Jonathan’s making of a new Nigeria
The late Chief Bola Ige, became the Minister of Power in 1999 under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. At his first press conference as Nigeria’s new Power Minister, he promised Nigerians that in ‘six months, electricity supply would stabilise and power outages would minimise considerably’. I reacted immediately in my column in one of our weeklies that ‘Chief Bola Ige’s hope and optimism may be a tall order, except he has the courage and the will to fight and defeat the criminal mafia within and outside NEPA that is both entrenched and formidable and fearless.’ By this time, Chief Ige did not know the character of the mafia in the power sector nor the level of its fearlessness and its capacity to stoutly resist any structural changes that he would introduce to make NEPA to deliver quality services to Nigerians.
Until he was killed by cowards in the recesses of his bedroom, Ige was Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice. The simple truth was that our Cicero was thoroughly overwhelmed and couldn’t handle NEPA; it was too hot for him.
Jonathan smashed that stubborn and hydra-headed mafia that has been milking Nigeria dry in that sector and successfully kept Nigeria and its people in darkness, made Nigeria notorious as the ‘darkest country in the world’, in this age of computers and rocket science. His administration routed the criminal gang that monopolised NEPA and released the energy sector from their grip and stranglehold, paid off many thousands of its workers, privatised the place and opened up enough space for robust private sector participation in the sector.
Give it to him: Jonathan demystified NEPA/PHCN, just as the Obasanjo government turned telephony into something that even the rural and urban poor can own and operate. If this legacy were sustained, electricity would soon be something we may begin to take for granted. It is the second nature of a typical Nigerian elite to run down anyone who has served this country, once he is out of power.
Yes, President Muhammadu Buhari is the new bride in town, and he is currently getting all the praises and attention.
I bet you, soon after he leaves office, just after some few weeks, we turn him into a veritable villain that should be probed, detained and possibly jailed. And all his achievements during this tenure would be diminished, erased from warped minds as they wait for the next victim.
My second port of call is our federal roads. Twice, I have slept on Sagamu/Benin road trying to get to Port Harcourt. By this time, the road was simply impassable, impossible and its Ondo component was not only bad, but also harboured incredibly daring armed robbers that could have come from Satan’s den. The total collapse of that important road, an artery that leads to other parts of the country, became, at a point, a national embarrassment. The subsequent deployment of policemen at the worst spots along this road did not help matters, as more horrible spots began to emerge requiring further deployments of more armed policemen and soldiers. That did not scare away the armed bandits from the road. They withdrew for some weeks, only to come back after acquiring more sophisticated weapons with which to continue their ‘business’ and to face these policemen who would never mind their business. How is that road today, if I may ask? This important road is now not super, but no traveller gets trapped on it again and had to sleep inside his car or bus. The credit should, in my view, be given to the Jonathan administration. And many other federal highways in the north of the republic got similar attention and treatment from the administration.
Let’s be truthful and ‘shame the devil’, like we used to say in our in our younger days. The four refineries in the country are producing so excellently now. How long does it really take to do the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM). Would these refineries be producing to capacity now if nothing were done to, at least, turn them around? My inquiries confirm that at the very least, 18 months is required to complete one TAM. And the story is now going round that if President Muhammadu Buhari administration is not, in any way, sabotaged by the vultures within the system and outside of it, the refineries would conveniently produce enough for local consumption.
Is that not a piece of cheering news, and to whose government should we attribute or associate this feat? Didn’t the Jonathan government achieve an enviable pass mark, in Agriculture? Every leader and every government almost always leave one or two legacies for which it would be remembered: Abacha held down the American dollar to eighty naira and remained adamant to IMF promptings till his Creator recalled him; Ibrahim Babangida opened up Nigeria’s economic space for private sector participation. Buhari/Idiagbon instilled discipline in Nigeria and taught us the virtues of orderliness; Obasanjo’s administration should conveniently take credit for making telephony an essential part of our daily lives today.
Would anyone deny that late President Umaru Yar’Aduah brought the agitation and the militancy in the Niger Delta literally to an end by the methods he used and his Amnesty programme? These are legacies. By the time President Buhari finishes his term, it would be most unfair not to give him credits for the specific landmarks the current federal administration would leave behind. To some of us, Jonathan did his best and had the will to challenge the old political order and our archaic ways of defining national development.
Those whose official job it is to defend Jonathan and his administration would do so at their own time. From all I read about him, I think he meant well. He is not an angel. Mistakes occurred under his government, as mistakes occur under any government, but to write, suggest or insinuate that he left no legacy at all, in my considered view, would be most unfair and flippant. Time and history will tell.
• Esinulo was a pioneer deputy news editor (advance) of The Guardian.