• Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Jonathan: Examining the most criticised brand

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President Goodluck Jonathan has faced both sides of praise and criticism since taking over the mantle of leadership of Africa’s biggest economy and world’s most populous nation six years ago.

What is intriguing and yet expected especially in this period of political campaigns is that the criticism appears to be pouring down like an avalanche, not necessarily for correction or solution but for pull down in an attempt to grab power by all means; while the praise feels like a mere drizzle in spite of the Jonathan’s feats in various sectors of national life.

The truth is that when placed on a dispassionate measurement platform, President Jonathan has recorded more accomplishments than people are willing to give him credits for.

With all the instruments of power around him, Jonathan has shown Nigerians that there can be total modesty in the office of the presidency in administering Nigeria’s delicate affairs as Africa’s largest economy.

Jonathan has persisted in his even-tempered disposition in the face of criticisms without sermonising his achievements. But he probably forgot that such sermons and melodramatic posturing especially in a heterogeneous society like Nigeria are part of the credentials of a president perceived to be having a firm grasp of state affairs.

Nigeria is coming from over 35 years of military rule when almost every action was by fiat and military fashion. The military style has so much become part of the psyche of Nigerians that comments like ‘elections will be do or die’ in a democratic system are taken as normal. This mentality created a warped perception in the minds of most Nigerians and has led to a situation where any other person or president who does not behave along those stern-faced, tough-talk, lines are easily misunderstood.

Doyin Okupe, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, had in a report acknowledged that not much had been done to sell the good performance of the Jonathan`s administration to Nigerians but despite such sermons and drama, the Jonathan’s administration, according to analysts has performed creditably.

Assessing PDP’s performance on the saddle since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, Olu Fasan, a London-based lawyer and political economist said in an article that “under the party’s rule, the country achieved macro-economic stability, with high GDP growth rates, averaging between 5-7 percent annually.

According to him, “investor confidence was generally high, resulting in relatively high FDI inflows. The recent rebasing of Nigeria’s economy, which made it the largest in Africa, also revealed other positive developments.” Fasan said the domestic economy is fairly diversified and dynamic, with manufacturing and services (particularly telecommunication and entertainment) joining agriculture and oil and gas as important sources of growth. “Agriculture and, to some extent, manufacturing received a boost under the party.”

“On the whole, however, PDP government’s economic performance over the 16 years deserves, in my view, a pass mark”, Fasan said.

Specifically measuring Jonathan’s administration in his article also in BusinessDay, Obadiah Mailafia, an Economist and former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said “any objective assessment of the balance sheet of the Goodluck Jonathan administration shows that economic fundamentals have improved while inflation has been reined in, growth has accelerated and the productive sector continues to improve. The banking sector was saved from collapsing. In April 2014, Nigeria replaced South Africa as the leading economy on the continent, with re-based GDP of over $500 billion.”

Mailafia said notable strides have been recorded in infrastructure and energy. “More roads have been rehabilitated and developed by this administration than any other in more than two decades. More than 23 highway projects are being implemented while 651 km of roads have been constructed… In the aviation sector alone, more than 25 major projects have been financed” as installed equipment is making air crashes a thing of the past.

He commended the reforms in the electricity sector which has marginally improved electricity supply. In addition to about 4,000 jobs under SURE-P, Mailafia said “Agricultural reforms have led to marked increases in farm output and food security.

“Warts and all, Goodluck Jonathan has exercised  power with compassion and humility,” Mailafia said, warning that though Jonathan’s heart is in the right place but “if only he could prove to us that he is capable of scaling up his act, he might yet remain a rendezvous with destiny.”

Those who are measuring Jonathan because of his rather very civil approach to the management of people and state affairs may not be doing justice to the psyche of Nigerians who are in dire need of being reoriented along the lines of proper systems and processes. Nigerians would complain when the Police and the military visit them with molestation. But the same people will also grumble when their president prefers to handle them the way people are handled in civilized climes.

In the area of Agriculture it is said that Jonathan’s achievements have been unprecedented. Rice importation, for instance has significantly reduced. In fact, expenditure on rice importation drastically reduced from a high of N1.1 trilion in 2009 to justN440 billion in 2014.

This is expected to continue. According to the Special Assistant on Media and Strategy to the Minister of Agriculture, Olukayode Oyeleye, the upbeat in rice production activities in the 2012 wet season and 2012/2013 dry season resulted in 751,248 jobs produced in rural communities. This is in addition to hundreds of thousands of other indirect job opportunities for input suppliers, farm labourers, transporters, warehouse operators and other stakeholders in the value chain.

“The rice transformation agenda under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) was truly ambitious, but realistic. After two years of attempts, the decision to embark on such an ambitious programme has proved worthwhile. There are many areas in which efforts of the government have restored hope and brightened prospects and we will continue to work on these areas to ensure that in a few years down the road, greater gains would be recorded,” he stated.

Citing the example of cotton, a product that was high in the country’s exports list in the 60s and 70s, the Special Assistant said that plans are already underway to ensure this class of agro products grows as high as rice in the coming years. When this happens, the nation’s hitherto healthy textile industry would become upbeat again and with it would create millions of direct and indirect employment.

“I have looked at the creativity in the Nigerian fashion industry and can only imagine what that growing industry would be like when we begin to receive the results from the foundation we are currently laying in cotton production. We want to ensure that the diversified Nigerian economy of the near future would be driven by agriculture.”

Reeling out more statistics to buttress his point, Adesina mentions that as at 2012, the gross value of the paddy produced in Nigeria stood at N149.512 billion while net value was N79.691 billion. In the following year, “gross value doubled to N313,784,882,555  and net value to N175,020,285,055.”

These, he said, had strong economic impact on the lives of farmers, unemployed youths, agro-dealers, in forms of increased household income, employment, and improved livelihoods arising from an inflow of N254 billion from the 2012 and 2013 wet and dry rice season farming

For a country that spent over N350 billion on rice imports alone in 2013, this represents a major leap towards self-sufficiency. Even the minister is very upbeat about this.

There is no gainsaying the fact that under the President Jonathan administration, the prospects of changing the country’s fortunes through the agric sector has been looking good. The gains from the Growth Enhancement Scheme have provided a new vista through which the economy can grow and sustain the country and its people with or without oil.

When the time comes and Nigeria is able to feeds itself, revenue losses from needless imports can then be aggregated and channeled to other critical areas of need. With its capacity to employ millions of people directly and indirectly, agriculture, under President Jonathan has the capacity to not just provide food and save foreign exchange but will also add greater values in providing jobs and by that token, take millions of people away from the streets and from crime.

Daniel Obi