Onyekakeyah: Jonathan’s silent revolution
ANY talk about President Goodluck Jonathan embarking on a revolution in Nigeria would raise consternation in many quarters. The question – you mean that President Jonathan is on a revolutionary course would be asked? The word revolution seems farfetched, except if one is viewing from a different perspective. That, certainly, is the case here. I am viewing what President Jonathan has been doing from a different prism. It is wrong to dismiss Jonathan as having done nothing. It is hatred to say so, and so it is with all the governors. Each of the leaders has done something that should be appreciated.
In my view, I see Jonathan genuinely embarking on a revolutionary course to transform Nigeria. Since he came into office, his administration has flaunted the transformation agenda. Whereas, revolution and transformation are synonymous, the word revolution seems to connote a more dramatic change while transformation is perceived as less dramatic – a slow process. In all, people want to see visible change.
Ordinarily, a revolution is not something that is hidden, kept in silent mode or swept under the carpet. All the revolutions we knew from history that took place in different parts of the world – be it the industrial revolution, agrarian revolution, or even the French and Bolshevik revolutions, to name a few, were not secret events hidden in documents or known by a few people. All the revolutions came as change agents at one time or the other. The French revolution that overthrew theocracies and absolute monarchies and introduced republics and democracies around the world lasted for thirteen years from 1789 – 1802. I am looking at the Jonathan revolution as something that needs time to manifest. People need to be patient.
It is from this angle that I am shocked, that while President Jonathan’s administration has been busy initiating policies and programme that could revolutionise the country if given the chance, a few people have insight or knowledge about what is happening. This is telling on the President’s bid for re-election. Whereas, the administration has focused on a “transformation agenda,” which is another name for revolution, much of the public perception about the administration is in the negative, due to lack of strategic publicity. This is astonishing, as it seems to affect the fortunes of the President in the forth-coming election.
I have been on leave in my village in Imo State since last Christmas. As a media man, information is our raw material; the tool of our job. Wherever a media man finds himself, he has his eyes and ears open for news. While engaged in any activity, he has, at the back of his mind, what news story could be made out of the activity or event. The media is the first port of call when selling any piece of information or idea.
If a scientist makes a discovery in his research lab and keeps it to himself, without making it public through the media or the academic community, no one would know about the discovery. The scientist may go ahead to tell his close friends about his wonderful discovery, and his friends may in turn keep discussing it in their closets; still that won’t sell the discovery to the public. The discovery can only be brought to the public domain through appropriate channels.
Over the weekend, I was amazed to come across, at a gathering, what I may call a new national order, or new beginning, packaged by President Goodluck Jonathan for the country. The imprints are already documented in very attractive publications that few people have ever come across. The question is, after publishing these landmark materials that captured what the Jonathan administration has done, is doing and intends to do, why were they not released to the public through the media and academic community? Why the publications were kept secret to the extent that not even those of us in the media houses knew about them? Why were they not distributed to the hundreds of universities and other tertiary institutions for students and their lecturers to read? It is not surprising, therefore, that many people are asking what the Jonathan administration has done. The information is hidden in books that were not made public.
The masses of the people want to see physical development landmarks. Other than that, they need to know by way of information dissemination what the President plans to do. The revolutionary programmes cannot be accomplished overnight, hence, the need to carry the people along. The President’s information handlers did well by documenting his landmark achievements and programmes but failed to disseminate these to the people. It is not strategic enough to rely on Internet-based channels alone – twitter, facebook, U-tube, Instagram, etc, for information sharing since only a very small proportion of Nigerians have access to these channels.
In the rural areas, for instance, a negligible number of people read newspapers. But majority of the people have radio and television sets. Therefore, it is through the traditional communications channels that the masses of the people could be reached and not the Internet-based channels. The Jonathan re-election bid is facing an up-hill task because people were not well informed about his policies and programmes. People want something to hold on as the basis for casting their votes.
Without countenancing whatever criticisms that may be leveled against Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential flag bearer, people are holding on the fact that Buhari is an honest man who is averse to corruption. It is difficult to erase this perception about the man. Whatever Buhari did as a military Head of State doesn’t mean much to the ordinary people. President Jonathan needs such lasting impression in the psyche of Nigerians.
It is unfortunate that for the most part, Nigerians witnessed draconian military regimes that presided over the country’s affairs. The use of force is the norm. That has conditioned the psyche of an average Nigerian, such that quick action and quick result are the watchword. People are impatient. If you are the governor or president, people want you to effect change from day one, even if it means pulling down existing structures all over the place. That shows that a new man is on the seat. No wonder that most state governors embark on demolition of “illegal” structures as soon as they assume office. And the people like it. Those are called action governors.
But for a leader like President Jonathan, who is coming from the civil background, totally different from the accustomed military culture, many Nigerians don’t understand why he is not forceful and effecting dramatic changes overnight but chooses to follow due process in doing things. People don’t understand that there is difference between a military and civilian democratic government. President Jonathan is a leader who could transform Nigeria if given the time. But his gentle mien seems to work against him. No animal is gentle in the jungle. Since Nigeria has been conditioned into a sort of jungle, the leaders are not expected to be gentle. Instead, they are expected to be harsh and apply force. The Constitution has given the president and governors overwhelming powers to do and undo.
For those wanting to know what President Jonathan has done to warrant their voting for him, here are some key highlights, especially, those that affect the masses of the people. I decided to travel home by road last Christmas and discovered that right from Ore to Owerri, the road is now perfect and motorable unlike before. The work is continuing from Ore to the Shagamu Interchange, to join the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway now under reconstruction. Those who use the railways can testify that new locomotive coaches are operating the rehabilitated rail lines that were moribund for years prior to Jonathan’s administration. The airports remodeling project embarked upon by the Jonathan administration is historic. That has put the major airports in the country to global acceptability if the project is not stalled.
On the agricultural front, farmers in the northern states – Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kano Jigawa, Gombe, Niger, Kogi and Bauchi states have benefitted from Jonathan’s dry season irrigation farming, leading to increased output. Records show that some seven million metric tonnes of paddy rice have been added to the national production output since 2011. What about the mass unemployment in the country? Several self-employment programmes are currently being executed. You-Win is one example. All the training and empowerment programmes of the Jonathan administration would make impact once there is power supply. The privatization of power supply under the Power Sector Road Map is historic; it has the capacity to revitalize the comatose industrial sector if well implemented. Besides, two private sector solar power plant initiatives backed by the Jonathan administration to produce 1000 megawatts each are under construction in Yobe and Kano states. There are other on-going initiatives in all sectors of the economy. Only the Jonathan administration will see these programmes through.