President Jonathan: A reform-minded Leader
Since independence in 1960, President Jonathan appears to have been the only President who was elected by popular acclaim. His election in April 2011 cut across religion, partisan interest, ethnic nationality and geo-political zone. This was evident in the overwhelming support he garnered during the April 2011 General elections. His popularity is attributable to two main factors. First, since independence, Nigeria has for the first time produced a President who has traversed the academia, the public and private sectors. Academically, he is the most qualified person that has ever ruled Nigeria, even though good qualification may not correlate directly with leadership. Secondly, President Jonathan appears to have distinguished himself as the most humble leader. More importantly, President Jonathan canvassed a progressive, people-oriented development agenda – the transformation agenda – which is a holistic agenda for fast-tracking the development of the nation. It was the popular appeal that made Jonathan's presidency very attractive.
When President Goodluck Jonathan canvassed a transformational agenda – a change-centric manifesto, Nigerians from all six geo-political zones voted for him. I think than the transformational agenda articulated by President Jonathan was a compelling vision for a better Nigeria. A transformational leader does the right thing rather than do things right, and because of the penchant for long-term planning, transformation leaders do better when they win the trust and confidence of the people. The official pronouncements of government have always shown that President Jonathan is eager to bequeath a legacy for posterity as a transformational leader. He is optimistic and enthusiastic about turning bad statistics and the negatives into positives and all his official policies point to that direction.
Propelled by the desire to transform the nation, President Jonathan reiterated the same policy thrust during a 2-day Presidential Retreat with the Private Sector was held on the 13thand 14th of October, 2011, at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The theme of the Retreat was 'Economic Development and Job Creation'. The Retreat's purpose was to ensure that the Government and Private Sector work collaboratively to deliver on the Transformation Agenda. The President's charge for both the Public and Private Sectors to imbibe a positive and proactive attitude to delivering on the required reforms, as this attitude was as important as the reforms themselves. This transformative attitude was best represented by the twin mantras of 'Just Do It' that is, moving from policy formulation to execution and delivery; and 'Never Again' that is not to repeat the past mistakes of economic mismanagement and missing past opportunities.
The President used the instrumentality of the retreat to ask the Economic Team to identify and prioritize the resolution of critical challenges facing key sectors of the Nigerian economy and possible areas of focus and strategy to create jobs. The President also charged the retreat to identify policy changes and reforms required to enhance inclusive growth and promote job creation as well as key indicators to focus on to improve the real sectors that are likely to give Nigeria a competitive edge in the developing economies of Africa.
Since then the President has been consistent Further highlights of the retreat include the drive towards “economic justice through the responsible stewardship of natural resources for present and future generations; accelerating the implementation of key reforms including the Power Reform Roadmap, Ports Reforms, the Agriculture Transformation Action Plan, Downstream Deregulation, Land Use Act reform, and the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill into law.
On trade and investment, the Jonathan administration has established the National Automobile Council established as well as an Automotive Development Fund to provide long term loans to resuscitate the automobile industry and generate jobs. Machinery has been put in place for the establishment of 37 Skills Acquisition Centers nationwide. Approval for genuine foreign investors to obtain visas at the point of entry to facilitate FDI investments has been given by the President. This is to facilitate potential investors to do business in Nigeria. Government has also completed of Model Skills Training Centers in Abuja-collaboration between the Industrial Training Fund and the Institute for Technical Education, Singapore, first of its kind in Nigeria. In order to boost trade and investment, the Jonathan administration has established the Nigerian Vehicle Credit Purchase scheme. It has also commenced the process of establishing a World Trade & International Business Center in Lagos and the process for backward integration in Sugar and Rice Production to ensure self sufficiency.
President Jonathan has done so much to boost the overwhelming success of the Amnesty Programme. The Amnesty Programme, which has brought relative peace to the hitherto turbulent Niger Delta Region, has led to the expansion of Nigeria's oil production expanded by 20% and Nigeria has reclaimed her former position as Africa's largest oil exporter which she had hitherto lost to Angola. Last year, 2011 Nigeria set a new record by being recognized by OPEC in the month of July as the second largest oil exporter in the cartel second only to Saudi Arabia. It is the first time Nigeria has recorded such a feat. In the months ahead, there would be noticeable improvements.
President Jonathan launched two satellites in August 2011. These satellites were designed and built by Nigerian Engineers/Scientists in conjunction with British Scientists and will help expand Internet Bandwidth, monitor the weather and provide early warning to prevent natural disasters like floods, crop monitoring and urban planning. Another uncommon achievement!
The administration approved allowance Increase for Youth Corps Members and in recognition of the sacrifices of youth corps members, the President approved the upward review of their allowances from 9,700 Naira to 19,800 Naira. This is in addition to the implementation of the N18, 000 minimum wages Increase for Nigerian Workers. President Jonathan believes that Nigerian workers deserve to earn more as compensation for the efforts they put into advancing our society.
Another critical reason Nigerians should trust President Jonathan is his achievements so far when he assumed office last year. The President has implemented the Amnesty Programme, which dividends are very conspicuous for all to see. Niger Delta youths have inundated the training institutes in Ghana, South Africa, the Philippines, Russia, Ukraine, India and so many countries around the world. Soon, the Niger Delta will produce lots of pipeline and Under-water Welders, Pilots, Boat Builders, Seafarers, Marine Engineers and ICT gurus among others. If the Amnesty Programme is sustained to its 4th and fifth stage, the Niger Delta Region will never be in short supply of techno-vocational manpower especially at the intermediate level.
