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The Jonathan Presidency—Setting the Agenda of Hope and Fulfillment (Part One)

By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq.
 Published May 20th, 2010
We cannot achieve much under these 12 months…But one basic thing is that we must set a clear road map that everybody should know where we are going so that we can set targets and time line for you to achieve your targets.— President Goodluck Jonathan

To some people still living in the past the very idea of a Jonathan presidency is complete misnomer and might very well have sounded sacrilegious to their ears that are permanently glued to the defunct Yar’Adua presidency of which Jonathan was, at best, an invisible part, and at worst, no part at all, substantively speaking.

Believe it or not, there are fringe individuals and groups out there who are still laboring under the old order and imagine themselves having a bad dream with Jonathan fully and completely in charge of the affairs the nation. It’s the remotest thing to assail their wildest imaginations. And they fancy themselves waking up someday from their self-inflicted nightmarish hallucinations to reclaim the old order. And as if to reinforce their delusionary conditions it would seem that out of his trademark humility and sincere desire to avoid the appearance of disloyalty to his former boss soon after his demise, President Jonathan has been carrying on as though his budding presidency is still operating on an extension cord from the expired Yar’Adua administration’s power supply source. He and his aides still go about talking about “when this administration came to power,” the “seven-point-program of this administration,” and, of course, the much abused, worn-out “rule of law” jingoism, as if he’s still operating in an acting capacity under the Yar’Adua administration. Unwittingly, this is creating the wrong impression that the old order lives! 

For the avoidance of doubt, however, I’m making it my business to make it categorically and abundantly clear, here and now, that, for all practical and legal purposes, the Yar’Adua administration and its so-called seven-point agenda died with and was interred with the late leader on May 05, 2010, and the Jonathan administration began on May 06, 2010, immediately upon taking his oaths of office and allegiance as President and Commander-in-chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Since that date, Jonathan ceased to be a stand-in for late President Yar’Adua and became a full-fledged president of the nation, not only in form but in substance as well. It’s an 180% transition that did away with the old order.

There is, therefore, no such thing as the Yar’Adua/Jonathan administration anymore since Jonathan assumed the office and title of president on May 06, 2010.  And this is so notwithstanding his politically correct pledge to continue with the legacies of the late president, whatever that might mean—a pledge that is neither here nor there and has no particular materiality to it. Therefore, anyone who misreads Jonathan’s pledge of continuing with the legacies of the late president, made both in his inaugural address and during his condolence visit to Yar’Adua family in Katsina, as a continuation of the Yar’Adua government is in for a rude shock because there is no legal, constitutional, or moral basis for President Jonathan to continue treading on an already closed path in our national journey. Whether we recognize it or not, a new path has been opened to us providentially, not just for Jonathan, but for the nation as a whole to tread on to the Promised Land, the old path having been abruptly and permanently closed. And only the physical and the spiritual blind would maintain his course on a closed pathway and tip over the cliff to perdition. Jonathan will not lead us on a closed pathway to perdition.

Source of Presidential Authority

Believe it or not, like it or not, embrace it or not, the reality and facts on the ground indicate clearly that the Yar’Adua era ended on May 05, 2010, and the Jonathan era began on May 06, 2010.  Put graphically, the presidential umbilical cord to the Yar’Adua administration was severed on May 05, 2010, and Jonathan no longer draws his authority and legitimacy, or, if you like, nourishment from the Yar’Adua presidency. On the contrary, he derives his presidential powers, authority and prestige from the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which conferred on him the mandate to govern in his own right the same way it did on Yar’Adua on May 29, 2007. This constitutional authority is, in turn, based on his pre-existing and subsisting electoral mandate jointly held with Yar’Adua but severed by death on May 05, 2010—no more, no less. In other words, Jonathan’s presidential powers are derived directly from the people by virtue of their mandate granted him in the 2007 presidential elections by virtue of their joint presidential ticket. He does not owe his position by the grace of Yar’Adua but by the grace of the Nigerian people who put him there as co-captain of our ship of state with the authority to step in and assume the captainship when the need arises, as it, in fact, happened on May 05, 2010. 

