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The New Progressive Mandate: Lessons for Jonathan – By Dr. Cliff I. Edogun

By Dr. Cliff I Edogun, NNP, April 26, 2011

 The Electoral Realignment

The first concrete reality coming out of the presidential poll of April 16 is the emergence of a new electoral realignment that may have conclusively dislodged the  previous status quo political network for good. For what many have long considered a natural coalition, the south-south, the south-east, the south-west and the Middle Belt cast votes to produce a formidable progressive frontier to elect the person of Goodluck Jonathan, rather than the PDP as a party.

Several lessons must be drawn from this new event. The first is to debunk, once and for all, the wrong-headed myth that the Hausa-Fulani political oligarchy is destined to rule Nigeria at the highest level of government.  A second lesson is closely linked to the first, which is the acceptable gamble that any Nigerian can run and win the office of the president, including the Hausa-Fulani, if such a candidate is academically trained with all the discipline associated with such training, is intellectually savvy both at the conceptual and analytic levels, possesses global leadership qualities and is far removed from the emotional limitations of religious and sectional influences. While Jonathan may not have demonstrated these qualities to the complete satisfaction of many observers, voters were mostly drawn to the totality of his persona that exudes humility, modest upbringing, emotional intelligence, the total absence of any claim to religiosity and his academic credentials.

Thus, if there are any more lessons to learn from this grandiose electoral tsunami, it is that the south-south, the south-east, the south-west, and the Middle Belt voters will find it no longer appealing in future presidential elections to elect a core northern Muslim candidate as president if such candidate fails to meet the above enumerated standards. In other words, the April 16 mandate has submerged and demolished the issue of zoning for its own sake, especially the sinister plot of hoisting or recycling poorly educated and “born-to-rule” regional and religious bigots upon Nigerians. In establishing the winning coalition that just elected Jonathan, millions of Nigerian voters temporarily downplayed PDP’s innocuous and criminal governing style by hoping, betting and crossing their hearts that Jonathan will acknowledge their choice and do what will be morally required of him to transform the PDP and the nation from a “republic of thieves.” We will now wait and see if Jonathan will cling to his party’s salacious reputation or do the will of the people who voted him president without regard to party.

Towards a Republican Constitution

The Jonathan victory represents the first progressive government in Nigeria’s modern political history and its ascension should bode well for a new republican constitution that has long been advocated by Nigerian progressives. The new mandate must be non-negotiable nor should it be subject to any form of consensus politics that the fallen Nigerian conservative movement slyly applied and heavily favored for more than thirty years. The business of politics should now be based on majority decision-making and this new electoral map provides that solid majority to commence transforming the Nigerian nation on a progressive agenda. This democratic majority must no longer be determined by any mathematical formula of region, place of birth, religion or status but by the palpable requirement of public policy formulation and implementation that will be driven by progressive domestic and international priorities.

We would assume that the president and his inner circle have heard enough of the clamor to dump the military-inspired 1999 constitution that is short on details and long on frivolities. The recent post-election mayhem that was perpetrated by defeated opposition elements in some northern states should validate the long simmering call for a republican constitution that would define who we are as a people and establish constitutional lines of responsibility and accountability at every level of government.

We have advocated that delegates to this national conference be drawn equally from all of Nigeria’s local government districts and that the deliberation must define the appropriate powers that each level of government must have to defend the rule of law, raise taxes, develop resources, limit the powers of the federal government to sustainable levels, give the states clearly defined territorial resources to develop competitively and defend the tenets of citizenship and individual liberties.

In the current scheme of things, the federal government is saddled with finding every conceivable solution to every conceivable problem even when such problems are within state capabilities. By making the federal government all-powerful, states and local governments have virtually lost all legitimate skills to solve problems while their officials take home stupendous paychecks they do not deserve. A republican constitution will enshrine standards of accountability and set the legal boundaries for evaluating governing performance at each level of government, including sanctions of impeachment and recalls.

Doing The Peoples Will

In our public opinion poll taken in Nigeria between July-August, 2010, only 32 percent of respondents believe Jonathan has the capability to transform Nigeria beyond its current socio-economic stupor without also transforming his PDP ruling party apparatus. This is the crux of the matter and the very burden that will ultimately define Jonathan’s tenure. Jonathan just has to introduce a new paradigm of government and surround him self with proven and loyal technocrats whom he knows are qualified and who may not be party affiliated. We would even suggest that the president set up a “talent search engine” to track Nigeria’s best and brightest from all over the world, most of whom will be glad to assist, not for the money or fame for many, but for the opportunity to apply their scientific talents to solve Nigeria’s gravest problems. Within this progressive agenda, the president must resist the temptation of towing with the idea of a “unity government” through which his known enemies or opposition candidates are appointed to high positions of responsibility. Such appointees are not married to the president’s victory formula and are most likely to sabotage programs that the president may seek to accomplish.

