Reflections On the Jonathan Presidency

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Goodluck Jonathan, Budget 2012

Goodluck Jonathan, Budget 2012

There are several challenges facing Nigeria some of which started or gained prominence during President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure. These challenges came up begging for solutions from our president, who had hitherto promised us a ‘journey to transformation during his electioneering campaign. Although these challenges were many, the most prominent were the Boko haram debacle and the fuel subsidy imbroglio. Another issue that deserves response is the 2012 budget.

The provisions of budget 2012 further affirm the widely held belief that President Jonathan doesn’t understand Nigeria’s problems. The allocation of about N1 trillion to security as against a paltry N78 billion to agriculture goes a long way to expose a calculated attempt to take Nigeria on another journey as ‘usual’. This is more so when juxtaposed with the fact that the president mentioned in his budget speech that he is going to give high priority to agriculture to create jobs. Actually nothing has changed and there are no indicators that anything is going to change in the near future.

Insecurity cannot be tackled by pumping even the total budget figure of N4.749 trillion into the security sector. Only social justice can guarantee security. For an end to the continuing orgy of lawlessness in the country occasioned by kidnappings, Boko haram, MEND etc, the wealth of the nation must be rescued from the control of a select few who find themselves in public office and this wealth must be directed towards freeing more than 70% of Nigerians from economic slavery imposed on them by their own leaders.

The budget is glaringly lopsided and disproportionate with 72% allocated to recurrent expenditure, aka payment of salaries and estacode for public officers and their domestic staff as against 28% allocated to capital expenditure. The president allocated about N1 billion for his food and entertainment allowance including those of his vice with another N2 billion voted for foreign travel for the president and his deputy for year 2012. This proves the point that the Jonathan administration is on a wild goose chase in its ‘transformation’ mantra.

Only jobs and other options for economic empowerment will guarantee security and keep the youths at zero level of susceptibility towards kidnappings, terrorism and related vices. A large security vote in the budget will only end up in unrelenting corruption and self aggrandisement. More money in the private pockets of those in government!

On Boko haram, the most prominent solution administered by the president to the seemingly intractable Boko haram quagmire is to, at the slightest opportunity attempt to reassure a highly sceptical and disenchanted public that his government is ‘ on top of the situation’. The president and his security advisers didn’t seem to have a clue as to how to tackle the Boko haram issue other than leaving the police to do ‘their job’ of providing internal security with the help of the army.

As we have seen since 2009 particularly during the most recent Boko haram onslaught in the last 6 months, the Boko haram isuue is much more than a problem to be tackled with only force. Force cannot crush Boko haram but will only lead to more bloodshed. It is very difficult if not impossible to crush an ideological agitation. Henry Kissinger the respected former U.S. Secretary of State has once said that a conventional army can never defeat a guerrilla force. So far we have not seen a pragmatic approach from the president in tackling Boko haram. The president seems to hinge his hope to end the Boko haram on a wishful thinking that ‘it will fizzle out naturally’. Instead of fizzling out, what we have witnessed within the last half of this year was a Boko haram that grew from strength to strength, out manoeuvring our security agencies and causing havoc at will. They choose not only where but when to attack as they so wish. All of us have resigned to faith and many a Nigerian will tell you that ‘we leave the Boko haram issue to God’.

The president had earlier set up a high powered committee to look into and proffer suggestions on how best to deal with the Boko haram issue. The committee was chaired by the respected Ambassador Galtimari. The committee submitted its report to the government and since then the only thing we heard was that ‘Mr president has thanked the committee members for their efforts. Nigerians were later informed that a white paper will be released, till date the government has not released any white paper from the Galtimari committee report.

The Galtimari committee recommended that the government should dialogue with the Boko haram sect on the condition that the sect lays down its arms. This same strategy was used to dilute the terrorist activities of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) by late president Yar’Adua and it worked. The late president granted a general amnesty for MEND in return for MEND to lay down its arms. The recommendations of the Galtimari report if implemented early enough may have saved some of the several lives that have been lost since the report was submitted. The Boko haram have vowed that they are not interested in a dialogue with the government saying that the same option was used against them in 2009 only for the government to kill hundreds of them.

The onus is on the president to fire the first shot by offering to dialogue with the sect and more importantly to allay fears that this dialogue will be different from that of 2009. I also think the president should reintegrate some of the moderate boko haram members into mainstream society by offering some lures as done in the case of MEND. These lures should include a conditional release of these moderates within the Boko haram network with an undertaking from them that they will renounce violence and be productive members of the society. The government should also respect the court orders obtained by the sect against it including the 100 million naira compensation that the court granted the family of the late 70 year old Baba Fuji Mohammed who was executed by the Nigerian police after turning himself in on the invitation of the force. This will smoke out the sect members and prove to the sect that the government is friendly and ready for dialogue.

Some of the several people in detention today in the name of Boko haram actually have nothing to do with the sect. A lot of them are only victims of circumstances caught up in the web of the confusion that attended Boko haram attacks. After any attack by the sect, security agents simply come around and either kill or arrest any male on sight. The government is nonetheless not looking at this angle, preferring to punish even the innocent and their families.

Alkali Sokoto wrote from Councillors Quarters, Sokoto

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