By Samuel Ogundipe
The official portrait of President Goodluck E. Jonathan has been moved to the same shelf that occupies those of his predecessors since independence. Given his confession that his 16-year foray into politics couldn’t have ended early enough, we can safely assume that he won’t seek re-election like Governor Ayo Fayose in Ekiti. The “accidental” former president has retired to his ancestral settlement of Otuoke in the oil-rich Bayelsa State.
Despite his remarkable and unmatched magnanimity, it is still widely believed that Jonathan will remain the primary bogeyman of the ruling All Progressives Congress and its supporters for, at least, the next two transitions.
Mr. Jonathan is, by far, the most vilified leader Nigeria has ever had. It is not that Nigerians didn’t make attempts to vilify his predecessors, but none of them showed remotely as much readiness to give free-speech a hands-off approach as Jonathan did. His unmatched democratic disposition is believed to be partly responsible for his ill-fated re-election bid.
Rather than allow Jonathan to go in peace following his defeat at the polls and the smooth transition he oversaw, APC and its supporters doubled down on their ad hominem attacks against their number one political bête noire.
While this writer often ignores most of the attacks for their pettiness and lack of substance, the newly-introduced efforts aimed at deliberately obfuscating history by a sizable number of the media must not be allowed to stand, if only for accurate historical purposes .
One of such efforts manifested in a Premium Times hit piece that carries the by-line of one Nicholas Ibekwe.
Although its first paragraph, “The administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan administration[sic] can at best be described as underperforming, a review of its performance in various sectors show[sic],” gave the reader an impression that it was well-researched, the article, the headline: Ten ways Jonathan failed Nigerians, is starkly indistinguishable from a beer parlour concocted tale.
Ibekwe lectured Nigerians that Jonathan’s failures “can be described as unfortunate for a government which came to power on the back of popular support and one that enjoyed a lot of public goodwill in its early years.”
Does any civilian administration ever get into power without popular support and goodwill? How esoteric is this revelation by Ibekwe?
He then went on to rehash the same threadbare APC straw men arguments against Jonathan administration, all of which should have been discarded with the campaign paraphernalia.
He listed the 10 failures of Jonathan to include, in no particular order: power, security, corruption, poor economy, poor healthcare, fuel scarcity, foreign policy gaffes, poor education, mining and crude oil thefts. If all of these sound familiar, it’s because they’ve been the bane of Nigeria since she was let loose by her English parents more than half a century ago. But reading Ibekwe’s piece, one would think Jonathan literally took a Hong Kong and turned it into a Yangon (no offense to the monks).
For prudence, only a few crucial areas of Jonathan’s failure as listed by Ibekwe will be rebuffed in this piece, but anyone who reads the full story over at the PT Web site will realise that all of the 10 areas have the same thing in common: laziness.
The first issue on his list is, of course, power.
Ibekwe informed readers that: “In 2010, when Mr Jonathan was sworn in as substantive president after the death of his former boss, Umaru Yar’Adua, power generation in Nigeria was 3,000 mega watts. On Friday, when he was handing over to his successor, power generation had dropped to less than 2000 mega watts.” This is factually incorrect.
When Jonathan assumed office in 2010, Nigeria was generating 2,460MW of electricity.
After Jonathan settled in office, the country’s energy output reached an all time high of 4,500MW in 2013, according to Dr. Sam Amadi, Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission.
Mr. Amadi explained that generation of power in Nigeria is largely contingent on the availability of gas to fire up the turbines.
“Power generation is based heavily on the gas supply,” he told WESTERN POST on Tuesday.
Mr. Amadi said the recent power outage that coincided with scarcity of essential petroleum products across the country was because the Nigerian Gas Company, NGC, decided to embark on a solidarity strike with the officials of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, whose industrial action had already rattled the nation’s economic activities for several weeks.
He said the strike ended after PENGASSAN reached a deal with the federal government in the final working days of Jonathan administration. This, he explains, is responsible for the palpable improvement in power supply as the country has now returned to its daily average of 3,646MW.
He told WP that during the week-long strike, the national output hovered around 1,000MW.
In effect, the PT’s claim that Jonathan left the power sector worse-off is, at best, disingenuous.
Similar conclusion can be adduced in Ibekwe’s second original sin of Jonathan: Security.
Ibekwe started off on this subject by claiming that, “[Jonathan] administration went to sleep while the insurgent group, Boko Haram, ran amok killing thousands and capturing territory as huge as Belgium from Nigeria in its bid to create an Islamic caliphate.” This would be comical were it not written by a supposedly sophisticated journalist.
