THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Were he to be alive at this time and clime, the English wordsmith, William Shakespeare, would have had no difficulty placing Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Nigeria's president, in the fortunate class of those who had greatness thrust upon them. Even though he has, by dint of his own sweat, achieved academic success capping it with a doctorate degree in the sciences, we will still have to admit that the man had political greatness dumped on his laps or better still, as novelist Chinua Achebe, would have put it, Jonathan has had his nuts cracked for him by a benevolent spirit.
From the obscurity of the classroom as an academic, Jonathan shot into public consciousness as deputy governor to the swashbuckling former Governor Diepreye Solomon Peters Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State. Even as No. 2 man then, Jonathan, like most deputy governors in that expired dispensation, was largely self-effacing. He cut the image of a dove who could hardly look in the eyes of his ex-boss in whose intimidating shadow he walked. Those who had business to do in Yenagoa while Jonathan was No. 2 paint the picture of a guy who spoke only when spoken to; a systems man, a man who knew and understood what it meant to be a spare tyre[ as deputies are often referred since the debut of the civilian dispensation].
Then, like in an action-packed movie, things began to happen in a staccato: his boss was arrested in far away UK for alleged money laundering offences; the law
makers began impeachment proceedings; the embattled governor arrived on the eve of impeachment to try and see if he could stave off the impending doom. It was no use. The Assembly, backed by federal might bent on teaching alleged corrupt governors and governors in their black book the lesson of their lives, kicked out Alamieyeseigha in a dawn operation. The man who was hailed as governor-general by his army of sycophants and praise singers, and who walked everywhere with a swagger, was shoved into the lonely night to resume life as an ex-governor, and subsequently as a convicted ex-governor.
And Jonathan's sun began to shine. He moved from the passenger to driver's seat. By the time he became governor of oil-rich Bayelsa, he had only one ambition left: to win a re-election. He got his party ticket after a stiff fight with the then executive director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Timi Alaibe, who had to be compensated with the MDship of the agency to lay off Jonathan's back.
Again, fate intervened in the then Gov. Jonathan's life and political sojourn. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, having being beaten to his game of tenure extension, hit on a plot to foist on the nation two men who never nursed the ambition of presiding over Africa's most populous and most problematic country.
Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua, another ex-academic and former Katsina governor, was 'arranged' into office as president in one of the country's most contentious elections ever held, while Jonathan became vice-president.
Indeed, many agree that Jonathan fit the bill of VP. He's quite, self-effacing and a man who looks like the position of a deputy was tailor-made for him. A man who's smart enough to understand the position of a second-in-command in the complex Nigerian power game. You only had to watch the pose of the new VP in any photograph or discussion with his boss to know that the man knew his position in government. In a country severely traumatized by the shock and embarrassment of the roforofo fight between Nigeria's former two most important citizens, Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar, the combination of two calm personalities seemed reassuring to watchers of Aso Rock politics and the populace at large.
To be sure, Jonathan, had continued to live up to his good guy reputation, loyally deputizing for his uncharismatic and ailing boss. Wearing no toga of apparent ambition on his body and face. Then, fate intervened again. The second momentous time in the life of Jonathan. Good luck truly pursueth the man his parents named Goodluck at birth. Just how lucky can a man be? How come some people are born so fortunate? Being at the right place at the right time? Well, that's life, I guess.
Barely 78 days after his boss, Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua, was spirited out of the country on a medical emergency abroad, the National Assembly passed a resolution transferring executive powers to Jonathan. He became Nigeria's second acting president[the first was Nwafor Orizu in the first republic] and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. For a man who never nursed the ambition of ever reaching the nation's No. 2 position, he got the No. 1 slot on literally a platter of gold. For a poor, struggling university lecturer, Jonathan is today Nigeria's most important citizen. And all he had to do was allowing God place him at the right place at the right time.
However, even as God has done his own in the life of President Jonathan, what the man does with this chance of a life time is entirely up to him. It is not how long one is in power that matters, but how much impact you make in the lives of Nigerians, the vast majority who had no choice in making him president, that counts. After all, many of the world's greatest leaders were not those who hung on to power for too long. For example, Murtala Mohammed, one of Nigeria's most beloved leaders, cut short in the bloom of his life, spent barely eight months in office. Another purposeful leader, Muhammadu Buhari, didn't do more than 20 months before he was edged out by his colleagues.
Even with a few months to the expiration of his four years tenure, President Jonathan certainly has a tough task to turn cynicism into hope; tackle infrastructural decay .
Can Jonathan fix Nigeria? Has he what it takes to restore hope to our country?
In his maiden broadcast to the people, shortly after assuming office as president Jonathan promised to tackle the corruption monster which hangs on the nation's neck like the sword of Damocles. He also vowed to fix our energy crisis. He promised the people of Niger-Delta sincere and transparent commitment to the amnesty deal.
100 days after, has Jonathan lived up to his words? Is he on the right track. Has his administration dealt a fatal blow to the corruption monster ravaging the land? Are Nigerians better off than they were before he came to power? Has PHCN improved to the level that we can be truly proud of them?
In a nutshell, has good luck come to Nigerians because the man who bears the name is in the saddle?
I don't know about you. But, for me and I guess, millions of ordinary Nigerians, the kind you meet on the streets, in your city, town or village, you can't exactly feel this government. May be, they are doing a lot or cooking up things, but not much is being felt in terms of uplifting the standard of living of the people. Unemployment, especially youths and graduates, is still on the high side; the economy hasn't quite got the significant lift to put smiles on the lips of the people. The so-called growth in the economy is only visible to government and its officials. Add that to infrastructural decay everywhere, you can not but ask this administration to wake up from its slumber.
It does appear to the discerning that the politics of 2011 has substantially shoved governance to the back burner. All you see and hear these days are news about one group or the other trying to outdo one another in their promotion of the yet-to-be declared ambition of the president. Even some senior government officials seem to have abdicated their primary function for politics of 2011. At the end of it all, it's the people at the grassroots that suffer.
But all hope is not lost. The president can still achieve much if he will hit the ground running. I don't mean touring the states and commissioning projects, or touring the world for one event or the other. Truly, a nation in emergency situation like ours(where virtually nothing is working), should have a 24/7 president. A president who works day and night seeking ways to fix things. Where would he find the time to be globe-trotting when the nation needs urgent fixing?
In the few months left, he can concentrate to solve the hopelessness in the land; soaring unemployment, poverty, power collapse, amongst myriad other problems. As he has been advised by well-meaning Nigerians, he doesn't have to try solving all the problems at the same time. Let him prioritise and take one step at a time. A good one-point agenda is better and certainly preferable to a convoluted and senseless or unrealizable seven-point. If Jonathan concentrates on tackling electricity problem, he would have scored the bull's eye.
With a functional power system, industries would spring up, small-scale entrepreneurs would have a breather, firms and other big corporate players would take on more idle hands. Millions sunk into generators and diesel would be channeled into other areas. And life would be easier for everybody. Avoidable deaths in the theatres triggered by power outages or fluctuations would not happen. We can't hope to be technologically vibrant when we are forever chasing the elusive 6000 mega watts. If he does just this, he can go to bed assured of victory in 2011 if he decides to throw his hat into the ring. The ball, as they say, is in your court, Brother Jonathan!