2015: Jonathan's Supporters, Detractors and the Rest of Us
By Chukwuka Ezendiaru
Only the politically naive can fail to see that President Goodluck Jonathan will contest the 2015 presidential election. Even if his now famous body language is the only signal we can read, the signs are evident that the man will stand for re-election. Naturally, his supporters see nothing wrong in that. And, expectedly, his detractors do. But what do the rest of us who are neither his supporters nor detractors think about the issue?
First of all, in a matter as sensitive as the presidency of our nation, it is admittedly near-impossible for anyone of voting age not to hold an opinion one way or the other. But holding an opinion is one thing; having the force of conviction to act on that opinion is another. When the chips are down, how would the majority of voters vote?
Even with a crystal ball, it would be near impossible to predict precisely what the results of the 2015 presidential elections will be. And while all manner of variables will affect who the people eventually elect, the factor of incumbency presupposes that the election is Jonathan's to win or lose.
It then follows that those of us who are neither Jonathan's supporters nor detractors owe ourselves a duty to independently assess his performance in office in order to help us make up our minds as 2015 approaches. In doing so, we may adopt a global standard for evaluating an incumbent's performance in office, namely the economy.
When Jonathan assumed office as the president, the global economy was still in the grips of a major downturn. However, knowing too well the reliance of the Nigerian economy on oil and gas, Jonathan signed into law the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Bill 2010 (Local Content Bill), which was aimed at raising local content in the Oil and Gas sector.
Consequently, Shell Petroleum, a major foreign oil company operating in Nigeria, contracted a Nigerian company, S.C.C Limited, to manufacture high pressure line pipes at a cost of N7.8 billion ($49.9 million). Also, the local content law spurred Exxon Mobil to award an offshore platform contract to Niger Dock Nigeria, Plc. It is worth noting that without the Local Content Bill which Jonathan signed into law, these two lucrative contracts and others like them would have gone to foreign firms.
Moreover, with the realisation that oil and gas will not hold sway forever in the world economy, the Jonathan administration initiated the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) with three sub funds; the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund; the Future Generations Fund and the Stabilization Fund as its pillars.
Furthermore, in a bid to spur young Nigerians to become entrepreneurs and employers of labour rather than waiting to be employed by others, Jonathan's government awarded business start-up grants of between 1 to 10 million naira to 1,200 Nigerian youths on April 12, 2012. These young people, who are from all parts of the country, were the first batch of winners of the novel business idea competition under the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) initiative which was launched by the administration on October 11, 2011.
Similarly, the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was reported as showing in a presentation at an interactive session with the private sector that the Jonathan-led administration created 1.6 million jobs in the year 2013.
In the same vein, Jonathan himself said in his New Year message that, “as a result of our backward integration policies, Nigeria has moved from a country that produced 2 million metric tonnes of cement in 2002, to a country that now has a capacity of 28.5 million metric tonnes. For the first time in our history, we have moved from being a net importer of cement to a net exporter.”
Closely connected to the economy, and the administration's efforts to diversify from over-reliance on oil, agriculture has received a boost under the Jonathan administration. Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, was named Africa Person of the Year 2013 by the well-regarded international magazine, Forbes. He defeated four other nominees from across Africa to win the prestigious prize.
Dr Adesina was nominated on account of the various achievements in Nigeria's agriculture sector, including encouraging more than six million farmers across the country to practise agriculture as a business, and not as a development initiative without any incentive for growth.
Interestingly, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, Mohammed Monguno—who happens to be a member of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC)—appraised Jonathan's performance in agriculture in a televised broadcast and said, “I must say that the agriculture transformation agenda being pursued by your administration is unparalleled and unprecedented.” He went on to add, “We must learn to give credit where credit is due and I'm doing exactly that.”
Jonathan himself declared in his New Year message to Nigerians that, “We are witnessing a revolution in the agricultural sector and the results are evident. We have tackled corruption in the input distribution system as many farmers now obtain their fertilizers and seeds directly through an e-wallet system. In 2013, 4.2 million farmers received subsidized inputs via this programme.”
Are these economic indices enough to help the rest of us who are neither Jonathan's supporters nor detractors decide how we will vote at the 2015 polls? Only time will tell.
Ezendiaru sent in this piece from Owerri, Imo State.