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Agenda for President Jonathan

December 27, 2009

It is said that some people are born great, while others have greatness thrust upon them. I do not wish President Umaru Musa Yar’adua dead. On the contrary, I wish him well. But as with everything in life, time unravels and cures. Time has cured Nigeria of the ‘Great Deception’, and the dummy we bought under Umaru Musa Yar’adua has eventually unravelled. The deception is over, and the time for some home, if bitter truths has come.

The fact is that most Nigerians, except for the most rabid Yar’adua supporter suspect that the end of an era is in sight. And is it not just an end to the administration of President Yar’adua, but a terminal decline of the Yar’adua dynasty’s political fortunes. The sun has set, and time is closing in. Ultimately, power, that most cherished of all brides will prove that no groom can hold on to it for life. Power, it seems has just escaped the cold claws of Yar’adua. And the equally cold reality is that Goodluck Jonathan must set an agenda to rescue Nigeria from the banal cabal that blighted, what at inception was an administration that was supposed to liberate us from eight years of Obasanjo’s tyranny.

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Unfortunately, after nearly three years, no one, including the indefatigable Dora Akunyili can point out to one decent achievement of the Yar’adua administration. It is instructive that even the longest serving cabinet member and Minister of Works, Alhaji Lawal Hassan has admitted that the  Federal Government did not complete any of the 81 road projects it planned to execute in 2009. By every account, and from indices of measurement, the Yar’adua experiment has been an unmitigated disaster. For a government that promised to declare a state of emergency in the power sector, Nigerians are inundated daily with stories of the billions of dollars being spent on the sector. After spending nearly $6 billion, the government still says it requires an additional $5 billion. It is difficult to imagine that any Nigerian really believed that empty presidential promise.

The disappointment with the Yar’adua administration is born of the inexcusable squander of opportunities and the callous disregard for the rule of law it promised to uphold. Therefore, in setting an agenda for President Jonathan, it must be understood that though Umaru reduced governance to a non-activity, what dug his grave is the tribe of opportunists (including family and friends) that beclouded his judgement and secluded him from the dangers of the gathering storm that nearly led him, and by extension, Nigeria, to the abyss. Jonathan must free himself from that narrow and selfish group, even if it includes close family members.  

Nigeria under Yar’adua was in a state of perpetual crises of governance. The country deserves better and Jonathan will do well to avoid the greed, crass ineptitude, double speak and corruption that marred Yar’adua’s government. The only way to rectify the situation is not by simply throwing out Yar’adua’s henchmen, desirable as that may be. What needs to be done is the institutionalization of good governance, regardless of the political actors on the stage. It is important that government goes beyond the individual.

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The agenda for President Jonathan must also be viewed against the backdrop of the catastrophic failure of Yar’adua’s ill-fated 7 Point Agenda. Jonathan cannot escape responsibility for some of those failures though he had little influence in that government. But it is not too late to salvage some vestiges of respectability and even a chance to go down kindly in history as a remarkable administration in Nigeria.  All Jonathan needs is a single point agenda: bequeathing a legacy of genuine democracy, constitutional supremacy and dumping the warped notion of rotational presidency.  

If all Yar’adua had managed to do was to adopt the recommendations of Electoral Reforms panel he himself set up, he might have laid the foundation for the emergence of a truly democratic Nigeria. Instead, he is leaving office on a note of betrayal and failure. To avoid a similar fate and write his name in gold, all President Jonathan has to do is adopt the report of the Electoral Reform Panel and ensure that elections in the country at all levels are free and fair and reflect the wishes of the electorate.

That way, Jonathan will not only be remembered as a great leader, but will go down in history with the title that many former leaders wanted desperately but will never have: ‘Father of Modern Nigeria’. Greatness has been thrust upon Jonathan. It is up to him to either write his name in gold, or go down in history as another opportunistic despot.