Appraising Jonathan's leadership character


By Hamisu Abubakar
In assessing a political leader, the primary qualities to consider include the theoretical ideals of vision, commitment and political will. Then, of course, we take stock of the leader's capacity to deliver in terms of concrete achievements. A leader is adjudged to be a success, if his contributions are visibly evident, but a failure if there are little or no achievements to show for the period he was in office. Rarely, do we take into consideration the impossible state of affairs – that is, an imagination of the extent to which things would have been worse without the services of the leader.

It follows, therefore, that a meaningful assessment of any leader must always take into consideration the special circumstances into which fate has thrust him and how much efforts and energy he has invested to make a change. This is where history will be kind to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

When Jonathan assumed office after the 2011 general elections, he inherited acute development challenges. More than ever, the country was politically polarized along ethnic and religious lines; the results of the elections were greeted with violent protests in some Northern States, followed by the Boko Haram insurgency particularly in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States; the decay in infrastructure was at its peak; power generation hovered around 2000-3000 megawatts; most roads across the country were impassable; petrol queues in the filling stations were commonplace; unemployment was at its highest while only a few women occupied political appointments or were promoted to key positions in the public service.

Today, after only three and a half years in office, President Jonathan has already recorded remarkable progress in all the sectors of the Nigerian public life, through his Transformation Agenda. His major stride in the privatization of the power sector is a unique achievement, second only to that of the telecommunication sector of the Obasanjo administration. Despite the initial teething challenges, the results of the President's reforms in the power sector are beginning to show, as generation has risen to well over 4000 megawatts.

Not only have the nation's major highways improved, ongoing works can be seen in almost all parts of the country. The railway transportation, which was in a comatose state for decades, has been revived with the Lagos-Kano route already in operation while the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri service is expected to follow soon.

In other areas of social services, health, education, unemployment, women, youth, the physically challenged and other vulnerable, Jonathan's Transformation Agenda is already having positive impact. There have been monumental achievements in the agriculture sector, particularly in the distribution of fertilizer, development in the production of rice, cassava and other Nigeria staples. Developments in the Agriculture sector are the diversifications needed to move the Nigerian economy away from its current dependence on oil. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Nigerian economy is growing at an average rate of 6.5 percent. The recent rebasing of the Nigerian economy which makes it the largest in Africa and the 26 th in the world, is a major achievement by the Jonathan administration.

Jonathan has been able to attain these unparalleled achievements despite the enormous security challenges posed by the Boko Haram insurgency. But, there was no miracle involved! A little familiarity with the character and personality of Jonathan shows clearly that he was, from the beginning, well cut out for the job. From his humble upbringing as an indigent student at the University of Port Harcourt, Jonathan started his political career as a Deputy Governor in Bayelsa State. The rest, as they say, is history.

For those who may not have an idea, the secret of Jonathan's success is his humility.  He is an unassuming personality, who is humane, respectful and, maybe, on the shy side.  Naturally, a person of such social mien is easily taken for granted.  And that, precisely, is Jonathan's source of strength. More importantly, his charming personality was nourished by the traditional Ijaw culture of respect for elders, so much so that when the other day former President Olusegun Obasanjo was reported to have made certain negative remarks about him, he was reported to have remarked: “Baba is right and I will continue to learn from him.”

As we all know, Jonathan holds a doctorate degree in Zoology. He is the first Nigeria Head of State to have attained this level of education. It is true you don't need to be as educated as that to be able to rule this country; however, we must accept the critical role of education in human life.  Plato, the Greek philosopher, once said that “education leads to perfection and prepares the citizen for leadership role in society.”  He said that education was the key to sorting out people. According to Plato, “Those who are not well educated become the artisans while those who are physically gifted but less intellectually endowed should go into the military. Only those with sound education should be chosen as leaders,” hence Plato's dictum of “Philosopher-king.”

In leadership, education, wisdom and humility are difficult to separate.  A great deal of the policies and decisions undertaken by President Jonathan have been a product of deep reflections.  He has come to be known as the man who is never in a rush to do things, unless he is satisfied with his own assessment of the situation. Of course, those who lack this quality, especially the uneducated, describe him as “slow” or even “clueless.”  Should that really bother Jonathan?

Maturity is the hallmark of education and it is what makes a good leader.  When last year, Jonathan was to declare a state of emergency in the Northern States of Borno, Adamwa and Yobe, some of his political associates wanted him to make it total by removing all the democratic structures, that is, the Governors and State Assemblies. But, the President thought about it and arrived at the mature decision to leave the democratic structures intact.

It is true that in spite of Jonathan's determination as well as efforts by the security forces to stamp out insurgency in the North, the challenges are yet to be fully resolved.  For the opposition, this is evidence of failure.  But do they have an idea of the situation in Iraq, Syria or even Libya?  Does it ever occur to them that we have remained a United Nigeria because of the mature policies and actions of Jonathan?  It is obvious that given our circumstances, Nigeria could not have had a better leader than Jonathan.

Abubakar, who sent this piece from Abuja, can be reached through  [email protected]

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