It’s therefore critically important that the validity and sanctity of the presidential mandate be preserved because the legitimacy of the Jonathan presidency rests on it, as it, indeed, was the Yar’Adua presidency. Legitimacy is critical. It matters much because it’s the bedrock of any democratic government which distinguishes it from military or civilian usurpation of power by force without recourse to the people. An illegitimate government is as good or as bad as a coup. That’s why I had cause in the past to caution the Jonathan administration to be careful and nimble in how it handled the Iwu and INEC matters, because rubbishing INEC chairman (he is still INEC chairman in law) on account of the results of the 2007 general elections which put Jonathan and Yar’Adua in power is tantamount to rubbishing his own electoral mandate. That’s the inescapable implication although he might not appreciate the legal and moral implications of his action against Iwu in that regard. The results of a presidential election which have been validated by both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in their concurrent findings must be accepted as such without question by both the government and people in difference to the rule of law and ought not be the basis for impugning the integrity of INEC and Iwu, or, for that matter, the legitimacy of the previous and current administrations. This is far from hairsplitting intellectual sophistry but a contention that goes to the very roots of the immediate past and present administrations.

Whether we admit it or not, Jonathan’s presidency is indubitably, squarely founded on that electoral mandate of 2007 he has unwittingly called to question by reason of his action against Iwu even though it’s clearly symbolic in nature because in politics symbolism is just as important as substance. However, it can equally be argued that the fact that Iwu was not fired (and could not have been fired due to the legal security of his office), but only asked to proceed on his vacation, which incidentally terminates at the end of his tenure, though unnecessary and untidy, was nonetheless politically expedient in the poisoned political atmosphere he found himself regarding Iwu and INEC. With that deft move he appears to have caged the wild agitation for Iwu’s ouster whose tenure has all but expired anyway. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! In practical terms, however, Jonathan actually did nothing substantive to Iwu. Yet he appears to have done something! Sometimes in politics appearance, can be more important than reality and therein lies Jonathan’s political genius. It’s like an optical illusion. He literarily sold a dummy to the dummies in the opposition and they swallowed it hook, line, and sinker with wild celebrations of what appeared to them as the “firing” of Maurice Iwu. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

I’ll tell you what: this guy sure knows how to play smart politics. Having studiously analyzed the political charts, Jonathan knew that, just like the Biblical Israelites who wanted nothing else than the head of Jesus, and the mentally afflicted, murderous King Saul who wanted nothing else than the head of David, the mentally deranged opposition in Nigeria wanted nothing else than the head of Iwu to be delivered to them by Jonathan on a golden plate rather than electoral reform. Thus when they were presented with a choice between having the head of Iwu and electoral reforms, they literarily, like blood thirsty hounds, lounged at the former and grabbed Iwu’s head like a trophy. With that electoral reforms went out the door into the deep freezer where it will remain ossified for the next generation. Jonathan, much like Biblical Pontius Pilate, gingerly proceeded to oblige them by appearing to have fired Iwu when all he did was to simply ask the old man to go take his well deserved rest by way of a pre-retirement vacation clothed and disguised as a sack order.  Head or tail Jonathan wins. After all, Iwu was already due for retirement from INEC. And that alone, without more, effectively put the clan of opposition to Iwu out of business and out of town without a whimper. Smart move that was! Wasn’t it? I’ll give that to our freshly minted president. Jonathan will prove to be one heck of a president to watch. He plays it cool and smooth with devastating impacts. He seems to know the right buttons to push at the right time to put pesky and buggy Nigerians in their places.

Creating Presidential Namebrand

So much for that Iwu dig! That’s history and I’m not doing history here. I’m about going forward not looking back to point fingers. The future beckons on us to seize it with both hands and run with it. What’s germane to the success of the Jonathan administration is for the president to quickly come to terms with the fact that his administration is not an offshoot of the Yar’Adua presidency. It, therefore, behooves him as his own man to stop mouthing the so-called “seven-point-agenda” and “rule of law” mantras of the defunct Yar’Adua administration lest his government is mistaken for the spent Yar’Adua presidency. And that means cutting himself loose from the Yar’Adua legacy of failure the same way Yar’Adua did to OBJ who put him in power and even handed him more than $40bn in foreign reserves to play with. But in spite of all that OBJ did for him Yar’Adua wasted no time in distancing himself from him as soon as he was handed the keys to the Presidential Villa. And in one of the most despicable acts of betrayal in modern history, Yar’Adua would soon send his proxy dogs, namely; Bankole and Elumelu, of the House of Representatives after him in his kangaroo power probe that ended up as complete waste of public funds. Posthumously, Yar’Adua deserves no less treatment from Jonathan than he doled out to OBJ, not necessarily out of vindictiveness like Yar’Adua himself, but to carve a leadership niche and identity for himself because he will be judged in his own right. He should no longer be heard making references to Yar’Adua’s 7-Point-Failure dressed up as an agenda.

