There is absolutely nothing new in the unrelenting altercations between the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, as to whose government was ‘cleaner’ and serving the best interest of Nigeria better. The narrative fits perfectly into the time-worn political pattern in which once an opposition party dethrones the incumbent, the conqueror deploys all the fibre of its being to demonise and destroy the conquered; then, it dons the garb of the new messiah.
In a winner-takes-all political ambience as Nigeria’s, the new champions posture as a group sent by God to liberate His people from poverty, oppression and other such things that have stunted their growth. And such things are legion. They range from visionlessness to ineptitude to crass corruption. Deliberately blind to its own obvious inconsistencies, the APC has been very consistent in its self-righteousness, just as it has been unwavering in heaping all the ills that have plagued Nigeria in its recent past and now on the PDP and its principals. If we indulge them, they could even stretch it to post-independence. And no matter how loud the likes of Ayodele Fayose, Ekiti State Governor, and Femi Fani-Kayode, former Minister of Aviation, shout, even if they mount the tallest minaret to knock the bottom off their traducers’ claims, their efforts have amounted to something like dropping a pebble into the ocean. Their efforts have been miserably ineffective in distracting Lai Mohammed and the other czars of APC from hammering PDP as amoebic; as a party of an indefinable in form and shape, incorporeal in character and vision; a cesspool of corruption. And who, in the estimation of the ruling party, better symbolises these formlessness and drought of productivity than the man under whose watch the dream of PDP ruling for 60 years shattered into irredeemable pieces after only 16 years at the helm; even Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the immediate past President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
With the interdiction of many governors and ministers of the Jonathan era of mega billion fraud, flood of condemnations have been surging at the former President, his government and party, like a tsunami. Even when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, did something amounting to ‘sharing blood’ by confiscating Dame Patience Jonathan’s ‘hard-earned’ $31.4 million and seized a N2billion hotel and three other prime properties in Abuja allegedly owned by the former First Lady, Broda Jona’s traducers never stopped pounding him and his erstwhile administration. Even when cops guarding one of the ex-President’s properties in Abuja stripped it to the walls, claiming their share of the national cake, the antagonists remain unappeasable. They forget diais godu. They forget there is a God who helps the tail-less cow drive stubborn flies.
Not to worry, Jonathan had his moment at the Eagles Square, Abuja, last Saturday. It was at PDP’s non-elective convention, and a tumultuous crowd of the party faithful had gathered to regale themselves in their party’s achievements in ages past and kick-start the journey to 2019.
Now, the ex-President may not be an excellent political debater, let alone being an orator. But within the 20 minutes or so that he spent at the podium, he showed his stuff as an indefatigable leader of the ‘largest political party in Africa’. He shamed his detractors by doubling down (forgive my Americanese) on his claim that his government remains the most successful, the most transparent and the cleanest in Nigeria’s political history. Does that sound like a line from the endless list of Donald Trump’s “truthful hyperboles”?
Whatever it is, please, accept that in good faith in the meantime, and let’s recap the nuggets in President Jonathan’s 25-paragraph speech. First, he acknowledged that it was not easy to lose power but enthused that the party had since overcome the aftershocks of its 2015 electoral defeat and was now set to “reclaim its prime position as the party to lead Nigeria to greatness.” And re-possess power come 2019? This is not a tall order, granting APC’s rapidly dwindling popularity among Nigerians; a problem compounded by the continuous absence of President Muhammadu Buhari due to ill-health. .
Second, despite its imperfections (and he admitted there is no perfect human system anywhere in the world), Jonathan said there was ample evidence to prove that PDP had acquitted itself to be “a party of vision and accomplishments”. One of such evidences was the 2015 general elections in which, though his party was roundly defeated, it freely transferred power to the APC, thereby deepening Nigeria’s democracy and projecting the nation as “one of the world’s stable democracies.” This is true to a large extent because even though there was overwhelming evidence that he and his party had lost by a landslide, they could, in typical African tradition, have disputed the results and attempted to stay put. This would have triggered a crisis which end would have been unpredictable. But Jonathan and his party chose the path of honour and saved the country unnecessary bloodshed. Third, and on the economy, Jonathan claimed his administration provided “focused leadership, through institutional and sectoral reforms which impacted positively on the fundamentals for growth, especially in the last four years” of the administration. “The effect,” he continued, “was that we tamed inflation at a single digit, maintained price stability, grew the economy to become the largest in Africa with a GDP of over half a trillion US dollars, and the number one foreign direct investment destination on the continent.”
Again, this is largely correct except that experts, and time, proved that the claim of Nigeria becoming the largest economy in Africa was bogus and may have been sexed up to score some political goals. To underpin the artificiality of the claim, many experts reasoned that there was sparing evidence in the day-to-day living of Nigeria’s toiling multitude.
Fourth, ex-President Jonathan recalled with nostalgia his administration’s agricultural transformation agenda which he claimed “rapidly transformed key agricultural value chains, boosted local production, and created a new generation of young commercial farmers and agriculture entrepreneurs we proudly identified as Nagropreneurs.”
He wasn’t done. The former President also named “one very remarkable achievement of the reforms” as the killing of decades of fertiliser racketeering and unspeakable corruption in the agricultural sector through the introduction and faithful implementation of the electronic wallet system. “Since then,” Jonathan enthused, “its success has continued to resonate outside our shores. The programme is not only being scaled up by the African Development Bank but is already being replicated in close to 20 African countries.”
This claim is 100 percent correct. In fact, the brainbox of that revolution, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the administration’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, went ahead to become President of the African Development Bank, ADB. Prior to his appointment as Minister in 2010, Dr. Adesina had been Vice President of Policy and Partnerships for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA.
All these, coupled with the administration’s Youth Enterprises with Innovation, YouWin, primed to reduce the population of youth milling the streets by turning them to entrepreneurs and employers of labour, are no indicators of a planless government as Osita Okechukwu, Director General of Voice of Nigeria, VON, and some APC chieftains would have us believe.
However, before the applause subsided at Eagle Square, Jonathan threw a dampener to what would have been a beautiful outing were he to be an engaging public speaker; or a good debater. The cog came in paragraphs 18 and 19, where he declared that his administration’s “approach to fighting corruption may not have plugged all the leaks in the system; in fact, no nation has ever been successful in eradicating the cankerworm of corruption.
“But we went about it in a sustainable and measurable manner, by, among other measures, creating institutional tools like bank verification number (BVN), the treasury single account (TSA) designed to block leakages, as well as the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS), which eliminated tens of thousands of ghost workers, during our time.”
To me, this is the dampener.
(To be continued next week)