Jonathan, like most leaders managing a crisis, has never been found wanting in his concerted efforts to rein in the barbaric sect. The verbal attacks he suffered over Boko Haram throughout his tenure was as natural as it gets for any leader presiding over a nation in crisis. Sadly, while many individuals have amassed a lot of wealth by simply playing the role of unofficial critics of the administration’s handling of Boko Haram, none of them has been able to prescribe, in no uncertain terms, what should be done to end the scourge.
Ibekwe revealed his disposition to lazy conspiracies when he added that, “Mr Jonathan only acted decisively when it became clear that the insurgency would cost him votes during the presidential election.” Nonsense.
Nigeria’s acquisition of military hardware became a priority under Jonathan. He’s been on the record as the only president that budgeted over ₦1T for military operations.
Throughout his tenure, Jonathan responded to the plight of Nigerians in the northeast by boosting the morale of our troops to use the available weapons while he worked to acquire new ones from across the world.
For the purpose of combatting Boko Haram, Jonathan created an all-new 7th Infantry Division headquartered at Maimalari, just outside Maiduguri, in August 2013. It cannot be said that he didn’t act decisively here; neither can we say it was a half-hearted measure taken in the middle of the presidential election.
Crude Oil Theft.
Here, Ibekwe displayed crass ignorance that makes one wonder if the piece was not written by a college sophomore on internship program at PT.
He wrote: “During the Jonathan administration, pirates and crude oil thieves were lords. Pirates surrounded the Nigerian water ways like water hyacinth stealing crude from the country’s pipelines with little or no hindrance.”
It’s extremely difficult to excuse Ibekwe’s sheer ignorance in the above paragraph because a visit to Niger-Delta would convince anyone that illegal bunkering or raw crude theft has been virtually eliminated.
Ordinary telephone interviews with both laymen and experts around the area will disabuse anyone of claims of unmitigated theft of petroleum products in that region.
The claims that the country loses about 400,000 barrels of crude per day are “simply preposterous,” according to Mr. Bala Zaka, a renowned petroleum engineer and energy analyst.
Zaka told WP that he travelled the length and breath of the Niger-Delta for a research project he did for a famous public policy think-tank and discovered that it’s simply not true the claim being bandied in the Nigerian media that such an amount of crude is being stolen every day.
He said for anyone to know how it is impossible to steal such a quantity daily, he or she only needs to do a basic arithmetic.
“Four hundred thousand barrels of crude oil is 2,036 row of 33,000 litres capacity refined petrol tankers,” he said. “it is impossible for individuals to steal this every day from that small region.”
The federal government also has an effective pipeline protection team in the region. Transportation of crude oil in the creeks is now done legitimately by mostly Chinese expatriates.
On the economy, Ibekwe said, “Mr. Jonathan could not sustain the modest economic growth recorded by his government initially. He could not save for the rainy day when the price of crude oil reached very high levels; subsequently depleting Nigeria’s foreign reserves and incurring a huge debt profile as soon as there was a dip in the price of crude in the international market.”
These stuff were definitely made up.
The decrease in prices of crude oil at the international market is far from being “a dip,” it was deep, more like being axed after suffering a nosedive, and the entire OPEC community suffered the consequences.
A president who engineered sovereign wealth fund cannot be said to be a drunken sailor. The fact that Jonathan has been on the record warning governors of the consequences of depleting the excess crude account is ubiquitous in our public record.
Finally, Jonathan didn’t meet but left Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa.
In this category, which is the last I’ll treat as I cannot make sense of the rest, Ibekwe wrote, wait for it…, “The National Health Insurance Scheme is yet to be fully operational while hospitals have become so bad that some politicians travel abroad to treat common illnesses.”
This is less a thought than a flight from thinking, which often includes making sensible distinctions.
How can a journalist reviewing the administration of Jonathan actually place the frequent medical trip the rich make abroad on the immediate-past president? You find it befuddling? Me, too.
Below is what Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has to say about Nigeria’s health system under Jonathan.
“A lot of the media coverage about Nigeria this year focused on two things: Ebola and terrorism. Both are frightening, and they masked the fact that from a global health perspective, Nigeria actually had a pretty good year. Although it’s one of only three countries that have never been free from polio (Pakistan and Afghanistan are the other two), I don’t think it will be on that list for long. Nigeria has reported only six cases of polio this year, compared to more than 50 last year. What’s more, the infrastructure Nigeria has built to fight polio actually made it easier for them to swiftly contain Ebola. The fact that Nigeria is now Ebola free is a great example of how doing the work to fight things like fighting polio also leaves countries better prepared to deal with outbreaks of other diseases.”
When Jonathan wrapped up his tenure, he left Nigeria far from where we all want it to be, but Ibekwe could have saved himself this embarrassment by simply comparing Jonathan’s administration with those of his numerous predecessors. Perhaps Obasanjo; or Abacha; or Shonekan; heck he could’ve even gone back to the Buhari-led junta of 1980s. No, he didn’t do that, hence the egg on his face.