President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is seen by Nigerians in different ways.
But I wish to dedicate this write up to what the common Nigerians say about him, because there can hardly be a highly placed Nigerian who has a sincere assessment of the President. Those who are close to him give him ninety-nine or a one hundred percent performance which is A+ in any examination. Those who are far from his government score him otherwise due to their feelings that they are not part of the ruling class, or that their expectations from the government are not met.
So after following events from one year ago, I have come across hundreds of Nigerians who have diverse and similar opinions on the government of the day. This article samples, thereupon, the sincere expressions of dozens of the common Nigerians most of who are not political in the viewpoints.
Nay, for a common man who may not have seen the President physically except probably on the screens of television or through the wave of the radio, any assessment would be from a sincere mind because he feels the government in his house, on the streets, in the markets, in the schools, in the offices and in their entire non-political lives. Not hoping to satisfy anybody but the Nigerian patriots, most of Nigerians are happy that the government has effectively, though with difficulties and challenges, preserved the democracy, unity and indivisibility of Nigeria. This is the greatest joy any patriot has to celebrate.
My own boundless joy sprout from what President Jonathan averred on the last democracy day. He said, “We have remained a stable democracy. We have together demonstrated that the government of the people is an ideal that the people of Nigeria cherish. We have our differences as individuals and as politicians, but we have shown great faith in democracy and its institutions. We have refused to be limited by our differences. Despite reservations about some of our institutions, we have refused to submit to despair. This achievement is a testament to the courage and optimism of the Nigerian people”.
He continued, “When General Abdusalami Abubakar handed over the baton of authority to President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, it was a turning point for Nigeria. We did not arrive at that turning point by accident. Many Nigerians laid down their lives for the transition to democracy to occur. Some were jailed. Media houses were attacked and shut down. But the people’s resolve was firm and unshakeable”.
There are challenges all over the sectors of the economy. The educational system, power generation, road construction and maintenance, healthcare delivery, transportation diversification, agriculture, arts and culture, as well as governance itself are seeking attention. But four from five things that have, even if gradually, been tackled by the Jonathan administration are:
Religion: Owing to the fact that some religious activities in Nigeria have been to an extent intertwined with criminal beliefs, political thuggery and economic penchant, it has become difficult to decipher between genuineness and quackery in religious bearings. In such difficult and complex situation, the government has fearlessly remained absolute in fostering understanding between the religious yearnings of Nigerians. Some faithless religious adherents had thought that the coming on board of President Jonathan would polarize religious affinity in the country, to the extent that many even thought that he would be a Niger Delta President. Today, it is on record that the Niger Delta people seem to be disappointed by that thought. And this has led some of the youths to revert to the former hostilities they engaged the previous governments in. The constitutional provision that every Nigerian citizen is entitled to his or her religion has been doggedly upheld and maintained.
Corruption: That those in authority are seen as the cause of every bad thing that happens in the country because of the heavy corruption, mismanagement of the public money and impoverishment of the people is not novel in the critical assessment of Nigerian governance and social responsibilities. These have been the primary causes of all the social evils pervading our nation. Poverty strikes harder, corruption eats up our fabrics and misappropriation of public funds is quotidian.
For all the years before 2011, the oil industry was under siege. The so-called cabal or mafias controlled the main stay of the country’s economy. Oil, and by extension gas, runs our economy. Before 2011, no government had had the courage to look into the eyes of these ‘untouchable’ oil barons. We know that the prices of oil control the prices of local commodities and foreign imports. Majority of the people are not finding life easy. Yet, some states have not implemented the minimum wage of N18,000, (about 114 US dollars per month).
However, a theoretical analysis of the multi-faceted problems facing the nation tends to show that the incompetence and corruption that pervades our society today are extensively responsible for the rise in the level of civil disturbances. But the government of today in its efforts to curb the excesses of these business people has started somewhere. The President has also ordered a cut in the squander mania tendencies of public officers. Though gradually, it is a step forward in the fight against corruption. And many citizens believe the sincerity of this move.
Boko Haram: This is a challenge that has belittled the federal government’s efforts in repositioning the country. President Jonathan himself admitted sometime ago that this challenge is also from within the government circles, probably interpreted that the Boko Haram has links with state and federal, the security services, the legislature and judiciary apparatuses. Much has been said, and should have been known of this group. But as a respondent concluded, sponsors of such inhuman endeavours must be rich and cannot be doing so on money earned from their human sweat.
The untold truth is that this kind of civil disturbances had challenged past civilian governments. Some of the past leaders employed different approaches to quench it. Some even applied military approach. But this government has kept faith in the democratic procedures and employed force to the barest.
Price control: Reference to my article titled, Can the FG control prices?, I recalled my experiences in price control in Egypt, and now Saudi Arabia and England. The first time I visited Saudi Arabia was in 1993 i.e. about 20 years ago. I was there just last year and surprisingly, the things I bought for instance for 10 Saudi Riyals have remained so or have rather come down in prices. The price of a litre of fuel was as less as N19 and it has remained so for over 20 years.
In Egypt whose economy is not as much stronger than Nigeria’s, I recalled, government control prices of local commodities and Egyptians are trained from cradle to love their country and make no comparison to it especially with African countries. That is why every Egyptian child or any average Egyptian is made to believe that Egypt is the best country in Africa. They sincerely believe that Egypt is the mother of civilization, not even referring to the land as the origin of civilization. An Egyptian prefers made-in-Egypt products over any other. The federal government, therefore, should do more in this regard.
This systematic upbringing of an Egyptian child and to a large extent many children of developing countries is a long term plan that is continually inculcated through schools and local dramas. And in such countries, their orientation agencies are as strong as their governments because the agencies are regarded as the fulcrum for the training of the society and their future leaders.
National orientation: In Nigeria, due to the somewhat visionless plans or instability or underfunding of the National Orientation Agency, this government organ is incapacitated to carry out its constitutional functions. I often wonder, as many Nigerians do too, if this agency is functional at all. This is because many efforts aimed at assisting practically the best upbringing of the Nigerian child meet the wall at the agency.
Either due to the bureaucratic bottlenecks in the nation’s civil service system, or corruption that is pervading all nooks and crannies of the society or mere negligence, the NOA needs to be made functional especially now that the leadership has been reinforced with a new director-general, Mr. Mike Omeri. NOA should swoop into action and work with Nigerians who have genuine plans that can assist in changing the image of our beloved motherland.
The NOA has the responsibility to target the Nigerian child in its orientation programmes. And I suggest that with a long term planning, the agency should move for a legislation that will empower it to establish its units in every public and private schools across the country. There should be no reason why a Nigerian child should begin to develop hatred for its motherland, antagonism for its fellow citizens and unnecessary skepticism and even uncertainty for its future.
This also refers us to the need to enhance the proper utilization of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. It has been discovered that a large chunk of the participants in this programme lobby even by bribing their ways through their school authorities and the NYSC for juicy posting i.e. places where they are not effectively utilized for the nation building but collect fat allowances. Others do lobby to be posted within their states or neighborhoods. I think it is against the primary aims and objectives of setting up the programme. And the new NYSC boss, Brig. Gen. Nnamdi Okorie-Affia should take note.
Mr. President should be commended and encouraged, even while we demand for more selfless sacrifices from him for the mandate we all gave him. As he seeks loftiness in governance, let this second year of his tenure be better, so that Nigerian patriots would continue to stand by him.