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Monday, June 5, 2023

Why The Trent Endorses Goodluck Jonathan For A 2nd Term

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This 2015 election is a critical one in the history of Nigeria. Interestingly, it is a contest between the incumbent, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who is a Christian from the South, and former military head of state, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), a Muslim from the North. It has therefore thrown up issues of religion and ethnicity as well as highlight the North-South divide of our dear country.

Unlike in the past elections, the terrain is changed in many ways. The key opposition parties had coalesced into one party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), so as to have enough force to give the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) a tough fight. Secondly, the ruling PDP had been in power for 16 straight years, and some people appear weary of the ruling party. Also, for many who are die-hard followers of General Buhari, this may be his last chance, since he is 72 years old.

Buhari has tried under several platforms, three times before, to wrest power from the PDP without success and is desperate to succeed this time around. The insurgency in parts of the North-East, and the media peak it attracted with the kidnap of over 200 school girls in Chibok, Borno State in April 2014, has cast a shadow on the image of President Jonathan as a decisive leader who would stamp out crime. There have also been accusations of a non-robust fight against corruption. But most importantly, there has been a steady rise in the transparency of elections since Jonathan took over, which has fired many up to believe that the electoral umpire the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will conduct a free and fair election in which the true winner will be announced, unlike what obtained in other elections before Jonathan came to power.

Jonathan is flaunting electoral transparency, among other indicators like the economy, agriculture, infrastructure, agriculture, open government, and education as his achievements, but his opponents have refused to acknowledge them for fear that doing so would make him more popular. But there are concrete signs that Jonathan has done a great service to Nigeria’s economy. For a country that has witnessed a rot in infrastructure, he has been silent revamping mission: constructing roads and bridges, building dams for electricity and agriculture, resuscitating the railway, revamping the airports and equipping them, equipping hospitals, creating new schools and universities, especially the almajiri schools in the north, among others.

In addition to placing Nigeria as the number one in foreign direct investment in Africa, Jonathan’s government has also started the diversification of Nigeria’s economy from its mono focus on oil. In addition to undertaking the rebasing of Nigeria’s economy last year, after 24 years, Nigeria’s economy was placed as the 26th in the world and the biggest in Africa, surpassing South Africa. Surprisingly, Nigerians discovered that unlike in the past when ours was virtually a mono economy, services contributed 52 per cent to the economy, while oil’s contribution to the GDP declined to 14 per cent from over 33 per cent. Also agriculture contributed 22 per cent, while manufacturing had climbed from 4 per cent to about 7 per cent.

Agriculture, which used to be the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy before the discovery of oil, has been given a big boost. Jonathan’s government has dealt a blow on the racketeering in the fertiliser distribution, ending the N50 billion per annum fraud in less than 3 months. The introduction of e-wallet to bypass corrupt middlemen and deliver fertiliser and seedlings to 12 million farmers is an innovation that has attracted the attention of the world. The United Nations, World Bank, the African Union, India, China, Argentina, and other countries are all adopting the pioneering initiative of Jonathan’s government. .

The encouragement of local production of food has increased the food production of Nigeria in all fields: rice, cocoa, palm oil, cassava, sorghum, etc. Nigeria is now 85% food sufficient. Our export bill on food has dropped from N1.4 trillion per annum to below N700 million. This is creating a new crop of young farmer millionaires unlike in the past when farming was seen as a profession for illiterate old men and women. That the 2012 flood disaster in Nigeria did not cause any food shortage in Nigeria was a testimony to the new boost in agriculture. And that the global downturn and devaluation of the Naira did not affect food prices in Nigeria confirms that there is surplus food in the market. These did not happen by accident.

The automotive policy has also given a fillip to local vehicle manufacture and assembly. In addition to Innoson Motors that had started local manufacture of vehicles in Nnewi, Anambra State, other big auto companies like Nissan, Toyota, etc, which hitherto were importing fully assembled cars into the countries for sale, have changed their policy by setting up plants in Nigeria. Automobile imports have dropped by 20%, even as 20 other auto makers have either begun exploration or indicated an interest to set up plants in Nigeria. This will boost the economy by creating jobs and reducing capital flight.

The increased trust in the electoral system is also a critical achievement of the Jonathan’s administration. Through a deliberate policy of granting autonomy to INEC and none interference in the judiciary process, President Jonathan has taken power away from incumbent political office holders, political godfathers and electoral officers and returned it to the electorate. The trust in the electoral system encourages more trustworthy and visionary people to venture into politics. It also makes elected officials to concentrate on satisfying the electorate with superior performance so as to be returned. Indeed, the fact that the APC thinks it can wrestle power from the PDP in tomorrow’s election is testament to how much progress Nigeria has made under President Jonathan.

In addition, there have been no political assassinations or harassment of opponents as was obtainable in recent years. Compared to his predecessors, Jonathan’s respect for the rule of law has served to change the political and social climate of our country for the better.