Without being uncharitable, the reality on the ground is that Yar’Adua’s amorphous agenda has been interred with him and should not be exhumed by President Jonathan to contaminate his administration. To put it in more direct terms, President Jonathan should articulate and unveil his administration’s own agenda to the nation and the earlier he does that the better for him and his administration. He must discard the Yar’Adua robe and don his own robe because the nation is already tired of hearing of seven-point agenda that had its entire lifespan more on paper than on the ground. Reminding the nation of Yar’Adua’s failed agenda therefore is the surest way to tune the nation out of the Jonathan presidential wavelengths. After all, who wants to continue to be harangued with failed policies? Who wants to listen to the same old songs over and over again?

The nation needs a fresh start with Jonathan, not a continuation of the same old, tired clichés and platitudes of the Yar’Adua years, because there is catharsis in a new beginning. There is hope in a new beginning. There is redemption in a new beginning. And there is a whole new vista of opportunities in a new beginning when old things are made to pass away in the winter of our national life to be replaced with national renewal in the spring our seasons. It is in that connection therefore, that I received with gladness while in the process of finalizing this article the report in the paper (Tribune) that Jonathan had decided to concentrate his efforts in three key areas namely; power supply, anti-corruption and electoral reform, jettisoning by implication, Yar’Adua’s seven-point mantra. It’s an indication that we are operating on the same wavelengths on this issue. However, I would quickly add to that short list, Niger Delta. I’m sure Jonathan did not and couldn’t have ignored that most critical of items on his short term list, because he is, in fact, already addressing it as he alone can.

Jonathan must, therefore, carve a distinct identity, or in the language of the public relations, create a distinct brand for his administration—one that the citizens can easily and readily identify with that is different and separate from the previous one that already ran its course. And his brand must encapsulate his broad philosophy of governance, vision and mission, as well as the road map for its fulfillment. It should neither be old wine in new bottle nor new wine in an old bottle, but fresh wine in new bottle. That is the urgent task before the Jonathan presidency that must be defined and defined now because it would be dangerous for his administration to allow a vacuum that would surely be exploited by mischief makers to define his administration for him in negative lights. That is why he must move quickly to etch the identity of his presidency in the minds of Nigerians before someone else does it for him in the negative. He must not leave that critically important job for amateur career civil servants or the Information Minister to mess up, but outsourced to high heeled professional image makers, who would relentlessly sell the Jonathan brand both within and without our borders. Jonathan should consider himself and his administration as a branded product that should be well packaged for the market. In this modern, fast paced world an ounce of a good image may well be worth more than a pound of brick and mortar projects for a government. Image making must not be seen as a luxury because a bad image can destroy an entire administration and prevent it from moving forward on important issues no matter its good development records, e.g., the constitutional amendment exercise which was aborted during OBJ’s second term due mainly to the perception that he was angling for a third term. He should learn a lesson from OBJ who didn’t care a hoot about his image and ended up with a bad rap in spite of his remarkable and undeniable achievements in office. Image matters sometimes more than substance and Jonathan must strive at these early hours of his administration to cultivate and polish his public image.

Vision and Mission

As president, Jonathan must quickly come to grips with the fact that God has put him there for a purpose despite the evil machinations of his enemies otherwise he would not be where he is today with the formidable forces arrayed against him. And whether he comprehends the spiritual and divine dimensions of his political ascendancy or not he is Nigeria’s Joshua who will lead the nation to the Promised Land.  He should therefore prepare himself for the long haul and not see his presidency as a momentary, fleeting interregnum. He is not an old man and should therefore not fancy himself playing the Nelson Mandela card in Nigeria. He has the youth, vigor, health and stamina to take on the daunting challenges facing the nation frontally with acid determination and single minded focus to pull through.

He must therefore begin to ask himself the hard questions that have never been asked before by the political leadership. What kind of Nigeria does Jonathan want to bequeath to the new generation? What kind of a nation does he want to give to the black race? Is it a failed or epileptic state or a politically, economically, and socially vibrant and resilient nation that will be the pride of the black race? Does he want to leave a nation that is perpetually in avoidable crisis and darkness, with broken infrastructures? How does he intend to address the volatile question of federalism? Is he willing to do whatever it takes to wake up the slumbering giant of Africa and take her place in the comity of nations like the Asian tigers, even if it means wielding the big stick and beating recalcitrant citizens into line? Does he have the guts to ruffle feathers and clear the stream of deadwoods and political epiphytes that are leeching and asphyxiating the nation? Is he capable of breaking bones and skulls to get to where he wants to go with the nation?

