The April 16th presidential election has come and gone, but the lessons that came with it will surely be with us for as long as we live.
For the first time in the history of general elections in Nigeria, a non-Northerner won the presidential election in the first ballot having received the highest number of votes cast, and also fulfilling the constitutional requirement of securing “at least 25% of votes cast in 2/3 of the states of the federation.” This is indeed a realization of the dreams that politicians like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo had in their days.
I must commend Nigerians for shoving ethnicity and religion aside, and sticking to a candidate that they believe in. For clarity here, I’m not a fan of President Goodluck Jonathan. In fact, during the months preceding the Presidential election, I campaigned vigorously (through Facebook, text messages and phone calls) for the candidacy of General Muhamadu Buhari. Buhari is the only past president of Nigeria that I know who can still walk with his heads high up. He has remained very firm in his principles and political ideology, and so has earned my respect and admiration over the years. But the Nigerian electorates decided (for reasons best known to them) to elect Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as executive president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I expect General Buhari to congratulate the president and pledge his support for the incoming administration.
On his part, I expect President Jonathan to see this as a rare opportunity to leave his footprints on the sands of time. This is not the time to celebrate. This is more like a college matriculation period; he should save the celebration for the Convocation day. The president has two options to choose from this day: a good name or an ill-amassed wealth. Chief Obafemi Awolowo never built a Hill-top mansion, Dr. Sam Mbakwe of old Imo state never built a mansion anywhere in the world. But IBB and Obasanjo built Hilltop mansions. President Goodluck Jonathan should make his choice.
If I were President Jonathan, I would start by reversing some of the policy mis-steps he took recently. The president’s announcement of establishing Federal universities in all the states that never had Federal Universities is, in my opinion, an ill-conceived policy. I think that he should be concerned with the quality, rather than the quantity of Nigerian Universities. He should take inventory of the state of our universities. He should ask himself these questions: Do the existing universities have quality libraries, laboratories and other facilities that are necessary to produce top graduates and researches that can compete favorably at the world stage? Do the lecturers at these universities get enough funds to conduct researches? Is manpower development all about possessing university certificates? Can’t we bring back the old Technical colleges to supply the economy with low/semi-skilled manpower? Establishing Universities should go beyond clearing bushes and mounting signboards.
If I were President Jonathan, I would not set up any probe panel to investigate the past administrations’ spending on the power sector. He should have known by now that Nigeria is immune to the efficacy of probe panels: it doesn’t work in Nigeria. Probe panels will only delay his programs. The president should draw a plan with attainable goals and timelines (not the usual unattainable targets of past administrations). He should personally get involved in the implementation of any power sector program that his administration might be implementing. The president should not forget how important the power sector is to Nigerians.
President Goodluck Jonathan should make sure that all refineries work at installed capacities. He should confront whatever demon that has frustrated these refineries in the past. For how long would Nigerians produce crude oil, export it, and then buy the same product at exorbitant prices (after shipping, insurance and other costs have been computed into the price)? President Goodluck Jonathan should see the petroleum sector as a priority sector and handle it as such.
If I were President Jonathan, I would see my job as that of a coach of football team about to play in the world cup final. He will need the best players in his team. This is not the best time to compensate incompetent and professional politicians with sensitive positions. The president should know that Nigerians would hold him accountable for all the actions and inactions of his team members. He should take his time and choose the right people for the right positions. The president should search around the world and select Nigerians who can deliver the goods, and put them to task. Just as a football coach, he should be ready to discipline any of his ministers, advisers, Board Chairmen, DGs, etc who derail from the team’s game plan. For me, selecting his team should be the president’s most important task.
If I were President Jonathan, I would challenge the National Assembly with Bills. The present situation where the National Assembly is turned into a “Retirement Club” for past Governors and their spouses should be discouraged. Nigerians have seen how ordinary who should preside over a Joint session of the National Assembly sitting can scuttle a whole constitutional amendment process. Yet these legislators collect their sitting “allowee” and other huge entitlements. This time around, Nigerians would want a vibrant National assembly that would bring forth laws that would improve the living standards of Nigerians.
The Nation’s security is at its lowest web at the moment. A situation where bombs are detonated as Christmas knock-outs should give the president concerns. Our security system needs to be re-evaluated. The Nigeria Police Force should be reformed; their salaries should be reviewed; Life insurance and other benefits should be included in their package; they should be provided with adequate trainings and the necessary equipment. The police Force should not be a dumping ground for “never-do wells”.
Finally, if I were President Goodluck Ebelemi Jonathan, I would go down on my knees at this moment and ask God for guidance. The president should seek God’s counsel in all his decisions, for if God brought him this far, He will surely see him through. The Bible verse in the book of Galatians 6:7 states clearly that “do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap”. Best of luck to you, President Goodluck Jonathan.
Onyema Noble Ikeh is a graduate student at Central Michigan University, Michigan, USA.