In 48 hours, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s will mark the first year anniversary of his election as president. Some nine months ago when the ritual of marking his first 100 days was being concocted, Minister of Information Labaran Maku told Nigerians who cared to listen that his principal’s 100 days in office was a planning period.
“The Jonathan administration has in the last 100 days succeeded in building the right framework for the implementation of its transformation agenda.” For good measure, he added that the president’s emphasis on careful planning which characterised the better part of his first 100 days in office was hinged on his resolve to introduce a new way of doing things in government at all levels. A year on the saddle, what has changed?
In terms of the fundamentals of governance - philosophy, reform and leadership – Jonathan’s style of leadership marks a major departure from his two immediate predecessors in office - General Olusegun Obasanjo’s tempestuous rule and late Umaru Yar’Adua’s health-challenged, halting footing. Yet, a year represents rather a fleeting parameter on which to assess performance.
In an important sense another sense, a leader’s first year in office could signpost or serve as a forerunner to gauging the quality of the pathway a leader has defined for his journey. It is now a year days since Jonathan, at his inauguration, pledged to give Nigerians a new lease of life through a “transformation agenda”. How far has he gone?
The politically tricky circumstances that sculpted his early presidency - the intense succession intrigues of Yar’Adua period which he navigated, aided by the now famous ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ pushed by a nervous national parliament - all in retrospect apparently justified Jonathan’s hesitant, cautious style.
But after the electoral validation of his presidency through a fresh mandate by Nigerians, many expected Jonathan to step out with a markedly different governance garb and swagger. Apparently, he has not.
The stakes are extremely high, and Nigerians are mindful that a failure to achieve democratic stability, security and economic prosperity may imperil the country’s future as a coherent state.
The key areas of challenge remain the economy, security, physical and human infrastructure development, and constitution re-engineering to address several areas of anxiety and concern in the Nigerian project.
Today, security almost dwarfs all other key areas of concern. Feelers indicate that the much criticized jumbo security budget in Jonathan’s 2012 proposal to the National Assembly which tacitly recognizes the extreme security challenge may even be scaled up. All the same, the listed areas do not exhaust all the challenges but merely capture the kernel.
Currently, the level of incoherence and confusion in policy conceptualization and implementation are unsettling. This scenario eats into any public confidence vested in his ‘transformation agenda.’
For example, medical tourism from Nigeria is fast boosting the Indian and Egyptian economies at a time when even the nation’s premier hospital, the National Hospital, Abuja, is unable to respond to medical emergencies as was evident during the recent bombings in the Federal Capital Territory. Patients had to be flown to South Africa and Ghana for treatment!
Within this period, though both the federal and state governments have been talking about job creation and youth empowerment, not much has been achieved. In the past one year, the president has failed to articulate a direction for the country.
The touted growth in the economy has failed to impact on the lives of the citizens. Every sector - from education, health, science and technology to infrastructure - is in a shambles.
While some genuinely believe that Jonathan has made remarkable progress, many argue that it has been a wasted period and a very dismal first year of his tenure. At each turn, his Inauguration Day promise to fight for the future of ordinary Nigerians is being questioned by the same people who voted him with much enthusiasm.
With little doubt, politics will always be propelled by grease, hot air and showmanship. Acknowledged, showmanship is not Jonathan’s forte - but at a more fundamental level, the imperative of development in a Third World country in the 21st century suggests an alternative mode of engagement.
If Jonathan retools, reconceptualises his governance strategy and succeeds, history will be fair to him as the 14th President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If not, the consequences of failure are almost unthinkable.
The emerging consensus is that political leadership should not just be a matter of coping with the political challenges of the moment, or doing well at getting elected, or even meeting immediate problems the right way.
In this light, analysts hold that political leaders must approach governance according to an understanding - according to a set of principles - that reflect a sense of the permanent destiny of the nation. That is the key challenge facing Jonathan.
Nigerians anxiously wait.