All over the world, particularly, in sane democracies, performance determines re-election of serving public officers. But in Nigeria, it is not so. It is because people’s votes don’t count.
Critics have said that the Nigerian political landscape is populated by majority of those who serve only their stomachs. Despite their abysmal performance in office, they still win re-elections, a situation they believe defies all logics!
Olisa Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said: “I wish we had a way to challenge the politicians. If you are not a popular person, why should you stand for election? There are several men who have been in and out of jail who are governors and who are in the House”.
Across the country, sad stories of failed electoral promises of politicians resonate. From the local government chairmen to House of Assembly members; from the House of Representatives members to the Senators, from governors to the president, it is the same story of how they failed on their promises to the people.
At every turn, the question that is often being asked is, “can Jonathan win a re-election?” Perhaps, those who mouth this question do not sincerely believe that the current administration has acquitted itself well.
Although President Goodluck Jonathan has yet to publicly declare his ambition to seek re-election, opinions are divided on the propriety or otherwise of such ambition.
While some believe that he deserves another term on the strength of his performances on the economy front, some others say he has fallen far below expectations.
A political-economy analyst, who spoke with BD SUNDAY on condition of anonymity, said that the president has performed creditably in the area of economy, but scored very abysmally on sociology and politics.
“For me, the President has done well on the economy front. Look at power privatisation, revolution in the agric sector, the creation of sovereign wealth fund (SWF) – if other regimes before him had been putting money away in this fund, Nigeria would have had trillions of Naira by now. Investors are coming in now more than before, and government policies are being favourable to businesses. Although the unemployment level is still high, people are still getting jobs. I can boldly say that economy-wise, Nigeria is doing better now than before,” the analyst said.
“On the negative side, I will say that judging the President from sociological and political points of view, he has not performed very well. For instance, something tells me that it is either that his advisers are not doing their job, or that he does not take advice. His decisions are not portraying him as a leader that is in touch with the reality on ground in Nigeria. He takes decisions that make people look at him as either an accomplice or not having any feeling for those he is leading. What, for instance do you make out of his decisions to grant state pardon to those convicted of corruption; why is there apparent lack of political will to step on toes; why does he flaunt his relationship with the enemy of the people: The other day, he travelled out of the country with Ali Modu Sheriff, a man that is being accused of having something to do with Boko Haram? Although nobody says Sheriff is guilty of the allegation, the President and government should have kept him at arm’s length for now. The brazen fraternity speaks volume,” the analyst said.
While Jonathan’s re-election campaigners are trumpeting his “good performance”, the camp of opponents is daily sharpening their arrows to shoot down such claims.
As Jonathan is facing a stiff opposition from the APC, he is also being challenged by certain members and leaders of his own party. Although the national leadership of the party under Adamu Mu’azu, a former governor of Bauchi State, has since unofficially endorsed Jonathan for re-election, indications are rife that Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, who contested the primary with Jonathan in 2011, will yet again run against him, even as Sule Lamido, incumbent governor of Jigawa State, has declared his determination to challenge the President for the PDP ticket.
Lamido had on many occasions reiterated his aspiration to see Jonathan out of office in 2015. Long before the celebrated Obasanjo’s letter to Jonathan, the former Ota farmer had endorsed Lamido as a presidential hopeful in 2015. Scoffing at Jonathan’s style of leadership, Obasanjo had said: “You know you can help somebody to get a job but you cannot help him to do it. If somebody cannot do the job, we have Sule Lamido who is competent to do the job.”
In his apparent endorsement of Lamido, Obasanjo added: “Some people are saying one person can’t make changes. This is rubbish; if you have a competent person who knows where he is going to, he can make changes along with his team that would impact the lives of people as we have seen it in Jigawa State.”
Obasanjo also recently compared the Jonathan economic policies with those of the Abacha era, and came out with a damning conclusion that both destroyed the middle class and banished them to poverty.
The former president had earlier in Dutse, Jigawa, said Nigeria had recorded seven percent GDP growth over the last decade, especially in oil and gas, telecommunication, banking and financial sector and few others.
He questioned the need for a robust economy on paper that has no positive reflection on the citizenry. “But we need a kind of growth that would reflect on the lives of the people and the environment in terms of water supply to the villages, electricity and infrastructure; that is the kind of growth we want. The economists should address that to change the current situation, where the GDP is growing while the people continue to suffer,” he said.
The level of insecurity in the country has also reduced the rating of the Jonathan government. His critics allege that he is paying lip service to the fight against insurgency. He is accused of being too patient with the highest echelon of the military that has failed to put Boko Haram sect to rout.
“I’m speaking for myself: If I were the Commander-in-Chief, I’ll be inviting the chief of defence staff; Alex Badeh should be dismissed…if you lose command, you lose a mission, there is only one result in the army – you are off! If the President fails to send a strong message that the mission is not accomplished, then the chain of command will be weak,” Agbakoba said. But Chinwoke Mbadinuju, a former governor of Anambra State, said Jonathan was not weak leader but just applying caution.
“I don’t see Jonathan as a weak president. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not see him as a weak president. Majority of Nigerians do not see him as weak. Even many opposition parties and members do not see the president as weak. What we should remember is that there is a clear difference between a civilian president and military president. A military president rules by decree and it does not matter to him whose ox is gored,” Mbadinuju said.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has also accused the President of engendering ethnic and religious rivalries in the land.
“… This Jonathan sees every issue from the stand point that people are after his government. What we achieved between 1993 and 2010, he destroyed. In 1993, Nigerians made a point that religion was not an issue by voting for a Muslim-Muslim ticket. In 1999, Nigerians made a point that ethnicity was not an issue when Obasanjo was rejected roundly by his own kinsmen, but the rest Nigerians voted for him. Today, we have gone back to ethnicity and religion,” Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of APC, said.
Jonathan and re-election bid
Today, some of those who voted for Jonathan in 2011 seem to be angry. They feel a sense of disappointment. They feel their man who once had no shoes has acquired too many shoes and left them shoeless. Worse for the president, the anger is not only resident among the people; it is also domiciled within the PDP, the president’s party.
There have been some outbursts, particularly from the opposition warning Jonathan to tame his ambition as he, according to them, has not shown enough capacity to deliver on his 2011 electoral promises.
The major worries of many people border on the fact that the President may have missed good opportunities of making amends.
But can he make amends before election?
In the first term of Bill Clinton as president of America, the Republicans criticised his government to no end. Issues were made out of the taxes, crime rates in the country, budgets and others. Rather than demonise the opposition, Clinton gave a listening ear by incorporating the issues raised and paying attention to them all. While running his campaign for the second tenure, he had told the Americans that if returned, he would address the issues raised by the opposition.
Again, instead of seeing every criticism and genuine requests from citizens from the myopic prism, or reading meanings to opposition’s candid views, Clinton was able to sift the people’s cries for good governance from mere campaign of calumny. This, unfortunately, is a line our leaders have consistently refused to draw in their dealings with either the opposition or members of the public.
In a speech to 40,000 supporters at his home town of Little Rock alongside his wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea, the former governor of Arkansas said the voters “are sending us a message – work together, meet our challenges, put aside the politics of division and build America’s community together. It’s time to put our country ahead of party.”
Haley Barbour, Republican Party chairman, said the re-election of President Clinton was, in fact, a victory for his rivals.
“On taxes and on a balanced budget and on crime, Bill Clinton sounded like a Republican. This election was a validation of the Republican Congress,” Barbour said.
If Jonathan toes this part, he may, as some pundits expect, finish strong, particularly, fortunes and destiny have always been in a holy matrimony to make him emerge victorious.