Amid the heaping of blames for Nigeria's economic woes on Goodluck Jonathan by Nigerians, Niran Adedokun explains what the faults of the former president were.
I am not one of those who think former President Goodluck Jonathan is the worst thing that happened to Nigeria after God made Satan like a lot of Nigerians think currently.
Nigerians have an unusual capacity to take in the dramatic. We are drawn in by the eloquence of men and when such fluency is combined with some elements of drama, we mostly lose the tendency for soundness. I try to detach myself from that mob reasoning whose motivation is most often discovered not more than some tempest in a teapot.
The level of unreasonableness and rapidity of presumptions have even now worsened with the capacity of the social media to sell falsehood and untested information. Like the downpour that lumps the chicken and pigeon together, social media has conjoined folly and wisdom in a marriage of perpetual discomfort.
I recently saw a Facebook post, which got me wondering what a lot of us Nigerians make of the reality of life and living. The post sought to know why the Supreme Being ever allowed a man like Jonathan to rule Nigeria. And when I saw it, I felt that the error therein define Nigerians’ perception of the necessary ingredients for the development of their country. Expectedly, that post gained some traction but I disagree with it on two fronts.
For starters, does God decide who becomes President in any country? Do we realise that the choices that we make ultimately determine what happens.
For example, would President Muhammadu Buhari be in office if Christians prayed round the clock and Muslims sat on their mats without casting their votes on March 28, 2015? Wouldn’t Buhari be back in Daura tending his cattle without the interventions of mortals?
Reminds me of a story I read in The Believer’s Authority, one of the classic offerings of the late American Pentecostal preacher, Kenneth Hagin. He told of how Jesus Christ appeared in a vision to teach him about the authority that a believer has. In the course of their discussion, an evil spirit appeared, making a lot of noise and causing a cloud which made it impossible for him to see Jesus. Hagin waited for Jesus to do something but he didn’t. The preacher said he later came to himself, rebuked the spirit, saw it hit the floor like a bag of salt and then the cloud cleared and he could see Jesus again. Thereafter, Jesus explained that if Hagin did nothing about the situation, there was nothing he, Jesus, could do as he already completed his own job years back! This is one fact that Nigerians, especially Christians, must wrap their heads around. There are things that God cannot do for us!
Secondly, I think it is totally unfair to judge Jonathan only on the basis of current alarming revelations of sleaze. Here, I should be clear, corruption is horrible and everyone found culpable by our courts should be made to pay for their misdeeds but we need to put these issues in perspective.
One understands that Nigerians are angry with Jonathan on the assumption that the current vulnerable state of the economy is a direct effect of the volume of monies allegedly stolen under his watch but that is not exactly so. Nigeria’s economy is at its prostrate state because successive leaders failed to put action behind the rhetoric about diversifying the economy.
In spite of all the instances of theft and pilfering that have recently been revealed, Nigeria will not be at this state of affairs if crude oil still sold for say $100 per barrel. The situation with the price of crude oil has left many economies globally in dire straits. Russia, Saudi Arabia. Canada and Venezuela are currently on differing levels of struggles due to this crunch.
Unfortunately, we do not seem to have learnt much from this situation. This administration is in the main; seems to concentrate diversification efforts on commodities and the extractive industries rather than exploring manufacturing, the enormous human resources as well as the creative and tourism potential of the country. Even then, budgetary allocation for Agriculture in the 2016 budget does not reflect the urgency with which Nigeria needs to diversify.
Then, if we did not have a Jonathan who was not desperate to remain in office, could the 2015 elections have gone so smoothly? Some argue that then chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, would not have allowed any manipulation but a president whose eyes were set on a second term would not have appointed a Jega in the first place!
Again, Jonathan did more than this. I do not remember any administration doing as much as Jonathan did to revamp and modernise agriculture. The YouWin Enterprise initiative, even if tokenistic, was an innovative employment generation programme which encouraged entrepreneurship and empowered hundreds of Nigerian youths. YouWIN was the first time I saw people benefiting from a national scheme without recommendations from some highly placed individuals. Modest attempts were made under Jonathan to rebuild a few institutions while the capacity of our security forces to respond to crimes cannot be said to be the same as in 2010. Not too long ago, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, was quoted as acknowledging that Jonathan built more roads than any previous government in Nigeria while the strides made in the reform of power, provided a pedestal for this administration to build on. The Jonathan administration also attempted to save by setting up a Sovereign Wealth Fund.
In spite of whatever strides he made however, some character flaws would deny him the crown for good governance.
One is his deficit in courage. Jonathan came across as a man who could take a stand in power. Someone who listens to every opinion without committing to anything. The inability of Jonathan to curb many of those who worked with him from the mindless plundering of the nation is a case in point. Reference can also be made to the excesses of his wife, Patience and Chief Edwin Clark who has now done a Judas on him.
A corollary to this is the penchant of the former President to speak out of turn. While in government, Jonathan hardly said anything right at the appropriate time. When he spoke, he did with a lot of slips some of which accounts for the whittling down of his popularity. Till date, Nigerians remember sound bites, like “I don’t give a damn about asset declaration”, “stealing is not corruption” and many other faux pas.
Even now, the former president has yet to see the memo. At this time when his closest aides are answering corruption charges, Jonathan should be courageous enough to step out and explain the circumstances around the allegations against his administration. He is not the one on trial at the moment and he should be bold enough to take on this government which is determined to rubbish his administration or savour the dignity of silence until he is called upon to account.
But as this administration and Nigerians continue to probe the past, not paying attention to the weakness of our national institutions will make it all futile.
The inefficiency of our bureaucracy, the hypocrisy of our political elite, the betrayal of public trust by the National Assembly, a unique body meant to check the excesses of other arms of government and protect the people must be addressed without let.
If all the stories of fleece under Jonathan are true, how does the National Assembly exculpate itself from this grand conspiracy against the people? How can Nigeria continue with anti-corruption agencies which wait on executive prompting before getting to work, one which summarily appropriates the roles of courts? How do we reform a Central Bank that flouts its own process on the altar of political convenience ruining thereby the monetary policy of the state and destroying the national economy?
The problem with our leaders, to my mind, is not as much a question of their personal idiosyncrasies as it is the failure of democratic institutions to perform their constitutional roles. Even President Buhari is on this path now unless something gives and everyone holds the ball firmly. For, do not less us deceive ourselves, there are no good men in public office, only institutions can restrain leaders from executive waywardness.
When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)