BY ROBERT OBIOHA
All of a sudden, President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election campaign posters invaded Abuja on New Year day. While the opposition parties had accused Aso Rock of being behind the posters, the presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, has exonerated his boss of any complicity in the act, which many Nigerians consider too early for an administration that promised to deliver on many election promises in the New Year.
As usual, Abati’s feeble denial leaves some yawning gaps. Those gaps are even evident in the way and manner he laboured to rationalize the issue when prodded further why Jonathan has not ordered the arrest of those doing what he did not sanction. The pasting of Jonathan’s campaign posters without the president’s knowledge or tacit approval is like the biblical tale of the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob.
There is no way some people will go out of their way and paste campaign posters of a politician without any form of understanding or even exchange of cash between them and the beneficiary. There is no smoke without fire. I pity those appointed to speak and launder images of those in power. For Abati and Okupe, it has proved a daunting task laundering Jonathan’s image. The more they try, the more they fail.
Most times, they found themselves in a very difficult situation that if they were outside, they would have comfortably offered a different point of view. That is the dilemma of people like Reuben Abati. It is not easy to always defend unpopular policies of government.
The Abuja poster is one of such government’s missteps that not even the combination of Okupe and Abati can convincingly whitewash. No matter how Abati tries to explain the posters, most Nigerians are not deceived that Abuja has hand in the nocturnal posters. The appearance of Jonathan’s campaign posters in Abuja in the middle of his first term in office raises a lot of moral issues.
Though, the presidency has denied ever having hand in the clandestine campaign aimed at testing the ground, it is morally wrong for the campaign to come up at this point in time. How can Nigerians reconcile between Jonathan’s promises to give them the proverbial dividends of democracy this year and also assaulting the same people with 2015 campaign posters? Which way is the pendulum actually swinging? Perhaps, those pasting the posters want to gauge the mood of Nigerians on 2015 presidency.
If that is their game plan, they have succeeded by half. Nigerians will in the next few days dwell on Jonathan’s campaign posters and in doing so tell the president if his candidature will sell in 2015 or not. They will get torrents of replies. All of them will be in the negative. I do not want to engage on the desirability or otherwise of Jonathan’s power bid beyond 2015 in this piece. The time to do that is coming soon.
That aside, what I want Jonathan and his team to concentrate now is how to govern Nigerians well. Nigerians voted for him in 2011 general election for a term of four years only. And that term will terminate in 2015. He is in the second year of his first term and Nigerians have not witnessed the fresh air and transformation he promised during his electioneering campaigns. The jobs he promised teeming army of unemployed Nigerians, especially the youths are not yet in place.
The renewal of road infrastructure nationwide is still going at a snail’s speed. Jonathan’s promise to build a second Niger Bridge at Onitsha and give the South-East additional state is still a promise. The education and health sectors are in disarray. Our universities are running with dilapidated structures and stale equipments.
The laboratories and libraries are nothing to write home about. There is shortage of qualified lecturers and seasoned academic in many of the nation’s universities. In some of them, lecturers do not have access to reputable journals. There is paucity of funds for research. In many of these universities, the handout culture is the norm.
The transportation sector is not what it ought to be. The mass transit promised the masses during the partial removal of subsidy last year are not there. The railway transportation is yet to be revived. Road remains the major mode of transport in the country. And since there is over-concentration on road transportation, the fewer good Nigerian roads are under heavy stress.
The air mode of transportation is still in chaos. With frequent air crashes in the land, air transportation doesn’t attract high patronage any longer. Last year was the year Nigerians deserted air travel, especially domestic flights.
There is no hope that they will change their hearts this year. Insecurity is starring the citizenry on the face and there is no respite yet. While the Boko Haram insurgency has taken over the North, especially the North-East axis, kidnapping for ransom is all over the South-South and South-East zones. Armed robbery is all over the country.
Nigerians are yet to recover from bombings of churches, military and police institutions. The economy of the North is the worst for it.
There is no doubt that Jonathan inherited a lot of burden from Yar’Adua’s government. Apart from amnesty for militants, there is the issue of power and the unbundling of the PHCN and other issues. While the unbundling of PHCN has received some attention, the issue of giving Nigerians adequate power supply has not been met.
The success achieved in that regard when Prof. Bart Nnaji was in charge has evaporated. Power supply to Nigerians since Nnaji left has returned to the pre-Nnaji era. Nobody knows the kind of romance between electricity workers and government that this tiny cabal is holding government to ransom in electricity matters.
The electricity workers have thwarted attempts to introduce pre-paid metres that would have stopped their sabotage on PHCN bills. Pre-paid metres would have eliminated the thorny issue of crazy bills and estimated bills which PHCN workers impose on electricity consumers in the country.
Estimated bills are deployed by unscrupulous PHCN officials to defraud the consuming public and yet the government is not doing anything to plug all these economic drain pipes. These are the issues that will bother Jonathan now and not 2015.
The president has openly said that he will talk about his ambition in 2014. He should just keep to that promise and concentrate fully in the onerous task ahead. The pasting of Jonathan’s campaign posters in Abuja, whether authorized by the presidency or not, is a huge distraction.
It will not advance the cause of democracy. The worst aspect of it is that if the action of the faceless poster campaigners is not halted now, governance will soon take the backseat and 2015 will be the main issue. And whether Jonathan wants to run for 2015 or not, it is a big date Nigeria has with destiny. The way 2015 is handled will determine the future of the country.
The earlier all the segments sit together to discuss our future the better. It is a pity that after 50 years of self-rule, who will become the country’s president, is still an issue that will continue to give us headache. Those who think that this issue is settled are just deluding themselves. And those who think that the majority will always win in this alien and concocted democracy are wallowing in utter ignorance and confusion. Democracy, if it still worth its name in Nigeria must cater for all segments and interests.
For Nigeria to move forward, there is the need to redefine our democracy by domesticating it. Which tribe will produce the nation’s president come 2015 is the main issue which is still open and negotiable. It is not an issue only the ruling PDP will decide for Nigeria or one section trying to lord it over all other sections. This is where those calling for a national conference, whether sovereign or not, have my support.
The future of Nigeria should be discussed now. Let the president order those using his name to campaign to stop if he is not the one authorizing it. It is not enough to say that the president is not behind it. If, indeed, he is not behind it, let those doing that be arrested. Even though they may not be causing public breach, their action is unduly overheating the polity.
They are sending wrong signals that it is campaign time whereas 2015 is still a little bit far. Government should halt Jonathan’s campaign posters now.
Hiding behind officialese by presidency aide to deny Abuja’s hand in the exercise is not helpful at all. Let government chase away those insulting our sensibilities with the needless campaign posters.