JONATHAN'S ONE YEAR BURDEN
Against all odds, luck has continued to smile on President Goodluck Jonathan. Either by divine intervention or coincidence, the former Bayelsa State governor within five years became president of Nigeria without contesting an election. His latest grace came from the demise of the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.
The former lecturer survived the intrigues that trailed Yar'Adua's long battle with acute pericarditis and other medical complications.
But having come this far, the question Nigerians ask is: Does President Jonathan have what it takes to face the socio-political and economic challenges facing the nation?
For many, Goodluck has enough experience to bear positively on the polity. Since his emergence as president, Nigerians are eagerly waiting for a change but there are a lot of hurdles on his way.
The future of Nigeria's democracy has repercussions far beyond her shores. Moreover, should the worst happen, should problems in the elections in 2011 lead to unrest and instability, the impact would be great. The causes of concern are clear. In spite of the historic milestones of the last three elections, the 2007 polls were marred by controversy, irregularities, and charges of fraud. Both Nigerian and international election observers documented violations of electoral law and other problems. In parts of the country, there was deep bitterness over the process while elections did not hold in others.
Nigeria also lost prestige in the eyes of the world and the nation's democracy became a dominant theme in international discourse.
Based on past experience, many believe that President Jonathan's priorities should include: Enhancing the independence and strengthening the capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Nigerians think that the electoral body should be seen as independent of partisan bias or control, even of the incumbent administration. That, in the estimation of people, relates to the selection of its members, the autonomy of its budget, and the authority it exerts to enforce the electoral laws and regulations. These reforms must extend down through the state and local government levels.
The system for counting and aggregation of votes must be made more transparent and verifiable. There must be evidence of prosecution of violators as a climate of impunity will undo the best rules or regulations.
In carrying forward the reform agenda, many entities must be involved. Government has to play a leading role, making reform a priority and initiating the steps toward enhancing INEC's independence and budget autonomy, the training of security services, and other official actions. But political party leadership is also critical. Party leaders and the leading potential candidates for president and other positions, must agree that they all have a stake in improving the system.
Another challenge for Mr. President is the monster called corruption. Victor Dike in analyzing corruption said that it is not new, and since it is a global phenomenon, it is not peculiar to Nigeria. However, corruption is pandemic in Nigeria. The leaders as well as the followers are corrupt. Consequently, it has defied all the necessary medicines.
Political, bureaucratic, economic and electoral corruptions prevail and dominate in Nigeria.
Yes, it is not new but what Nigerians expect is the political will of the president to tackle this anomaly and also put in place measures that will discourage itchy fingers from further corruption.
The late President Yar Adua promised in his inaugural speech to tackle the problem of electricity as part of his seven-point agenda. He even promised to declare state of emergency in the power sector but all through his stay, he was unable to do so. Now that Jonathan has assumed office and has put the ministry under him, Nigerians are waiting to see the manifestation of his promise. In his interview with the Cable News Network on his trip to the United States, he reiterated his plans in dealing with the power situation in the country. With stable power supply, the economy will rapidly improve. The manufacturing industry will come back to life, there will be employment and naturally, crime will drastically reduce among so many other improvements.
Bad roads have been Nigeria's heritage for years. The culture of awarding contracts to friends and cronies are not expected to surface in this administration. The Benin-Ore road has been in bad shape for a very long time among other roads across the federation. Successive ministers have come and gone, still that road is continuously getting worse by the day. Due to the condition of that express road which is the major way to other parts of the federation, armed bandits have attacked innocent travelers. And in most cases, commuters have been subjected to long hours on the road and most times sleep till the next day to continue their journey that would ordinarily take few hours.
The case of Nigerians is water everywhere but none to drink. Nigerians do not have table drinking water in their homes, schools and even in the communities. Nigerians do not have access to affordable housing. When any is built, the price is so exorbitant that the average Nigerian cannot afford it. So, the government must look into this issue and address it.
The transportation system in the country is not encouraging. The Lagos State government deserves commendation for introducing the Bus Rapid Transport. It has in no small measure eased transportation problem in the state. The president should also take a critical look in this direction.
Citizens of the country used to know free education some years ago but the collapse of the system led to the emergence of private institutions of learning. To acquire quality education has become a mirage to an average Nigerian. Jonathan should give this sector the priority it deserves.