The Presidency and Dubious Self-Appraisal By Lai Mohammed
Once again, President Goodluck Jonathan has squandered another chunk of what is left of his political goodwill with the unguarded boast to Nigerians that his performance in two and half years as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has dwarfed those of all his predecessors since independence.
The President did not stop there. He further challenged Nigerians to compare his administration’s performance with that of any administration in the world!
This latest outburst of the President may have been necessitated by the unrelenting barrage of criticisms from the main opposition All Progressives Congress, his own Peoples Democratic Party as well the growing murmurs of disappointed Nigerians who had thought that voting for a “humble” man, and a PhD holder to boot, would help improve the country’s fortune and raise their living standards.
Add this to the unflattering rating of Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by the global anti-corruption agency, Transparency International, and one will understand why Jonathan should feel uncomfortable.
However, in reacting to these pressures, the President’s spokespersons have continued to alienate him from Nigerians, including some of his sympathisers, through misguided comments, selective and often misleading data and, sometimes, outright falsehood.
For instance, the President’s claim of superior performance over his predecessors has enlarged his enemies’ camp beyond former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has engaged the President in recent times. All other former leaders and their loyalists are now aware that Jonathan is a “superior” performer! His inclusion of governments outside Nigeria further exposes him to ridicule as development indices indicate that many African countries, many of them less endowed, rank much higher than Nigeria in the development continuum.
Whether it is in per capita income, life expectancy, maternal mortality, access to education, potable water, housing, employment, security, agriculture, power, etc, which are all used to measure a country’s Human Development Index, countries such as Gabon, Angola, Algeria, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Malawi, Egypt, Libya, Mauritius, and South Africa are heads and shoulders above Nigeria.
Let us even for the purpose of argument assume that the President’s performance has been exceptional, there is still no basis for comparison with his predecessors without highlighting what parameters have been used in arriving at such a conclusion. This is because each succeeding administration in Nigeria operated in different local and global environments and was confronted with peculiar challenges.
For instance, Gen. Yakubu Gowon had the challenges of fighting a civil war, managing post-war relations, and effectively managing the windfall that accrued to Nigeria in the post-war oil-boom era. Gen. Murtala Muhammed confronted an emerging humongous and extremely powerful and corrupt bureaucracy, questionable sincerity of the military to return Nigeria to civil rule, and providing leadership for the efforts to dismantle apartheid and minority rule in Southern Africa. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo inherited these responsibilities from Muhammed after the latter’s assassination in a failed coup, the only time in Nigeria that a new military administration was a continuity of a previous one.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari became the first President of Nigeria and had the immediate task of nurturing Nigeria’s new civil rule into a full-blown democracy whilst also accommodating rising cost of governance (due to civilian rule) in the face of dwindling revenue from crude oil- Nigeria’s economic main-stay. For Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, corruption in high places, breakdown of ethical conduct amongst the populace and a failing economy were the challenges. On his part, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida had to contend with economic restructuring owing to oil glut, increased corruption in the public sector, and transition to civilian rule. Generals Sani Abacha and Abdusalami Abubakar also came in tow, the latter going down in history as the most focused leader in Nigerian history, having ensured a successful transition to civil rule within 11 months of coming to power.
It was not that Nigeria did not have other debilitating challenges at that time, but because Abubakar simply took a long look, identified the most strategic issue in the land and went for it! Obasanjo’s second coming as a civilian President was at a time Nigeria’s image had been badly battered in the international community. That was the era “pariah state” entered the Nigerian political lexicon. He also had to confront corruption which by now had taken up a life of its own in all sectors of our national life. You can also add the trio of public infrastructural deficit, economic recession and sustenance of civil rule to his basket. Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua had his day in the sun but his greatest challenge was not the health of the Nigerian nation but his own debilitating health, a battle he unfortunately lost in May 2010. It was his demise that initially opened the doors of the President’s office to Jonathan for the completion of Yar’Adua’s tenure. Jonathan then went ahead to win the presidential election of 2011 which granted him a four-year tenure as President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces.
Unfortunately, while Nigerians thought he would focus his attention on an aspect of Nigeria’s decayed infrastructure (power), he was proved wrong by the enormity and urgency of other challenges which did not feature in his calculations. He was not alone in this failure. Indeed, most Nigerians, exasperated by the many agenda-setting slogans of his predecessors, set a one-point agenda for him: Revitalisation of the power sector, an agenda the President himself bought into, at least from his campaign messages.
Barely weeks into his tenure, the challenges of insecurity, decay in the petroleum sector, political intrigues, an increasingly restive citizenry, waning relevance of Nigeria in the international community, corruption as statecraft, etc began to rank very high in the ladder of challenges confronting the President.
I have laboured to compartmentalise the challenges that faced the various administrations that Nigeria has had in order to show that the only objective parameters that can be used in adjudging the success or otherwise of a government is its ability to effectively focus on its avowed agenda while proactively managing the environment in a way that does not unnecessarily throw up issues that will distract it from set objectives. Therefore, Jonathan should understand that rather than comparing himself with past administrations in Nigeria, he should be focusing on how well he has delivered on his campaign promises, while also managing the unintended or contrived issues that now endanger his Presidency.
To the average rational Nigerian, real and perceived evidence does not support the President’s claim of exceptional performance. Indeed, Jonathan himself recently alluded to that when he said he was the most criticised president in the world, but that those criticisms were because the people had not started seeing the outcome of his transformation agenda, which he said may not manifest immediately due to the long-term approach of his administration.
Why and how, just a few months down the line, the same President would claim to have outperformed his predecessors and contemporaries in other countries is amazing.
Of late, the President’s men (and women) have been quick to point to an economic growth rate of seven per cent and the World Bank reports which say that foreign direct investment into Nigeria in 2013 make the country an investors’ destination of choice.
However, the same spokespersons are quick to repudiate other reports that sound less patronising. For instance, the Federal Government vehemently repudiated Transparency International’s report that ranked Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Indeed, some of the claims of the President’s men make me wonder whether they actually understand the enormous responsibilities that the office carries. Not too long ago, I listened to the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, claiming that the President should not be held responsible for the orgy of violence that had reigned supreme in some parts of the north.
According to him, the Boko Haram phenomenon is the handiwork of political opponents of the President. Granted that this is so, whose responsibility is it to bring the alleged sponsors of terrorism to book? When you mention the rampaging prevalence of corruption, what you are greeted with by government officials is that it did not start with Jonathan. Neither could you hold him responsible for the poor state of public infrastructure in the country. However, the same government is quick to claim credit for any achievement by a Nigerian, even when it is through the individual’s dint of hard work, perseverance and a determination to escape poverty.
Weighed against these setbacks, those fawning aides who are deifying President Jonathan and exaggerating his performance are doing him a disservice. This is because now that they have put him in the stratosphere in terms of his performance, what then is there for him to aspire to in terms of achievement? He can as well relax and wait for Nigerians to show appreciation for his “impressive performance”, come 2015!
– Mohammed is the Interim National Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org