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Nigeria’s consequential moment at the crossroads

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cross-roadsAS the controversy provoked by the six-week postponement of the country’s general elections by the electoral body INEC simmers down, Nigerians have returned to their preparations for Election 2015. Concerning the country’s long awaited but often elusive national development, this will be one of the most consequential elections yet in Nigeria’s democratic experience. The realistic choice facing the Nigerian electorate this time around appears to be rather stark: The one option is to re-elect Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP and have him continue with his policies for the next four years. The other option is for Nigeria to pass the baton to the APC’s Muhammadu Buhari and have him implement a different set of policies.

In its proper perspective, the interest of the people of Nigeria, and hence their better choice among the competing alternatives for the presidency, may best be ascertained from an objectively based cost-benefit analysis of the scenario, which must be devoid of unnecessary sentiments and rooted in the national experience of the people of Nigeria over the past 50 odd years. Such an analysis, it turns out, would suggest the re-election of the incumbent president.

Now, let’s begin with a look at Jonathan’s record. To be sure, he already has a modest record of accomplishments under his belt. For instance, his administration is building new international airports of impressive standards and is refurbishing existing ones; Nigeria’s railway lines are coming back on stream and the network is poised to expand across the country; on Jonathan’s watch, about a dozen new universities have been built in the country; his team has made serious innovations and a credible investment in the agricultural sector of the economy; aside from new road constructions, there are transformative projects like the massive River Niger Bridge under construction as well as a few others. Modest they may be, yet from a developmental point of view, these are not accomplishments that any reasonable person can ignore.

Furthermore, thanks to its efforts on such crises as Ebola and Boko Haram, the Jonathan government, albeit still at a quite rudimentary stage of the process, seems to be the first Nigerian government to finally begin the critical task of building basic governmental capacity and the institutional knowledge needed for the management of unforeseen problems. This kind of knowledge and capacity are necessary ingredients in the proper running of mass societies in today’s era of the nation-state. And there is something else: Of the two major candidates running for Nigeria’s top job, Jonathan is the one more likely to faithfully implement the recommendations of the recent National Conference, which offers Nigeria its best chance to date of surviving as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society with deep fault lines.

But there is a flip side to Jonathan’s administration that is rather unflattering. For starters, it must be acknowledged with much regret that for all the claims to the contrary by his re-election campaign organisation, there is little doubt that his administration has ranked among the more corrupt administrations in the country since the return to democracy in 1999. Nigerians know this all too well and they find it all deeply frustrating and disappointing. Plus, though his government lately seems to be turning the corner in its fight against Boko Haram, most people rightly believe that the situation was mismanaged in the early going. Even Jonathan himself now concedes that he underestimated the Boko Haram menace.

So, as he seeks re-election, Jonathan’s record in office is certainly a mixed bag. Yet, since elections are about the future rather than the past, the most logical argument for Jonathan’s re-election can hardly be his job performance so far but rather his prospects for improved performance. Fortunately for him, there are entirely reasonable grounds to suppose that in the years ahead the prevailing circumstances in the country do provide ample opportunities for him to vastly improve the performance of his administration and thereby upgrade the said performance from modest to good, if not better, during his second term.

But what exactly are those prevailing circumstances? Well, they can best be described as a combination of factors that make up the new political environment in the country under which any new administration in Nigeria must now operate, namely, the triumvirate of a genuine opposition party, the media and civil society. Clearly, the latest and most decisive factor in this new environment is the emergence of a new national political party that is capable of winning a national vote and displacing the PDP from power. For all its current shortcomings, the advent of the APC since the past year is a huge blessing to Nigeria and the cause of its national development. Gone now are the days when the PDP had a solid lock on power at both Aso Rock and the National Assembly. With the opposition APC breathing down the PDP’s neck, together with the intense pressure from Nigeria’s active media and vibrant civil society groups, Jonathan’s government will have no choice but to step on the gas pedal and accelerate the country’s development. The synergy of these triumvirate forces will generate such a critical mass of pressure on the government that the practice of “business as usual” will become a thing of the past. In this upcoming scenario, Jonathan’s days as a weak and soft leader of a corrupt government will come to an end and Nigeria will be better off for it. Indeed, given Jonathan’s actions since the APC has been on the national scene, it seems fair to suggest here that if these conditions had existed four years ago when Jonathan was elected, his leadership report card today would certainly have been better than what it is presently available. Herein lies the hope for a brighter future for Nigeria if he is re-elected.

Now how about the opposition? Some might ask, why not turn Nigeria over to Buhari at this time? Well, not so fast! Aside from lots of incoherent noisemaking about corruption and national security, it is obvious that the APC has not given Nigerians any specific details about just what policy measures or initiatives they intend to pursue in government; nor have they said in what concrete ways they will do things differently from Jonathan. In any event, the political background and moral character of the APC’s membership is the same as that of the PDP. Indeed, many of their members are recent and former crossovers from the PDP who jumped ship for various dishonourable reasons, including losing their re-nomination bids or not securing expected political patronage from the ruling PDP. More accurately, the APC can be described as a hodgepodge of strange bedfellows who are not held together by any identifiable set of shared political beliefs. The only apparent glue to their whole enterprise is a desire to grab power at the polls.

