Tags: nigeria | president | goodluck | buhari

Nigeria's Jonathan Goodluck Faces Tough Election

By    |   Friday, 20 March 2015 09:04 AM

Nigerians are getting ready to elect a president on March 28. This election is significant for obvious reasons: It marks 16 straight years since democracy returned to the Africa’s most populous nation. Within this period, there have been four successive general elections.

The March 28 and April 11 elections will make it five general elections in a row. It is a feat in a country whose over 50 years of independence has been punctuated with serial and prolonged military coups.

The unbroken 16 years of democracy have brought stability into the Nigeria’s polity and there are signs that democratic principles are taking firm root. One very important sign of stability is that this coming election, unlike the previous four, is not going to be a walk over for the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan.

He has his work cut out for him. He is not facing a new contender. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has become a recurring decimal in the presidential race. Jonathan had faced him as a running mate to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in the 2007 general election. He was his main opponent in the 2011 presidential election. He is now facing Buhari for the second time as incumbent president.

This time, the contest is poised dangerously tight. It is very difficult to see clear edge as Buhari’s new party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) emerged from a merger with some other opposition parties with wider spread and stronger support base.

On the surface, it appears that Buhari is this time a real threat to the re-election bid of Jonathan. This is as much as the APC’s massive media onslaught has shown.

The choices before Nigerian voters are clear. There is a Jonathan, whose six years in government have set Nigeria on a steady course to progress and stability.

Buhari is promising change. The choices are therefore between continuing with Jonathan’s programs that are already transforming the Nigerian landscape, bringing about very visible changes and the promise by Buhari to do away with such efforts by bringing his own set of changes.

This is a very important point to note in the Nigeria’s democratic journey. The choices for the first time are not about the individuals, but about what they are promising to bring on board governance. In other words, for the first time, Nigerians have issues, rather than personalities, to consider in deciding whom to cast their votes for.

Within the last six years, Jonathan has taken bold steps in delivering far-reaching programs that address critical needs of the different segments of the Nigerian population. You could always say infrastructure was Nigeria’s No. 1 sore point before Jonathan became president.

Infrastructure is still a major issue even now. But Nigerians would be reluctant to do away with the type of effort that has gone into fixing some of the most telling infrastructure deficit in the last six years.

For instance, President Jonathan’s administration has given unprecedented attention to major intercity highways all across the six geopolitical zones of the country.

Another infrastructure that is worthy of mention is the power grid. This has remained intractable for decades, with billions of dollars investment making no significant impact in the sector. The most challenging issue in the Nigeria’s power industry had been the overarching government control, with little or no role for the private sector investors.

This had been a sector that was in dire need of huge foreign and local investments and for which successive governments could not muster the will to tackle.

Following the passing of the Power Sector Reform Act of 2005, it took the coming of Jonathan administration to not only complete the process of unbundling the generation and distribution infrastructure, but to also sell the succeeding companies to private sector investors. The injection of private sector funding into the power sector and the progressive provisioning of the required support by the current government has led to a significant improvement in power supply.

The level of unemployment in Nigeria had been a major concern. Millions of well-educated youths continue to find the environment too unfriendly. Many other skilled youths do not have the platform to engage in meaningful endeavors. The army of jobless youths, with locked up energies, are finding outlets for their energies in wrong places. The Boko Haram menace, the kidnapping malaise, and other social decadence are symptoms of decades of neglect by past administrations.

President Jonathan is confronting these deep-seated social challenges frontally. The Sure-P programs, for instance, are doing a lot to redress the situation. The You Win program is a platform for talented youths to translate their ideas into reality. It is important to note that these programmes are being used to demonstrate that corruption can be better tackled through preventive methods than through crime-bursting and crowd-pleasing strategies.

Many more fundamental and systemic issues are undergoing complete transformative surgery as a result of Jonathan's efforts. Why should Buhari’s change mantra matter to voters who are already living in a changing Nigeria?

Gianno Caldwell is founder and principal of Caldwell Strategic Consulting, gianno@caldsconsulting.com www.caldsconsulting.com.

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The unbroken 16 years of democracy have brought stability into the Nigeria’s polity and there are signs that democratic principles are taking firm root. But this coming election is not going to be a walk for Goodluck Jonathan.
nigeria, president, goodluck, buhari
Friday, 20 March 2015 09:04 AM
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