It will be expected, from now on, to read about losing opposition candidates “decamping” and declaring their conversion to the president’s party or agenda with claims of bringing along their entire villages. These are the “guinea pigs” of the old order and they must not be allowed to contaminate this progressive mandate. The president will surely be flooded with recommended candidates from status quo godfathers, many of who may have no discernable qualifications or work ethic. These must be discarded for the public good. Progressives are hoping that Goodluck Jonathan may already be thinking along this line. 

Some listing of those backward behavior patterns that have consistently negated good governance in Nigeria is worth mentioning here. The first is the nauseating “courtesy calls” that are frequently made by idle party wigs or traditional rulers who waste away the president’s time and consume the energy he needs to peruse through volumes of reports that most certainly come to his desk daily. The president should eliminate these for Christ sake. As the CEO of a nation of 150 million people, governing such a vast array of peoples is serious business which requires quiet quality time in his office on a daily basis to read, evaluate, assess, direct and command domestic and international issues without the mountain of trash that courtesy calls entail.

This situation is much like a professor who sits down to grade his students’ examination papers. The professor will do a very poor job of concentration if he allows his children to rump and roll around him while grading those papers. Government, in its philosophical concept, should be devoted less to party intrigues about which tribe or region its chairman will come from or how much cash donation has been made to party operation or who gets a major contract.  Government must be subjected to continuous public policy brain trusts that are composed, not necessarily by party ideologues alone but more by experts and talents in the field. Government, by its nature, sets out policy priorities and unleashes mechanisms for their formulation and implementation. Courtesy callers should be handled by presidential assistants who are appointed to do so. In fact, callers to the president’s office should wait to be invited before driving up there unannounced.

Tasks Unfulfilled

If and when the president succeeds in clamping down on the intrusion of party hangers-on and numerous other national agberus, then voters’ demands will become more tractable. The least they would require of any president includes those basic necessities of life to which most Nigerians simply have no access. For president Jonathan, his tenure will be largely judged by how and when he keeps his promise to fix the nation’s electricity supply. On this issue, Nigerians will not be satisfied with a partial solution. For instance, getting six hours of electricity a day instead of two hours must not be considered a success story. Nigerians must be privileged to enjoy power and electricity 24/7. That is the least of their demands and that should be the soulful focus of the president as he takes up his leadership mantle. 

The task before the new president will be an enormous one. How he tackles it and remain in the good books of his fellow countrymen would require a wired mix of wisdom, skill, intellectual leadership and a nationalist tenacity. For a starter, it would be foolhardy to attempt throwing money at every problem and providing no monitoring mechanisms for evaluating performance. This has always been the standard Nigerian governing style and if Jonathan has already smelt any revolutionary fervor in his election, he must strive to engage in a more hands-on approach to development.

The winning standard in most development approaches is to focus on two or three major national projects that will impact the majority of citizens, then establish expert monitoring boards (not politicians or civil servants) to supervise these projects from scratch to finish and entrust competent presidential political appointees to validate the finished product. This winning standard holds the contractors charged with such projects accountable for every detail of construction and assures that the finished product is worth the price and the effort. We have the feeling that progressive minded politicos within the Jonathan camp already know how these things get done but doing them for the public good always turns out to be the challenge.

For all our experience with the Nigerian state, we sure would like to propose what we consider the three most immediate projects that the president should zero in from the outset. The first is electric power. Even a third grade primary student already knows the significance of electric power for sustaining life. It is the driving force for all industries – from the barber’s shop, the tailor and the motor mechanic to nuclear power, home comfort, and entertainment conveniences.

On the aggregate, politically savvy nations generate no less than 25 percent of all employments from electric-powered rural and urban cottage industries. Nigerians have great entrepreneurial spirit and their labor is most productive at independent small-scale levels. For this progressive agenda, these are the productive forces the nation urgently needs to expand the economy and prosper the nation at large. If these forces are denied the requisite tool to unleash their capacities, any government responsible for such a condition should have no legitimate claims to rule any one. Now, you can imagine how much human and material resources Nigeria has wasted and how much goods and services Nigeria has failed to produce in the last thirty years because of consistent power failure. Can Jonathan change this equation?

