Vindicating President Jonathan
BY DENNIS ALEMU
History can only be fair to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan if today's public affairs commentators, analysts, writers and journalists in Nigeria set aside their political and religious leanings, and contextualize his administration in the right political and historical settings, without figments of bias and subjectivity. This submission has become imperative on three counts. First, there is now a growing trend to underreport the achievements of the Jonathan Administration by a section of the print media, and other online platforms. Second, the said segment of the Nigerian print media appears to be on the side of the insurgents by offering them psychological support in their reportage, which not only gives status conferral to the Boko Haram but valorizes the sect each time it carries out heinous and condemnable acts of terrorism. To put it mildly, they are turning themselves into a propaganda machine for the Islamic sect, without showing any concern for the national interest and how such irresponsible watchdog behaviour can plunge their country into total anarchy.
Nigerians need to ask these reporters riding the crest of the insurgency, on whose side they stand- whether they are on the side of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or they are for the macabre Boko Haram sect which has been killing their fellow country men and women without any justifiable cause. Thirdly, by portraying the anti-terrorism war as a battle for only the Jonathan-led Federal Government to fight, that section of the Nigerian Press is making it more difficult for government to build the necessary collaboration to comprehensively snuff out the insurgents in the north eastern part of the country. In the same breath, it is inadvertently trying to foment a national emergency similar to that of the Rwandan Genocide in the 1990s which claimed nearly a million lives in that East African country.
However, despite the endless, often destructive, criticism of the President, the pendulum of public opinion is swinging in his favour more than it does for his die-hard critics in the opposition formations, ahead of the 2015 general elections. In what looks everything a social revolution, there is a new consciousness among Nigerians that the man whom the opposition has used all the negative adjectives under the sun to label, discredit, demonize and derogate, even at the very risk of national security, is not the 'devil' the opposition wants the world to believe he is. Nigerians are no zombies and they can see farther than their nose.
In sharp contrast, President Goodluck Jonathan is a God-fearing leader; a democrat par excellence, and builder of society. Prior to his election as Vice President of Nigeria in 2007, Jonathan had bequeathed a legacy of excellence in public service in his home state of Bayelsa, in a space of two and a half years. He is credited with initiating many ambitious development projects including two major bridges which have been completed by the Dickson Administration in Bayelsa State.
As is well known, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan inherited many problems as President of Nigeria. At the time he formally took over the reins of governance, the nation was literally quaking; it was walking precariously like the proverbial chicken on a rope! The snapping and tense drama that was staged around his succession could make a good script for a Nollywood feature film any day. In the wake of the crisis, the National Assembly as of necessity had to invoke the Doctrine of Necessity to clear every obstacle that was blocking Jonathan's inauguration as substantive President of Nigeria.
The protracted succession battle by Mr. President was really a foretaste of the political climate that was to characterize his administration. The Boko Haram insurgency which had begun under the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua Administration intensified with every passing day and climaxed with the 2011 presidential election fairly won by Jonathan. The reactionary post-election violence resulted in so many deaths. Thereafter, the bombings, killings and maiming by the terrorist group assumed more destructive dimensions and took a regular frequency.
To worsen matters for the Jonathan Administration, the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) uses every opportunity to build political capital out of the pestilent security challenge posed by the Boko Haram insurgency. The loss of lives occasioned by every act of terrorism is perceived by the opposition as its gain to propagate and advance its cause to unseat the chief occupant at Aso Rock! Any time the sect succeeds in bombing anywhere, it is an addition of ammunition for the APC to fire salvos of criticism at the Federal Government, at the same time, castigating the Nigerian military for what the APC calls 'violation of human rights' in the latter's bid to rout the terrorists in the 'Axis of Evil'. But when Boko Haram terrorists abduct school girls and rape women in Borno State where the insurgency is most intense, nobody calls that a 'violation of human rights.'
It has been argued elsewhere that if General Yakubu Gowon had experienced just 10 percent of the partisan obstacles created by the opposition for President Jonathan so far, the 1967-70 fight to keep Nigeria together would have ended in ignominious capitulation. This is quite instructive. But in spite of the legion of challenges the Jonathan Administration had to contend with – including but not limited to an enervating and resource-sapping atmosphere of insurgency, and an unscrupulous opposition that practically leaves no stone unturned to make the President fail – it has succeeded in making some landmark achievements for the nation.
To begin with, the Rule of Law being enjoyed by all Nigerians, including the APC and its faithful, owes much to a President who demonstrates in practical terms that the Rule of Law is indeed the soul of democracy. This, one believes, will not be the case under an APC-led Federal Government. The public personae of the personalities in the APC's fold don't suggest they would stomach the insults, abuses and deprecatory remarks they have been consistently raining on Mr. President and the Peoples Democratic Party. It is quite deductive from its cantankerous fashion of politicking that the leadership of the APC sure does not have the patience of Job to allow the Rule of Law to take its full course as the Jonathan Administration is doing. Today, the same opposition is labeling Jonathan a weak President because he has not turned the coercive apparatus of the state at his disposal into instruments of terror against those fighting to unseat him.
As it is public knowledge, despite the monstrosity of security challenges which had gulped large chunks of the national budget in the last three years, the Jonathan Administration has among other things, built more power infrastructure and remarkably improved generation and distribution, revamped the moribund railways, rehabilitated 22 airports nationwide, and established 12 new federal universities and 120 Al-Majiri schools in the north. The government has also rehabilitated and expanded federal highways such as the Kaduna-Maiduguri, East-West, Onitsha-Enugu-Port Harcourt, Benin-Ore-Sagamu, Abuja-Kaduna, Kaduna-Kano, Ibadan-Ife, Okene-Ajaokuta, Makurdi-Lafia, Onitsha-Asaba-Benin Abuja-Abaji-Lokoja, and the Lagos-Ibadan Dual Carriageways. According to the Minister of Works, Architect Mike Onolememen, the Federal Government has so far covered a distance of 25,000km of road rehabilitation and construction in three years. Under the present administration, the agricultural and power sectors have also undergone tremendous transformation.
It is pertinent to note that the Jonathan Administration has also ensured free and fair elections in the country, even in states controlled by the opposition. It has upheld the independence of the judiciary as a separate, indispensable arm of government, and demonstrated respect for, and protected the fundamental rights of Nigerians under the Constitution. The desire of Mr. President to secure the lives of Nigerians is irrevocable, which he has clearly demonstrated in the Federal Government's handling of the current security challenge in the north eastern states. Nigerians must joins with Mr. President and the Nigerian military to fight the war on terrorism in order to achieve total victory.
President Jonathan has the best of intentions for Nigeria. He could have achieved much more for all Nigerians if not for the daunting security challenge thrown in his path. The billions allocated to quelling the Boko Haram insurgency could have been spent to fund other national priorities and through this, foster more development in the nation.
Mr. Dennis is a public affairs analyst.
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