Before I complete my analysis, I can already imagine the fury from both the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s and the All Progressive Congress (APC)’s camps. I imagine both camps berating me for committing a mortal sin by daring to title my article as such. The PDP camp will readily agree that Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari has failed, but will frown at laying the blame of such failure at the feet of the former President, Goodluck Jonathan. On the APC side, President Buhari cannot
be described as a failure, but rather has succeeded beyond reasonable standards and expectations.
But as I live through the three years plus of President Buhari’s presidency, the changes that have happened, and the implications for Nigeria’s future, I have had to go back to 2010 on why and how we found ourselves here. In that year, PresidentJonathan had just become president, and one of the first major things he did was the re – launch of the power sector reform in Lagos, which had stalled under his predecessor. At the time, and this is still my interpretation, I felt it was symbolic. The President understood the critical and strategic role power plays in the economic performance of a nation, and that the power, through national grid (scale), is still the most sustainable method for achieving it.
Soon after, the preparations for the 2011 elections gathered momentum, and at the time, his presidency had naturally become a procession. However, I believe the problems with his presidency started with the manner in which the 2011 elections were conducted and won. President Jonathan, largely new to the high stakes of Nigeria’s politics was deceived into opening the taps through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under the guise of subsidy. Then and now, I still believe that no president has fully understood, or is willing to wage a bet on the economics and politics of petroleum subsidy. They all repeat the same mistakes, as President Buhari is doing now.
Now, President Jonathan, after the elections understood what has happened, but did not fully understand the extent and the ramifications of the subsidy arrangement, but was under enormous pressure to prosecute. But I believe that they must have quietly reminded him that he was the biggest beneficiary. Following this, and acknowledging a massive mistake, he opted for the removal of subsidies, following enormous pressure from the governors. The economics was right, but the politics was wrong. Nigerians were livid that those that perpetuated the subsidy bazar will go free but their fuel prices at the pumps will go up. The opposition pounced and the President did not recover from that.
But that was not the only problem. There were distinct, historical and circumstantial elements that made it possible for the opposition to pounce in the first place. First, he was a minority. Bayelsa is a small state, and a minority state even within the Niger Delta. The State and its politics before the President did not enjoy the gravitas of Rivers and Delta States. Second, his background shows he was someone with very limited knowledge of the three major groups until after he entered national politics. His early life and education were confined to Bayelsa and Rivers States. Third, and perhaps most important, the subsidy arrangement fiasco reminded Nigerians of all that is wrong with its elite politics, symbolised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). From that moment in early 2012, all that happened after continued to project the narrative that had been established after the election and the failure to remove fuel subsidies. The opposition seized and projected this, and the president did not recover. By the middle of 2014, the politics started to crystalise into major and significant decamps from the PDP, and the numbers started to look even grimmer.
But these were not some inevitable trends. While President Jonathan did not receive the vote of the North in 2011, he swept the entire south, for which the Yorubas are a key voting bloc, but he was slow and failed to integrate this important bloc, and was slow and indecisive about the information on his administration excesses that were becoming public knowledge. By the late 2013 the opposition started to smell blood, and into what turned out to be an unstoppable opposition train. But the most critical point that cannot be ignored is that 2011 was meant to be a watershed and a big break from Nigeria’s old guard of politics and politicians and its hegemonic elements. Yes, some may even argue that 2007 was meant to be that after the emergence of Umaru Yar’Adua as president. So, 2011 was either meant to be a consolidation or watershed and a tactical rejection of the old guard by the large majority of Nigerians.
Back to now, and in the last three years plus, not even the most generous supporter of the president thought he could transform Nigeria, but at the same time, non of his staunchest critic thought he would proceed to preside over the collapse of the economy, expand the state and stifle the civil space, allow parochial corruption to foster, and demonstrated cluelessness about Nigeria’s complex security challenges, and the dangers from poverty and religious extremism.
In conclusion, therefore, history will be kind to President Jonathan for the circumstantial and historical manner in which he “surrendered” his presidency, but history will not be kind to him for the consequences because it took us many years back to where we left, especially when it was not supposed to happen.
I thank you.
Tags: President Jonathan