Akin Osuntokun: Assessing President Goodluck Jonathan
by Akin Osuntokun
There is before me a legitimate and compelling request. And that is the presentation of the performance score sheet of President Goodluck Jonathan. But since I have identified myself as a partisan witness, I decided that the evaluation of Jonathan is more credible if given by objective third parties and they don’t come more credible than the British House of Commons, Brookings Institution and the Transparency International (TI) or do they?
From The Library of The British House of Commons
Jonathan’s record in office
When President Jonathan took office in 2011, he promised a ‘Transformation Agenda’ for Nigeria. What is his record in office?
On the positive side:
Nigeria has consistently averaged over 7% real annual GDP growth under his watch. This has led some to view the country as an emerging economic giant.
The restive Niger Delta has been relatively peaceful. He has continued to support the Niger Delta Development Commission, created in 2000, but also announced in April 2014 a ‘Presidential Initiative for the North East’, which is intended to promote development in that conflict-affected area.
He has not engaged in any frontal attacks on the formal institutions of democracy and in some cases – such as INEC and the National Human Rights Commission – backed strengthening them.
He has signed Freedom of Information and National Health Bills into law and created a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
He also has significant infrastructural achievements to his name.
In 2014, he commissioned a ‘National Conference’ to come up with proposals to transform Nigeria for the better in future.
Nigeria’s Ebola outbreak was handled effectively.
On the negative side:
Nigeria’s domestic security situation has dramatically deteriorated, with the state until recently appearing relatively unconcerned about it.
The government’s response to the kidnapping by Boko Haram in April 2014 of 270 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, was widely criticised for its complacency – similar accusations have been made since then.
The security forces continue to commit serious human rights abuses. Corruption remains pervasive.
The Sovereign Wealth Fund mentioned above is yet to start operating effectively.
Promised reforms – for example, opening up the petroleum and power sectors to private ownership and investment – have proceeded slowly, if at all.
Progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals has been patchy.
Nigeria remains a major importer of refined fuel and the country still suffers from chronic fuel and power shortages. A 2012 attempt to end the subsidy on fuel was partially reversed following large-scale street protests.
On President Jonathan’s performance:
“Despite Boko Haram—the country is thriving: The economy continues to grow and with the rebasing of its GDP—became the largest economy in Africa and the 26th largest in the world. Jonathan’s supporters also point to his success in containing the Ebola virus, which earned him commendations from countries and institutions around the world.”
“Global perception of the anti-corruption battle in Nigeria got a modicum of approval, recently, after the global anti-corruption body, Transparency International, TI, moved the country four places up in its yearly ranking (and thirty-eight places from the most corrupt country designation of 2003) of public sector transparency.
Nigeria’s 139 ranking was up from the 143rd position the country was ranked last year, according to the TI ranking released a few weeks ago.
Now I am not excited at this mixed report but that is precisely what it is — mixed report — dramatically different from the censorious dismissal of Jonathan by oftentimes conniving media and partisan intelligentsia as a complete failure and absolutely ‘clueless’ leader to whom any other Nigerian rival contender (no matter how obtuse, mendacious and dangerously bigoted) is preferred.
CRY, BELOVED NATION
The late Chiefs Obafemi Awolowo, Adekunle Ajasin, Ajibola Ige and Olabisi Onabanjo — all direct victims of Buhari’s tyrannical visitation — would be bewildered and hard put to understand the politics of Yoruba land today with particular reference to the portrayal and marketing of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, as a new political icon.
The melodramatic qualification is to say that these personalities would turn in their graves. And this is despite the anguished prompting of our collective institutional memory by the globally acclaimed scholar and Yoruba gift to the world of wisdom and understanding, Professor Wole Soyinka.
This time around, Buhari has had two significant opportunities to indicate his disposition towards the sensibilities of the Yoruba people and on both occasions his actions spoke louder than words.
I put the question to his most passionate supporters — would it be appropriate for the APC candidate to express regret or remorse over the fate suffered by the late Chief Awolowo at the hands of his military junta in 1984-85-when he visited the Awolowo matriarch in Ikenne? Of course, he did no such thing, despite the fact that his running mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (whose name he could not even pronounce correctly. He called him Osinbade!) is married to Awolowo’s granddaughter.
