Saturday, March 16, 2013

2015: How Jonathan Can Win the North Over

There are strong indications that President Goodluck Jonathon has kick-started the political maneuvers to pave his way to contest the 2015 presidential elections. Just like the 2011 presidential elections, Jonathan’s splitting headache would be northern Nigeria. But this time around with a major difference- the opposition parties would be more united. PDP’s presidential primaries may not be tough for Jonathan, but the general elections would be. And, Jonathan has a painstaking task to change the belief by the northern Nigeria Talakawas that his Presidency is not different from that of northern political class who has failed the Talakawas.

With the political activities to herald the 2015 elections gaining momentum, President Jonathan’s worry would be how to gain the support of the Talakawas of the north. Before and after his election in 2011, President Jonathan has not applied strategies that can win the hearts of the people of northern Nigeria. With 2015 presidential election fast approaching, can Jonathan still be able to win over the hearts of northernTalakawas before the elections? Does the President have enough time to show the people of the north that his presidency is different?

There is no doubt President Jonathan still have a running political battle with a certain clique from the northern Nigeria political class. However, his attention appears more skewed to the ‘politics’ of the battle that he has forgotten himself and ways to win over the northern Talakawas-the poor who make up the majority of the northern populace and are the most important weapon for the battle. Jonathan could have taken advantage of the fact that the leadership of the north and the Talakawas are no more on the same page and thus, win the hearts of the people of the north. ButJonathan has so much relied on Governors for his political survival, now he is paying the heavy price. Though it is good for a President to have good ‘political’ relationship with all Governors, in Nigerian politics, you don’t do such and go to sleep; believing the Governors would swim and sink with you.

For Jonathan to win the north over, he has to take careful and intelligent development decisions to solve the political problem he is facing in the region. Though he has taken some steps in that direction, they are not enough. For example; the almajiri modern school programme is good, but the children in the north that go to the traditional almajiri schools do so because they don’t have a choice. The agricultural transformation programme is also a welcome development, however, more efforts are needed to reach real farmers as well as make them feel involved in the programme. President Jonathan’s recent visit to troubled Borno and Yobe States was a good step, but it was belated- Jonathan’s failure to visit the area until the APC Governors did so, was a major political blunder. He should have done it earlier to show the people of the area he shares their moment of difficulties.

President Jonathan still has more time to change northern Talakawas’impression of his government. He has to design speedy but feasible policies that will break the poverty cycle in the north through economically empowering the poor. The government should establish a strong direct contact with the people in each state, instead of the heavy reliance on ‘State Government Houses’- a Presidential liaison person or point-man wouldn’t be a bad idea. Jonathan needs to free his government from the armpit of state Governors. The manner with which President Jonathan showed personal interests in the Almajiri School Project should be extended to Lake Chad, Sokoto basin and Benue valley oil exploration project, as well as the Mambilla plateau hydro-electricity project. He should also launch special agricultural and poverty alleviation programmes - these are projects that would endear him to the northern Talakawas. This is because for nearly forty years of northern Nigeria political elite’s gripped on political power in Nigeria, they have failed to proffer feasible policies in those areas which could have positively impacted the livelihood of the ordinary people in the north. Another way Jonathan can endear himself to both the northern political class and the Talakawas is making use of the historic political relationship and alliance between the North and the South-South. It appears surprising that the political alliance between the North and the South-South is at its lowest ebb at a time a Niger-Deltan is occupying the presidency. Jonathan should take advantage of the invaluable friendship that some individuals from the South-South have established across the Niger. People like Anthony Anenih, Peter Odili, Prince Tonye Princewill, Donald Duke,Prince Chibudom Nwuche, Oronto Douglas etc., have vast network of friends and political contacts in the north.

