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Jonathan: Emergence of a consensus president
By Elvis Agukwe
Wednesday, March 10 , 2010

Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan

These are critical times for Nigeria and Nigerians. These are trying times for Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, for in his hands lie our fragile democracy and all that it stands for. There is no gainsaying the fact that never in the history of Nigeria has so much been expected from one man within such a short time.

It could rightly be said that fate and history settled with Nigerians to call upon Jonathan to provide leadership. And herein lies the burden for the acting president.

Nobody can accuse Jonathan of usurpation. Nobody can accuse him of harbouring an inordinate ambition. From the classroom in 1999, he was catapulted to Government House Yenegoa first as deputy governor and later governor. Even when he was contented to seek reelection, God took him to Aso Rock, first as Vice president and now the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of Nigeria. A man who has been fiercely loyal to President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, the acting president comes across as a trusted leader who would easily give his all for his country.

His courageous assumption of office the moment the National Assembly empowered him was an indication that patriotism runs in his veins. And contrary to insinuations that he was going to be a week leader, he moved against the former Attorney General, Mike Aoondooka so as to assert his presidency. It was only natural that he should be his own man given the tremendous goodwill of Nigerians towards him. He cannot afford to squander such, no matter the distraction by those who don't mean well for the country.

It is from this prism that the Acting President must immediately work to define his presidency. Knowing that Nigerians were united in making him the acting president, Jonathan should immediately roll his sleeves and tackle the enormous responsibility before him, chief of which are power and energy, electoral reform, deepening of democratic structures including the party, youth employment, the Niger Delta question and of course provision of basic infrastructures.

Given the strategic importance of power and energy in the lives of Nigerians, any president who solves this problem would become a folklore hero. This has nothing to do with rhetorics or buck passing which has been the norm in the past. Addressing the challenges faced by epileptic power supply would certainly accelerate the economic development of the country including curbing the disturbing high rate of unemployment among the youth. Indeed the concomitant benefits derivable from steady power supply cannot be over emphasized.

What needs to be emphasized over and over again is the anticipated electoral reforms. Unlike some short-sighted and self-serving politicians who are bad losers, neither INEC nor the Chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu is the problem of elections in Nigeria. At least what happened recently in Anambra State is an eye-opener to those who have been calling for the removal of Prof Iwu as if that is what would automatically obviate our electoral woes. Rather, Jonathan should work on strengthening INEC and other institutions involved in the conduct of elections ahead of the 2011 vote. Prof Iwu has the added advantage of having gained experience as an electoral umpire. The government can constitute a board with Iwu as chairman and all former INEC Chairman as members to specifically oversee the 2011 elections. I believe that the nation would benefit from it.

Apart from that, the Acting President should strengthen the capacity of other democratic institutions involved directly with the conduct of elections. The security agencies in particular should be given the orientation to resist attempt by politicians to use them to rig elections through snatching of ballot boxes. Experience has shown that politicians are responsible for electoral malpractices including compromising the institutions. Playing the ostrich would not help us. Since the Acting President has assured the International Community that 2011 elections would be more credible and acceptable, now is the time to start working for its realization.

Even as he tackles this problem, the Acting President must do all within his power to see the Amnesty programme to its logical conclusion. In spite of criticisms, the government still has a chance to redeem itself. And Jonathan knows that he is in the spot and must deliver. There is no doubt that some elements bent on destabilizing the nation would attempt to truncate the programme by inciting the repented militants to move against the government. He should resist the attempt to be swayed from the path of doing what is right, which is to ensure that every aspect of the amnesty programme is implemented successfully.

Of course the gargantuan benefits from the successful implementation of the programme should rub-off positively on development of infrastructure and youth employment in the region and Nigeria as a whole. Our roads are terrible. Let it be written for Jonathan that our roads got better under his leadership. No matter what it takes, he should as a matter of urgency move in and save Nigerian from the death traps that are our roads. He should equally tame the intractable fuel supply that has become a shame to Nigerians.

However, for Jonathan to confront these challenges, he must overhaul the machinery of government. Two thirds of members of the Federal Executive Council are no longer relevant. He should not waste time in dissolving the council and reconstituting it. In appointing new ministers, he should work in concert with the leadership of PDP. The National Chairman of PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor has done very well in the face of the current crisis. Indeed how Jonathan handles the ruling party would truly prove he has what it takes to move the nation forward. He is now the leader of the PDP and must support the party to perform her duties.

Other stakeholders Jonathan should carry along are members of the National Assembly and the governors' forum. He should not make the past mistake of treating them with contempt or relating with them on a master-servant basis. The National Assembly in particular should be carried along in administering the nation so that they can always give their support. As a former governor, Jonathan knows he cannot ignore the support base of the governors, irrespective of party affiliations.

But more importantly, the Acting President should know that as Nigeria's consensus leader, he must not have time for pettiness or discrimination. He should strive towards maintaining peace and national cohesion by running an inclusive government where all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, party afflation or religion would be major stakeholders. May God grant him the wisdom of Solomon as he makes history as the first Nigerian leader who emerged by consensus and delivered.

Agukwe writes from Abuja,