In tandem with his ‘first without equal’ status in the hierarchy of Yoruba traditional rulers, the Ooni of Ife is the custodian of the spiritual and primal origins of the Yoruba. Along with the late Emir of Kano, the Ooni Okunade Sijuade, Olubushe II, was humiliated with the impoundment of his international travelling passport and confinement to Ile-Ife for six months for visiting Israel by the Buhari-led junta.
Buhari held his presidential election campaign rally in Osun State about a week ago and the remarkable omission of that campaign tour was his failure to pay a customary courtesy visit to the Ooni. Even if he felt no remorse for the contemptuous treatment meted to the foremost traditional ruler under his iron fisted rule, doesn’t the symbolic embodiment of the Yoruba deserve this elementary courtesy and respect? How would it be received, if, reciprocally, an APC presidential candidate of Yoruba origin were to similarly snub the Sultan of Sokoto?
Yet the blame is not totally Buhari’s, if I were in his shoes, that despite his trademark disdain and disregard for other peoples sensibilities, he could still command the hero worshipping of some political leaders of the South-west, the chances are I may not be aware I did anything wrong. As the Yoruba adage goes — If you sell your kith and kin cheaply, do not expect others to rate him highly.
In this political season, I insist that the Yoruba are being sold short to the APC. Before the political party was consummated, the Yoruba were near unanimous in the desire and aspiration for the restructuring of Nigeria towards decentralisation and devolution of powers from the centre to the states, zones and regions.
The opportunity to advance this cause materialised some months ago with the convocation of the National Conference by President Goodluck Jonathan. And then the South-west faction of the APC suddenly developed cold feet and aversion towards the prime time platform to frontally re-table this priority and long held objective.
The embarrassing spectacle was such that while the godfathers were declaiming the Conference, the godson, Afenifere renewal group (AFR), was the most passionate canvasser of the Yoruba irreducible minimum demand of regionalism at the gathering.
And to what do we attribute this awkward summersault if not the deference of Yoruba APC leaders to the contrary wishes and beckon of their new political icon. I refer readers to the response of Buhari to the issues of restructuring and resource control in interviews he recently granted. In one of them he mocked ‘what is resource control… who is to control what’? The irony here is that there is an element of truth to the below stated observation made by a columnist with the Vanguard newspaper.
“With all the noise currently being made about Buhari’s candidacy, one important point is often overlooked: Buhari is not even well-liked by his own people. A lot is made of the 12 million votes he obtained from the North in 2011, conveniently forgetting that Goodluck Jonathan also obtained a sizeable eight million votes from the same North. Indeed, in 2011, Goodluck Jonathan won 428,392 votes in Buhari’s home-state of Katsina; to Buhari’s 1,163,919. That means Jonathan won 37% of the votes in Buhari’s backyard.”
He canvasses further “It is also instructive that in the primary election for the APC presidential candidate, Northern delegates did not vote for Buhari. Instead, they gave their votes to Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. Delegates from Buhari’s North-west voted for Kwankwaso, while those from the North-east voted for Atiku. Buhari’s votes came primarily from the South-west, as well as from the South-east and the South-south.”
Beyond the persecution complex motivated (Buhari-personified) vengefulness of his Northern underclass supporters, there is a modicum of truth to the assertion that ‘Buhari is not even well liked by his own people’. And it could not have been otherwise. They don’t come more loyalist than one of his most dedicated lieutenants who lies abandoned for years to the fate of his terminal illness. He is just one of many.
Permit me to share with you the following transmission (catechism) from Mohammed Abacha:
“Buhari… the Change We Don’t Need”
• I have never seen any school built in his name. I have never seen any borehole constructed by him.
• There is no record of any scholarship awarded by him or for him nor through him.
• I have never seen him use his popularity to canvass for any charitable work nor any humanitarian effort, not even at the height of the polio scourge where other purposeful and prominent leaders led the campaign for immunisation.
• No single text book has been donated to any school either by him, for him or through him.
Asides from doing nothing for others, he has not even improved himself since his exit from office.
• No book written, no memos, no lectures, nothing!
• The only thing of note he can point to are his numerous interviews on the BBC Hausa station.
• He never championed for a university in his state nor has he ever been involved in any kind of development programme to better the lives of the Almajiris in Daura.
• His entire existence has not led to any meaningful development in Daura, yet they say he can change Nigeria.
Doesn’t charity begin at home anymore?”
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Akin Osuntokun/Thisday