After sweeping to power with a vast majority of the votes during the 2011 presidential election, it didn’t take long before the Goodluck Jonathan presidency began to unravel.
Mr. Jonathan, who had endeared himself to majority of ordinary Nigerians with his “I had no shoes” speech, promised a break from the old ways of doing things. His campaign slogan which was tagged “A Breath of Fresh Air” promised a break from the old and mostly retrogressive way the country had been governed in the past.
Like all the country’s past leaders before him, Mr. Jonathan kicked of his presidency with a string of promises.
But this was not just another member of the country’s navel-gazing elite promising to be the messiah of the long-suffering common man, this was a person they saw as one of them; someone who had experienced their pains and hardship promising to alleviate those pains. Nothing could be more reassuring.
In his inaugural speech, he promised a transformative government. He promised to grow the economy, create jobs and to provide overall happiness to Nigerians.
“The urgent task of my administration is to provide a suitable environment, for productive activities to flourish,” the president said.
He promised to improve electricity and medical care for all, provide efficient and affordable public transportation and first class education for every Nigerian.
But it soon became clear that these were merely soundbites as the Jonathan administration couldn’t deliver of most of its promises.
On power generation, Mr. Jonathan said four years was enough to solve the endemic power generation in the country. On 31 January, 2011, speaking to diplomats of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA, and the African Union, AU, in Addis-Ababa Mr Jonathan said:
“If I’m voted into power, within the next four years, the issue of power will become a thing of the past. Four years is enough for anyone in power to make a significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything.”
After several interventions including the privatisation of the power sector and several billion naira spent on power reform, power generation has dropped to less than 2,000 megawatts. One of the country’s biggest distribution companies, Ikeja Electricity Distribution PLC, announced last week that it was allocated zero megawatt.
Only five megawatts is available to the country’s capital, Abuja, and just five out the country’s 23 power plants were functional as of Monday. In January 2011 when Mr Jonathan promised to “make a significant improvement” in power supply, the country was generating over 3,000 megawatts. That is more than 1,000 megawatt lesser power.
Fuel, Subsidy and Refineries
Nigeria was literally brought to a standstill this week after oil importers and tanker drivers embarked on a strike over disagreement with the Federal Government over subsidy payment. Schools, hospitals, major airline, banks were shut down due to the unavailability of fuel. PMS was selling as high as N500 per litre from the N87 official pump price. Fuel subsidy has constituted a black hole in the country’s finances.
An attempt by the government to remove fuel subsidy – its first most controversial policy, a decision Mr. Jonathan said will eradicate fraud – left Nigerians paying more for fuel. The government increased fuel pump price, and petrol for instances, climbed from N65 to N97 per litre.
Between 2010 and 2014, the government spent more than N6.354 trillion on subsidising imported fuel. On May 13, 2010, soon after he was sworn in as substantive president after the death of Mr Yar’Adua, Mr. Jonathan awarded the contract for the construction of three Greenfield refineries at the cost of $23 billion.
The main contractors China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) is meant to pick up 80 per cent of bill while the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation finance 20 per cent of the project. The refineries were to be established in Lagos, Bayelsa and Kogu State and were expected to have a combined refining capacity of over 400,000 barrels per day by 2016 to meet the shortfall in domestic demand. If the project had been successfully executed, it would have saved the country more than $10 billion spent annually on subsidy payment.
Last October a member of the House of Representative, Abass Tajudeen, observed that one year to its estimated completion date, no tangible work has been done on the project so far.
“We are amazed that despite a favourable recommendation by the task force for the Lagos refinery, there is no evidence of plan to construct a refinery at the Lekki site by year 2015,” he said.
Second Niger Bridge
During the 2011 presidential campaign, Mr Jonathan at a town hall meeting in Onitsha promised to build the Second Niger Bridge to ease economic activities in the South East.
“When the first bridge was built, it was during the presidency of Nnamdi Azikiwe; the second Niger Bridge will be built under the presidency of Azikiwe Jonathan.
“I will go on exile on the completion of my term in office if I didn’t build the bridge by 2015,” he said.
Though skeletal work has commenced on the site of the bridge, the project is still a mirage. In January this year while campaigning in the Anambra State, Mr Jonathan extended the completion date of the bridge by 14 months.
However, Nigerians were quick to observe that all they saw during the president’s visit to the site, were sand dunes and a prototype picture of the bridge.
Unemployment and Corruption
Under President Jonathan, Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased as the government did little to provide jobs despite claiming huge numbers.
In 2010 when he assumed office, unemployment rate was at 23.9 per cent, but by 2014 the figure steadied at 24 per cent, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics. The agency recently announced a new protocol of calculating unemployment, with claims the figure stands at less than 7 per cent.
No doubt, one of Jonathan’s administration was its approach to corruption. The president started out by granting pardon to his former benefactor and ex-Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted for money laundering and theft of state funds. If the Jonathan administration had any pretence of fighting corruption it quickly went out of the window after that. Mr Jonathan also failed to rein in aides and minsters accused of corruption.
For several months, he kept his Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, in his cabinet despite public outcry over her scandalous spending of over N255 million to purchase two BMW bulletproof cars. When the minister finally left office, the government made the point of insisting the decision was voluntary to allow Mrs. Oduah pursue other political interests.
Yet, the same government acted differently and swiftly when the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, in 2013 claimed that $20 billion of oil money was unaccounted for by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Mr Jonathan promptly fired the CBN governor after accusing him of financial recklessness.
If anything tore the Jonathan government apart, none did as the Boko Haram insurgency. The government struggled for years for a response while the bloodthirsty group ran amok, killing, maiming and displacing Nigerians in mostly northern states in its bid to form an Islamic caliphate within Nigeria.
Critics say the president didn’t act decisively until eleventh hour when it became clear that his failure to put down the group was going to affect his chances at the polls. Despite international outcry and calls, especially by the Bring Back Our Girls campaigners, for the over 200 school girls kidnapped by the extremist group from Chibok, to be rescued, his government failed in rescuing the girls.
Though his administration fell largely short of expectations, Mr. Jonathan performed impressively in some areas. Though still far from being at par with services around the world, President Jonathan resuscitated the comatose railway sector.
Previously abandoned routes especially between the Southern Nigeria and the North were revived and made pliable though at a less than desirable speed and comfort. His administration also started to build new railways lines like the one linking Kaduna to Abuja.
Road construction and rehabilitation should rank among the top five of his achievements in office. During his administration more than 50 road project were either completed or at various stages of completion.
The government rebuilt the notoriously defective Benin-Ore road, and worked a significant part of the Abuja-Lokoja road, amongst many other roads.
Electoral reform was perhaps the best of President Jonathan’s delivered promises. Though elections in the country remains far from ideal, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not enjoy the kind of independence it enjoyed under the Jonathan administration in the entire 16 years of democratic rule of the Fourth Republic.
The independence enjoyed by INEC allowed it to introduce innovative electoral fraud busting technology such as the card reader and bio-metric identification of voters.
The president also approved notable legislations his predecessors failed to sign.
With the signing of his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) early in his administration, Mr. Jonathan indicated he was ready to run a transparent government. However, he did not do enough to make government agencies and parastatal buy into the spirit of the FOIA as they repeatedly turned down FOIA requests except in few cases.
President Jonathan provided vital support to sections of the business and the entertainment community, including his grant for the Nollywood. Access to such facilities remained problematic though.
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