These are some of the hard and difficult questions that he must provide full and honest answers to in his private moments, because a resourceful, purposeful, and effective leadership is not a walk in the park and some skulls and bones might need to be broken just as Nuhu Ribadu did in the Obasanjo years to get the desired results. No doubt people are going to call him all kinds of names and cries of political victimization will rent the air. That is the price of leadership. But so long as the leader is on the right path and within the ambit of the laws, such distractions, rather than unnerve and derail him from his chosen path, should propel him forward and treated as evidence of the workability and success of his policy thrusts.  

It’s still morning yet in the Jonathan presidency. But if the morning tells the day, it’s perhaps safe to state that Jonathan has struck the right tone in leadership. What he has not done, however, is to cut himself loose from Yar’Adua’s umbilical cord and launch his presidency. That’s what Nigerians are waiting for and it shouldn’t take much longer in coming. Where is the Jonathan agenda? Where is his roadmap? Please don’t give us seven-point ‘burukutu’ beverage again to drink. Yar’Adua has served us too much of that stuff before he passed away and many are still drunk of it. It’s time to formally launch the Jonathan presidency in grand style in order to bring it out in bolder relief because too much of the Yar’Adua dust is still up in the air beclouding our vision of his political roadmap to success.

However, launching his presidency will require not only the articulation of a grand vision and the means to its fulfillment, but meeting within the broad canvass of that vision, the immediate needs of the nation within the shortest time possible. This means articulating policy and program deliverables in manageable chunks and delivered in a manner that will make the greatest and immediate impacts in the lives of the citizens. He needs to generate some flashes. At this time we don’t want no more ‘plans’ but delivered goods.  There should be no room for nebulous and phony catch phrases that are designed for propaganda purposes with no real contents and no metrics to go with. For example, one item in Yar’Adua’s seven-point agenda is wealth creation. What exactly is wealth creation and how do we measure it? With due respect to the creators of that agenda, wealth creation is a superfluous terminology and more of a propaganda that is devoid of contents. When sound infrastructures, in particular, power, energy and transportation facilities are in place, with good and effective credit administration in our financial institutions, wealth creation results automatically from the entrepreneurial spirits of the citizens in a free market economy. Wealth creation does not happen by chance in infrastructural vacuum all by itself as standalone category, because it cannot take place in the absence of certain infrastructural conditions. Creation of wealth is the sum total of all economic activities that can only take place in the right environment and therefore should not be listed as a single item in a so-called seven-point agenda. In other words, a nation that desires wealth creation must provide the enabling environment conduce to wealth creation and not the other way around. And that explains the failure of Yar’Adua’s seven-point agenda because he put the cart before the horse resulting in the cart pulling the horse rather than the other way around. No one needs a soothsayer to foretell the results.

President Jonathan must therefore avoid falling into the practice of empty sloganeering as we have seen in the Yar’Adua administration. The same can equally be said of Yar’Adua’s rule of law sloganeering. As I argued elsewhere, only a fraudulent regime would announce rule of law as its program. It makes absolutely no sense. Again like his wealth creation mantra, rule of law as a policy statement is superfluous, because the very notion of democracy embodies the rule of law already. There is no democracy without the rule of law. Both concepts are interwoven with neither existing without the other. Therefore, for Yar’Adua to have proclaimed rule of law as his own invention smacks of a hidden agenda that it turned out to be—as a mantra designed to shield corrupt political benefactors from prosecution. My earlier suspicion of the real intentions of the government behind its rule of law jingoism panned out. It was a weapon of mass deception authored by no other than the notorious former AGF, Michael Kaase Aondoakaa. Again, President Jonathan must steer clear of such fraudulent clichés because rule of law does not begin and end with obedience of court judgments but animates all official actions throughout the system including the political parties. It envisages that no one, including the president, is above the laws of the land and the president himself could be indicted for criminal conduct by his own appointed Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, not the caricature that passes for rule of law jingoism in Nigeria. It’s fraudulent therefore to pass off as a government policy what has already been provided for under the constitution but implemented fully in accordance with the law and the constitution. Rule of law is part and parcel of the constitution and it requires no formal policy announcement to observe it in all its ramifications in all governmental actions and dealings throughout the system. Jonathan must give full effect to all legal and constitutional injunctions both in letter and in spirits without necessarily making a fetish of it and observed in the ordinary course of the government business without singing with it and calling the nation’s attention to the fact it is observing courts’ judgments to make policy statement. It’s utterly unnecessary.  

