BY OHIMAI AMAIZE
There is so much to write about why I am supporting President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. It is said that the only thing permanent about life is its sheer impermanence. Given the foregoing, change is thus a constant of human existence. Nonetheless, I am not one of those who would treat the concept of change as a mere abstraction or a garb of convenience tailored, adorned and dumped at the slightest whim of the adorner. Far from it!
Rewind back to the pre-2011 Presidential Campaign era. I served in the Presidential Campaign of Chief Dele Momodu as his Presidential Campaign Manager. I was selected at the tender age of 26 for this assignment in 2010, making me the world’s youngest Presidential Campaign Manager in modern democratic history. I was not a card-carrying member of Chief Momodu’s National Conscience Party (NCP). I carried out my assignment professionally as a young technocrat. I did my job with passion and conviction. Faced with the facts in 2011, my assignment on the campaign trail required constantly campaigning for my candidate, amplifying his strengths and drawing attention to the weaknesses of the other candidates in the race. There is nothing new about this under sun. This is the standard practice in political campaigns globally.
The campaigns came to a close in April 2011 and in August 2011, I was invited by the then Minister of Youth Development, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi to support his work at the Youth Development Ministry as his Special Assistant on Advocacy. In his words when he called me on the phone: “I have been told that if I will succeed in the Youth Ministry, I need young people like you around me.” I got on his team on the pure recognition of my competence as a young professional. I consulted and received the blessings of my former principal, Chief Dele Momodu before I proceeded on the assignment with Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi. Our one-year stint at the Youth Ministry goes into the history books as one of the most remarkable in the history of Nigeria’s Ministry of Youth Development. It was while we were at the Youth Development Ministry that the YouWIN initiative was midwifed under a Youth Development, Communications Technology and Finance Ministry collaboration with support from the World Bank.
Our next assignment came when President Goodluck Jonathan in his wisdom saddled Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi with the task of transforming the Nigerian Sports Ministry. In the Sports Ministry, we met a football sector in crisis rocked with over 29 court cases. At the time we were done with the Sports Ministry, it is to the credit of President Jonathan and his team that managed the sports sector that all 29 court cases in the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) had been withdrawn, peace had been restored, Nigeria had won the AFCON after 19 years, clinched the U-17 FIFA World Cup, kicked off the Rhythm N’ Play Grassroots Sports Campaign, improved in Athletics with Nigeria becoming the African champions in all categories of Athletics competitions amongst other milestones. The leadership we provided in the sports sector under the dynamic leadership of Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi with the supervision, goodwill and support of President Goodluck Jonathan made it possible!
After my assignment at the Sports Ministry in March 2014, I was appointed Special Assistant on Media Strategy to Nigeria’s then Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro. It is important to note here that before 2014, in 2012, I had joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a card-carrying member when it became clear to me that for competent young Nigerians to make a mark in the public service and governance of this nation, they needed to become more active players in the political process. There was never anything secret about my membership of the PDP since 2012. I joined the PDP because I believed in the vision, the platform and the structure the party provides for those who have something valuable to offer this nation.
Now this is 2015. And the question I have been asked severally is why I am supporting President Goodluck Jonathan to be re-elected President. I didn’t just jump into the bandwagon of Goodluck Jonathan supporters. I have spent three years working within the Jonathan government as a Ministerial Adviser from Youth Development to Sports to the Defence Ministries. My perspectives on governance in Nigeria have been reshaped within these years. As an insider, I have seen a lot of the challenges from the inside and I know that a man who attempts to sweep a house from the outside has embarked on a futile exercise. I also know that the system is not without its flaws and imperfections. Yet, I also know that Rome was not built in a day.
Aside from the compelling consideration that he is the presidential candidate of my political party, the PDP, my reasons for supporting President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid in 2015 are in many ways, instructive. First, allow me speak within the context of my reality and experience as a Nigerian youth. More than any President in the experienced, real, imagined or documented history of Nigeria, this is the first President who has articulated and is executing a transformational blueprint for youth development, youth employment and youth empowerment. Take a critical look at the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWIN) initiative. Before President Jonathan, who cared about young Nigerian entrepreneurs? Before President Jonathan who thought about giving grants to young Nigerian business owners? Before President Goodluck Jonathan, no President took the youth sector seriously. No President opened the door of engagement to the youths, let alone empowerment! None.
Before President Goodluck Jonathan, no President considered our young brothers and sisters, the Almajiris in northern Nigeria as deserving of any care and attention. Nobody thought about taking them off the streets and building schools for them. Realizing that a northern Nigerian problem is a Nigerian problem, President Jonathan is taking steps to build a future northern Nigeria where development is futuristic, real and sustainable through educational advancement. That is significant.
It is to President Jonathan’s credit that an enabling environment has been created for the economic explosion of our creative industry from Nollywood to the music industry to fashion and style! Through the SURE-P project, thousands of Nigerian youths have glowing testimonials on how their lives are being turned around with the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) and the Community Service, Women, Youths and Empowerment, (CSWYE). These are facts, not fiction?
I will support a President who has shown in many ways that he is a man who is committed to touching the lives of the common man. I grew up in a Nigeria where I didn’t know what it looked like to travel inside a train in Nigeria. But today, it is to President Jonathan’s credit that not only are our trains back, our roads that were neglected and deformed for decades by previous administrations, military and democratic are now being fixed. So tell me, why won’t I vote for Jonathan?
Is it in the area of Agriculture that President Jonathan has not performed? This is the President that cleaned up the rot in the fertilizer procurement and distribution process. This is the President that is empowering local farmers using ICT. This is the President under which our cassava production is on a consistent increase. This is the President under whose leadership our rice self-sufficiency as a nation has grown from 50% to over 80%. It is no fluke that under President Jonathan, Nigeria overtook Egypt and South Africa and became the largest economy in Africa! One can go on and on. To wish away these achievements is to stand in murderous contempt of one’s conscience and character.
Now let’s talk about the 72-year old man who was kicked out of power as a Military dictator the year I was born. If there is any reason that makes a Jonathan re-election even more imperative, it is the fact that Nigeria’s opposition party, the APC looked at Nigeria and went into the graves of our nation’s painful past to exhume their candidate. There is nothing new that Buhari is bringing to the table in 2015 that Jonathan did not accomplish four years ago. Beyond party affiliation, as a Nigerian youth, there is something awfully backward about the idea of a Buhari presidency. There are some brands that packaging cannot sell, no matter the competence, creativity or innovation of the packager. This is the dilemma of the Buhari campaign.
The law of diminishing returns is a reality promoters of Buhari must come to terms with. More than the problem of Buhari’s old age is the bigger problem of the age of his ideas. What ideas will Buhari run our new Nigeria with? We are being told to make a 72-year-old man President over a future Nigeria he will not be part of. How does that even sound? Promoters of Buhari are telling us to drop a President Jonathan who has a clear record of performance for a Buhari who Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka described as a man in whom we have been offered “no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change.”
We have had our share of challenges. To state otherwise would mean being dishonest. Insecurity, predominantly in northern Nigeria is on the front burner. Still, our war against terrorism is best appreciated when seen within the context of a marathon and not a 100m dash. Sadly, the thing with terrorism globally is that there are no quick fixes. But in 2015, Nigerians are faced with two clear choices; advancement or retrogression. In Jonathan, we have been presented a President who is not perfect but a man who is committed to taking Nigeria to the next level. In Buhari, we have been offered a Nigeria on the threshold of oblivion wrapped inside the toga of a vague mantra colorfully illustrated as ‘change’. We must chose wisely.
Ohimai is the Special Adviser (Media Strategy) to Senator Musiliu Obanikoro