What if Jonathan had returned?

What if Jonathan had returned?

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There is so much anger in the nation right now that one begins to wonder how we got here in the first place. In spite of hundreds of analyses on how Nigeria can push forward in these unfriendly times, and cries across the geo-political zones for urgent intervention if we must avoid a cash crunch-induced socio-economic disaster, the numbers are just not adding up; more families are being thrown into financial slavery.
Apologists of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration have continued to hinge Nigeria’s unfortunate economic recession on a “very bad product” (Nigeria) inherited from former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. They have continued to point out unimaginable cases of corruption that contributed in making the treatment of the various maladies of the Nigerian economy a case for the Intensive Care Unit. Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on War Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), had even been quoted by many news platforms to have said, in May 2016, that Nigerians might have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries if Jonathan had won the 2015 Presidential elections.
“Given the unrestrained stealing and the enormous economic pillage under the Jonathan administration, it is not a surprise that the Nigerian economy is lying prostrate…The truth is, if Jonathan had won the 2015 election, by now, Nigeria would have completely become a failed state like Zimbabwe with huge inflation rate of 10 billion, or probably all of us would have carried our little belongings to seek refuge in neighbouring countries,” he was quoted to have said in the 6th May 2016 edition of The SUN.
Some other experts on the same divide, have, on social and mainstream media, referred to the biting hunger in the land as a sacrifice that we must endure if we have to purge ourselves of Jonathan’s “unimaginable” economic sins. untitledThose who choose to queue behind this school of thought cannot be faulted easily. I held the same view, if not stronger, at some point, but from a different point of view. Yes, one could sniff choking corruption along most corridors of influence, even when the magnitude could not be immediately appreciated. But one snag that put me off the previous government was the seemingly irrepressible hold of private sector cowboys on the Presidency. Aside from the fact that there had been reports of how some key ministers rode on Jonathan’s perceived good nature and, I would say, little economic know-how, to rob the nation with impunity, these “corporate areaboys” swarmed around the former President like bees, while executing plans to literally pocket the entire economy. This, and some other reasons, informed my decision to board the same train with change canvassers in the run up to the 2015 elections.
My grouse with Jonathan was that he failed to listen to the humble advice I offered at the beginning of his administration in a front page article in the June 2, 2011 edition of The Punch.
Jonathan had enjoyed immense support across tribes, professions and even age groups before, during and after the 2011 presidential elections; and was privileged to have been elected in a generally accepted fair election that was inarguably made possible by his commitment to a sound and unbiased electoral process. But he refused to sharpen his listening skills to detect the peculiar tone of long-standing economic parasites that could make him lose that rare goodwill in the twinkling of an eye. He failed to seek the help of professional cleaners to clear the existing and newly attracted cobwebs around the Aso Rock Villa. These cobwebs, which would usually deface the best of structures, eventually contributed, more than anything else, to the humiliating end of his tenure.
Looking back now, especially in the face of the lingering chaotic macroeconomic environment, and against the backdrop of speculations of disaster by passionate critics, I’ve been forced to ponder on the question: what if Jonathan had returned? He would definitely have licked the same wound opened by unrestrained mismanagement of collective wealth, considering the fact that the biggest looting channels have been endangered with revenue cuts occasioned by nosediving global oil prices. Since he would not have to seek support for a third term, he probably would have made tough decisions that could right the wrongs in critical sectors. From reliable findings, the first casualty in this regard might have been the former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke, for reasons best known to close associates. From past lessons also, perhaps, the former president might have thickened his liver to better deal with the problematic women in his personal and work life, who reportedly influenced questionable decisions at the expense of the Nigerian economy. He might not have had the boldness to deal ruthlessly with stealing, as he called it, so as not to splash the mudwater in unintended directions. But having seen the level of resentment for his administration during the campaigns, Jonathan’s eyes might have become sharp enough to see economic buccaneers in their true colours, and could have finally fumigated the Villa to get rid of stubborn enemies of the economy. Ultimately, counting on his usual practice of surrounding himself with those who know, and the continuity of key economic reforms in the right way, his government might have been able to pick up the pieces of a battered economy faster, though not without a period of pain for Nigerians.
These are just speculations. Things could actually have been worse as some have strongly predicted. Nevertheless, it is important to warn the current administration that the same cobwebs that had defaced the Jonathan structure, may be not in the exact form, have resurfaced, this time, to suffocate the air of change in critical sectors. Some private sector cowboys, who succeeded in wriggling their way into President Buhari’s cabinet, and are holding central economic positions, may have gone deep into due process attrocities and financial recklessness worse than what might have been unravelled in the past. Their dangerous romance with what can translate to liquidity in a “dry” economy might have pushed some agencies on a keg of gunpowder, and made urgent economic revitalisation initiatives the forgone alternative. Unfortunately, it seems President Buhari has not been able to direct his sharp spectacles in this dangerous direction. He needs to re-assess his trusted sources of information on the way forward for the economy and work very hard not to disappoint us his fans. We’re already getting worried that he may not be able to deliver.
Going by the theory of the American presidential historian, Alvin Felzenberg, the President’s rating in terms of economic achievements will depend mainly on his sources of information as well as the team he builds around himself.
Once he can demonstrate with the impending shake-up in the cabinet that he knows where the shoe pinches, the stage should be set for economic recovery.

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