KWENU: Our Culture, Our Future
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MATTERS OF THE MOMENT
GEJ’s Next Four Years: the promises and the challenges
Friday 27 May 2011
Democracy is not something you put away for ten years, and then in the 11th year you wake up and start practicing again. We have to begin to learn to rule ourselves again.
~~ Chinua Achebe
continuity will gain a modicum of strengthened foothold on Sunday 29 May 2011,
when President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) will be inaugurated as Nigeria’s
president, in his own right. That
occasion, will be a singular watershed event in Nigerian politics. GEJ is a man
whose name, persona, fate and life are the embodiment and allegory of good luck.
On the broader plane, the assumption as well as expectation is that
Yet some realities are ever constant. Since
During the electioneering and the throes of vote-wining campaign, President Jonathan and the other competitors made additional promises. Those by his opponents now matter very little since they do not hold the office and therefore, are not obligated to deliver. But that is not the case with the president, who has even in victory, made additional promises.
Naturally, and as expected, President Jonathan has focused his attention and
promise on the most pressing and attention-grabbing areas; the improvement of
public infrastructure, power supply, education, health care, and job creation.
There is also the intractable problem of insecurity that bedevils life and
property and erodes the environment for investments and development.
Though hardly discussed, there is a clear nexus between
Without security there is no government so it is not debatable, it is something we have to address and we are working towards that with vigor. But if I am 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 significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything even if I am there for the next four years.
These promises aside, one needs to look at the challenges that the president will confront in the next four years. The self-imposed time constraint could be a single-minded spur to action or an impeding hamstring. What will be the defining factors are the challenges that would emerge, of which there are many prospects and possibilities. Placing the challenges in context requires an understanding that within the trajectory of nation-building, lays the inevitable arc of triumph and defeat – all depending on where one stands or to which party one belongs.
Over the next four years,
That President Jonathan won the elections is no longer at issue; but did he make deals and compromises that have left him vulnerable and indeed unable to govern squarely? In this context, can he appoint his own men and women to the cabinet, or will he be compelled to appoint party loyalist as well as those outside the party who leveraged groundswell votes that ensured that he did not face a run-off, even if he does so in the name of forming a national unity government? Will a hodgepodge cabinet of all-comers function as a team and without divided loyalties?
There are already some probable, if not clear indicators of a fractious government emerging after May 29. Reliable sources disclosed that when the president headed for a post-electoral retreat at the Obudu Ranch, he was inundated by invited and uninvited guests, many of whom wanted to register their vested interest and role in his victory and stake claim to whatever role they played as political enablers in his election bid. Several others foreseeing a role for themselves in the coming free-from-zoning-conundrum dispensation went there to secure their place at the Villa’s table. Interestingly, while they were all at it, another batch of creative but faceless political activists, perfected the act of peddling influence under the pretext of being the guarantors of ministerial appointments – all for the not so mind-blowing fee of N100 million. Still the mind boggles! What does this all say?
The 2011 election true to promise was the most credible and freest as some have contended. It was also the costliest in terms of finance and human toll. $1 billion dollars and 800 human lives is hardly a cheap price to pay for democratic elections. Such a price is troubling since it is not sustainable and cannot be validated. Considering that the $1 billion is just the price tag for INEC infrastructure and administration of the elections; such costs are aside from the overall individual or party campaign costs, which are hardly ever well documented. But this is an aside, even though it raises the question whether GEJ will accede to spending such huge sum in 2015, when he is no longer a candidate. More questions! As Chinua Achebe reminds us, “democracy is not something you put away for ten years, and then in the 11th year you wake up and start practicing again. We have to begin to learn to rule ourselves again.” Having been at it for twelve years and made obvious mistakes, we ought to draw on some lessons learned.
But let’s turn to some of the vexing issues. With the elections over, Nigerians expect in GEJ’s first full term as president more than a cosmetic or subtle shift in style and substance of governance. The tangle measure of whether the mode of governance has changed will rest of the deliverables and how soon the impact of any new or former public policies is felt at the grassroots.
If some Nigerians are dubious about GEJ’s governance abilities, it is so because they recognize that he is not a cerebral or visionary leader. Moreover, his decision-making process, while seemingly consensual in nature, is not robust or proactive by any means. But his nature of being a steady and unruffled hand is already an unforeseen asset. In that vein, Nigerians expect him to act coolly but assuredly on certain matters of national interest, just as he did with the elections.
First, long after many national institutions were sold off in the name of privatization all to no avail, there need to prioritize a broad-based development agenda and indeed create an enabling environment that shifts reliance for wealth creation and sustainable economy away from government into a credible and functioning private sector. Yes a few has managed to unconstitutionally corner critical sectors of the economy, despite the fact that the Constitution frowns at the ownership of the economy by a few, still it is common knowledge that various state-owned enterprises which were criminally converted to private ownership, fail to render public service.
Ironically, the element perfidy that undermines good governance the most is that
those who have cornered critical sectors of the national economy still see
government as their main client. This deposition translates to laggardly
economic growth and development, epileptic power supply, burgeoning youth
unemployment and the attendant spiraling of criminality, and broad insecurity.
In sum, all those theoretical constructs like Vision 2010 and Vision 2020 seem
suddenly vacuous both in tangible terms and as representing deliverables.
A flourishing democracy
in name alone is hardly synonymous with national economic and peace and security
wellbeing. Many have failed to see, talk less accept that the recent
post-electoral violence that claimed many lives was a manifestation of anger by
those who feel disenfranchised in more ways than one. Put another way:
there is a semblance of active governance, yet
Overall, the so-called
dividend of democracy seems elusive to the national population. By analogy,
whereas the middleclass in
If however, there is one singularly political impediment that President Jonathan must quickly fix, it is continual erosion of the constitutional guarantee of the separation of powers. When such constitutional dictates are eroded, so too are the accompanying checks and balances. Hence, among the many drawbacks orchestrated by partisan politics and meddling, President Jonathan must acknowledged that the greatest bane to purposeful governance in the twelve years of PDP rule has been the stark blurring of the separation of powers.
Whereas the 1999 Constitution does not proffer or confer pre-eminence of any particular branch of government over the other, it does not confer the leeway for the three arms to become fungible, either in name or by way of compromise and bi-partisanship. What Nigeria needs henceforth, given the prevailing climate of impunity and corruption, is strict separation of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government and ensuring that they are discernibly distinct in order to prevent abuse of power.
To overcome the prevailing challenges, GEJ will do well to compel the executive, legislative and judicial branches to assert their independence and check each other. He must lead assertively and stand ready to use his executive powers as well as his veto, where needed. Every promise he has made would come to naught, if he is unable to instill discipline in all facets of governance and public policy formulation and implementation. If public policies are well articulated and implemented, all else including the finest tenets of law and order and the balance of the natural elements of the country will follow down to the path of good governance.
That is the main challenge confronting the president. We wish him well! God Bless Nigeria!!
Hank Eso is a columnist for Kwenu.com. His observations on Nigerian, African and global politics and related issues, has appeared in various print media, journals and internet-based sites. © Hank Eso, 27 May 2011.
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