The detractors of President Goodluck Jonathan will retort scornfully that he is a total failure, while his ardent supporters will scream that he is a huge success. But before we decide where to place him, let us look at a few indices upon which to assess him.
Through the Doctrine of Necessity by the Senate, President Jonathan was made the Acting President of Nigeria on February 9, 2010, when it was clear that the de jure President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was seriously ill despite claims to the contrary by his aides. With that, Jonathan became fully in charge. Upon the death of Yar’Adua on May 5, 2010, Jonathan was sworn in as the President the next day. At the presidential election held on April 16, 2011, Jonathan polled 22,495,187 votes to beat his closest rival and candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who polled 12,214,853 votes. And on May 29, 2011, Jonathan was sworn in again as President on the strength of his victory at the poll rather than on good luck.
Therefore, President Jonathan has been the substantive chief executive officer of Nigeria for more than two years now. That is enough time to gauge his performance as the leader of the most populous nation in Africa and the seventh most populous nation in the world.
What, however, are the minuses of President Jonathan? His biggest negative, many will say, is his inability to stop the violence from the Islamic fundamentalist group, Boko Haram. From a radical group that fought policemen with guns, bows and arrows in 2009 in Borno State , Boko Haram metamorphosed speedily into a bomb-making, bomb-throwing, suicide-mission-savvy group that has become a terror in Nigeria. A few of the institutions the group has attacked include the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters in Abuja on June 16, 2011; the United Nations building in Abuja on August 26, 2011; St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madala, Niger State on December 25, 2011; and the office of Thisday newspapers in Abuja and Kaduna on April 26, 2012.
Even though the security authorities have recorded occasional results against this group, the fact that Boko Haram has continued to operate in some parts of the North, causing bloodshed and anguish, is a factor that irritates Nigerians. Nigerians have pointed out that since the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attack on the United States and the July 7, 2005 attack on the United Kingdom, no other attack has succeeded in these two countries. It is therefore viewed as a failure on the part of the President.
Another point is corruption, which has been a sore point facing the Jonathan’s administration. Despite the claims of the President that he has zero-tolerance to corruption, the fight against corruption cannot be described as robust since he became the President. The President has not displayed righteous anger against the pervading influence of corruption in the polity. Even though the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo was viewed as selective in its fight against corruption, yet there was a clear sign that the war on corruption during his tenure was fervent and yielding results. Nigerians, especially public officers, were on their toes, for the fear of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission led by Mr. Nuhu Ribadu was the beginning of wisdom.
The economy is another point. Even though the economy of Nigeria is adjudged one of the fastest growing in the world, hovering at about seven per cent rate in the past few years, it beats economic logic that the poverty rate has continued to rise. According to records, about 70 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is put at 21 per cent, placing Nigeria at the 166th position in the world. These are pointers to the fact that even though the Nigerian economy is generating wealth, the wealth continues to disappear and never gets into the hands of the masses.
But it has not been all woes and misery since Jonathan became the President. One glaring achievement of his administration, for which his detractors try as much as possible not to give him credit, is the level of transparency with which elections have been conducted since he took charge. Unlike before when it was rare for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to lose an elective office, the PDP has lost many states that it had been in control of. For example, from controlling five of the six states in the South-West in 2003, the party now controls no state in that zone. In the election that just held in Edo State on July 14, the PDP lost too. Not only that it lost, the election was adjudged transparent to a large extent. But more importantly, unlike in the past when up to100 per cent turnout of voters was recorded in many states – which was clearly a sign of electoral manipulation – most of the elections conducted under Jonathan’s watch did not record up to 60 per cent turnout: a sign that ghosts no longer vote in Nigeria as they used to do.
There is also the case of revamping of derelict infrastructure. Even though some may say that the pace is slow, there is a clear evidence that infrastructure that had been left unattended to for decades is being taken care of. One is the airports, which were a source of embarrassment to the nation. Almost all the nation’s airports are currently undergoing extreme makeover. Roads are also being revamped. Some roads such as the Benin-Sagamu Expressway and Apapa-Oworonshoki Road, Lagos, which were in a sorry state, for many years, are being rehabilitated. Electricity supply, which had been a sore point for decades too, is receiving urgent attention, and there is a noticeable improvement in that sector. The abandoned railway transportation is also being revived.
Agriculture, which used to be the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy before the oil boom, is gradually being brought back to the front-row. Fertiliser distribution, which was always a thorny issue, seemed to have been tackled.
Since Jonathan took over, Nigerians seem to have forgotten that petrol scarcity, especially towards the end of the year, used to be the norm. Even though there are still unresolved issues about fuel subsidy matters, evidenced in the current scarcity, buying petroleum products had stopped being nightmarish in Nigeria for over two years now.
Our foreign policy, which used to leave us at the mercy of other countries, appears to have received a boost. Nigeria has put its foot down in dealing with countries that treated her shabbily. In addition, while the nation had jumped into conflicts in West Africa headlong hitherto (with the attendant huge loss of men and materials), since the coming of Jonathan, Nigeria has been vocal and in the fore-front in taking well-informed positions in conflicts in Africa, as she did on Ivory Coast and Libya, but our resources and men are no longer wasted fighting for countries that never give us credit after all our efforts.
In the final analysis, do we then describe Jonathan as a failure or a success? Hardliners hardly change their positions, no matter the strength of evidence before them. But for me, I would neither describe Jonathan as a success nor a failure. Rather, I would say that he has lost several opportunities to worm his way into the hearts of Nigerians but has taken advantage of a few. He has the potential to be a great president but seems to be too cautious not to step on toes. Nigeria’s situation is so serious that it demands robust and prompt attention and treatment. President Goodluck Jonathan must increase his pace or he will be out of rhythm.