By Umar Idris Yaqub
“If we don’t figure out a way to create equity, real equity, of opportunity and access, to good schools, housing, health care, and decent paying jobs, we’re not going to survive as a productive and healthy society” – Tim Wise
The above maxim of the notable American activist and writer, Timothy Jacob Wise, merely rehashes the most conspicuous yearnings of both well-meaning minds in the Nigerian elite circle and the masses. From the era of the fathers of an independent Nigeria to the contemporary age, a leader who depicts the real colour of a nation devoid of staccato direction of the people in terms of tribal or religious favouritism, has seemingly eluded the most populous Black nation in the planet earth, with exclusion of the vitiated twilight of 2011-2015.
Nigeria as an emerging nation about to be admitted into the league of developed economies of the globe, so to speak, under the presidency of Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, was ingloriously hampered on the basis of ethnicity and bitter politics – and the biggest losers – the health workers whose careers were already thriving in the rehabilitated medical facilities with constant and sustainable emoluments and other welfare packages.
Also among the losers included the school children at the foundation level in every part of the country, but especially in the north, where Jonathan endeavoured to ensure that no child roams the streets anymore while others are in school, thereby checkmating the level of illiteracy, especially in that part of the country.
I need not bore the reader with the already widely-known fact that President Jonathan backed his dream of enthroning a sanitised, enlightened and educated society for Nigerians with the establishment of at least eight (8) almajiri schools in every state of northern Nigeria, consummating into about 165 schools, all of which have, regrettably, been taken over by weeds and rodents since he left office in 2015.
As captured by The Guardian in its October 5, 2019, edition, headlined ‘Jonathan’s N15b almajiri schools rot away,’ the paper noted that “the almajiri schools in the North on which former President Goodluck Jonathan spent a whopping N15 billion are waiting for the undertaker. That they are in ruins is, to put it mildly.”
The erudite academic was never deterred or put into consideration which part of the country loves him most or gave him the highest number of votes in his quest to give the entire country a face lift. This he confirmed in his address at the Peace Summit at the Junior Chamber International, JCI, in Malaysia in 2018.
He noted that when he became Nigeria’s president, at least 10.5 million children school age across the country were out of school.
“Over 80 percent of these children for which majority are known as Almajiri came from the northern part of Nigeria, where I recorded the least votes in the elections I contested.
“Knowing the value of education, I could see that the ugly situation was limiting the opportunities of these children and negatively affecting the development of my country.
“That was why my administration decided to build 165 Almajiri Integrated Model Schools which combined both western and Islamic education in its curricula,” he said.
Do I need to mention the famers and job seekers who are today still counting their losses since the Jonathan administration was cut short by bitter politics? In 2012, President Jonathan launched the dry farming scheme in Nigeria which provided thousands of jobs and ensured food security for the country. In 2015, the then president approved the release of N26 billion for that year’s dry season farming in the country. While launching the scheme, the former president noted that “not only is food produced, we are now processing food. Food production is rising rapidly and thousands of jobs are being created for our young people.”
Furthermore, it was during Jonathan’s administration that Nigeria made the biggest leap in Urea Fertiliser technology in Africa under his regime, with the disbursement N120 million to 27 young farmers in the country.
From 2015 till date, the level of insecurity in the largest African country reminds one of the former president’s disposition towards a peaceful and united Nigeria peopled by prosperous citizens whose lives and properties are well-secured, and their welfare not posing as a herculean task for a leader to handle.
It was under Goodluck Jonathan that Nigerians enjoyed almost 100 percent freedom to air their views on national issues and the way they were governed. Though in utilising this total freedom in expressing their feelings, many Nigerians over-stretched their bounds to the extent of hauling crude vituperations on the president of the federal republic, the only man from the South-Southern man to have ever occupied the exulted seat of the presidency, without receiving any form of brutality from the security agencies, neither were aides to the commander-in-chief being instructed to deploy verbal invectives against opposing voices. “I am the most abused and insulted president in the world but when I leave office, you will all remember me for the total ‘freedom’ you enjoyed under me,” Dr Jonathan had said in a quote he made on Facebook in 2014, and today, indeed, Nigerians remember.
Prior to the kick-starting his second term election campaigns at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, in 2014, the former president showcased avowed love for the lives of Nigerians when he took to his Facebook wall to declare: “I have said it before and I will continue to say and live by the fact that my ambition, and indeed the ambition of anybody, is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. Therefore, I urge all Nigerians to look forward in hope as we fulfil the dreams of our founding fathers to ‘build a nation where peace and justice reign. In that regard, we must make the election of February 14th, 2015, a contest amongst brothers rather than a struggle between foes. In my political life, I have never been driven by the love of power. Rather, I have gotten to where I am today by the power of love which is the power that fueled the unity that saw Nigeria become the largest economy in Africa…”
From the foregoing, therefore, there’s no gainsaying that Nigeria’s burgeoning hydra-headed security challenges today have dwarfed the excruciating economic heat the citizens are confronted with today, ranging from unfavourable economic policies of the government in place; the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, unchecked downward valuation of the national currency, the naira, uphill debt profile, etc., with the central government appearing helpless at all angles.
In the midst of these, the citizenry today place peace above all priorities for their survival, and in achieving their craving, they yearn for a leader whom value for human life and dignity occupies the largest space in his aspiration.
For justice and equity, every segment of the country must be made to believe and accept that it belongs in decision-making and wealth sharing. The Niger Delta Region, which still stands as the economic livewire of Nigeria, thanks to its large petroleum deposits, harbouring of 70 percent the country’s foreign earnings, remained the only part of this nation yet to present a head of state for Nigeria, until Jonathan, the first person to be elected president from the region, but short-lived administration.
Though there’s no constitutional clause that upholds rotational presidency, but some notable figures in the frontline political parties like the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had at several fora hinted of oral, or what is best described as gentle man agreement of rotation of their presidential tickets between the north and south.
If such unwritten principle of rotating the presidency does exist as confirmed at various quarters, with the north rounding off its slot of eight years at the presidency with the person incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, justice, equity, and fair play demands that the South-South should be given a chance for another four year at the seat of power.
Apart from ensuring that no part of the country feels alienated from the scheme of things, giving the oil-rich region another shot of four years will pose as a veritable strategy to sustain the already existing peace and maintain long-lasting calm among the youths of the Niger Delta who had been restive as a result of glaring injustice hinged on government neglect, exploitation by multi-national oil companies and degradation of the environment of the region.
Consequently, to avoid political inconsistency in the pursuit of that soothing cause, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan deserves a comeback.