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OPINION: NOW THAT JONATHAN HAS DECLARED …

THEWILL APP ADS 2

Four years ago, precisely on September 18, 2010 when President Goodluck Jonathan first offered himself for election as the President on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), strong resistance had come from certain quarters who believed that it was a negation of the zoning arrangement in the Peoples Democratic Party. Coming four months after he assumed presidential powers following the death of President Umaru Yar’adua, the issue of zoning of the PDP presidential ticket was rancorous, no doubt, but the extent to which Jonathan’s credential for the position was questioned was downright ridiculous. To his critics, Jonathan’s candidacy was driven more by sentiments than reason, and he was the most unlikely man to perform in that position.

Of course, their opinions were far from objective. On April 16, 2011, his programmes and his pan-Nigerian disposition were convincing enough for the electorate to cast their votes overwhelmingly in his favour. In a country well known for divisive national politics, Jonathan’s triumph in the presidential poll made a profound statement about the new Nigeria that is evolving, but it was equally laden with challenges. The most daunting is terrorism which has swept through some parts of the country, visiting the citizenry with mindless bloodletting. For nearly 200 days, 219 school girls from Chibok have been in captivity while in the past few weeks, the insurgents have taken over a large swathe of North-Eastern communities.

In spite of this and others, Jonathan’s performance has been outstanding, defining him as the man for tough times like these. As far as performance goes, most Nigerians agree that President Jonathan has indeed surpassed expectations. But the job of fixing Nigeria and putting her squarely on the path of growth is far from over. Our president still has a lot more work to do. Ours may be the largest economy in Africa but the real sector on which a great majority of the citizens survive, is comatose while unemployment is still high despite the millions of jobs already created. Power supply which drives every modern economy may have improved marginally in the past few years, but it is still nowhere near the people’s expectations. The power production level is neither commensurate with the huge funding of the past four years nor what he promised while unveiling the road map for the sector in the last quarter of 2010.

The political sector is not too different, even if it is an area the administration has made the most noticeable impact. Jonathan’s appointment of Dr Attahiru Jega as head of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the unprecedented independence and adequate funding granted the electoral body have all paid off well and vindicated him, going by the rating of Elections 2011, but the promise of electoral reform is still far from fully delivered.

Last Tuesday, when he answered the call of over seventeen million Nigerians who had signed a rare document requesting he runs for re-election as Nigeria’s leader in the presidential election slated for February 2015, he set his sight on farther targets. Although his bag is already filled with records of previous incidents in which the ‘hand of God’ decided his climb on the political ladder, this time, his second term ambition is based on his achievements of the past four years. In his inspiring speech at the Eagle Square, Abuja, he regaled Nigerians with the high points of his first tenure and what they should expect in his second.

The significance of Jonathan’s second term declaration rests more with the unanimous manner in which he was endorsed for the PDP ticket. The various organs of PDP did the unusual: they were all unanimous in adopting him as the party’s candidate. From the Board of Trustees, the National Caucus, the National Executive Committee, the National Working Committee, the PDP Governors Forum, members of the PDP Caucuses of the National Assembly, the party acknowledged that an uncommon transformation has been achieved in an unusual period. It was an offer that the President himself declared, affords him the opportunity to continue the conversation of development already started.

On this conversation, few issues must be highlighted: the massive improvement of federal road networks in Nigeria testifies to his commitment to improve the nation’s road transportation infrastructure. He has broken the jinx associated with the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the Benin-Ore-Shagamu road, the Abuja-Lokoja-Benin highway, to mention just a few, and commenced construction of a second Niger bridge and the 2-kilometer Oweto bring across River Benue. The decision to set up nine new universities is a bold move to address the deficit in that sector, but this is just salutary. Like roads and other public infrastructure, the decay in Nigeria’s education system goes down to the elementary. The rot in our tertiary education system is deep indeed, so much that almost all the indices that qualify them as institutions of higher learning are largely negative.

Of course the huge budgetary provisions for tackling these problems hardly translate to any meaningful impact due to the endemic issue of corruption in our public life. Any government that seeks success must do more than pay lip service to the issue of tackling corruption. So far, Jonathan has ensured that the nation’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the ICPC enjoy a free hand in fighting crime, but that may not count for much if Nigerians are not convinced that corrupt public officers are effectively brought to book.

Alongside this, he must pursue the power sector reform already started to its logical conclusion. After successfully privatizing our power generation and distribution companies and undertaking the construction of more power plants, he has no more excuses not to deliver to Nigerians, steady power supply. Good enough, his administration has also embarked on development of the nation’s Hydro-Power potentials with the construction of the 700MW plant in Zungeru and the 3,050MW plant in Mambilla.

Jonathan may not have delivered on all his promises but he sure deserves a second term going by his performance and his promise for the future. Key to the successful implementation of any programme, however lofty, is the prevalence of peace; on this score it is heart-warming that he has made vows to bring to an end the lingering insurgency.

Written by Abba Adakole.