Whereas the Petroleum Industry Bill is on its way to becoming an Act; government has signed into an Act, the Local Content Act. To address the rapidly expanding demand for tertiary education in the Country, the Federal Government has established seven more Universities in Nigeria. President Jonathan, for the first time since 1960, has reviewed the foreign policy of the country to make Nigeria more proactive in solving her domestic problems while not compromising the big brother role she has been playing in continental Africa.
This vision presupposes that President Jonathan has chosen to focus on creating a transformational leadership franchise and legacy. The implication of this choice is that President Jonathan wants his politics and overall leadership to be all about national transformation! That is, President Jonathan's top three priorities are national transformation, national transformation and national transformation! It's pretty obvious that President Jonathan would want to be remembered as the President who did his best to propel the socio-economic and political transformation of Nigeria.
One policy Nigerian must remain grateful to President Jonathan for is the prioritization of Agriculture as a key growth driver of the economy. To this end, efforts are being made to improve the productivity, yield and competiveness of key agricultural commodities with significant export potential. By harnessing the value chains in the production of cocoa, groundnut, oil palm and rice, as well as for cotton, cassava and sorghum, we will conserve billions of dollars in foreign exchange that would otherwise have been spent on imports. We will equally reverse the unsustainable food importation process, which has fuelled domestic inflation. This will improve our national food security position; and unleash the sector's potentials for employment generation and wealth creation. Similarly, government has made concerted efforts to accelerate economic diversification by improving the nation's investment environment to ensure a sustained economic growth so that government would create significant employment generation for wealth creation.
For Jonathan, the retreat could not have come at a more auspicious time in the nation's history, at a time the global economy was facing uncertain times, as developed and developing nations, alike, strived to recover from the ongoing global economic upheaval. He, therefore, reminded the participants that several nations were grappling with the grim realities of a protracted crisis; prospects for global economic growth remained unbalanced. But Nigeria, according to him, has tried to be pro-active in response to these issues. He said primarily as part of his administration's transformation agenda, government was adopting and implementing more prudent macroeconomic and fiscal policies over the medium-term horizon.
With the approval of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, the President facilitated direct investments into infrastructure with the priority areas being Power and Roads. In the area of power generation President approved the pioneer board for the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (NEBT) Plc, in an effort to stabilize power supply by facilitating smooth operations between independent power producers and distribution companies. Nigeria now generates power at her highest level ever.
Sufficient attention has been accorded the mass transit especially railway transport. The Nigerian Railway Corporation has commenced Mass Transit Train Services in five out of the six geo-political zones with the sixth zone coming on stream before the end of the year. The Jonathan administration has approved funds for the rehabilitation of the West road in Nigeria in order to facilitate transportation of goods and services around the country. The Federal Government also awarded contracts for various road projects across the country whose impact will soon be felt nationwide.
Prior to the subsidy removal controversy, the President introduced the unique policy of intervening in the pricing of kerosene by engaging with the Private Sector and the price reduced within the first 100 days between May and September, 2011. He also introduced the policy of selling kerosene direct to end users essentially to reduce the bottlenecks associated with the distribution system. This successful scheme has reduced the artificial scarcity of the product hitherto faced by the Nigerian masses.
In the area of administration of justice, President Jonathan set up of a 12-man Justice Sector Reform Implementation Committee to ensure the implementation of various reforms that have been articulated and widen access to justice. Mr. President assented to several bills to increase access to justice including; The Human Rights Amendment Act, 2011; Legal Aid Amendment Act, 2011; The Evidence Act (which has simplified the process of collating evidence in our legal system), Further, the President signed the FOI Bill into an Act, thereby showing his commitment to lifting the veil covering governance and deepening participatory democracy. The framework for compliance of the FOI Act has been prepared by the Office of the AGF for gazetting, after inputs from critical stakeholders.
As a result of the dexterity of the helmsman at the PDP office, Security and peace appear to have been deepened. Peace has been sustained in the Niger Delta; ex-combatants are in training or engaging in worthwhile ventures. Efforts are made to improve on facilities for an Intelligence-Based Security Approach, while maritime Safety is being pursued with renewed vigour. To reduce the incidence of kidnapping in the South East, President Jonathan order on the establishment of the 14 Brigade of the Nigerian army in Ohafia, Abia state. This is a feat not yet achieved by any President since 1960.
While this writer did not set out to chronicle the achievement of the Jonathan administration, it does appear that President Goodluck Jonathan has fashioned out the right strategy to keep the transformation agenda working. With a formidable Economic Team getting the strategy right is the most crucial component in any policy implementation process. All these achievements have been recorded when President Jonathan is yet to celebrate his one year in office. There are certain glaring challenges facing the Jonathan Presidency but the helmsman has so far demonstrated statesmanship, leadership and demonstrated his zeal and candour to transform the nation and re-position her economy on a rock-sure foundation. For their sake, and for the sake of the youths, unemployed, women and children, Mr. President's reform agenda should be supported by all stakeholders.
Idumange John – a Policy Analyst, is Deputy President, Niger Delta Integrity Group