Truth be told, most Nigerians know from bitter past experience that their current crop of politicians are cut from the same cloth and therefore Nigerians do not tend to believe in their guts that the APC team will serve the national interest with any more integrity than the PDP. Besides, let’s face it, the APC nominee is an old man who is visibly unfamiliar with the mechanics of modern governance in the digital age of the Internet and social media. Already, despite his promise of far-reaching reforms, he has refused to appear in any forum to debate his opponent on the issues in the campaign. From all indications, his presidential bid in 2015 is hardly a campaign that thinks much of accountability and transparency.

All things considered, it is fair to conclude that the APC will serve Nigeria best in the next four years as a dutiful opposition party working with the media and civil society to push the party in government to do a better job for Nigeria. During its years in opposition, Nigerians would hope that the APC stays together as a united front, develops a legitimate electoral platform for the next election and works toward the nomination of a credible candidate for president in 2019. For now, though, based on a cost-benefit calculus of the available options, the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 seems like the better option for Nigeria’s national interest in the years ahead.
• Unegbu is a Nigerian-born American lawyer and journalist. He lives in New York City.



6 Comments
  • New Nigerian

    Dear Editor – You got it very, very wrong. Jonathan’s opposition is NOT the APC, Jonathan’s opposition is the Nigerian masses. The real power behind APC’s ascendancy is the people of Nigeria. The people are tired of a felon in the presidency and the people will vote massively for what everyone buys into – which is to end massive balkanization of Nigeria through the office of the presidency. In case you did not read the news today – Jonathan have just approved a bond of $100m to be floated, this debt would be used for infrastructure development. Well Guess what that is the same amount Jonathan makes from his 400,000+ barrel per day of oil in less than 5 days….the other day the budget for road repairs what slashed by 80% to N10billion for 2015….civil servants salaries are being cut 30%, no foreign travels fr any civil servant….summarily voting for Jonathan guarantees that the plutocracy continues – since it is now made systemic – while at the same time there is a guarantee that Nigerians would be made to suffer the brunt of diminished earnings even as the rent-seeking with the president as the chief rent-seeker, and others continue unabated.

    Look at Buhari – he would plug the holes, stop all the rent-seeking, ensure that the 400,000+ barrels per day goes into public coffers and ensure that it is judiciously managed.

    The editor fails to mention security and the genocide in the North another huge issue. How about the 35,000 Nigerians that have been unnecessarily and senselessly killed under Jonathan’s watch – the editor says nothing about that! So we the masses are moving on. The best rebuttal of this lopsided and wrong analysis & conclusion by the editor is best provided by Femi Fani Kayode –

    Femi Fani Kayode, in his speech delivered in Ife Town Hall, Ile Ife on September 23, 2013 has the followings to say about Jonathan, take a read – now we know why Jonathan stops the oversight of the oil theft (see Fni’s note below) , to us it was theft, to him it was his personal-oil-production operation (which he enabled with 2 contracts to the militants through which he has bilked more than $60+ from Nigeria through this under table international oil operation which ended up adding to the oil glut in the world with negative effect on the oil price):

    “””It is only under this Federal Government that, according to Rotimi Amaechi the Governor of Rivers state, two powerful, sophisticated, well-armed and highly efficient combat helicopters can be ordered and brought into the country to fight and bring an end to the massive oil theft that has gone on in the Niger Delta area for the last three years yet when those helicopters arrived the President simply refused to use and deploy them for reasons best known to himself. I have the utmost respect for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is especially because I am someone who had the privilage of working in that office for three years before I became a Federal Minister when I was spokesman to President Olusegun Obasanjo. Yet even though my respect for that office remains intact I am constrained to say that I have nothing but contempt for the way that it is presently being run and I have no qualms about criticising the performance of our President and his government. As a matter of fact I consider it as part of my civic duty to do so. The truth is that this government is fast living up to it’s reputation of being utterly clueless and manifestly dishonest. Worse still their incompetence, whether it is to do with the handling of security matters or the economy has no bounds and knows no end.

    I say this because more people have been killed by terrorists under the watch of President Goodluck Jonathan and in the last three years than at any other time in our history outside the period of the civil war. 7000 Nigerians have met their bloody end at the hands of Boko Haram in the last three years and even as we speak today there are paerts of our country that are under lock down and in a state of emergency where innocent Nigerians are being slaughtered by our own security forces. Under this President Nigeria has become an abbatoir of human flesh and blood yet he still has the sheer effrontery to say that he wants to return to power in 2015 and some around him have said that ”if Goodluck is not re-elected in 2015 there will be bloodshed”. Such threats and such words against the Nigerian people yet no-one in government has seen fit to call those that harbour such bloody and violent sentiments to order. What a government we have and what a country and what a people we are. The President has divided his own party and his own nation more than any other President in the history of Nigeria simply due to his lust for power and his blind ambition to succeed himself at all costs in 2015. Yet regardless of his desperation and their threats this must not be allowed to happen. We must not allow it to happen regardless of the efforts of the fifth columnists amongst us in yorubaland that still support him for the crumbs that they are getting from his table. If he comes back in 2015, by the time he finishes in 2019 the yoruba will have been reduced to nothing but errand boys and slaves to others. That is the hidden agenda. Worse still Nigeria will be irretrievably destroyed and she will never be the same again. The challenge of every self-respecting yoruba man today is therefore simple and clear- we must stop Jonathan from coming back to office in 2015 and we must vote him out of power when the time comes. We must do this for the sake of our people in the south-west and we must do so for the sake of the people of Nigeria.

