Does Jonathan deserve a second term?

With the release of the timetable for the 2015 elections by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political pundits and ordinary Nigerians alike are debating the chances of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan to be re-elected for a second four-year term. Even with the much talked about National Transformation Agenda of the President, some political observers openly asked the question: Does Jonathan deserve a second term?

To be sure, supporters of the President would expectedly respond in the affirmative.  And it requires no oracle to foresee that members of the opposition would naturally disagree.  As a neutral observer who is in neither camp, this writer is more concerned with the verifiable reality in relation to President Jonathan’s performance thus far into his first term in office.

An instructive note on which we may commence this assessment is that opposition politicians often expend a lot of energy castigating the President and his administration for one failing or the other. As such, when a senior member of the opposition deviates from the usual attack line and instead offers words that can be described as praise for the President’s performance, such a situation demands close scrutiny.

Such a scenario was recently presented to the public by the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, Mohammed Monguno(Borno State, All Progressives Congress (APC). In a televised broadcast, Monguno appraised Jonathan’s performance in agriculture and observed, “I must say that the agricultural transformation agenda being pursued by your administration is unparalleled and unprecedented.” He added, “We must learn to give credit where credit is due and I’m doing exactly that.”

Indeed, to cite an example in agriculture, the Jonathan administration took only 60 days to bring about a revolution in Nigeria’s fertiliser distribution system. Before then, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development procured and purportedly distributed fertiliser to farmers; only 11 percent of Nigerian farmers received fertiliser. ‘Political farmers’ got the greater bulk of the fertiliser, leaving real farmers to wring their hands in despair. Today fertiliseris sold straight to the farmers-not to any government ministry and not to middlemen.

Additionally, former Vice President AtikuAbubakar, who, following his second-time defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is now a leading light of the APC, is on record as saying: “To the government’s credit, an ambitious Almajiri education scheme has been put in place. This year, the Federal Government built and handed over tens of Almajiri Model Schools to state governments. As part of this scheme there is a commendable focus on girl-child education.”

Still related to the opposition, even though Lagos is a frontline state of the APC, in 2013 the Jonathan administration approved construction of the first ever deep sea port in Nigeria to be sited at Lekki, Lagos State. This was clearly a radical departure from the practice of the past where a PDP-led Federal Government engaged in a combative relationship with an opposition-led Lagos State.

Turning to the other side, it is only fair to hear what those in favour of the president have to say. And perhaps nobody is a greater supporter of the president than the man himself. Recently in Abuja, while inaugurating N2.4billion mass housing of 270 flats named Aviation Village, the president said his administration was working for the betterment all Nigerians. According to him, “I assure you all that improving the living standards of Nigerians is an imperative which we are resolutely pursuing.”

Of course, it can be argued that this is exactly the sort of thing that any politician would say about his government. As such, we need other indices to assess Jonathan’s performance. On a neutral note, it has to be said that any assessment of President Jonathan’s performance in office thus far, no matter how brief, would be most unfair if no mention is made of the changes in the electricity sector.

Even critics of the President have conceded that the unbundling and privatisation of PHCN is one of the best policy changes in Nigeria in recent years. As many analysts have pointed out in the past, all major problems of Nigeria arise from economic hardships resulting from poor or inadequate infrastructure. Therefore, the privatisation of the electricity sector by the Jonathan administration is a major triumph in the quest to create the right infrastructure base and enabling environment for Nigerians to shape their own economic destinies.

It is also in President Jonathan’s favour that his administration has forged closer economic ties with the new superpower, China.  In 2002, the value of annual bilateral trade between Nigeria and China stood at US$2 billion. Under Jonathan’s administration, the value now exceeds US$13 billion.  Without a doubt, such an astronomical leap calls for closer economic ties.  And this is precisely what the President achieved during a visit to China in 2013.

The closer ties with China is worthy of note not just because the Asian country has emerged as an economic superpower, but because of the benefits to ordinary Nigerians. It is impossible to exhaust the various areas that the Jonathan administration has performed creditably thus far in the space of a brief newspaper article.

What is pertinent is to note, as President Jonathan himself did recently while inaugurating the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan and the National Enterprise Development Programme, that the various policies being pursued by the administration “are clear indications that we will leave this country stronger and better than we met it.”  Whether this and the achievements of the administration are enough to persuade Nigerians that Jonathan deserves a second term is a matter that will be decided at the 2015 polls.

Babatunde wrote from Lagos