By Reno Omokri
Let me first use this opportunity to congratulate the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari. Congratulations on your hard won victory which is a testimony to your resilience.
You give a new meaning to the lyrics of a song by the late US R & B singer, Aaliyah Dana Haughton, who sang ‘if at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again’.
Having said that, let me say this loudly: I believe in the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan. I am proud of him.
Much as it may be hard for some to conceive of now, I am certain that in the not too distant future, many will find themselves saying about President Jonathan that never in the history of Nigeria has so much being owed to one leader in so short a time as President Jonathan. Of course, I am paraphrasing Sir Winston Churchill.
General Muhammadu Buhari has won the most transparent elections ever held in Nigeria and it is President Jonathan that ensured we had this most transparent election. One only happened because of the other.
Think back to elections held before President Jonathan assumed power on May 6th, 2010. I am sure the phrase ‘do or die’ still rings familiar.
That Nigerians are today celebrating is because of what God did through Jonathan.
But perhaps President Jonathan’s greatest legacies lie in the intangible things he achieved for Nigeria.
Jonathan is the real change agent. He ensured Nigeria’s freedom of information via the Freedom of Information Law, FOI, and our freedom to choose leaders via credible elections.
Elsewhere, I have said that you may not be able to appreciate a very good wife until you have divorced her to marry another.
Even his most ardent critics will appreciate Jonathan eventually. He allowed freedoms blossom and from the way he institutionalized these freedoms, it will be virtually impossible to put the genie back into the bottle.
I have only written a few lines, yet the word change keeps popping up whenever President Jonathan’s name is mentioned.
Nigerians may have voted for change, but I am skeptical that we will see as much change in the coming years as we saw in the last five years.
Apart from the intangibles, what were some of those changes you may ask?
I will just mention a few.
In the midst of a brutal and subsisting insurgency, President Jonathan was able to lead the growth of our economy such that Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa and the 26th largest economy in the world.
He was able to reduce hunger in Nigeria (not according to any data from the government or any Nigerian run organization, but according to the International Food Policy Research Institute’s Global Hunger Index).
His leadership saw Nigerians having the highest increase in Average Life Expectancy according to the United Nations Human Development Index which shows that life expectancy in Nigeria increased from 47 years pre Jonathan to 54 years today.
For the first time in Nigeria’s history, the long neglected Almajiri children of Northern Nigeria are able to go to a physical school with modern facilities on a large and organized scale because President Jonathan built schools for them.
Our women folk have had their highest per capita input in government under Jonathan. Almost 35% of all high profile appointments President Jonathan made were for the benefit of women. He also opened up the Nigerian Defence Academy, NDA, to women.
The Igbo people of the Southeast, who are very mercantile and commercially itinerant, now have an international airport and do not have to travel to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja or Kano, to take a connecting flight. They can travel out of the country directly from Enugu. Whenever they do so, President Jonathan is putting back ₦60, 000 they would have spent on connecting flights back into their pockets.
In the Southwest, the two most important roads, the Lagos-Ibadan and the Benin-Ore Expressways are wearing a new look courtesy of the change brought about by Jonathan. It is worth mentioning that those roads had been in a state of disrepair for decades before Jonathan happened on the scene.
In the power sector, Jonathan fulfilled his promise to privatize power. It may take sometime, but Nigeria is going to see the same massive increase in capacity and delivery in power as she saw in the telecommunications industry for the simple reason that government cannot do what the private sector can do and this is a fact known to every nation that has successfully solved its power challenges.
Let me not go on and on about his achievements because I can. It suffices to say that under the rain, under the sun I will be for Jonathan!
And I am not the only one. Some may sneer and say that it is because I have benefitted financially from this administration. If the incoming administration should investigate me, Nigerians will know that this is not the case. I supported President Jonathan because of passion not pocket.
Now, this Change that has been voted for by Nigerians may be good and I hope it will be.
For the vast majority of people chanting change, I pray that it will not be like a cow given to a child. That child will care for the cow as long as it is alive. The child will milk the cow, get it food and clean it every once in a while. But in many cases, the minute the cow is slaughtered and its meat is to be divided, the child then realizes who the owners of the cow really are.
I have said and still say and will continue to say that by his uncommon and statesmanly action of conceding to President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, even while the votes were still being counted, President Jonathan doused the political tension in the land and took the wind out of the sails of those who may have had the means and the desire to instigate violence.
We may never know how many lives were saved by this action, but lives were indeed saved.
In my own opinion, President Jonathan deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for this gesture and at the very least, the Mo Ibrahim prize.
If we had had this legacy of conceding when Presidential elections are over, Nigeria would have been even more stable than she is right now and many many lives that were needlessly lost in previous electoral cycles would have been saved.
I am so proud of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. So, so proud!
And for the Peoples Democratic Party, its members must bear in mind that the All Progressive Congress is coming into power with control of the Executive and the Legislature and if history is anything to go by, a great deal of influence over the judiciary.
The people that are coming in are people who have tasted power before and have been away from it for far too long. They will not be shy in their use of power.
But perhaps even more impactful than these is the fact that they are entering into power with something akin to near dominance or even control of the loudest section of the media.
They have invested in the traditional media and even more so in the Social Media. Their influence over the youth is something like that wielded by the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
If the Peoples Democratic Party does not device an effective strategy that would see it increase its influence in those institutions that have traditionally been key to restraining the excesses of government, such as the media, labour and professional organizations and students and youth groups, market and road transport unions and so on, its ability to act as an effective opposition party that puts a democratic check on the excesses of the incoming ruling party will be severely eroded.
There is no time to have a pity party. What has just happened in Nigeria happens all the time in the advanced democracies of the West and even in next door Ghana. There is no shame to it. In fact, if the people involved know where they stand in the sands of time, they will understand that there is a lot to be proud of.
Those in the PDP should not go and lick their wounds. Rather they should go and build their political machinery through intellectual development and genuine reconnection with the masses at the grass roots.
Taking a cue from the behavior of the Republicans after they lose office to the Democrats, PDP mandarins should go back to school, take up newspapers columns, write books to tell their own accurate story before it is distorted, throw themselves into the lecture circuit (TED talks and conferences), set up foundations to help the less privileged and so on and so forth.
They should not worry or despair. I am very certain that history will be kind to President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP and history has a way of repeating itself.
Some may accuse me of being on a flight of fancy, so let me provide proof of history repeating itself in the democratic traditions of Nigeria.
In 1956, Enugu elected Umaru Altine, a Fulani, as the first Mayor of the city. In 2015 Amuwo-Odofin, Ajeromi-Ifelodun and Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituencies have repeated that history by electing Chief Oghene Egoh, Mrs. Rita Orji and Mr. Tony Nwoolu as their Representatives to the House of Representatives.
Those elected are all non-indigenes elected under the banner of the PDP, in Lagos state, which is an APC stronghold. Now that is Change! No. That is Jonathan’s Legacy of Change!
PDP members should not be down cast when gloaters ask them ‘how market’. What those asking that pedestrian question fail to realize is that the work of healing and uniting Nigeria must start now. There’s no time to gloat.
If they do not realize it, PDP members must realize it and begin to heal their party by building unity and infusing fresh blood into it.
Four years may look like a very long time, but it really isn’t. Remember that a party that did not even exist four years ago is about to form a government at the center. Isn’t that instructive of what proper planning and execution can do?
Reno Omokri is a pastor and author currently serving as Special Assistant on New Media to President Jonathan.