Since the year 2007 when the first ever transition from one elected civilian
government to another happened in Nigeria, the Nigerian public
developed an appetite for hyping expectations. Nigeria emerged from a
regime of aggressive journalism probing tenaciously into the motives
and methods of political governance on the fringes of humanly
acceptable standards. The government of late President Umaru Musa
Yar’Adua disappointed the nation and most especially, his northern
home constituency in the shadow of prolonged illness, after taking
over the rein of leadership.
most noticeable casualty of disappointed expectations under the
government of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on the face of it was work on the
sector of power generation. This was very closely rivaled by the
collapse or total disappearance of leadership from the seat of the
Presidency. All these are placed against the backdrop of one frame of
reference left by the government of the man who led the handover to
another civilian government. This government it is that has become the
reference point for each of the two governments that have emerged
assertiveness and authoritarian nature of a former General and a
prison inmate-turn-President got the media up in arms. In a way, it
meant the involuntary development and ushering in of a progressive
stance in the modeling of a free press and freedom of expression like
Nigeria had never before experienced. Even if largely misused and
misdirected, the free and aggressive press beefed up a sense of public
expectations in the direction of national advancement.
Nigerians took for granted that the economic policies implemented
under the outgoing President of the year 2007 would stay on course and
be improved upon to bring the benefit down to the ordinary man on the
street. After all the man on the street is always the last segment of
society, in which the benefits of every meaningful and
affluence-boosting economic reform is felt. Nigerians took for granted
that assertive leadership by the President will remain in place and
hoped to have a few corrections here and there to diminish the aura of
divisiveness and polarization radiated from the presidential seat in
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was a sick man and was hindered from showing
leadership the way he knows it. But the economic policies that he knew
and sought to implement had nothing to do with the status of his
health. Policy reversals that were unnecessary and very badly
thought-through simply exposed a glaring shortage of presidential
qualifications for a task that required a higher level of intellectual
and programmatic preparedness.
Goodluck Jonathan took over the presidency in the two stages that he
did – Acting President and then President for real – the nation took
for granted once again, that he has had sufficient time to learn his
lessons on what it takes to rule Nigeria successfully.
Indeed, I humbly think he has learnt his lessons only in some cases.
That is the reason that he has presently left Nigeria with a very
conflicting picture. In fact there are times when observers like me
had to go through a rough time navigating the uneven terrains of
internal questioning to understand that some failings by the President
do not necessarily mean that he has not learned his crucial lessons.
Recent events have however sealed my conviction that the man truly
learnt his lessons on what Nigeria needs to move it forward on the
developmental stage. Contrary to his predecessor, he towed the
Obasanjo path of bringing in Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to head the Economic
team and thus made her what the media in Germany would call "Super
Minister". If there is anything I am willing to vouch for, I will risk
whatever I own to bet that Nigeria's economy is in for better days
under the watch of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Her sense of bureaucratic and
administrative discipline as well as the technical know-how that she
has acquired all through her years of education and as an
international technocrat serving the World Bank are invaluable
attributes that will play out in her favor. In Nigeria’s favor too!
Jonathan further displayed to the world that he knew which way to
steer Nigeria by returning back to the drawing board to rejuvenate
Olusegun Obasanjo’s National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) scheme.
All in defiance of his former boss' unwitting suppression of the
project for no academically comprehensible reason! Today, everyone can
be sure that utterances made by Goodluck Jonathan or any of his
spokesmen predicting the capacity that power generation will attain in
Nigeria at any given time, are not empty talks. The works are going on
and progress in the power sector as in other areas of infrastructural
development is simply a matter of time.