Beyond the tangibles, there is something about President Jonathan that is disarming. He has a dove-like personality that is unusual. Where other heads of state would bare their fangs, he would bare his smile. He has uncommon humility and gentleness. This has emboldened many of his opponents to use uncouth words on him: something that could not be done to his predecessors. Yet he does not harass anyone. On the contrary, he says nice things about his political opponents.

He does not show desperation over the presidency. He continually shows in words and actions that he does not want to endanger the life of anyone because of his presidential ambition. He has warned repeatedly that nobody should rig the election in his favour. Since 2010, he has been vowing that if he loses any election, he will hand over, emphasizing that his concern is Nigeria first before self. These words and thoughts are completely different from what we had known about our presidents and leaders across the content have something to learn from Jonathan in this regard.

The two key points used against Jonathan by the opposition are corruption and insecurity. On corruption, in his bid to respect rule of law, Jonathan does not interfere in the legal process and having granted full independence to Nigeria’s financial crime fighting body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), he watches as the law grinds slowly. For this, many Nigerians consider him weak on corruption and the opposition have jumped on this opening. Two examples were the cases against the former minister of aviation, Stella Oduah, and the immigration recruitment tragedy. There was no reason why he did not asked the ministers involved to at least immediately step aside until the issues were investigated.

But when judged against his predecessors, he is not worse. His only problem is that he approaches the fight against corruption slightly different from his predecessors. Rather than employ the dramatic style of arresting and displaying suspects, the EFCC now does its work without any TV shows. Interesting the EFCC under Jonathan has secured more convictions than it did under his predecessors. But more importantly, the government has placed emphasis on using technology to plug the corruption holes than arresting suspects. For example, we have spoken about the e-wallet in agriculture. Another step was the use of technology to root out 50,000 ghost workers, thereby saving the nation the sum of N120 billion. There is also the ban on police checkpoints as well as the reduction of agencies at the ports from 13 to 7.

These anti-corruption efforts have been noticed by Transparency International (TI), for while many Nigerians assume that corruption has worsened in Nigeria, TI rates Nigeria as gradually increasing in the Corruption Perceptions Index from the most corrupt nation in 2000 to the 136th out of 174 countries in 2014.

The fight against terrorism is also a point that is used wrongly against Jonathan. From inheriting a military that was poorly equipped and low on morale, to combating a ruthless terrorist group like the Boko Haram, this is not a war that is easy to win, especially when dealing with a group that uses suicide bombing and hides under the cover of religion to perpetuate its murderous schemes to gain local sympathies. In all countries fighting Islamist terrorism, it is not a war won in a matter of months. Fortunately, the Nigerian military, in partnership with the neighbouring countries, is having an upper hand in this fight in recent weeks. It is hopeful that this war will be won soon by the Nigerian military and Boko Haram would be a relic of the past.

Jonathan’s main challenger, Buhari, has become stronger because of the new political coalition as well as discontent over the activities of the Boko Haram. Buhari is seen as a man that would tackle corruption and the terrorists better. But he comes with a lot of baggage which ranges from his low understanding of the economy, his poor administrative and interpersonal skills, his many comments and actions that portray him as a religious extremist and ethnic supremacist, and his low education and feared lack of stamina required of a president of a diverse country like Nigeria.

Buhari also has a history of upturning policies of his predecessors without thinking of the political, economic and social implications. The urge for change may be alluring now after 16 years of the PDP, but a Buhari presidency will most likely reverse the successes recorded in the economy because of his eagerness to change most of the policies of his predecessor and his inflexibility in matters of governance. His religious and ethnic viewpoints make him have passionate followers as well as passionate opponents, both of whom will pull at the peace and harmony in the nation to create more tension that will affect governance and the economy.

This is a critical time in the global war against Islamist terrorism and it is important that the security structures and the military advancements against Boko Haram which recently sought to align itself with ISIS is sustained and a man who has shown sympathies for terrorists in the past and is on record as sharing a twin ideology with Boko Haram is not given access to the machinery of government. Terrorists must not come under federal protection in Nigeria. Our national security would be severely weakened if that happens and the future of Nigeria would be on shaky grounds.

President Jonathan, this week, unveiled a comprehensive road-map for his next four years in office if reelected. The document portrays a man who is methodological in thinking, careful in planning, and who does not make promises quickly. Covering the key areas of the economy, education, infrastructure, health care, youth development, and safety nets for the vulnerable in our country, among others. We are confident that if this plan is implemented, in 2019, Goodluck Jonathan would be handing over a stronger and more unified country to the next government. A Nigeria where the rights of all would be protected.

Buhari on the other hand, has been unable to present a clear road-map for how he wishes to govern Nigeria. His campaign speeches and comments in the media come short with the specifics and leave much to be desired.

Having carefully considered the important role the next government will play in either moving Nigeria forward or backwards, and having analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of each of the candidates, and the impact each of them will have on the economy and governance, peace and well-being of Nigeria, we at The Trent hereby endorse President Goodluck Jonathan for another term and call on him to use his next four years to strengthen the country’s laws, institutions, and policies and keep Nigeria working for all, not just a few.

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