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17 Nov Written by  Japheth Omojuwa

The Decision Nigerians Must Make In 2015

We’ve got 88 days to the 2015 Presidential elections. The politicians may be confused about who they finally decide to field against the incumbent, Nigerians cannot afford to be confused about what they want from their leadership going forward. Even though this writer believes that fixing Nigeria has a lot more to do with how we the citizens demand for leadership from our leaders everyday, we cannot rule out the value of the right leader for our country. You just need to look at Georgia, Malaysia and Brazil at certain times in their history to understand that the leader of a country could be the difference that makes that country one to be proud of in the comity of nations.

President Jonathan’s candidacy and what he brings to the table are both settled issues. By the time Nigerians troop out to vote on the 14th of February 2015, President Jonathan would have been president for 5 years and 5 days. A lot has been said about the possible quality of the opposition he’d be up against but what cannot be said is that whoever ends up contesting against the incumbent will be up against what the incumbent represents. We have had almost half a decade of Goodluck Jonathan, what has that period brought? Let us take a cursory look as much as the limited space here will permit.

Nigeria is today Africa’s biggest economy, thanks to a rebasing that simply aggregated the growth of the Nigerian economy since the 1990s. Credit to the Jonathan administration though, as someone had to compute the numbers and his government did. You won’t blame his team for taking credit. Most people only need to know our economy became the biggest under this government. That the governments of Gen. Babangida (rtd.), Ernest Shonekan’s cameo, Gen. Sani Abacha, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd.) and the government of Musa Yar’Adua contributed to this size will not matter to the populace. Who cares about the details beneath the headline?

Nigeria’s economy continues to grow at a respectable rate, mostly fueled by increasing oil prices over the period. The growth of the economy has of course not taken the Nigerian masses with it. Poverty remains the common identity for most Nigerians. Again, the government will tout economic growth, what it dares not try to sell too much is how it has lifted Nigerians out of poverty. Efforts to do that have refused to pick up simply because Nigerians are not better off than they were in 2010.

Rising debt: N10.4 trillion as at June 2014. That’s about our total budget for two years. The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will secretly testify to this one. This has been a disaster. It would have been great to see the Dr. Okonjo-Iweala that worked with others to clear Nigeria’s debt argue with today’s Dr. Okonjo-Iweala. They’d certainly not see eye-to-eye on the issue of our national debt. If the rising debt had seen a revolution in national infrastructure in say a train ride between Abuja and Lagos that takes 3 hours, one would have been forced to look away from the debt and focus on the magnificent train network or some other project capable of inducing economic activity. That is not the case. We practically have little or nothing to show for the debt save for stolen/not stolen $20 billion amongst other corrupt/not stealing activities that have since positioned this government as one of the most corrupt/not stealing government in our Independent history.

What has Jonathan’s government absolutely done better?  The elections are better. The current challenges facing the voters’ registration process in Kano and Lagos show that that is not to be guaranteed for the 2015 elections. The budgeting system can be more open but it is relatively much more open than that of any government since 1999 at least and more open than all the states of the federation, including that of Lagos. The agricultural sector is in a much more better place, the cassava bread circus notwithstanding.

Where has Jonathan’s government absolutely failed? Our international perception has suffered a massive blow. Any country that has the uncultured Lilliputian Doyin Okupe - of his mind, not size obviously - defending it on the global TV network, cannot possibly expect to be perceived above the shallowness offered by his arguments. President Obasanjo fixed our image; it has since taken a lot of battering.

Corruption thrives. Agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that offered some hope just years ago have become like old pictures in a museum, only useful for what they used to be. Boko Haram will not hear the news of the return of the Jonathan administration and not feel elated. Under him, they have grown from strength to strength, they will be confident of continued growth if the status quo remains.

The question Nigerians must answer is not APC or PDP, it is like a poor man deciding between Ikoyi Club and Island Club. Nah, we are a small fry in the party game. The question we must answer is whether we want the status quo or we want to place a bet on something different. No matter the argument about “they are all the same,” it’d amount to intentional foolishness to say Mr. Jonathan and whoever his main opponent is are the same. For starters, will the opponent have a wife called Patience? Will the opponent dance just hours after the death of 46 school children? Will the opponent give us cassava bread 2.0? Simple questions.

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