On the 29th of May every year, Nigeria celebrates Democracy day. A day set aside to mark the Nation’s return to democracy and also to examine her voyage into the democratic adventure. This year, Nigeria not only rejoices over 12 years of uninterrupted democratic process but also relishes the beginning of another four year democratic experience. While under military dictatorship, corruption grew to a mammoth height, the power sector degenerated and poverty pervaded the land while some of our Heads of States and their civilian cronies fed fat and hemorrhaged the country without remorse.
The return to democracy in 1999 ushered in a ray of hope and ever since then we have been taken little strides towards the promise land. This year’s Democracy Day also marks the inauguration of the 14th Head of State (or 6th Civilian President) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The man at the centre of events is Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan.
Goodluck Jonathan is indeed a man of destiny. He was certainly not born rich. In fact he was born into the most austere setting to a canoe carver and farmer father. Born on the 20th of November 1957 to Mr. and Mrs. Ebele Jonathan, Goodluck was like any other Nigerian child. His grandmother named him Azikiwe after Nandi Azikiwe because she believed that one day he would grow up to become like Zik of Africa. He hails from Otuoke in Bayelsa State and attended St. Michael Primary School Oloibiri. President Jonathan as a child trekked several kilometers to go to primary school and sometimes carried his books on his head because school bags were considered luxury. In 1971 Jonathan furthered his studies at Mater Dei High School. In 1975, he secured his first job as a public officer. He later got a job as a Preventive officer with the Department of Customs and Exercise at about the age of 18 and continued in this position till 1977. He wrote the School Leaving Certificate Examination and gained admission to study Zoology at the University of Port Harcourt graduating with a Second Class (Upper Division). He served his country in Iresi (present day Osun State) in the National Youth Service Corp scheme. As a Corper he taught biology at community secondary school. In 1983 he began his career in academics as a lecturer in the department of Biology where he taught for ten years. In 1985 he bagged a Masters degree from the same University with an M.Sc. in Hydrobiology and Fisheries. In 1995, he went advanced a step further with a PhD in Zoology for which many consider him the most lettered leader Nigeria has ever had. He is married to one wife Dame Patience Ebele Jonathan and they have two children, Aruabi Jonathan (daughter) and Ariwera Adolphus Jonathan (Son).
In 1993, Jonathan was appointed to serve with the Oil Mineral Area Producing Development Commission as an Executive Director. It was in this assignment that he was “handpicked” to run alongside Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in the 1999 Governorship Election in Bayelsa State which they won. Alamieyesigha was impeached after corruption charges were leveled against him and Jonathan became substantive Governor. He was “anointed” running mate to President Umaru Musa in the 2007 to appease the restive South-South youths. After his principal became chronically ill, the way was paved for him to be made Acting President following the doctrine of necessity invoked by the National Assembly. The rest as they say is history.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s ascension to prominence is indeed a Cinderella story. He is emblem of the Nigerian dream. A dream that had hitherto become a nightmare. A nightmare where taps never flow, where roads are death traps and thousands of youths remain idle in the job market. Goodluck Jonathan represents a reawakening of the dream in which lies hope and not despair. He is neither a plutocrat nor an aristocrat and we identify with him and this identification raises expectations so high that Jonathan cannot afford to be a “sidon-look” President.
Over the years Nigeria has become a country where nothing works. The situation has degenerated miserably from bad to worse. The insecurities are worse than ever. We now sleep with two eyes open. The politicians have never cared. They allocate more state funds to themselves and throw lavish parties. They seem eager to spend more money on frivolous projects. It’s as though the common man on the street has offended him. Hospitals have become mere consultancy clinics, and even the consults are questionable. The education sector has grown moribund.
Politics was business as usual. Politicians were recycled continuously and it seemed all was doomed until Jonathan showed up. He changed the zoning dynamics, discomfited the powers-that-be and reorganized the political stratosphere. His improbable but meteoric rise to power is seen as the hand of God. And Nigerians have bought into the hope his presidency offers. We believe that if he can, then we can and this is the reason for his popularity amongst most Nigerians.
Goodluck Jonathan is a child of destiny but must also know that his name and popularity will not guarantee success. Samson and Solomon also had everything going for them till they were derailed. President Goodluck must remain focused. His success will be determined by the kind of people that form his cabinet. If he goes ahead to appoint politicians to reward them for their efforts in guaranteeing him victory in the last election, then he would fail. He must understand that he has as much people that want him to fail as those that want him to succeed. He has upset the power block in Nigeria. The Petroleum industry has seen some progress under his administration and these guys are not too happy the fuel queues have vanished. They want to be back in control. The zoning arrangement he rubbished must be justified by good governance. The common man doesn’t care about zoning. He wants a job. He wants to be able to provide for his wife and children. He wants light for his barbing saloon business and water in his taps. Only the fat cats and elite concern themselves with zoning. Jonathan must provide good governance. This will foster peace and stability more than zoning has ever done or will ever do.
I will not delude myself into believing that all Nigeria’s problems can be solved in four years but one thing I am certain of is that if he concentrates on one thing-power-he would have gone a long way in writing his name in our good books forever. It doesn’t take a lot to please Nigerians. All Buba Marwa, the former military administrator of Lagos state did was to fill potholes. Chief Lateef Jakande built a few primary and secondary schools, Ambrose Ali also focused on education in old Bendel state. This shows that it the little things that affect people directly that matter most. People began to laud Babatude Raji Fashola, the Governor of Lagos state only after the BRT scheme. Many people have their misgivings about former President, Olusegun Obasanjo but still praise him over the telecommunication industry in Nigeria. I strongly believe that if Nigerians have light, life would be a lot better. Other problems like corruption will go away if institutions are strengthened. If the police were as funded as the EFCC, they would be doing a better job.
I have to reiterate clearly and state unequivocally that technocrats should head major areas like power, health, education and finance. The vision and determination of a leader can be infused into the institution by the heads. We have seen this before when people like Diezani Allison-Madueke, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, El Rufai, Charles Soludo, Sanusi Lamido, Ernest Ndukwe, Dora Akunyili, Obi Ekekwesili, Nuhu Ribadu, Pat Utomi, and Kema Chikwe held office. They went about their duties with passion and determination. We are tired of failures in government!
With the inauguration over and the parties coming to an end, it is time to begin work in earnest. Four years will be like four months if Jonathan performs well but Nigerians will grow weary and impatient if he begins to toe the line of those that have failed before him. Nigerians have already showed their support at the polls, it’s Jonathan’s time to repay the favour.
©2011 Ewoigbokhan Otaigbe Itua