by Bayo Adeyinka
“…….and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…”.(1Pet 3:15)
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect”- Mark Twain.
Four years ago I was an avid supporter of General Muhammadu Buhari but now I wholeheartedly support the candidature of Goodluck Jonathan. I have written articles to explain why I no longer support General Buhari but I just realized I should also explain why I now endorse Jonathan.
As a social commentator, critic, analyst and activist, I believe I owe my readers, admirers and followers a duty to explain the basis for my support. I have had people- well-meaning friends- ask me to watch the current of events and not ‘go against the tide’ but I always follow the courage of my convictions as the test of courage comes when you are in the minority. I know leadership is not a popularity contest- it is always about doing the right thing. According to Mahatma Ghandi, “In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place”. And for me this is a matter of conscience.
As a player in the financial sector and a full time resident of Nigeria, I have seen the groundbreaking efforts made by the President to tackle the numerous issues which plague our polity. Just like a friend put it, the fact that you think Goodluck Jonathan doesn’t look, talk or act ‘presidential’ does not mean you should doubt what he has done or refuse to accept the good he has done. That is tantamount to cutting the nose to spite the face.
A few years ago, I lost a very dear friend of mine to a ghastly motor accident on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. She was coming back from the Redemption Camp after the monthly meeting and her vehicle ran into another on-coming vehicle while trying to avoid a very big pothole. It was a very sad moment for me when I visited the widower who was my lecturer in the University and I saw the toddler she left behind. That same road that used to be the nightmare of motorists is now being turned into an amazing infrastructure at a frenetic speed. I am a frequent road-user and I can tell the difference on a good portion of what used to be a death trap. Others have told me about the Benin-Ore road and some other roads across the country.
A few months ago, I took the train from Lagos to Ibadan for the first time in this country. While a few of my friends have derided it as locomotive in this time and age, no one can doubt the fact that goods are being transported via trains now. I took pictures of WAPCO LAFARGE and Dangote coaches as they hauled cement on the tracks. Do we know how much our roads have been spared from wear and tear and carnage associated with heavy trucks and trailers which hitherto transported these goods? The same derided trains carried APC delegates to the Presidential primaries in Lagos from Kano in December. The same trains also carry Osun State indigenes free of charge from Lagos to Osogbo every festive period. There is no denying the success of the intra-city trains which daily operates within Lagos and which according to some reports carry 5m people monthly. The PH-Enugu rail line was opened a few weeks ago and Abuja-Kaduna which is a 150km per hour rail line will be commissioned next month.
I have personally visited farms supported by this government through various initiatives such as the CBN Agric Scheme and the Bank of Agriculture. I have heard of how fertilizer scam which was rampant a few years fizzled out under this government through the creation of some initiatives. The rate at which agriculture is being encouraged and developed is unprecedented in the annals of the nation’s history. I have personally visited factories set up in an arrangement with the Bank of Industry. One of them which just started operations and now manufactures a key raw material hitherto exported from an European country, will soon start exporting to Benin Republic and Cameroon. That company has hired 53 people. Many people did not know that the BOI has been in operations for about 30 years. I can see the SME sector gradually getting it’s groove back.
Read on after the cut….
I know people who have benefited from NEXIM’s entertainment fund- the same fund that was accessed by the makers of the highly popular film “Dr. Bello”. The rapid expansion of cinemas across Nigeria is a direct result of this support. Ibadan alone has two large-screen cinemas, Abuja has at least two, Lagos has at least five, Uyo, Port-Harcourt and Kano have at least one each. This is the reason most Nollywood practitioners are supporting the President. A few months after the rollout of the automotive policy, I visited an auto assembly plant that was just established. I watched as 2 brand of vehicles were assembled. I saw the technicians work on the CKD (Completely Knocked Down) parts and pass them through the chassis line up to the final product. That same plant assembles the BRT buses in use in Lagos. I was informed that auto plant hired over 200 new staff as a result of that policy. Made-in-Nigeria cars are now being sold.
This past year, I visited the creeks of the Niger Delta and saw local companies now benefitting from the Local Content Bill. Jobs that were previously outsourced to expatriates are now being handled by Nigerians. Major OICs are now forced to look for local technical partners by reason of the Bill. I know a textile factory that recalled workers that had been laid off after accessing the CTG (Cotton, Textile and Garment) Revival Fund managed by the BOI. I can only guess how many jobs were saved or created by those who accessed the fund. I know the new Universities created from scratch by this government – about nine as we speak. The new Universities have created employment and have been able to assist more people have access to education.
Being a frequent flyer also, I have visited a few of our local airports. They look far better than before. Even if you think they could be better, there is no denying that progress has been made. A new wing is now being built at the MMIA where the car park used to be. The car park has been moved to a new site beside the Airport Chapel. This is apart from the extensive renovation of the existing structure. I know three people who have benefitted from the YOUWIN programme. One of them has a very viable shoe business (set up from YOUWIN proceeds) in the Mokola area of Ibadan where he employs a few people. The setting up of the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company is one of his best kept secrets. It beats me hollow why not much noise is being made about this achievement. The World Bank has set apart $300m for this PPP arrangement which is to service the housing deficit in Nigeria. For the first 10,000 forms issued in November, about 66,000 applied. This means that people will soon have access to mortgages for between 10-20 years at single digit interest rates. Please just google it up. I can imagine the huge number of jobs that will be created from 10,000 mortgages to be created every quarter!