Furthermore, Jonathan must be about substance not forms. He must be about metrics or measurable deliverables not about generalities. He must be both quantitative and qualitative at the same time. How many new roads need to be fixed or rehabilitated within a given timeframe? How many housing stocks need to be constructed and in what categories and for what types of families within a given time frame. What is the nation’s unemployment numbers at the moment, and how many employment opportunities can be provided within a given time frame? How much electricity does the nation really needs and how much of it can be met within a given time frame, short and long term? In a calibrated fashion, how much of the developmental needs of the Niger Delta region can be met within a given time frame, short and long term? He must be frank, open, and engaging at all times in order to carry the citizens along. All these are quantifiable deliverables within given timeframes with appropriate metrics to go with. These are the kinds of questions that should engage the attention of the Jonathan administration and provide the means of answering them in a timely fashion within his overall grand vision, not platitudes and preachments or, for that matter, telling us what we want to hear.

And the era of half-hearted budgetary implementation for which the Yar’Adua administration was notorious, should never be allowed to rear its ugly head again. How in the world would a government refuse and/or neglect to implement its own budget and remit back to the treasury unspent funds year in year out in a nation literarily gasping for the air of development? Was that a curse or what, I don’t know. In this connection the president is well advised to institute with immediacy the practice of ministerial press briefings on regular basis in order to update the nation on the progress or otherwise regarding the implementation of governmental policies and programs. This is in recognition of the fact that the government is the servant of the people and not the other way around. As such, the people deserve to know and be properly and regularly briefed on how their tax naira is being utilized on their behalf in the execution of government projects. If gave my money to someone to help carry out certain duties for me, I’m entitled to know and be properly briefed as to how my money was utilized by that individual. And it is no less the case between the government and the people.

The president would do well to introduce this suggested innovation in his administration in order to improve the quality of governance in our nation. It’s not enough for the Information Minister to do a 60-second press briefing at the end of weekly cabinet meetings just to tell us what contracts have been awarded and at what costs. This is not about contract awards but about progress reports overall. Nigerians need to know. Cabinet ministers should therefore be made to hold individual press briefings either in or outside the National Assembly to brief us comprehensively on what they’re doing or not doing as the case might be in order to close the information and communication gaps between the government and the people.

And this should be in addition to their regular postings on their official web sites, which should be fully manned by competent information technology professionals, and well resourced, not the present token web presence. I don’t care how the government gets the manpower for this. But if it means launching a crash program to produce the right materials to man these digital portals of information, it will be well worth it to place the nation at the cutting edge of information technology. This will significantly reduce the unemployment queues as added benefits. The president must embrace information technology as mandated feature of information management and dissemination to the Nigerian publics because information is the fuel of democracy. When denied of fuel democracy is imperiled.

Thus Jonathan should bring qualitative difference to the art of governance by not only encouraging, but actively promoting openness and accountability in public affairs. The government should, therefore, operate an open door policy in its truest signification. And perhaps the first place to begin this process is to hasten the passage of the marooned Freedom of Information Bill (FoIB) before the National Assembly. That indeed, should be his first order of business and the very first bill for him to sign into law within his first 100 days in office as full-fledged president. It will undoubtedly redound to his glory if he can pull off that feat within his first 100 days in office that his late predecessor couldn’t achieve in his three years in office.

The above suggestions might not sound terribly important to the powers that be because they don’t ring a bell with no huge contracts involved and no physical monuments to behold. However, the Jonathan administration must recognize the fact that governance is not all about brick and mortar, important as they are, but also about philosophies, ideas, and processes that help to elevate the quality, tone, and tenor of governance, because man does not live by bread alone, but by spiritual and intellectual nourishments. In the end it’s these philosophies, ideas, and processes that become the greatest bequests to the nation and humanity transcending geographical boundaries and not brick and mortar structural monuments. And access to and exchanges of information are keys to those endeavors.

Freedom of information may not put bread and butter on the dining tables of Nigerians. It may not fix our broken roads and bridges. It may not provide shelter for the homeless. It may not put drugs and medical equipment in our “consulting clinics” masquerading as Teaching Hospitals or, for that matter, stop our marauding cops from extorting motorists on our rickety, gullied highways. It may not provide employment for our teeming, unemployed youths pounding street pavements in search of jobs. It may not feed our teeming youths who are hungry for higher education, but unable to find placements in our over-crowded and struggling tertiary institutions. And it may not, for that matter, stop religious riots and human carnage in parts of the harangued North. It may not stop our desperate and degenerate politicians from rigging elections only to turn around and demonize electoral umpires as devil incarnates while they walk away unscathed to rig another day. No, it may not stop official kleptomaniacs from looting our public treasuries dry and remorselessly throwing our looted wealth in our faces with impunity. It may not do any of the above. But I’ll tell you what it will do. It will do all of the above and more in the long run!

Jonathan has his work cut out for him. It’s a bright new day for a new beginning!

Long live the President!

Franklin Otorofani, Esq. Contact:

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