Acting President: a sacred trust indeed

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Indeed, the most difficult period in the life of the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has just ended partly and began again with greater challenges. If I were to give account of the worries of this energetic ever Goodluck, I cannot hesitate to say boldly that the most trying period for him was the 79 days President Umar Musa Yar'Adua was away from office to receive medical attention in Saudi Arabia.

This tempting period ended on February 9th, 2010, when the Distinguished Senators and Members of the House of Representatives unanimously gave a nod to empower the Vice President as the Acting President. On the same day, the second phase of the harder times commenced with the observations, promises and expectations embedded in the text of the nationwide broadcast by the Acting President.

I read the text with the greatest interest and pinpointed some areas I dearly wish to appeal to the Acting President to always remember so that his tenure will leave indelible prints in the history of the nation. Nigeria needs him to perform in this trying time.

One who is conversant with Nigerian politics will not dispute the fact that it is a very hard task and that to be able to overcome the inherent hurdles and meet up with the challenges, some politicians are left with the options of toeing the path of morality and its resultant failure or following suit with the politimania of do or die to succeed. The attitude of taking rash actions or easily accepting to pressure from political friends has cost some of our politicians great losses as their loyalty becomes questionable. But Dr. Jonathan did not play like the tortoise, as in an Igbo adage, who was to wait for seven days in a difficult condition to win his bride, but lost after waiting for six and half days, with the claim that his life was at risk if he remained in the same condition for the remaining half day.

There can be no better word to describe the responsibilities reposed on the shoulders of the Acting President than sacred trust. For a man who has all his life or greater part of his life been in the first list of the favoured, the blessed, the elevated and honoured by God, Dr. Jonathan must maintain his strong belief in destiny. I can see him a strong member of the family who repose their trust in God and who hold fervently onto the creed that God's Time is the Best. His ability to pass those turbulent times of the President's absence amidst political gimmicks and power baits has proved him to be a sincere, loyal, responsible and patriotic Nigerian. This singular distinction postulates that, in the eventuality that he becomes the President – God being in control and the Knower of everything – he would display loyalty and sincerity of purpose to the electorate, and put equality, equity, patriotism and selflessness as his watchwords.

It may be too early to explore the mankind in the Acting President. Man has remained the same since creation. Sometimes, it is not how long one waits to get something but what becomes of him and how he manages the thing often create circumstances. Again, it is often said that power intoxicates. The situation here is quite unique. Dr. Jonathan's political profile comes to fore to explain some of the underpins in the whole circle.

Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was born about 53 years ago in Otueke in Ogbia Local Government Area in Bayelsa State. He has acquired large chunk of experiences in Nigerian politics from the local to the state to federal levels. He began serving the people at his hometown in Ogbia local government, severed as the duty governor from May 29th, 1999, then the governor of Bayelsa State between the December 9 2005 and May 28, 2007. He was sworn in as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2007 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Dr. Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) Honours in Zoology with a second class (HONS) upper division, an M.Sc. in Hydrobiology/Fisheries biology, and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Zoology from the University of Port Harcourt. He was second, after President Yar'Adua, to declare his asset after he took the oath of office in 2007.

With the above in view, it is clear that he is very much aware of the power play in Nigeria, added to his attachment to divine guidance and intervention. But lest we flip over serious issues concerning our nation, let's x-ray some points in his nationwide broadcast and see how the man would preside over our affairs.

First, he has acknowledged the tension the absence of President Yar'Adua created in the country and the squabbles related issues generated. The vacuum, in no small way, tested the faith and patience of the Nigerian people on one hand, and exposed the overbearing intrigues, loathsome complexity and to an extent weird misdeeds in our politics, on the other hand. No one could have fitted into the shoes of the Vice President during the period in review than Dr. Jonathan. One cannot undermine the political maturity he displayed during this tempting but enticing period. There were conflicts of interests. There were political maneuverings. There were calls, betting and baiting of all types from all segments of the society. But it seemed that while the political machinery of the President was pressing hard to keep the office unoccupied, the political allies of the Vice President was doing its best to make him act as the President, while he, himself, watched both parties with utmost confidence that only time would tell. Now that it has happened, he must practically take the call to duty as sacred and do his best.

Secondly he has acknowledged the supremacy of the Constitution which is the national guiding document. Thus he said, “In following the extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution to arrive at this decision, the leadership and members of the National Assembly have shown great courage, statesmanship and patriotism.” These same courage and patriotism are highly needed to man the exalted position in the country.

This statement, if he can work effectively with its implication, is enough to make him succeed. Said he, “Today affords us time to reconnect with ourselves and overcome any suspicions, hurts and doubts, which had occurred. In all these, there are no winners and no losers, because by the Grace of God, we have, once again, succeeded in moving our country forward. We have all shown that our unity as a people, our love for this country, and our hope for its great future cannot be shaken.”

On the critical sectors to tackle, he mentioned power, infrastructure, security, generation of employment and business opportunities for our teeming young men and women. These sectors are really the keys to our development. There should be proper utilization of the billions of naira sunk into the power sector with no visible impact up till now. Development of infrastructures should be spread across the country and rural areas should be included. Security of lives and properties must be enhanced. Engagement of our youths and the female folk in meaningful activities needs no second thought.

The crisis in the Niger Delta has been a thorn on our flesh as one people. The Federal Government has taken steps to tackle it. Therefore, consolidation of the gains of amnesty and effective implementation of the post-amnesty programme are paramount. It would be recalled that when he was sworn-in as the Vice to President Yar'Adua, six months were set for him to make peace in the Niger Delta. It was really difficult probably because he was not fully empowered. Now that the ball is in his court and the situation in the Niger Delta can well be described as uneasy calm, he should act positive, while putting the overall interest of the nation into consideration.

Two things to be also tackled are corruption and electoral malpractices. The two government bodies saddled with the responsibilities to right the wrongs in this regard, should be given full independence and patriotic Nigerians entrusted to man them. The just conducted Anambra gubernatorial election has shown that the 2011 general elections could be well managed.

The Acting President has begun well with the minor cabinet reshuffle. He should relieve the incompetent ministers of the burdens they bear on the nation's economy. But he must be guided by the general interest of Nigerians, stick to the provisions of the constitution and remain the Goodluck he has been for Nigeria.

Let good luck continue to follow Jonathan. Let the Acting President hear the voices of reason, have mercy on the Nigerian people, involve the youths in his government and ensure that Nigerians rejoice with his victories in the key sectors of the economy.

Muhammad Ajah, a writer and author, is an advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. ([email protected])

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah