by Okafor Udoka
Amidst the resounding sorrows and celebrations permeating Nigeria is the rage that the 2015 presidential election has been decisively won and lost: Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari broke a record by winning that keenly contested presidential race.
But to save President Goodluck Jonathan the shame of defeat, local and international media organisations have dubbed him the “hero” of the election given that he conceded defeat to President-elect, Buhari, before the formal declaration of election result by INEC; a feat rarely exhibited by African leaders. Indeed, President Jonathan’s media team and friends are doing a great job giving him the best possible “soft landing” he could ever get. It is my firm trust that the way Team Jonathan is going about “rebranding” the President post-election that he is set to leave office on a high note deserving of an international statesman. And the truth is: not all presidents get accolades at the end of their tenure in office!
In a way, President Jonathan’s journey through life has been defined by luck and benevolence of God. Little wonder, he emerged from Otuoke to achieve what some politicians spend all their lives working for without any atom of success by clinching Nigeria’s presidency within a decade of politics.. However, a time shall come when history and posterity would burrow into time to interrogate the issues that shaped Jonathan’s presidency most especially how he became the first Nigerian president to lose re-election bid.
So, the challenge of laying the foundation upon which history and posterity would hinge in studying the man, President Jonathan, lies with us. And an observer’s input in this regard will be most apposite.
At the drop of the hat, some pundits had propounded that the grand “Arewa-Yoruba” conspiracy and lust for power ended Jonathan’s presidency. Of course, the Yoruba nation knowing full well that the PDP zoning arrangement invariably says that it would at least wait for another 32 years for a Yoruba man to occupy Aso Rock as Nigeria’s President saw a shortcut to presidency under President-elect Buhari. And pronto, it grabbed it.
Thus, to that extent, President Jonathan leaves office on the heels of “Arewa-Yoruba” conspiracy but given that this was a president who enjoyed over 70 percent popularity and goodwill at the inauguration of his presidency, something must have gone wrong to warrant the people to reject him at the polls disgracefully. It makes no sense that a president who literally stalled North’s quest for eight years in presidency through pan-Nigerian mandate in 2011 would lose a presidential election in almost all states outside his traditional catchment area of old Eastern region.
So, President Jonathan must have caused his electoral misfortune through some acts of omission and commission during his five years in the presidency. One of these presidential mistakes is security; insecurity and local terrorism blossomed under President Jonathan’s watch with over 20,000 lives lost and estimated three million people internally displaced as a result of Boko haram terrorist movement.
The point is: no president loses 400 school girls and 20,000 lives to terrorists at peacetime and gets re-elected anywhere in the world today. Re-elected to do what? So, the letter President Jonathan publicly addressed to North Easterners few days to the election was a wasted effort. And given that Boko Haram terrorism which was intractable before now took the president six weeks to uproot was a big question mark on the capacity of President Jonathan to continue to watch over Nigeria for another four years.
Two, President Jonathan might have tried but it is strange that he allowed five PDP governors to leave the party before meeting their demand through the sacking of Bamanga Tukur as the PDP Chairman. Also, some elements in the president’s campaign committee did not help his cause at all but whatever milestone he single handedly covered were bungled by Femi Fani-Kayode, Dame Patience Jonathan, Governor Ayodele Fayose, etc through careless statements filled with pedestrian issues and hate mongering.
Three, under Jonathan’s presidency no serious strategic attempts were made to diversify the economy and prepare the country for economic burst. And Niger Delta region was exceptionally peaceful yet the nation loses about 300,000 barrels of crude oil daily to theft while leakages in government grew, the government had no political will to implement Oronsaye Committee report which would have ensured efficiency and effectiveness of government machinery and governance.
Four, the president performed poorly in economic matters. But what do you get in a country where the Finance and “Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy” argued that a monolithic economy like Nigeria was insulated from the shock of falling prices of crude oil in the international market? Of course poverty level will climb to all time 71 percent, inequality soars, unemployment rate peaks at 24 percent with Naira depreciating at alarming rate hourly while recurrent expenditure takes over 80 percent of our annual budget.
Five, despite all the huge revenue Nigeria made in oil boom, infrastructure is still a big challenge to the country with a litany of abandoned projects and depleted foreign reserves as testimonies. However, the little achievements the government recorded in infrastructure were grossly under-reported. And when it was time for the people to pass their verdict, they issued a red card to President Jonathan and his team. On the strength of the foregoing, two points can be easily gleaned: first, re-election is no done deal for executive office holders in Nigerian anymore. In short, re-election is for only performing executives.
Second, performance of a government cannot be crested on media blitz, propaganda and adverts but realities like standard of living, unemployment rate, state of public infrastructure, economy, etc. Beyond that the fall of Jonathan presidency teaches us that political awareness is gradually gaining feet in Nigeria everyday. Hence, what determines if an incumbent retains his office after election is performance together with character, intellectual capacity and dynamics of local politics like zoning, ethnicity, etc.
For me, it is a massive wonder that President Jonathan lost his re-election bid to President-elect Buhari given that Buhari had been grossly de-marketed by PDP since 2003 with accusations of religious fundamentalism and ethnocentric urges.
However, it is possible that we have gone full circle: never again shall re-election bids be won on the altar of sentimental emotions in Nigeria. Thus, I hold that Nigeria’s democratic culture is speedily evolving and sooner than later, we shall stop under-performance in government because no President or governor wants to be sacked by the people at the polls the way and manner President-elect Buhari shellacked President Jonathan last March.
So, weep not President Jonathan; you had it coming. No thanks to your team which ingrained under-performance as a culture in government corridors. But as your journey to Otuoke begins, please do not hesitate to lend the president-elect all the necessary assistance he would require from you in order to make Nigeria truly a united, progressive and prosperous nation.
Goodbye President Jonathan. And thanks for serving us sir. May God bless you, President Jonathan!
– Udoka Okafor writes from Lagos
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.