By Daniel Adewumi
These are indeed interesting times in our democracy. Never before has an election season generated so much prodigious talk traffic and internet chatter. These days, one is constantly assaulted with a blitzkrieg of sloganeering, mudslinging and Richter-scale histrionics regarding the forthcoming elections on all forms of media. Television, radio, mobile phones and more have become ‘theatres of war’ where battles for the minds and votes of Nigerians are waged earnestly and relentlessly. In the heat of the debates raging on which presidential candidate or political party is best equipped to move the country forward, a lot of fallacies, misrepresentations and hasty generalizations have been passed around as truth, facts and fundamentals. But of course, ‘Rome is a mob’. And mobs are seldom smart. It is human to get caught up in a frenzy, to give in to the mass hypnosis, the pervasive hysteria. It happens everywhere and all the time. You’ll more than often laugh to comedy in the cinema hall than when you are watching a movie privately. The ecstasy experienced at a stirring church service can rarely be achieved at a personal devotional. The joys of watching a soccer match at home can never trump the power surge thrills of viewing a live match at a stadium. In short, there is a need to take a step back and reappraise all the brouhaha this election has thrown up or one might not really make an informed decision in all the din and demagoguery.
No doubt, the emergence of social media and information technology has contributed to these. Perhaps, it is a signal that Nigeria’s much vaunted majority of young people under the age of 40 are ready to impact the political fortunes of their dear country. Intriguing enough, it is also possibly a testament to the current administration’s commitment to growing the exchange of ideas and opinions, despite the fact that a fair amount of the messaging has been deployed in criticizing and castigating the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan. Frankly, if there is any real criticism of this administration, perhaps it is that it does not blow its trumpet enough, so much so that it’s hard-won achievements, genuine milestones and ground-breaking projects seem to be swept away in the hurricane of opposition-orchestrated vitriol! Thank goodness, there are limits to propaganda. For example, in nearly six years, the issue of long, nightmarish fuel queues have become nigh extinct. No fancy slogan can dispute that. ‘Change’? I don’t want any change to that!
Still, it might only be fair to acknowledge some of the more pertinent criticisms of the Jonathan administration, which include claims of impotence in the face of mounting security challenges as symbolized by the virulent attacks of Boko Haram; acquiescence to corruption in high places and a general perception of cluelessness. Generally, these claims work well at rallies and for whipping up misguided sentiments. In the real world however, these broad accusations are simply untrue and unfounded.
Because in the real world, the complexities of fighting terrorism and insurgencies do not have a blueprint that can simply be deployed to solve these problems. Often times, an organic and slowly-evolved modus operandi is usually involved to successfully combat the menace. This administration is only a beneficiary of the ham-fisted way previous administrations have approached the problem and since then, it has blossomed into a hydra-headed monster. Jonathan has eschewed high-falutin’ rhetoric for serious investment in military intelligence and more fire-power for the Nigerian Army amongst other strategies. Boko Haram’s guerrilla and asymmetrical warfare will confound any government. Even Barack Obama has often been criticized by the opposition party in his administration for being soft on terrorists and countries supposedly aiding terrorists whereas his thoughtful approach has saved the US from needless expenditure and the loss of military personnel. Still, the Nigerian Army is winning the war against Boko Haram and President Jonathan’s holistic approach will inevitably pay off.
Politics is tricky business and the Nigerian president must do right by every constituent of his. Hence, Jonathan’s thoughtful, no-frills approach is generally seen as ‘impotence’ and handwringing. This sort of perception is not uncommon in societies that have experienced the brash actions of military rule and the often-ruinous, long-term effects of ‘with immediate effect’ military bombast. Interestingly, Jonathan’s main opponent in these elections is a poster child for those sort of ill-thought actions and there is little wonder his messaging is seductive to those who are oblivious of how democratic societies work.
Critics have predicted long odds for Jonathan’s re-election. Interestingly, the president has overcome long odds all his life. From his very humble indigent background to his meteoric rise to the highest office in the land, his life has demonstrated that speaking softly while wielding a big stick can take you far. After all, it was this same Jonathan that emerged from the fiasco that engulfed the government of President Yar’adua to organize possibly the most acclaimed election in this country’s history with Barack Obama quipping that: “The last election that brought President Jonathan to power was a hallmark on the continent and in Nigeria in terms of free and fair elections. And I know that he is committed to making sure that the elections in 2015 move in that same fashion”.
Upon being sworn into power, he has set about servicing the economy in a plethora of well-thought out and admirably executed policies that have seen the Nigerian economy grow from strength to strength. He has made the financial empowerment of the youth of this country a priority and sundry programmes of his including the much lauded YouWin scheme has ensured thousands of jobs for innovative Nigerian youth. So much so that Audu Maikori, a high flying music entrepreneur of northern extraction opined thus: “I see GEJ continuing to make steady inroads into economic advancement of young people because the cliché is true – the youth are the future but the future is now and here!”
Not only that, Jonathan has been seriously working towards the diversification of the economy from the dependence on crude oil exports. His 25billion naira grant to Nollywood is evidence of this. Before this unprecedented intervention of the government, Nollywood was regularly touted as the third most prolific film industry in the world. Investing in this industry and empowering its stakeholders is not only commonsensical but a move that is bound to yield many dividends shortly.
Manufacturing has also gotten a boost from Jonathan’s quiet but relentless transformation drive. The country launched the Innoson brand of domestically manufactured vehicles and no less than Forbes, arguably the world’s most popular money-centric publication went on to rave about the initiative.
But perhaps, most telling is the huge leaps and bounds the government has recorded in the area of agriculture that has culminated in a drastic 40% reduction in food imports. Not only did this administration squash a 40 year old fertilizer scam in that sector, it went on to revamp the system, introducing e-wallets to farmers, made massive investments in the production of rice and has embarked on an ambitious establishment of a new generation of ‘Nagropreneurs’.
What more can we say about the universally acclaimed, well-oragnised method of the handling of the Ebola scourge? It is only those who have an uncommon hatred of the man and the institutional, non-militaristic change he symbolizes that can claim that President Jonathan has achieved nothing while in office. We are aware of the shortcoming, yes. But to insist that nothing good has come out of this years under the President is an insidious and dangerous lie. The best way to combat these campaigns of calumny is to ensure that he gets a second term to consolidate on his good work and silence the enemies of this country once and for all!