GEJ: Down to earth, up and doing
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, like any leader, means different things to different people but there is one view that we all share: He is not a chip off the old block of Nigerian leaders.
His background in scholarship and service as well as his humble disposition in high office combine to give him a fresh and distinct presidential personality like none of his predecessors in power.
After a series of past leaders from the military changed the character of and perception of governance from civil to martial, a lot of people tend to associate a president with the so-called no-nonsense bone-faced arrogance of an army general. Or the boisterous bellicosity of an eccentric retired general. Our previous presidents have generally come on board with baggage of reputations.
Like the unforeseen nature of his emergence as President, Jonathan has come to personify the supremacy of divine will over human machinations in the journey of life. His humble background attracted low public perception while his apparent aloofness to the exigencies of power politics contrasted with the ambitious posturing and plotting of former presidents in the making.
This was truly not the typical Nigerian political leader we have known. President Jonathan did not make any bones about his “local” origins and the poverty of his childhood to which he often referred. His most remarkable personal feat has been his ability to ward off the perverse influence of the perks of power and devious courtiers.
He has maintained functional cordiality with his Vice, Namadi Sambo and his cabinet members by consistently acting contrary to the cynical expectations of detractors and keeping a very cool head under his “resource control” bowler hat long after others have lost theirs to overheating.
Even as Commander-in-Chief, you won’t catch President Jonathan flaunting authority or engaging in pompous excesses of speech and conduct. He is also quite at home with relentless criticisms from jaundiced journalists and prejudiced politicians, among other nuisances, preferring to let everyone be without succumbing to the tempting urge to “show dem”. Freedom of expression and association reigned unhindered during his presidency with positive impact on the bustling democratic dispensation in the country.
Such an unprecedented environment for human rights to thrive has, however, not been sustained at the expense of the unambiguous authority and high sense of responsibility for public good, national stability, peace and progress of Nigeria vested in the President.
All the mischievous murmuring about the President’s capacity to govern effectively and assert his authority boldly have been muted in the face of a confident and competent containment of the explosively destabilizing insurgency launched by the Boko Haram group.
This national security initiative was progressively executed by the military forces following the full empowerment strategy directed and supported sufficiently by Mr President. It was a uniquely seamless operational onslaught that brought together all wings of the security and armed forces to engage and overwhelm the insurgents.
The unassuming but firm and focussed stance of the President is considered pivotal to the unflinching loyalty of the military high command as it was accorded top priority in funding, equipment and modernization for operational efficiency and high morale.
The President has also tirelessly ventured out to make the country’s presence felt in the international arena and to make the case for increased cooperation and vigilance in halting the widespread organised and armed threats to the peace and security of sovereign states now raging in Africa.
President Jonathan has repeatedly drawn attention to the worrying influx of small arms and other weapons through clandestine supply chains involving international outlaws and advocated concerted action to deal with the menace. At the same time, the President spared no effort to maintain Nigeria’s influential status in Africa and the sub-region as well as its partnership role in several international programmes and operations.
We must now factor in the steady and systematic tackling of the nation’s long-standing problems in the power, petroleum and infrastructure sectors in particular where we are at last witnessing significant positive transformations such as the increased electricity generation and supply, resuscitation and modernization of national rail networks, enhancement of emergency management capacity, upgrading of aviation facilities and reconstruction of federal roads, among others.
We realise that President Jonathan is comparatively more effective in overseeing the affairs of the country without turning himself into a power conscious emperor. We now have welcome evidence of a better and more beneficial approach to leadership coming from the best president Nigeria should have had long ago.
Mr. ABDULLAHI GARBA , a commnetator on national issues, wrote from Abuja.