    It is with this background in mind and in the knowledge of President Goodluck Jonathan’s desperate and unholy intention to return to power at all costs in 2015 that I feel compelled to share the following words of wisdom from our Royal Father, the Alafin of Oyo, HRH Oba Lamidi Adeyemi with you. Just a few days ago he said the following- “My fatherly advice to those in authority at the federal level and especially our amiable President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is to learn from the mistakes of his very illustrious predecessor, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, by resisting any temptation to take the ‘west by all means.’” Kabiyesi has spoken well and a word is enough for the wise.

    A few more words on President Jonathan. Two days ago he reportedly asked the Nigerian people to ”leave him alone” and let him ”do his job” and challenged us to point out, with facts and figures, evidence of his corruption. I will do so here and now by simply asking a few questions which I had originally asked in another speech at another distinguished gathering in Lagos on April 2013 and which they refused to answer. Now that our President has thrown down the gauntlet and asked us to challenge him perhaps these questions will now be answered. The questions are as follows.

    When will our President and his ”today’s men” answer David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom’s, question and tell him what they did with the 100 billion USD that they made from oil sales in the last two years? When will they answer the question that many of us have asked over and over again about how they squandered 67 billion USD of our foreign reserves? When will they answer the question that Nasir El Rufai asked sometime back about how they spent over 350 billion naira on security vote in one year alone? When will they answer the many questions that Pat Utomi and many other distinguishedand courageous leaders and ”yesterday’s men” have raised about the trillions of naira that have been supposedly spent on oil subsidy payments in the last two years? When will they implement the findings and recommendations of the Nuhu Ribadu report on the thievery that has gone on in the oil sector? When will they cultivate the guts and find the courage to respond to a call for a public debate to defend their abysmal record? When will these ”today’s men” stop being so reckless with our money? Why would our ”today’s man” FCT Minister budget 5 billion for the ”rehabilitatioin of prostitues in the Abuja”? Why would he budget 7.5 billion naira for a new ”FCT city gate”? Why would he budget 4 billion naira for some kind of building or centre for the First Lady? Why would the Federal Government of ”todays men” budget 1 billion naira for food in the Villa? Are these the priorities of ”today’s men”? And all this when Nigeria is back in foreign debt to the tune of 9 billion USD and is still borrowing, when local debt has hit almost 50 billion USD, when 40 per cent of the Nigerian people are unemployed, when 80 per cent of our graduates are unemploymed, when 40 per cent of Nigerians do not have access to good food and are described by the U.N.D.P as being ”hungry”, when 50 per cent of our oil production is being stolen on a daily basis by pirates and bunkerers and when 70 per cent of Nigerians are living below the poverty line? Is this the vision of ”today’s men”? If so, may God deliver Nigeria.

    So much destruction and disaster all wrought in the space of three years and by just one man. That is the legacy of President Goodluck Jonathan and his ”todays men”. Yet just as it took one man to take us to these dingy and depressing depths so it will take one man to lift us up again to the heights of glory….””.

    THAT ONE MAN WE AGREE IS BUHARI WHO ALL OF US WILL VOTE OVERWHELMINGLY FOR.

    • David Abiodun

      Does Nigeria government owe a response to British government or any other? Tell me, when was the last time Nigeria had a government that the Nigerian masses did not complain about? It was either corruption or brutality or both. Bore someone else with your lengthy texts. Buhari will loose again because he has no policy or agenda to move Nigeria economy forward. He has western support because they can only penetrate Nigeria through him, period!

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  • dele atunwa

    dear Unegbu, i really do disagree with you. Nigeria’s medium to long term interests are best served if our democracy is strengthened. This will happen if there is a change of the party in power. Truth be told, the present administration is not capable of rising beyond its present capacity. It is almost stupidity to expect any different from the jonathan administration if re-elected. A change of party from PDP to APC will serve several purposes – it would let PDP know that Nigerians cant be taken for granted, the votes of the masses count and that performance matters. When PDP eventually returns to power in four or eight years then they will be a better government. On the flip side, APC will sit up because they would see first hand what happens to a non-performing government.

  • Omooba Adekunle Orafidiya

    I agree that Jonathan is the lesser of the 2 evils, but I disagree with the branding of this Administration as irredeemably corrupt. Where’s the proof of such a sweeping assertion?

  • aokesapati

    The basic truths is Nigeria need serious leader to protects us and fight against corruptions.