By Edozie Okeiyi
Now it is official. The worst kept secret in Nigeria has finally been confirmed. Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is going to contest the 2015 Presidential Election. He has obviously accepted the honour of being nominated as the sole Presidential Candidate of the PDP. Apparently this has been a very difficult decision for Mr Jonathan.
Having received endorsements from many important stakeholders, Mr President still put the interests of Nigeria above his personal ambition. The maturity with which he handled his declaration and the timing is very commendable and should be seen as the hallmark of a Statesman. As was announced by the Dr Haliru Bello led Presidential declaration Committee, President Jonathan will officially make the much anticipated declaration on the 11th of November 2014.
Sentiments aside, a great majority of Nigerians believe that Mr. Jonathan has performed creditably well under very difficult circumstances as to deserve another shot at the Presidency. One good turn deserves another. It is evident that Mr. Jonathan has exhibited great leadership and statesmanship so far. There are many reasons Jonathan should continue, but because of the limited space available to me I have narrowed my reasons to a few.
My first reason is that Nigeria has recorded remarkable economic growth under President Jonathan. Only a few Months ago, Nigeria overtook South Africa as the Continent’s largest economy after it overhauled its gross domestic product data for the first time in more than two decades.
According to verifiable figures for 2013, released by Nigeria’s statistics bureau, Nigeria’s GDP hit $503bn (£307bn) – nearly double previous estimates and well ahead of South Africa at around $350bn.
This pushed Nigeria up 12 places to become the 24th largest economy in the world – at par with Poland and Belgium and ahead of Argentina, Austria and Iran. This is a huge achievement. For the past two decades, South Africa remained the largest economy in Africa. This development was not achieved overnight. It was a result of the direct dynamic approach of the President in terms of greater investment in entrepreneurship and private sector participation.
The anticipated resultant effect of this is the attraction of more foreign investment to Nigeria. It is also a development that would motivate local investors to invest in Nigeria. The Diasporas also have been boosted by this development so in the coming Months Nigeria would receive greater local and international attention in terms of investment.
My second reason is that President Jonathan has recorded significant improvements in the power sector, backed up with greater roads and infrastructural development. The bold privatization of the defunct NEPA paved way for improved power supply in Nigeria. Most Nigerians can confirm that although we do not have power supply round the clock, however there has been a commendable improvement. There has been also greater road rehabilitation in Nigeria like the Lagos-Benin Road, the ongoing second Niger Bridge etc. President Jonathan has also commenced the mega railway project that has the capacity of linking our important Cities through functional and affordable railway system. This government has also commissioned many new schools especially in the North of Nigeria aimed at bringing education to the door steps of the commoners.
Thirdly this administration has pursued a robust foreign policy since inception. Nigeria which previously lagged behind in the comity of nations, has now assumed her rightful position as a leader in the international community. The recent successful hosting of the World economic summit is a testament to this. Nigeria under President Jonathan has been a dynamic force in Africa and beyond. Nigeria has been leading the peacemaking initiatives in the West African sub region, with our troops deployed in Mali, Liberia and beyond. Nigeria’s partnerships with our international allies like the UK, US and France have deepened and improved under the Jonathan led administration.
The number four reason is the need for continuity and stability in our democracy. Having made tremendous progress as discussed above, there is an important need for continuity in order to sustain these achievements. In developing Countries, change of governments usually comes with drastic change of policies and reckless abandonment of ongoing projects. We cannot afford to start afresh all over again. What is needed is a sustained initiative and a planned change of government after another four years. Furthermore having a new government with new projects and policies may cause confusion and instability, and if not well handled may scare away investors. Other democratic institutions like the Judiciary and Legislature are also growing and maturing under the Jonathan led administration. This is largely due to the independence and freehand accorded other institutions by the President. The President believes in the doctrine of the separation of powers in deeds and words and as such never interferes with other arms of government.
Similarly the Jonathan led administration has contributed immensely to the political development of Nigeria and has strengthened democratic institutions. Due to the respect and independence he accords other Organs of Government, there has been increased development and efficiency in the functioning of these other institutions, especially the Legislature, The Judiciary and the INEC. The usual rift between the Executive and the Legislature as was seen in fourth Republic, has been reasonably erased because of the positive attitude of the President. Also the President has enjoyed a good working relationship with the Vice President because he doesn’t undermine the office and the person of the Vice President, quite unlike the Cat and Mouse relationship that existed between the President and the Vice President in the previous dispensation. Also to further strengthen our democratic governance the President successfully convened the National Conference which has concluded deliberations and made some important recommendations. Unlike the previous Conference which hit the rock because of the widespread belief that there was a hidden agenda of tenure elongation (3rd term) underneath it, this Conference was given a freehand by the President and there was no personal interest of the President that was inserted in the recommendations. The recommendations are presently awaiting Parliamentary approval.
Furthermore, another important reason Jonathan should continue is that he is a democrat in all ramifications. He has a history of zero violence and aggression since he began his political career. Those who know Jonathan very well can confirm that he totally abhors violence in any shape or form. Even some elements of the opposition can attest to the democratic disposition of the President. President Jonathan’s tolerance of the opposition is unprecedented in the annals of Nigeria. The history of Nigerian politics since independence has been associated with brutal suppression of the opposition. Going down memory lane, in the first republic, the leader of the opposition, the much respected Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his supporters were harassed and imprisoned, obviously to suppress and cripple the opposition. Many neutral observers saw this as a form of political persecution. In the second republic, this dangerous trend continued. The ruling NPN was not liberal at all. The Party attempted to monopolize power in Nigeria through intimidation and harassment of opponents. The attempt to capture all States by all means including the Ondo State Gubernatorial election “victory” of 1983 which caused uproar in Ondo state, contributed significantly to the demise of the second republic. The fourth republic witnessed the worst brutality and suppression of the opposition, accompanied by widespread politically motivated assassinations, some unresolved till date. The climax was in 2004 in Anambra State where a sitting governor was abducted, allegedly on the orders of the NAVIGATOR. But today, members of the opposition can sleep with two eyes closed, thanks to the liberality of the President. The President has a non violent body language which connotes peace. Today many opponents throw personal abuses and insults at the President without facing any consequences. Many African leaders wouldn’t take personal insults and abuses from the opposition or anybody for that matter. In the recent past this would have been unthinkable. Those critics who think the President is weak should realize that it takes strength of character to absorb insults and abuses without negative reactions. To his credit, there has been no politically motivated assassinations till date. Friends and Foes agree that Mr. President cannot “hurt” a fly. Similarly the President has supervised fairer elections than his predecessors. Many States today are controlled by the opposition. In fact it is on record that opposition parties have won more elections under President Jonathan than under all previous dispensations put together. This can be attributed to the democratic inclination of the President. It is now possible for opposition parties to win Elections in Nigeria because the President usually provides a level playing field for all Parties and Contestants, and does not interfere with the Constitutional duties of INEC. This is the first time we have a President ready to bend over backwards to accommodate the opposition, who is not power drunk and who continuously displays humility, magnanimity and forgiveness. He has reasonably erased the do or die politics of the past.
Again, victory for Jonathan is victory for the Common Man. Jonathan can be said to be the first Commoner from a humble beginning to emerge President. The political elites have dominated politics in Nigeria from time immemorial. It doesn’t matter if they are from the North or South, Christians or Muslims. The elites had always been in power in Nigeria. Jonathan emergence was an act of God which no mortal envisaged. Therefore ordinary and working class Nigerians must ensure that the elites do not bully Jonathan out of office. At the moment the elites have united with the sole purpose of recapturing power for themselves and their descendants. By their antecedents we shall know them. They are using sensitive issues like insurgency and insecurity to blackmail the President. Some of these self acclaimed Statesmen have refused to condemn Boko Haram and its barbarity. But they are very quick to condemn the President with the intention of making political gains out of tragic events. Posterity will judge them. Mr. Jonathan is doing well under extremely difficult circumstances. He does not believe in the ODI style. He believes in cautious, humane and intelligence led operations. Nigerians should not be fooled by the antics of these desperate folks. No single godfather owns Nigeria. Nigeria belongs to us all. Therefore we are all equal stakeholders and the will of the majority must prevail.
Similarly Jonathan is the first minority to be elected President. Therefore Jonathan represents hope for the down trodden and minorities in Nigeria. From independence the major ethnic groups dominated politics in Nigeria. It was unimaginable then to have a minority as President. Today we have a minority as President on a platter of gold. Added to this is that the South-South region where Jonathan comes from accounts for over 90% of the resources Nigeria has been using to run for over four decades now. Strangely Jonathan is the first President from this region. It would be a good idea to allow Jonathan govern Nigeria with our support. Jonathan can do better with our support and cooperation. Those opposed to his ambition based on the so called unwritten agreement should realize that Nigeria and her Constitution are greater than any parochial arrangements. Unless we see the transcript of the said agreement we cannot take it on board. In any case our Constitution supersedes every other narrow consideration.
Moreover another four years of Jonathan would mark the beginning of the end of the era of godfatherism in Nigerian politics. The so called godfathers in our national political life have held Nigeria to ransom, without rhyme or reason. They place unrealistic and unreasonable demands on the incumbents. The first battle Jonathan fought was to liberate himself from his so called godfather which he has successfully and bravely done. The next four years would give the President the opportunity to level all inequalities and provide a level playing field for all Nigerians, to enable eligible candidates contest and win elections without depending on godfathers.
Another important reason we should re-elect President is because of the lack of a credible alternative. Opposition in Nigeria has weakened due to the absence of a defined ideology. We have seen members of the opposition jump from party to party without any ideological framework. The only constant feature is the lust for power. As a result we do not have a formidable opposition that can make a difference politically.
The recent merger of several Political Parties to form the All Progressive Congress (APC) was received warmly with great expectations. At last the vibrant opposition has arrived! So we thought! How wrong we were! Most Nigerians expected a strong opposition that would mobilize Nigerians behind them. We expected an opposition devoid of pettiness and cheap blackmail. We expected an opposition that would be defined by principles and ideals. We expected an opposition that would present a clear cut, well defined, and practicable alternative to the present. We expected a credible opposition based on principles. To say the APC dashed our hopes is an understatement. APC missed the opportunity to stand out as the new national umbrella. All we hear is ” Give us Power”. But what are you going to do differently? What are your plans? Nigerians need to know what agenda you have before they give you power. The PDP has been in power since 1999. As expected some Nigerians have some reservations on the performance of PDP. This is not unexpected considering the fact that the Party has been in power for fifteen years now. But the pertinent question is, what will APC do differently? APC has refused to tell Nigerians what they have in stock for us. Instead they are over driven by the lust for power without a defined agenda. Mere criticizing the incumbent without proffering solutions is grossly inadequate. What Nigerians are waiting to hear is the action plan of APC. Does any Nigerian know how the opposition would tackle this insurgency? Does anyone know their plans to create jobs? Does anyone know their plans to fight corruption? What about Education, Power, Healthcare? The list is endless. If the opposition wants to be taken seriously by Nigerians, first it needs to go back to the drawing board and define the agenda. Then communicate the agenda to Nigerians and allow Nigerians to decide who governs them in a free and fair election. At the moment the present opposition style of chasing shadows leaving the substance behind has played to the advantage of the incumbent. It is either the opposition steps up the game by addressing issues, not personalities, or forget the 2015 Elections. As long as the opposition continues to chase shadows, the incumbent would have an easy ride come 2015.
Finally Nigeria should re-elect President Jonathan because of the present circumstances of security challenges, which the President is working hard to contain and defeat. Put differently, the Country is in a state of war with terrorists, and we cannot change the Commander-in-Chief in the middle of the war. The military under the leadership of President Jonathan has worked so hard to contain the insurgents especially in the North East , recently the military has recorded huge victories against the terrorists. The most reasonable option for the President is to sustain the initiative until total victory is attained. In fact it would be morally wrong for Mr. Jonathan to abandon Ship halfway down the sail without achieving total victory against the terrorists. We should therefore rally round the President in solidarity and defeat the terrorists. The prevailing opinion in Nigeria and the Diaspora is that President Jonathan should hang on and fight these insurgents to the very end. He richly deserves a second term in office in order to sustain this patriotic revolution he started.
God bless Nigeria.
*Okeiyi is director of media and strategy, Great Nigeria Movement.