May 26, 2018

So long, President Jonathan by Niran Adedokun

So long, President Jonathan by Niran Adedokun

This is not the best of times for Nigeria and Nigerians. Power supply in the country is currently at an all-time low. As at last night, generation was put at less than 2,000megawatts. I cannot remember any time after the regime of late General Sani Abacha that things have been this bad.  But poor power supply is not the only negative story that history will record for the last days of the Jonathan administration.

For several weeks now, fuel supply in Nigeria has been anything but efficient and this is a country which prides itself as the sixth largest producer of crude oil in the world. Again, it has been a while that we suffered anything as intense as this current scarcity. One litre of petrol, if you can find it, now sells for between 450 and 500 hundred naira. It is a story of untold hardship.

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This hardship is telling because everything about this great country revolves around petroleum. It is the main source of funding for every national project and we haven’t been smart enough as a people to put the blessings of crude oil to as many uses as possible not to talk of saving our country the problem that usually befalls a mono- product economy through the diversification of the economy. As a result everything about us, whether on the national or individual sphere revolves around that one single natural resource – black gold!

So in a metropolis like Lagos, with the scarcity of petroleum products come a multitude of afflictions. Since water from the state government has become gold, no fuel means no power to pump water from the private water works that every family has provided for themselves. So here is what life look like: no fuel leads to no power, no power leads to no water to drink, no fuel means expensive transportation, which affect the cost of food and every other thing that makes life easier.

I do not know whether life can bring more despair to any people. Industrial actions or the like by importers of refined petroleum products and now the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers and the Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria have come together to leave a terribly bitter taste in our mouths as far as the Jonathan administration is concerned.

This is not talk about the $60b local and external debts and the N2.4trn with which we have serviced those debts in the past four years. The economy lies prostrate with an incredibly depressing effect on the mass of the people. Yet the administration has characteristically continued to play the ostrich with us, not speaking to any of these issues to enable Nigerians make some sense of the whole nonsense.

Pretty much, such a pathetic refusal to communicate and the penchant to miscommunicate when it attempts a conversation is the greatest misfortune of the Jonathan administration. Jonathan often speaks out of turn, his handlers are most eloquent about the wrong things and they ventilate the right things in the most distasteful ways. Communication and the inefficient ways in which those who did that duty for Jonathan handled it remains one of the most poisonous doses that was served us during the president’s tenure. But there were other self-imposed afflictions. One of this is the indecisive and shaky foot of the outgoing president. As a Nigerian, I find it difficult to forgive Jonathan that he backtracked on and never revisited the attempt to deregulate the oil and gas sector in 2012. The failure would account for some of the end-time misery which the administration suffers

But it would be unfair to not acknowledge the fact that Jonathan led Nigeria at a very unusual time. As a lot of his critics talk about how much Nigeria made and wasted during his tenure, we must also consider that the attempt to save some of revenue generated in the period was frustrated by governors. We must see that his government fought an insurgency for which the country was ill prepared and that from the time he was elected as president in 2011 until he was voted out in 2015, he did not enjoy the support of a lot of leaders of the north. There is only so much that a president can do in the circumstance.

I cannot tell of any administration that has attempted to diversify the national economy in the past 30 years as much as the Jonathan administration neither can I tell of any other administration that has pursued the reform of the power sector with as much vigour, But then, who owes us the duty of effectively communicating these challenges to the citizenry other than a government that failed at that duty.

I have heard some of Jonathan’s supporters suggest that the opposition might have influenced the current situation in the country to gain some reputational capital from it in the first few days of being sworn in and I am wondering even if so, what has the outgoing government, which should be worried about its legacies, done to forestall or even reverse such prospects? So, Nigerians cannot just wait to see Jonathan leave, which is understandable.

As hungry and depressed as he leaves us however, Nigerians should be grateful that Jonathan is handing  a peaceful country to Buhari; a country where people have hope like they haven’t in a long while. As President-elect Muhammudu Buhari and a lot of other Nigerians have conceded, Jonathan’s concession of his loss of the 2015 presidential elections is a noble deed for which all Nigerians should be proud. What would we say if in addition to our current deprivations we were still engulfed in a violent conflagaration for which we could tell no end? Jonathan saved us and the very fragile world that we live in from that very frightening prospect, and for that reason this country owes him a bunch of gratitude.  Someone said that is not enough to remember a five-year administration for, but I beg to differ. If we stop to ponder and appreciate the cost of strife in countries we have seen them, we will understand the cost of peace. And so as Jonathan moves on this Friday, I can only wish him well and pray that he finds peace with himself as he has shown himself to be an agent for peace.

So long, Mr President!

Twitter: @niranadedokun

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