For Jonathan: “Acting” or “Action” President?

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

Irrespective of what you think of the man Jonathan, one has to admit that he is indeed a lucky man. Who gets to be Governor, Vice President and now President by an unquestionable streak of luck? Indeed, while this might be a rush to judgment (in spite of the weightless resolution of our lightweight National Assembly), one can safely assume the political stars has slowly but surely aligned for Mr. Vice President. Unless by some miraculous event, it can be safe to rule out President Yar’Adua and assume we have a new Acting President once the legal madness are resolved.

However, it is one thing for Vice President Jonathan to be lucky and another thing for Nigeria to be lucky to have him at our helms of affairs. Nigeria has been blessed with some of the best crops of corrupt, visionless and rudderless leaders since independence. Only the worst, and I mean the most terrible, in our society always seem to ascend to the zenith of governance in our country. The next one and a half years may well be the beginning of the end, or the end of this very unfortunate beginning (50 years of miserable independence) full of dash and darts from one kleptomaniac (read Abacha) to another megalomaniac (read Obasanjo) or a combination of both (read IBB).

Vice President Goodluck Jonathan cannot underestimate the mess he will inherit. He would have in his hands a government that is virtually politically incapacitated. He will inherit an administration stacked with enemies that virtually owe him no loyalty. He will inherit a structure that is fresh from the trauma of political positioning and ethnic sloganeering. He would inherit a budget that is sorely under implemented by a government that virtually lacks capacity and mobility. Certainly, he would inherit a people and a nation desperate for direction and leadership. Above all, he will inherit a dirty system; a very dirty one that requires thorough scrubbing!

The Veep cannot miscalculate his ability to clean house or turn things around. He has to have realistic expectations and set them. He has to be honest, truthful and businesslike if he wants to go down in the annals of our national history as anyone close to being mentioned. Mr. Jonathan must understand he is virtually term-limited by the traditions and political agreements that precede his person and office. He should perceive his days in the helm as numbered and make the best use of it. He has to see his mission as achieving the most in the shortest possible period of time, and allow posterity judge him.

His best strategy for governance is what has served him best up until this point; he has to be humble, never appear to be power hungry, assume a populist stance while being deliberative and act with utmost patriotism and let the chips fall where they may.

The new man on the block will have a plethora of advisers, and won’t lack in bootlickers or sycophants; but here is a little bit of advice if he is reading. Assuming you have fifteen crucial months to govern Nigeria, what will you do? Here is a quick list:

1. Sack the Attorney General: This by far has to be the most populist (and first necessary) stance the Veep has to take. AG Aondoakaa is by far the least popular and most notorious cabinet minister I can remember in history; even Wada Nas and Tom Ikimi are beginning to look more competent and likeable! Firing the Attorney General and appointing an astute professional in his stead will gain the Vice President political currency. There are younger and cooler headed lawyers out there that will serve Nigeria better than the current disaster!

2. Remake the Cabinet & Elevate Dora: It is obvious that President’s Yar’Adua cabinet was the second coming of Shehu Shagari. The cabinet was so badly executed that even the old man of the 70s was beginning to look good! Some old dead woods like Rilwan Lukman really need to go. Also, the cabinet just appears to be another political meeting of the loser governors of PDP. It is about time professionals are brought in and I will suggest firing the Ministers of Power for missing the 6000 MW deadline. Give that job to the current Information minister; the power sector requires her courage and can-do panache.

3. Focus on Energy: That is all Nigeria ask of you. It is necessary the Veep immediately see an end to the process gas problem, standing in the way of steady power generation from completed power projects across Nigeria. Whatever it takes, 5000MW is a reasonable goal in the next few months, and a committed President that demands performance and gets daily progress briefing will get results. The President can televise his briefings to put the actors on the spot and show Nigeria he is working hard on it; he most definitely will gain political traction with the common man this way. While he is at it; he must bridge the divide between labor and the private sector on deregulation and find a way to get refined petroleum to the streets at the minimum cost and suffering Nigerians.

4. Carry the Banner of Reforms & Peace: A number of laws and legislative business are today stuck in the national assembly and need to be finished to ensure a smooth 2010 and 2011. Chief amongst these laws and in their order of importance are the Petroleum Industry Bill (which will for the first time guarantee revenue sharing with local oil bearing communities), Electoral Reforms & Constitutional Amendments Bills (which will implement the Uwais Commission Report) and the Freedom of Information Act (which will shine the disinfecting light of transparency on our governments).

5. Call INEC to order: The best guarantee for Nigeria’s democracy today is a clean election in 2011. That is why the Veep must insist INEC play the role of an unbiased umpire. The Veep should begin by naming an unbiased commissioner to fill the current vacant position, and ensure security forces are not manipulated by his party. Above all, the immediate and full implementation of the new electoral laws must begin in earnest as we are few months to the next election. Perhaps, it will be a good thing if the Vice President removes himself from 2011 contention and just focus on righting this ship. Perhaps…

If our new acting man takes all these actions, he will be known many years for today as not just the “acting” president but as the “action” president. Jonathan Goodluck will require way more than good luck, he will require wisdom.

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