Sometimes a student’s mid-term assessment report card does not reflect the final report, but it tells in some way the stride, poor or otherwise, of the student in the first half of his term. If a student’s mid-term report reads poor, it does not mean the end of the road for the student, it only means that such a student should simply buckle up. He must put in more effort to come good. And if the mid-term report reads positive with excellent grades to boot, it still puts the onus on the student to work harder to keep his grade or even improve it. Either way, there is job to be done.
President Goodluck Jonathan had his mid-term report made public as part of the Democracy Day celebrations. Anybody listening to the president’s cabinet members and to Mr President himself would be tempted to think both the president and his crew were talking about another Nigeria. The picture painted was that of a benevolent, hard-working, diligent and visionary president who has out-performed expectation, and has bequeathed to us a better Nigeria with a flourishing economy, and a subsiding din of social discontent. Nigerians were regaled with stories of an improved power sector, more jobs being created, a perking up agriculture sector, in fact a general assurance that the Nigeria enterprise is working.
I am sure Mr President would be pleased as he listened to minister after minister ramble through a rehashed script dripping with achievements. I saw the president grin, then smile, then nod in unvoiced approval of the high marks awarded him by his ministers. But he was deceived. He was hoodwinked by men and women who deployed their mastery of sycophantic sophistry to make him look better than he really is. Somebody should go tell Mr President that Nigerians do not approve of the high marks awarded him by his swarm of ministers and courtiers. Somebody should nudge the president to wake up from his dreamy sense of fulfillment.
The truth is that Nigerians are angry. They feel a sense of betrayal. There is a pervasive halo of despondency in the streets, in the mosques, churches, malls, highways and byways. There is frustration in the land. And the people place it squarely on the shoulders of President Jonathan. They feel the man they massively voted for in 2011 has let them down. The people did not expect that Jonathan would be a cure-all president. They did not expect him to provide all the jobs, pick all the bills, help barren couples make babies, mend dying marriages and heal all broken hearts. Never! But they expected him to fight corruption with ruthless vigour; they expected him to make the country more secure, they expected him to provide them the tools and the ecosystem to create wealth.
In President Jonathan, the people saw a man they could connect with; a man with a familiar history; a man who had no shoes just like majority of the people. In Jonathan, the people saw a man they could call their brother, uncle, teacher, friend; a president they could call by his first name, Goodluck. In him, they saw a president whose first name soon became a national mantra such that many parents took a cue and christened their children Goodluck. He was their real McCoy, a trusted and dependable ally. But he has failed them. That’s the truth. The president may not like to hear this but the verdict in the streets is that Jonathan has joined the long list of failed Nigerian leaders.
Yet, the president can still come good. It is only mid-term in his four-year term. He still has the opportunity to make amend. To do that, he must shed weight. President Jonathan is carrying a lot of baggage in the form of under-performing and politicking aides. Rather than serve the people, some of his aides are busy serving themselves. Then, there is the other higher matter of corruption. President Jonathan is perceived as very tolerant of the highly corrupt and sleazy. He is seen to harbour a huge appetite for the dainties of venality. This is not a good epaulet for a president whom the people defied the odds to vote into office. On this, he must come good. He must demonstrate to the people that he meant it when he said he would fight corruption.
I love President Jonathan. I voted for him but I feel he has not justified my vote and those of millions of Nigerians who rolled up their sleeves to ensure his ascendancy to the throne. This mid-term assessment offers him an opportunity to confront the knotty issue of good governance. That’s what Nigerians are demanding from him. He says he is the most criticized President. This may well be true but he must sift through the mound of criticism to pull the Lee Kuan Yew stunt for Nigeria. History will be fair to Jonathan if he pulls Nigeria out of the quagmire in the same way Yew guided Singapore from ruins to robustness.
Mr. Ugbechie is editor-in-chief of Political Economist Magazine