As the politics of 2015 gains impetus, just like during the 2011 elections, gaining support from northern Nigeria is President Jonathan’s major dilemma. However, it could be achieved effortlessly if the right strategies are employed. After all, the case against the president in the North is political and only requires introducing sound economic policies that impact positively on the Talakawas, if it is to be cracked.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Nigerian Leaders, Educational Level and Good Governance

 The educational level of Nigeria’s political leaders has increased considerably, but good governance in the country has reduced drastically. The present political leaders in Nigeria- councilors, local council chairmen, federal and state legislators, Governors and those at the center, are mostly individuals with high educational qualifications- first, second, third degrees, including professorship. Despite this, it has not translated into noticeable good governance in the country. Indeed, it is not out of point to say Nigeria only witnessed her period of good governance at a time that those in political power didn’t possess the array of academic qualifications the current political leaders hold.

Many studies have shown that a nation’s economic growth and quality of governance is enhanced by having leaders who are well-read, competent with the right leadership skills, exposure and behaviour. Furthermore, it is a general belief that a well-educated leadership is a competitive advantage for any nation and there is a correlation between good governance and leaders’ level of education. It seems this theory is not working in Nigeria. So what went wrong? Is it the quality of the academic qualifications? Is it the system? Has having more educated leaders resulted in the current sophistication of corruption in Nigeria? It is known that most of Nigeria’s current leaders attended the best schools in or outside the country. And the laws, codes of conduct and regulations in the Nigerian governmental system are modest enough to guide those in power. So, what could be responsible for poor governance style by our leaders? This writer is of the view that the ‘strange’ character of an average Nigerian politician (which is not learned in school) could be responsible.

The absence of an appreciable level of good governance in Nigeria despite the high educational level of its leaders is a strong indication that leadership’s array of certificates doesn’t matter, but the individual character and behaviours. For instance, a professor who teaches basic knowledge in school, when given a political position behaves like a motor park tout. With such situation, one can say leadership is not all about academics but character, because past leaders in Nigeria with lower educational level have proven to be more competent and were able to conceptualize sensible ideas which enhanced all-round national development. They also governed with broader focus on public interest than the current leaders who have higher educational qualifications. Some educationists have observed that political leaders, who possess high educational qualifications and misbehave, did not earn such qualifications scholarly. Hence, they display disgraceful character in positions of political leadership. Other people have also summed up the reason for the lack of good governance to the fact that most individuals in leadership positions in Nigeria are never prepared for the job. Furthermore, the political system is so corrupted that the easy way to secure an elective office is to have the right godfather; belong to the political party in power whether at the centre or in State and during electioneering campaign all that is needed of one is to climb to the podium, rain abuses on the opponents, shout the name of your political party and dance. Shikenan! Such system would never produce good leadership.

Notwithstanding the array of reasons for the absence of good governance in Nigeria, the highly educated Nigerian leadership is still not performing as expected of well-read leaders with global mindset, because everything in the polity is ascribed to politics. When politicking overtakes policies, leadership degenerates- and this is the disease affecting the average Nigerian political leader. The politics we referring is when a political office becomes an opportunity for self enrichment and it is associated with pride, arrogance and larger than life attitude. Another factor that leads to the bad governance in Nigeria is; the society sometimes encourages national leaders to transform into to regional, ethnic or religious champion after serving at the centre. In addition, some members of the Nigerian society expect ‘their people in power’ to have or to do certain things even if they are wrong; just because one ‘lagbaja’ did have or did it before.

Despite the established fact that highly educated leaders develop good policies for economic growth in their countries, they influence international public opinion towards their countries and easily attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to their countries, including separating their personal interest from the public good, it is puzzling that the more highly educated Nigerians ascend to political power the more the country experiences bad governance. The average Nigerian leader can be helped to mend his character – there is a popular saying that positive character traits can be both taught and learned. The society needs to disapprove the arrogance, pride, self enrichment and larger than life attitude associated with public office. The Nigerian society should celebrate leaders who put more energy into feasible economic objectives and provision of public good and infrastructure. And not celebrate leadership that concentrates on mundane politicking and narrow personal interests which tend to have adverse effects on the provision good governance.

There is no doubt, the educational level of whoever aspires for a public office in Nigeria matters, but individual good character and behaviours are essential for listening and servant leadership.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980.