Dear President Jonathan you have just finished your second year of the mandate given you directly as the President of this incredible African investment called Nigeria. The mandate you defined as transformative.
As the first Nigerian elected president from outside the ethnic national blocs of Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa our people as usual and possibly in spite of themselves turned convention on its head. In ways we rarely ever admit the collective redefined the assumption of ethnic affiliation not because of our imperfect elections and manipulations but because you associated yourself with our journey from our villages and scarcity to success and limelight. You made being Nigerian a place of possibility and one where providence delivers.
Well since then it has been quite a storm especially with regards to the Boko Haram insurgency and the dislocation between macroeconomic growth and microeconomic depression. Much has been written on these things that range from criticism to outright vindictive attacks and unfortunately much time has been spent by your aides reacting to these things.
They have done this with very mixed results. Essentially they have positioned you as very reactive and defensive in the tone of your Governance. I will not contribute to this and in fact mine is not a report card. If you want to read one I recommend ‘Goodluck Jonathan’s Report Card for Nigeria? Must Try Harder’ by Remi Adekoya published by UK Guardian online on Tuesday 7th of May 2013.
Mr President you still have two years to go. It is in my interest and that of any Nigerian that you are able to deliver historic transformation for Nigeria. To achieve this there are certain things you must address, irrespective of a 2nd term, towards your promised transformation. These are areas for potential improvement beyond your administration’s incredible efforts on macroeconomic stability and strategic approach to agriculture.
Your first focus has to be your model of leadership. The fact that you are a rare Nigerian president with very little pedigree as an authority figure essentially raised direct questions as to whether you would be authoritarian, like a military ruler, paternalistic, like ex-military rulers and our founders, consultative, which we have never seen, or participatory which is totally unknown. Unfortunately, and fortunately for this second half, Mr President you are yet to really define your approach to leadership distinctly.
Symbolically, especially in your choice of committees, you seem to be consultative but your use of this vehicle and the discernible link from their recommendations to decisions as well as policy making is not visible nor clear. The 21st century is a time where effective leadership is greatly dependent on qualitative participation. It is far more about sharing power with people ie giving the work to the people rather than exercising power over them. Over the next two years Mr President , you must use your office to summon the national attention to questions we must all address. To transform a nation in these times it is no longer the heroic act of one great person but the collective engagement of peoples. You must summon the greater congress of Nigerian consciousness and problem-solving to intractable problems that are faced through our collective choices. A classic area is the issue of corruption which will never be resolved by policing action but by the content and contest of our character as peoples.
The issue of our national diversity is another area which you are uniquely placed to address. We reduce our chance of greatness by not having framework for genuinely using our diversity as a discipline for creativity and the pursuit of excellence in spite of adversity. The gap has let all the worst kind of greedy and murderous people to frame the public dialogue and seditious as well as treasonable conversations are now at the core of national conversation. You have a powerful opportunity to transform our National orientation, relationship and the results that we deliver. It is an opportunity that cannot be left to chance. This is in itself a symptom of the critical role of intangibles and the story of your exercise of authority.
You must show again how you stand on the side of everyday people in their increasing struggle to define legitimate ways to be successful. Whether your iconic campaign video of shoeless times was driven by Joe Trippi or not, Mr President please recognize you have a rare opportunity to stand with the people against the venal elites. You have to be sophisticated to know how to do this without being partisan in the process. This extends to the aforementioned approach of your administration to communication. President Jonathan is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria not that of PDP . Until you decide whether to run or not (at least publicly ) you must ignore partisan and petty sniping. You will need to regularly engage Nigerians on radio and TV reporting on what you are doing to address their concerns not responding directly to the Nigerian punditry and their daily comments, fancies and hysteria.
Mr President one major area that decides whether you are transformative or transactional are the present gaps in strategic thinking and responses. These are apparent in critical areas of national priority to which your administration is committed. The first is electricity which seems so totally focused on the supply side of the problem with some pass marks for you in bringing the semblance of pattern to electricity supply . The failure of any demand side intervention strategy will make all the successes of new capacity infrastructure unsustainable.
We cannot develop the infrastructure of supply without strategy to address our population growth or newer ways in which power demands will increase. So far there is a failure to use building code regulation to address unnecessary dependence on things like air conditioners and water heaters a significant oversight. The reward for energy efficiency tax incentives for complaint behaviour and direct enforcement of standards on all levels of Government are examples of demand side intervention that can be game changers .
The strategic ‘blindside’ is also apparent on the Boko Haram responses which puts the brand of the Nigerian army at an even worse risk on the longer term, possibly damaging further the persisting fracture between military and citizens. In this area Mr President you need the best strategic approach that recognizes the following: counterinsurgency is going to fail if the people die in numbers that makes the military an occupation force. Violent insurgency is not rare nor unusual in our country but a product of our geography and complexity.
In fact over time, the drive of the Sahara southwards has created both empires and conflicts far long before the advent of Nigeria and possibly into the future. We need a strategy that enlists Nigerians into active citizenship draining the communal pool in which insurgents swim. We need to have a ‘forever time line’ approach. In the shorter term Mr President you need a Strategy that isolates the insurgent through a concerted Islamic jurist platform that address their ideology directly. It should also exploit our capacity to acquire, collate and analyse information especially by mapping the relationship networks starting with hotspots but extended across the country. It is Networks of locality, ethnicity, religions and ideas that define us.
On the military side we need to have a different force that is adaptive and not uniformed that can match the insurgents’ ability to change tactics and blend with the population. We need a holistic strategy that blends socio-economic conversations and solutions with information to pinpoint as well as intervention that cuts off the head of the insurgents so that force when it is used is accurate , direct and overwhelming.
Finally, there are critical areas where your administration has been deafeningly silent but are critical to the lives of Nigerians. The first is that the largest employer in Nigeria is the informal sector and its biggest platform is the open air market. These markets need to be standardized and supported with a significant impact on the majority of the 29 million Nigerian households.
If you champion the masses of Nigerians you must be the advocate of the transformation and investment in the informal sector. The greatest transformative intervention that will affect Nigerians across the board is turning the productivity of informal settings into creativity and added value for economic progress. The second one is move Mr President beyond building Century city where international capital and the elites will be comfortable and working Nigerians will squatters we need standards and processes that frames how our existing cities should be transformed and the role of the residents in that process.
The current punitive gentrification in the southwest and the FCT is unsustainable, if easy on our eyes. Perhaps most importantly there is a generation of Nigerians who you need to speak to directly and regularly. They need to be inspired and motivated by you and your vision for their future. Our Young people need to know they can succeed by being productive and creative that they will make considerable progress through hard work. You have a powerful opportunity as the new technologies start to redefine financial standards and the issue of financial inclusion are currently topical. You can redefine their terms of engagement putting their understanding and participation in this emerging digital world as a central core of not just economic empowerment but also social as well as political participation.
President Jonathan no matter how inconvenient it might be you need to make history be acting as the facilitator of Nigerian citizenship which takes responsibility for finding solutions not just complaining . A majority who recognise they employ you but know you cannot and must not do it alone. A Nigeria where we collaborate to transform things and still compete when the whistle blows.
No one is in a better position to set that new tone like you and there is no better time than today. When your term ends and irrespective of the immediate verdict , history will favour your commitment and effort. It is possible with transformation recorded you will have in future a Jonathan generation that will be clapping.
Adewale Ajadi, a lawyer, creative consultant and leadership expert, is author of Omoluwabi 2.0: A code of Transformation in 21st Century Nigeria.