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Sense, nonsense, and commonsense (2)

By Douglas Anele

On security, for example, failure of the Nigerian military to subdue Boko Haram and rescue the over two hundred secondary school girls allegedly abducted from Chibok was seen by critics of Dr. Jonathan as evidence that his government cannot provide adequate security for our people. Concerning the fight against corruption, the former President could have done better, but his temperamental weaknesses, the shambolic federal civil service system and nefarious activities of the vicious cabal or “invisible government” prevented him from mounting a credible anti-corruption programme.

President Goodluck Jonathan presenting his hand over notes to the President-Elect, General Muhammadu Buhari during the official presentation of Handover notes to the President-Elect at the Aso Chambers, State House, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

Moreover, although the two main anti-corruption agencies of government, namely the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (1CPC) were functioning, their lacklustre performance epitomised by failure to successfully prosecute top public officials (whether still in service or retired) and recover what they stole created the impression that Jonathan was not really keen to fight corruption.

Consequently, Nigerians increasingly began to think that he lacked the iron will and determination to deal with the problem. As if to validate his traducers, the former President made a big mistake by granting presidential pardon to his former boss, Diepriye Alameyeseigha, who was imprisoned for financial impropriety. With respect to economic management, greedy contractors and multinational corporations exploited leakages in the financial system to the detriment of our economy.

And although Jonathan worked hard to put the economy on a strong footing by implementing neo-liberal economic policies and appointed an American-trained economist and financial expert, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to coordinate it, financial rascality at the federal, state and local government levels hampered efficient management of the increased revenue from crude oil.

The productive or wealth creation capacity of the economy was also negatively affected by epileptic electricity, inefficient railway system, poor road networks across the country and unnecessary bottlenecks in establishing business in Nigeria. These constraints slowed down the growth of small and medium sized industries and discouraged both local and foreign investors. Of course, programmes such as SURE-P and YOU-WIN were introduced to promote youth training and employment. Unfortunately, the laudable objectives of these initiatives were largely unmet due to corruption and mediocre management of available resources.

But Jonathan’s administration recorded some successes as well: it was not a complete failure, as ardent Buharimaniacs would have us believe. To begin with, inspite of his errors of judgement, Goodluck Jonathan was a compassionate and humble President who did not have messianic delusions like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and President Buhari. The few people I know who worked for him report that he was a “listening President,” a patient and methodical leader who is prepared to change his mind over an issue when presented with a superior argument.

His administration deserves commendation for adhering to the rule of law, especially in cases where court judgements were unfavourable to the PDP, and for expanding the democratic space, which made possible the emergence of APC as a strong opposition party. Sentiments aside, one of the reasons Jonathan’s achievements in education, agriculture, health, transport and aviation have not been fully appreciated is because a powerful section of the Nigerian media controlled by anti-Jonathan politicians deliberately manipulates its news reports and editorial content to portray the former President as clueless and incompetent.

Now, if Jonathan did not achieve anything, if he was “clueless” and “incompetent,” as alleged by Lai Mohammed and others, why do APC chieftains eagerly credit President Buhari with improvement in any aspect of our national life when it is obvious that the improvement in question was the result of a programme or policy initiated by the previous administration? Even on the corruption issue for which those opposed to Jonathan’s style of governance have constantly vilified him, why did Nigeria’s rating in the corruption index by Transparency International improve slightly during his tenure?

Certainly, it would be inaccurate to assert that the immediate past administration dealt with corruption with the seriousness it deserved. Yet, it is uncharitable to claim, as some Buharimaniacs do, that the former President supported corruption or that he prevented anti-corruption agencies from doing their work. The way I see it, like every government anywhere in the world Jonathan’s administration was a mixed blessing, a combination of successes and failures. Overall, I would score it a weak pass, that is, between forty-eight to fifty percent.

