Jonathan’s faulty self-assessment
IN his rather flattering self-assessment of his first three years as President, Goodluck Jonathan recently, unwittingly, highlighted the ever-widening gulf between Nigerians and their leaders. While public opinion unmistakeably writes off the administration as inept, vacillating and soft on corruption, Jonathan and his team have repeatedly awarded themselves pass marks. His latest challenge to the electorate to set performance yardsticks for him will have many takers. Chances are that the results will not be so flattering.
Already, comments have flowed in torrents from stakeholders that overwhelmingly contrast sharply with the rosy picture that the administration has conjured up. Jonathan was unusually assertive as he presented a 234-page “mid-term report” of his stewardship since taking office in May 2010 (first as acting President) and challenged critics to “develop their own yardstick” to appraise his performance. By his own assessment, he has done remarkably well, achieving giant strides in tackling insecurity; revamping the economy, the electoral system and power sector; taming corruption and improving infrastructure.
He went on to reel out figures of growth, roads built or rehabilitated, plans ongoing or in the pipeline and how the lives of Nigerians had been “positively affected.” Gratuitously, he rose in defence and praise of his ministers, most of whom had been found wanting in several surveys in the mass media and by diverse stakeholder groups. The President challenged Nigerians to “…develop criteria because, without a marking scheme, you cannot mark anybody’s paper.”
It is within his rights to engage in self-adulation, as is within the rights of his ministers, many of whom have followed his lead in claiming “achievements” where there are very few. Jonathan can rightly claim credit for finally taking tough action against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North. He also deserves credit for appointing an independent-minded don, Attahiru Jega, as head of the electoral commission; curbing the fertiliser racketeering and belatedly restarting (though slow and untidy) the long-stalled privatisation of the power sector. While growth has also been steady at 6 – 7 per cent, the recovery of the financial sector, begun a year before he took office, has moved ahead.
However, the taxpayer, critics and opposition groups are also entitled to assessing those who occupy public office. And the President has obviously missed a very crucial point: the majority of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora have actually set parameters by which they adjudge their government and, sadly, Jonathan and his team have been found wanting.
On the most crucial criteria, such as security, the energy sector, education, health, privatisation, infrastructure and corruption, the jury has returned verdicts. Through sheer ineptitude and lack of resolve, the government allowed a fringe sect like Boko Haram to grow, link up with global terrorism and unleash a ferocious terror campaign on the country. The state of emergency that the clay-footed government finally imposed on three North-Eastern states last month was over two years overdue. Decisive action since 2010 would have crushed Boko Haram and spared the nation the horrors of mass killings, bombings and arson that have claimed 5,000 lives and shattered the economy and the social life of several northern states. Kidnapping, armed robbery, sectarian and communal strife are rife. The recent massacre of 102 security men in Nasarawa State by a tribal cult accentuates the insecurity in the land.
Education is also in crisis. With adult literacy at 57 per cent, overall illiteracy at 66 per cent and more than 10 million out of the 30 million children of primary school age not in school, no serious government should be comfortable. When 40 million adults in a population of 170 million are illiterate, the country is ranked 161 out of 180 countries in the United Nations Comparative Index of Literacy 2012, and has an unemployment rate of 23.7 per cent, chest-beating is rather inappropriate.
In January, the influential Economist Intelligence Unit released a report ranking Nigeria as one of the worst places on earth to be born in. In May, the global charity, Save the Children, named Nigeria among the 10 worst countries in the world to give birth to a child. The failure of our government to make appreciable progress was highlighted afresh in the Human Development Report 2013 published by the United Nations Development Programme, where Nigeria was ranked 153 out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index, using life expectancy, income, access to health care, school enrolment and security, among others. Our health care delivery system is poor and those who can afford to do so seek treatment abroad, while our infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world.
Nigerians feel the pains of the energy crisis where power supply is less than 4,000 megawatts and we keep importing refined petroleum products at great cost to the treasury. Unemployment put at 23.7 per cent by the National Bureau of Statistics hides the reality that 42 per cent of the graduates of our tertiary institutions cannot find jobs. The claims by the President and ministers of having rehabilitated roads sound like a fairy tale. Although contracts are awarded during the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting, the major federal roads such as Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Benin-Sagamu Expressway, Enugu-Port Harcourt and Lokoja-Abuja highways are in a terrible state of disrepair. The advertised repairs are either minimal or non-existent, just like the claims of job creation are not born out by reports from the private sector and the NBS.
Corruption has reached an unprecedented height, featuring the theft of N1.7 trillion on spurious fuel subsidy payments, looting of special funds, fraudulent budgeting and impunity at all levels of government.
In effect, Mr. President, Nigerians have already set criteria and this government has failed the test. But the remaining two years of the mandate he won in 2011 provide him an opportunity to redeem his scorecard and leave lasting legacies. He can roll up his sleeves and get cracking or he can continue to delude himself. The choice is his.
Jonathan’s faulty self-assessment