He has successfully unbundled PHCN. This was something Obasanjo and Yaradua did unsuccessfully. He has privatized the power sector through a very successful bid process. Is the power sector now out of the doldrums? Not yet. There are still challenges such as distribution and sourcing for gas. New power plants have to be built. Financing this sector is not a monkey business and that gave rise to the Power Intervention Fund which power firms can access for facilities up to 10 years. In my opinion and in line with a social commentator Mark Amaza, the case of the power sector is akin to Jonathan pounding yam for another person to eat. It will take about 3 to 4 years for the investments to begin to show. Some call them baby steps but they are tiny steps that make a huge difference. Slowly but surely, a foundation that will last for a lifetime has been laid.
On the issue of corruption, 48,861 names (ghost workers) were removed from the FG’s payroll after the IPPIS (Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System) was deployed. This singular act saved N139b. No one has controverted this fact. After the exposure of the subsidy scam, it has been said that it is now easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for fuel importers to access subsidy payments. The number of fuel importers have been drastically reduced from about 120 in 2011 to about 39 presently. N671b has been saved from subsidy claims when you compare the payments in 2013 ( N1.3 trillion) to 2014 (N679b)- January to October. On the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, Nigeria was rated 136 in 2014- an improvement from 153 in 2006. Is this the best that can be done about corruption? Of course not! But there’s a significant shift from the braggadocio of the Obasanjo years. Not many will forget how the EFCC pulled down the gates of the personal house of one of the major players in the telecoms sector, all because of the suspicion of business relationship with one of the opponents of that regime.
How well has he performed on the issue of security, especially with the raging insurgency of Boko Haram? In my opinion, he dealt the fundamentalist sect a cruel blow when he reduced the number of bureau de change operators by increasing their capitalization. It is widely believed in security circles that BDCs fund terrorism and nipping it in the bud will go a long way to limiting the reach and impact of their actions. He also started the building of almajiri schools to cater for the education of the nomadic northerners. The only way to prevent the corruption of these young minds was through education. These are schools their respective state governors should have built. Most people don’t understand the nature of insurgency and the fact that the army inherited by Jonathan had been crippled militarily by previous governments. I believe he’s trying his best and if we all rally around him, we will conquer Boko Haram which is now the second largest terrorist group in the world- after ISIS.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s children attend schools in Nigeria. That’s one of the things that attracted him to me. I don’t remember the children of past Presidents attending schools in Nigeria. He signed the FOI bill which allows all of us to have access to information unlike before. He doesn’t carry himself with any air around him and is so patient. He does not lose his temper unlike Obasanjo and we now call this his weakness. Unassuming, everyone that comes across him goes away with the belief that he’s a very sincere man. He has conducted elections generally certified as free and fair- even at the risk of his own party losing the elections. This was unheard of just a few years ago during the Obasanjo years. He has deepened our democracy by his actions to the point that the opposition can even dream of winning the centre for the first time.
One of the first steps he took was to shrug off his godfather, Olusegun Obasanjo. It takes a man of courage to take that bold step and unshackle himself from the straps of any demi-god. He refused to drop Namadi Sambo for Lamido based on Baba’s instruction. That is the reason for all the attacks coming from the ‘Watcher’. For the first time, Baba is frustrated and very well so. It is well known that if Baba won’t have his way, he would rather engage in ‘roforofo’ fight. So we call him all manner of names- from clueless to incompetent.
Am I completely satisfied with the performance of Goodluck Jonathan? Absolutely not! There are areas he could have done better. Such as visiting the Chibok school. Though I don’t have the benefit of security reports but I think it was a great error not visiting the school. I also think he could do better by calling Edwin Clark and his kinsmen to order over their sometimes rabid comments. Though I doubt if someone like Asari Dokubo is not far gone in his ways given that he spoke in similar manner when Obasanjo was the President, I believe it would have been on record if attempts were made to openly caution him or dissociate from him. He could have also done without the embarrassments from interventions by his wife, Patience Jonathan. The Nigeria Governors Forum issue was also a chink in his armour. I am not one to shout about anti-corruption because I believe in the bottom-up approach. Fighting corruption is everyone’s job- right from the church to the home unit. I believe fighting corruption should start from instilling the right value systems and getting a new orientation. I believe the followership make the leadership. I believe in building strong institutions and not building strong men. I don’t believe any one person has a magic wand to solving our problems. The challenges of this nation are deep and multifarious and is similar to trying to sweeten a very bitter concoction- not just a cube of sugar will do!
Is Jonathan the best that we can have? I’ve often heard many people say they can perform better than Jonathan. Yes, that’s true. Spectators and commentators are usually better players than those on the actual field. They play better with their mouths. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Since there are two major players that we are saddled with, I will rather stick with Jonathan who in my opinion has made steady progress based on aforementioned. This is where I stand and I hope you respect my choice just like I respect yours.
In conclusion, the Scriptures say “the horse is prepared for the day of battle but the victory is the Lord’s”. We can only do our best by canvassing for our candidates and exercising our rights to vote. The ultimate decision rests with Jehovah who appoints kings and removes them.
In the words of Daniel Chapter 4 verse 17: “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men”.
May God’s will be done in Nigeria!