THE beginning of a New Year has become very instructive in understanding the Jonathan presidency. Last year as Nigerians were coming to terms with expenses incurred during the Christmas/New Year festivities, President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a punishing increase of prices of petroleum products on the country.
A very angry population launched a massive protest which forced the administration to beat a disorderly retreat. So badly dented was its reputation, that it has been unable to recover. The Jonathan administration squandered the goodwill of the Nigerian people a few months down the line from an election it claimed gave it legitimacy. Realising the depth of last January’s faux pas,, the administration quickly informed the nation it had no plan to increase fuel prices this January. The assurance meant nothing, given theincreases which became attendant upon the scarcity of fuel in the past one month. In the Jigawa area, I purchased petrol at N135 per litre last December!
But January saw the emergence of Presidential campaign posters all over Abuja. They belonged to “candidate” Goodluck Jonathan and the message was as arrogant as could be expected from the PDP: “There’s no vacancy in Aso Villa”. And those rooting for candidate Goodluck reminded that: “one good term deserved another”! They were indeed a ‘wonderful’ New Year’s “gift” with the same toxicity as the fuel price increase of 2012. Naturally enough, the president’s political opponents have reacted with anger and incredulity, while the president’s camp has been strenuous in its denial. Presidential spin doctor, Reuben Abati denied that the posters came from “candidate” Goodluck, but added almost disingenuously, that “If some people have taken it upon themselves to go and print posters, they are doing that on their own.
Those pasting the posters are trying to express their own view”. It is amazing that the often-overzealous security services were nowhere to be found to stop those “trying to express their own view”. If they had been anti-Jonathan posters, the story would have been different.
But those who expressed surprise either deceive themselves or are guilty of a frightening naivety. Jonathan is poised to deliver a master stroke of politics by lulling his opponents to a delusion that he might not run; or if he eventually would, might obey political rules they had somehow crafted. It will not work that way. The 2015 battle began a long time ago!
Those expecting “governance” to dominate proceedings in 2013 deceive themselves. In the next year, the president and his party will buildup the financial war chest to take on all comers in 2015. It will not be about a record of service delivery that the administration knows it does not have. The emergence of presidential posters and a strenuous presidential denial of same are two sides of presidential politics. Welcome to the future of politics which began a long time ago. The opposition can continue to dither; they will discover too late that the political horse bolted a long time ago from the barn and if they check the political horizon, they will see a man with a bowler hat riding into 2015.
Sule Lamido and delightful Dutse
IN the last few months of 2012, I made a couple of visits to Dutse, the Jigawa state capital. On one such visit, I placed a call to former minister,Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu telling him that I was visiting his homestead. He was pleasantly surprised; he then asked how I felt about the changes that the Sule Lamido administration had wrought on Dutse.
“Dutse has been transformed”, he emphasised. Frankly, I was impressed about what I saw on the different visits and I recall the early days of Sule Lamido on the seat of power; he had invited a team of editors from Lagos and Abuja to see the state of Jigawa at the onset of his administration. What we found was frightening! I recall the Government Commercial College; a stone throw from the hub of government. It was like a piece of hell and we just couldn’t fathom how such degeneracy was allowed.
So over several personal trips to Dutse, I have seen how a steady transformation overturned the rot. It is obvious that Sule Lamido approached things with a deep sense of history, which taps into the radical tradition that he emerged from. From the Malam Aminu Triangle and the Sawaba monument, which recalled the emergence of NEPU radicalism in Northern Nigeria, through to a futuristic Manpower Development Institute; new housing estates; well-paved roads; renovated specialist hospital; the new state secretariat and the Dutse ‘Three Arms Zone’ to the careful effort at ‘greening’ the capital, there is no gainsaying the fact that Jigawa has found a place in the sun, in a manner of speaking.
Incidentally, because all my visits had been private, it was only on the eve of the New Year, that I finally met Governor Sule Lamido. The backdrop to the meeting was the arrest of his son by EFCC operatives and the politics of the arrest. It seemed to me after our short meeting, that the cloak-and-dagger propensity of politics was very much alive to Lamido’s detriment and his perceived presidential ambition was a central part of the son’s saga and that is without excusing the foolishness of under declaring the sum of money he was taking out of Nigeria. Personal indiscretions of children can have very severe political consequences! This week LEADERSHIP newspaper has reported plans by the EFCC to further squeeze Sule Lamido and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, speculated as Lamido’s running mate in 2015. There cannot be the EFCC smoke without the fire of presidential political manoeuvring!
But nothing can detract from the work which Sule Lamido has done in the past few years to transform Dutse into a delightful capital and one with tremendous possibilities of further growth. I spoke with a cross section of people on the different occasions that I visited and there is an understandable sense of pride on the evolution which the capital and the state have undergone with SuleLamido at the helm of affairs. I have enjoyed my various visits in the past few months and I felt it was only fair to comment upon the positive changes that I have seen. I do that with the privilege of having seen where Sule Lamido commenced work from; it was very challenging but what has been achieved further underlined how far we can go as a nation, when leadership can find the dedication to serve the Nigerian people. Sule Lamido has provided a leadership which has turned Dutse into a delightful destination.
Agriculture by Mobile phones
LAST week, Permanent Secretary of the Federal ministry of Agriculture reported that the FG would spend between N40B and N60B to procure 10million telephone handsets from China and the US, for free distribution to rural farmers before the end of March.
“And I tell you that the money is available, it’s on ground. We are looking at the first quarter of this year to roll-out the phones….The handsets will be the tools with which to communicate with the farmers in the rural areas…” It is curious that the budget for Agriculture in 2013 is N81.41B. The Minister of Agriculture, AkinwumiAdesina later said it was to be achieved using the notorious PPP model. Well, Chinua Achebe once said, of the Agricultural program of the Shagari administration, that it gave us more food for thought, than food for our stomachs. With Adesina we might end up eating more slogans than grains!