Because of avoidable mistakes by the overconfident PDP in last year’s general elections, APC seized the initiative and, through a combination of skilful propaganda and electoral manipulation, defeated the party that had ruled the country since 1999. During the electioneering campaigns, APC leaders led by its Presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, promised Nigerians that if voted into power the party would bring about positive change in the country through disciplined responsible and responsive governance.

From results of the elections, it is evident that millions of Nigerians accepted the gospel of change and voted for Buhari. In a reversal of political fortune, APC won more seats than PDP in the federal and state legislatures, and produced more state governors than its rival. Clearly, Jonathan’s reasonable reaction to his defeat by Buhari suggests that the era of sit-tight mentality is ending: for the first time in Nigeria’s jerky political history a sitting President handed over power peacefully to the opposition without violence or tedious time-wasting legal confrontations.

As we indicated earlier, there is enough material to evaluate the APC government since it took over power from the disorganised PDP. To provide the context or platform for that evaluation, we sketched a brief silhouette of Jonathan’s government and scored it a “weak pass,” which implies that the situation of the country as at May 28, 2015 was not as bad as President Buhari, Lai Mohammed, Bola Tinubu, Garba Shehu and other APC stalwarts proclaimed in the media. Now, we can appraise Buhari’s government from two major perspectives. First, we can compare the situation of things in the country right now with what the situation was by the time Jonathan ceased to be President. Second, Buhari’s performance can be placed side-by-side with the exciting promises of his party to Nigerians and see to what extent the President has actualised those promises. It is only after these two parameters have been synthesised that one can reach a reasonable verdict on the performance of the President.

Let us begin with the second, and the best way to do so is by asking: how many of the promises made by the APC have been realised by President Buhari’s government after one year in office? Before we answer that question, it must be acknowledged that some of the promises cannot be realised in a single year, no matter how hard the President and his team worked.

For instance, there is no way Nigeria’s economy could have been successfully diversified after three hundred and sixty-five days in office because, assuming that government puts in place appropriate policies that, if implemented, would lead to increased output from the manufacturing sector or to more efficient and profitable exploitation of solid minerals, the maturation period for positive results to start manifesting is usually more than one year. On the issue of fighting corruption, which was the strongest appeal of a possible Buhari presidency in the minds of APC supporters, it appears that the EFCC has suddenly woken up from slumber, although its activities are targeted largely against members of the PDP who worked for Jonathan.

Of course, it is impossible to deal with all cases of corruption simultaneously, and if media reports about how some key players of the previous administration brazenly mismanaged public funds and assets were true, focusing on them is justified for now. I commend the President for allowing the EFCC deal with Sambo Dasuki and others who mismanaged public funds so terribly, although disobeying court orders is not a good way to fight corruption. But focusing mainly on PDP members might suggest that Buhari is not living up to his promise that he “belongs to everybody, and belongs to nobody.” This is because several prominent APC leaders and ministers are smeared with strong allegations of corruption.

There is no indication that President Buhari has instructed the EFCC to look into such allegations with the same degree of commitment and vigour it has shown in probing those that worked under his predecessor. More specifically, by appointing a caliber of people as ministers, Buhari is telling us that the fight against corruption is subordinate to expediency and political compensation. Government officials and Buharimaniacs should stop pretending that mostly PDP members were corrupt, because the aetiology of corruption transcends party affiliation.

Anyway, it is probably fair to say that Buhari belongs to the core hegemonic conservative wing of the Northern establishment and to the Tinubu-led faction of the South-West political block that helped him to defeat Jonathan. Hence, it is not surprising that the harsh light of the EFCC is not focused yet in those directions.

Leaving the fight against corruption issue for now, let us consider other promises made by the APC. Judging from the 2016 budget just signed by the President, it is obvious that this government has no intention of fulfilling the promise of giving a monthly stipend of five thousand naira to twenty-five million unemployed Nigerians or provide one meal a day to primary school pupils nationwide. Actually, APC acted in bad faith after coming into power by repudiating these populist programmes, which made millions of Nigerians vote for its candidates during the elections. To be continued


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