to Northern education, these same do-nothing politicians are claiming he is clueless. Who needs their “cluefulness?”
Jonathan’s northern agenda
Atiku Abubakar showed remarkable cluelessness when he observed that the North would not be voting for Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. If the North would not vote for Jonathan, who then would they vote for?
In 2011, Jonathan received over 8 million Northern votes. Since then, he has bent over backwards to reward the North. He has highly favoured the region in his appointments. The former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu said: “Quote me; in a long time we have not had a government where the northern extraction has enjoyed so many appointments like this one.” Indeed, under Jonathan, the Vice-president, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are all from the North.
Jonathan’s opponents would have us believe he is “clueless” but, within four years, Jonathan built 125 Almajiri Schools in 13 states in the North; something Northern rulers themselves failed to do. At the commissioning of the first Almajiri Model School in Gagi, Sokoto State, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad III, observed that Jonathan’s action was unprecedented in the history of Northern Nigeria.
“Clueless” Jonathan went on to establish ten new federal universities; seven of them in the North. It is important to list them, so Nigerians can be in no doubt how ridiculous the allegations against our president have been. Jonathan established the Federal Universities in Lafia, Nasarawa State; Lokoja, Kogi State; Kashere, Gombe State; Wakari, Taraba State; Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State; and Dutse, Jigawa State. No other president in the history of Nigeria has this kind of legacy, North or South.
The Jonathan administration has more than doubled the budgetary allocation to education in the country. It sponsored 7000 lecturers for post-graduate studies at home and abroad and licensed 100 Innovation Enterprise Institutions, while also granting 101 Presidential Scholarships for innovation and development. 51 Polytechnic laboratories have been rehabilitated and
34 new NCE awarding institutions created.
The result has been remarkable. There has been a 10 million student increase in basic education enrolment (UBEC) in the country. There has also been a 75% increase in O’Level credit pass in Maths and English under the Jonathan administration.
Part of the grouse of Nigerians against past governments is that when subsidies are removed (especially that of petroleum), the extra money disappears into thin air without any appreciable public benefit. For this reason, Nigerians insist on the retention of subsidies so that the man-in-the-street can at least get something out of it. However, under the Jonathan administration, it has been possible to identify the salutary effect of the subsidy removal on the well-being of the people.
With the drastic reduction of the petroleum subsidy in 2012, the government created the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P). This is designed to invest the savings accruing from the subsidy reduction in critical infrastructure and human-resource empowerment projects across the length and breadth of the country. To this end, the scheme has included maternal and child-health programmes.
Within two years, the Maternal and Child Health scheme of the SURE-P has reduced the maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria by 26%; reduced neo-natal mortality by 22%; increased the percentage of births by skilled attendants by 33% and increased the percent of reproductive aged women using family planning by 100%.
SURE-P has also been invaluable in engaging in a number of road rehabilitation projects right across the country. For example, the Onitsha-Owerri and the Vom-Manchok roads have been completed. Work is underway on the Apapa-Oshodi expressway in Lagos; the Benin-Ore-Sagamu dual carriage-way; the Onitsha-Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriage-way; the Kaduna-Maiduguri dual carriage-way; Lokoja – Benin road; Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; Mokwa-Bida road; Akure-Ilesha road; Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega road; Enugu- Abakaliki- Cross River road; Ogoja – Ikom road; Vandekiya-Obudu road; and the East-West road.
The Kano-Maiduguri and the Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja roads are currently undergoing dualisation. The Onitsha Head-Bridge Flyover (Ojukwu Gateway) and the Oweto Bridge across River Benue have been completed. The Second Niger Bridge is under construction and the government is also undertaking the dredging the River. There is also on-going seaport construction and the expansion of existing ports, including Warri, Baro, Calabar, Onne, Owerri and Onitsha.
The railway system in Nigeria had been comatose for over 30 years. However, the “clueless” Jonathan administration has managed to revive this within two years. The Lagos-Kano line has been rehabilitated and is now functional again. The Port Harcourt-Maiduguri line is being rehabilitated and will soon be operational. Kano-Maiduguri, Kaduna-Abuja and Lagos-Port Harcourt rail-lines are also under construction.
President Jonathan inaugurated two Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) train-sets and six air-conditioned passengers’ coaches at the NRC terminus in Lagos. His administration also launched the Mass Transit Train Service (MTTS); deploying 11 trains carrying close to 15,000 passengers daily within the Lagos metropolis. This has drastically reduced the cost of intra-city train transportation within Lagos.
A return-trip from Agege to Ebute Metta under the MTTS now costs less than N150, as against the more than N1,000 it costs by taxi. Transportation from Lagos to Kano now costs less than N1,800 as against between N4,000 and N5,000 by car or bus.
This is what Babatunde Fashola had to say about the “clueless” Jonathan administration’s contribution to mass transit in Lagos State: “It is a very welcome development to our nation, Nigeria and to the Centre of Excellence, Lagos State. No doubt, we require this infrastructure. We appreciate it and we will continue to give every moral support that the corporation requires as we now have complementary services in the transport system of Lagos State.”
These are by no means the tokens of a “clueless” presidency.