Goodluck Jonathan signaled to the world that he learnt his lessons
from the Olusegun Obasanjo's extremely polarizing era by seeking to
calm frail nerves and not provoking old angers or rekindling old
battles. For a long time to come, Olusegun Obasanjo will be Nigeria’s
most assertive leader and President who always defined what he
wanted and went for it not giving a damn whose ox is gored. The
negative side of this approach was the clear polarization of the
country into the camps of haters and admirers. Goodluck Jonathan has
so far, sought to sail in calmer waters. For this reason alone, the
onlooker could understand that he chose to sacrifice two very
effective and capable operatives of the Olusegun Obasanjo days – Nuhu
Ribadu and Nassir El-Rufai by not featuring them in his presidential
team! No doubt their contributions would have gone a long way to help
Nigeria in various capacities but the underlying rationale for
sidelining them is (grudgingly) acceptable.
spite of all contrasting arguments and opposing postures, the
envisaged bill to be introduced to the legislature on one single
seven-year tenure for President and Governors is another major project
that is administratively well thought-through and may yet be
fine-tuned for a perfect law.
expectations were justifiably hyped that the President knows what he
is doing and what he will set out to do.
when he started in 2010, by dissolving the national soccer team for
reasons of effecting reorganization within two years and coming up
with a better and less corrupt Soccer Federation but suddenly turned
around again to reverse his position very quickly upon the slightest
harassment from the world soccer governing body FIFA, he exposed his
first failure to do a proper homework in advance of public assertion.
Recent events have so far, fanned the flames of suspicion that
President Goodluck Jonathan will be a good administrator and manager
of Nigeria’s economy and infrastructure. Unfortunately however, he is
yet to radiate the aura of a born leader and a perfect
nation hardly knows where he stands on salient issues and one hardly
knows if he is sometimes, not personally collaborating with unseen
forces to take the entire nation for a perfect ride. It is yet a
mystery why Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is allowed to go on the rampage for
so long, propagating Islamic Banking in a multi-religious society
without the leader and President of the country calling
him to order to maintain the status of religious neutrality at
government level. If anything, it would have served to underscore the
secular structure of the country’s constitution. But respectable
Sanusi seems to have secured the blessing of the President well in
advance of his public posturing and no one knows how far this sell-out
of national interest behind the iron curtain may have gone in obvious
strategic horse-trading. Sanusi is now permitted to take a project
that members of other religions hold in high suspicion, to a level
that even a crafty military leader like Ibrahim Babaginda did not dare
to go for the purpose of avoiding the undue excitement of public
sensitivities. The farthest Babangida went was to enlist Nigeria in
the Islamic Conference Organization and only secretly too until the
bubble burst open on him. Today, President Jonathan has given Lamido
Sanusi the blank check to go on a daylight rampage.
President makes public statements that are logically not well
thought-through. He signals for instance, to government functionaries
that he would not sanction any senior government employee who fails to
come to work at the legally stipulated opening hour of 08 O’clock
because his target is to build institutions and not personalities. No
doubt a glaring error of this sort will not happen if the services of
capable speechwriters and consultants on public speeches are
comes the issue that I addressed in a previous essay in which I
chastised the President’s adamant stance of sticking to his present
style of quiet leadership without agenda-setting charisma. A group of
antithetic political elites committed to the destruction of his
Presidency has obviously taken the initiative to set the agenda. All
President Jonathan does today is to react to the tune dictated by the
hidden forces paying the piper’s music. He fails to speak out. Not
even through spokesmen and about the pressure that the hidden powers
are subjecting him to!
President Jonathan has two faces. The face of a competent
administrator well suited perhaps, for management as a technocrat and
the smooth-running of administrative machineries. President Jonathan
also bares the face of an invisible President, who has not understood
that the position is overwhelming him without the requisite craze,
audacity and assertiveness to hold the nation together. He is heading
for the realms in which the roof may collapse on his head and the
gains in economy and infrastructure may find no more place to unleash
their beauty. But did Nigeria have a choice? I would dare say No.
audacious and crazy Muhammadu Buhari would have been a good replica of
Olusegun Obasanjo that Nigeria needs so badly at this point in time.
But Buhari’s transparent tribal and religious leaning in favor of
northern hegemony and extreme intransigence clearly makes Goodluck
Jonathan the best bet that Nigeria had on Election Day. It does not
matter how well Muhammadu Buhari tried to disguise bigotry by choosing
a wayward self-proclaimed preacher Tunde Bakare as camouflage deputy.
An uncontrolled firebrand Tunde Bakare trying to outshine his
principal in anticipation of his own days at the top would have spelt
disaster for the project Nigeria.
Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic
Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria!