Change Versus Status Quo: The Mistakes Of The Jonathan Presidency By Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu

No Nigerian president has enjoyed the initial support and benefit of doubt that accompanied the Jonathan presidency.  The peculiar circumstances surrounding his emergence no doubt contributed to the support and public trust he enjoyed at the beginning of his regime. He was in so many ways like Barack Obama; an underdog who came from nowhere to become Nigeria’s president.  He came from a poor background and it was often noted that he had no shoes while he was in primary school. This had the effect of endearing him to the masses most of whom had similar backgrounds in the calculation that having come from a poor background he would be more disposed to working for the interests of the impoverished citizenry.  In his face book page he also wisely exploited the public solidarity with his humble beginnings by promising populist measures such as registering all unemployed people in view of direct intervention by the government.

He also happens to be the first president that has no direct link and thus didn’t draw his umbilical cord from the long list of post war civilian and military leaders that has ruinously kidnapped and held the nation hostage for more than four decades. These marked differences stood president  Jonathan in good stead and consequently led to  his being elected  in a remarkably free and fair election which further  unshackled him from the hold of potential godfathers and gave him a free hand to tackle corruption and work in the service of the masses. The expectations were to be dashed within a remarkably short time frame. President Jonathan and his handlers have indeed variously complained of the unusual torrent of criticisms he has received as president; what he and his handlers seems to have failed to comprehend is that the criticisms are driven by a deep sense of disappointment over a presidency that many hoped would bring a measure of change.

One of his most remarkable areas of failure has been his accommodating attitude to corruption. Under Jonathan’s presidency not a single government official has been incarcerated for corruption even though corruption remains one of the single most important factors militating against development. Under his watch EFCC has become totally toothless.  There is no greater evidence of the total ineffectiveness of EFCC than the continued freedom of rep. Farouk Lawan who in spite of the available video evidence of his soliciting and receiving bribe from Femi Otedola remains free. It is also on record that the bribe fund in question was never recovered from him. Another case in point is the presidential pardon granted to Diepreye Alameyesigha, the notorious former Bayelsa governor   who facing trial for money laundering in the UK disguised and jumped bail. The case against former General Sanni Abacha and his family relating to looted funds have recently been withdrawn. Notable persons of questionable character have variously been accommodated in his government; this includes the wife of Bode George an ex-convict appointed to head the NDLEA and notorious characters such as Tony Anenih amongst others.

The situation is so bad that not a single ex-governor who left office in recent times is facing trial and not a single conviction has been secured against any government official implicated in looting. Nigeria has consequently become a free for all where contractors and government officials loot with impunity knowing that they will not be subject to any prosecution. The area of infrastructure has also recorded colossal failings. In my recent trip to Nigeria I found that state roads were much better than federal roads. Some of the federal roads were so bad that I wondered if there is a government in the country.  How could a responsible government leave the federal roads to become so damaged to the extent that some portions were impassable?  In a normal country, with basic leadership, infrastructure is not supposed to be something you remind the government of or something that is politicised. Government on its own is supposed to pursue annual policies or national development plans that would see to the construction, repair and upgrade of infrastructure across the country with deliberate haste, there can after all be no development without infrastructure.

One would have expected such deliberate speed in tackling infrastructure from the Jonathan presidency, but four years into his regime all we get is excuses and propaganda. It is notable that the much politicised 2nd Niger Bridge is only being commenced at the tail end of his four year tenure which leaves the possibility that the project might be abandoned once he is re-elected or perhaps not re-elected. The project is already dogged with so much controversy. These are needless scenarios for a serious president desirous of leaving a legacy of development. In china and other serious nations, development of infrastructure is pursued at breakneck speed across the country, but in Nigeria infrastructure is subject to much politics and corruption which regrettably has not changed under President Jonathan.

In the area of youth unemployment nothing has been done, while the vexed Nigerian question remains unsettled. After several decades of clamouring for a sovereign national conference by different sectors of the Nigerian society President Jonathan missed the opportunity of leaving a lasting legacy by surrendering to those who want to maintain the status quo. He subscribed to a national conference that forbade the all important issue of self determination which was the originating reason for the conference. It seems that nothing was learnt by the fact that Scotland is free to pursue self determination through democratic means.  Nigeria was thus to continue by force without the consent of the people. The issue of security has been so much politicised that it deserves no comment.  In sum; President Jonathan had and still has a clear choice between change versus the status quo, he has so far chosen the status quo, it is not too late for him to choose change. 

Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu

Publish Date: 

Monday, 15 September 2014