By Olugbenga Kehinde Shote
We finally got to listen to President Goodluck Jonathan speak to Nigerians via a media chat with selected journalists. The event was prerecorded and the questions likely known beforehand. My overall assessment is that he performed slightly above average. Our President is not exactly naturally charismatic so I wasn’t expecting any rousing speeches ala Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States of America. He is also not a strong and imposing figure like former President Obasanjo. So instead of listening to him to get inspired, I was looking for concrete plans and programmes.
A lot of people probably watched the media chat so I won’t bother with the specifics, rather I will rate his answers on key areas.
Corruption: I expected tough talk and a reading of the proverbial Riot Act and not platitudes. He needs to prosecute some high-profile cases within the rule of law. He should make a scapegoat of just one big fish such as a corrupt former Governor to send a strong message to other corrupt individuals. Score: 4/10
Power: I have confidence that the current efforts at privatization will produce some improvements but the effects may not be felt until 2015. While he focuses on improving generation through new power plants, he also needs to pay attention to monetizing and correctly pricing gas resources, localized generation and distribution, market rules for operators, reduction of energy theft and transmission losses and improvement of billing. Privatization is a step in the right direction. Score: 8/10
Agriculture: He correctly diagnosed the issues but was unable to offer concrete plans. He’s expecting a lot from the Minister of Agriculture who has successfully transformed other nations’ agricultural practices. I expect an agricultural master plan with a focus on research into modern farming methods and adaptation of technology, cultivation of seedlings, land use reform and consolidation, irrigation, local fertilizer production, credit for farmers, establishment of processing facilities and improvement of roads for transporting inputs and produce. Score: 6/10
Security: Not much was said about this perhaps for fear of angering Boko Haram. Score: 3/10
Foreign Policy: Excellent responses to the Libyan crisis and Nigeria’s role in peace keeping operations in Africa. However, he correctly admitted that we don’t seem to have benefited much from playing Big Brother. We should have been entrenched in the Liberian and Sierra Leonean economies by now. No country loves another country to its own detriment. Score: 8/10
Single Tenure: Vague rationale for introducing the idea. Still unclear what benefits Nigerians will get from a single tenure over the current system. Score: 5/10
Judiciary: He admitted the challenge but avoided referring to the removal of Justice Ayo Salami by the NJC. The advice to the Judiciary to reform itself was non-committal and vague. Score: 4/10
Overall Score: 5.5/10
I have no doubts that he has good intentions and means well for Nigeria. I do have doubts about his appreciation for the enormity of the problems of the nation. He is an outsider who has had to rely on the political clout of the PDP cabal to ascend to power. However, he needs to understand that he is now the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the FRN and the nation’s number one citizen. While he cannot solve our problems alone, he has the power to galvanise everyone to action.
He cut the figure of a man who needs help. He needs help because he can’t do it alone. He’s our President so we should wish him well and criticize constructively when needed. On Social Media, there are two distinct camps of people who applaud his every move and those who blindly criticise him. Whichever camp you belong to, we need to agree that we all love Nigeria and if the President succeeds, Nigeria succeeds.