The second national emergency project that the Jonathan government must address immediately is transportation infrastructure. The movement of goods and services along well-built roads creates efficient markets, reduces the cost of commodities and saves money for transport owners. The notorious east-west highway that connects Lagos with Benin begs to be redesigned by proven road engineers. This heavily traveled highway by some of the nation’s most invested merchants has been under construction since God knows when. It now takes a sweltering sixteen hours to travel by bus from Lagos to Port Harcourt. Come on, Dr. Jonathan! let’s get serious for once. Ministers appointed with Works and Construction portfolios must reinvent their work ethic by putting on their boots and be at these construction sites weekly to monitor the performance of these  road builders.

These so-called “big men” ministers must take off their agbada and shokoto, throw on workman’s clothes, don on their hard hats, with boots to match, and head out to major construction sites on a weekly basis. We wish that could become the new standard. These ministers should be made to sweat for the big largesse they get from government. In the process, such hands-on approach may get them to lose those fatty tissues deforming their waistlines. A former Bendel State military governor, Colonel Samuel Ogbemudia, earned his national reputation for competence and accountability by frequenting construction sites and personally supervising work progress. For years, Bendel state remained the first among equals. The condition of the Lagos-Benin highway is no different from other road networks that connect strategic locations in the nation. While the nation also needs a modern rail system to reduce the hazards of road transport, the design and construction of modern rail system is always a long-term project.

The third national emergency project we suggest here is to re-train Nigeria’s very illiterate and poorly disciplined police force. In fact, we would recommend to President Goodluck Jonathan to use his first executive order as president to outlaw the use of police checkpoints across the country. A stipulated punishment for violation must also be attached. We are yet to find any overwhelming scientific evidence anywhere that police checkpoints are the best tools for deterring and apprehending criminals. If they did, then Nigeria would have become the most crime free nation on earth. The incidences of police arbitrariness and violation of individual liberties through lawless police checkpoints certainly constitutes the lowest point in the nation’s rule of law. We know of no police academies anywhere in the world where police checkpoints along a nation’s highways constitute the primary duties of police officers. Last summer, we recorded twenty-seven police checkpoints between Lagos and Benin City. The Nigerian police are so trapped in this misery that other pertinent police duties like crowd control or arresting arsonists and day light murders have become rocket science for them.

Cases abound in which towns, buildings, businesses and human beings are set on fire, clubbed to death and maimed for life in broad daylight with no mass police arrests. In all instances, the police usually arrived the crime scenes after its all happened. Their investigative and intelligence gathering skills are next to zero and when these crimes are ethnic and religion-related, the police quickly adopt a neutral ambivalence. This is simply absurd and unprofessional. It is immoral and an abomination, to say the least. Police checkpoints have been outlawed before but, some how, with collusion from their superiors, they return back to the roads, disobeying the nation’s laws with impunity.

The negative impact of police checkpoints is only too obvious to millions of Nigerians. At these checkpoints, the Nigerian police openly extort bribes in money and goods from traders and merchants who then recoup their losses by increasing prices of consumer goods. The Nigerian police have been known to shoot and kill innocent citizens who challenge the lawfulness of their actions at these checkpoints while many others have complained about how the police usually turn the other way in crises where they are most needed. Nigeria definitely deserves better.

Goodluck Jonathan has been elected by a new electoral realignment that was not necessarily party based but did represent a formidable voters mandate with a slew of manifest progressivism. If this is the opening salvo of an electoral revolution that progressives have embarked upon, Jonathan must not waste any of its capital. This mandate bears all the elements of hope and faith. It also demands a new paradigm of governance with the requirement that Jonathan cut his loses with PDP iniquities and embark on a bold new race to commence the transformation of not just the PDP but also the nation of Nigeria. We have not lectured any one about any thing here. What we do within our professional competence and expertise is point out comparable empirical approaches that have worked in similar situations around the world. The ball is now in Goodluck Jonathan’s court.

Cliff I. Edogun is professor of Government &

The North America Director, NIGERIA RALLY MOVEMENT


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Posted by on Apr 26 2011. Filed under Articles, Cliff I. Edogun, PhD, Columnists, Goodluck Jonathan (2010-present), NNP Columnists, Presidency. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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