Since last week’s visit of former President Goodluck Jonathan to Sokoto and the tumultuous welcome given to him by the crowd, many people have been toying with the idea of a Jonathan presidential comeback in 2019.

Jonathan had visited Sokoto to
commiserate with the people, especially the Dasuki family, on the death of their former Sultan, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, father of Jonathan’s national security adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, who has been in detention since last year over the management of security funds.

The media reported that the crowd that welcomed Jonathan displayed placards which read: “Baba Jonathan Come Back.” Ironically, Sokoto State is controlled by the All Progressives Congress. Shortly before last year’s election, Jonathan’s name was like a taboo in Sokoto and most parts of Northern Nigeria, even though he was still the President. Chants of Sai Baba rented the air in solidarity with the presidential ambition of the APC’s candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, who is the President today.

The surprise is that in less
than one year and six months
of the Buhari Presidency,
there could be any desire to
have Jonathan back in office.

It is worse that such would
come from the North, which is
seen as the stronghold of
Buhari. Some commentators,
including ThisDay columnist,
Dele Momodu, who campaigned
for Buhari, have written about
the possibility of Jonathan
contesting the 2019 election.

But they seem to miss the
point in the reaction of the
Sokoto crowd.

It will be foolhardy for
Jonathan to even consider the
idea of contesting the 2019
election. Jonathan never
portrayed himself as power-
crazy while in office. That was
why last year’s election and
transition went without
bloodshed and crisis. It is
better for him to remain the
way he is, with some praising
him for achieving some
milestones and others
condemning him for achieving
nothing. If Buhari had not
begun ruling Nigeria last year,
today, he would be viewed as
the Messiah that would have
saved Nigeria and made it one
of the top 10 countries of the
world, if he was given the
opportunity. But by coming into
office, it is a widespread view
that Buhari has been
demystified.

During last year’s election, it
was obvious that Jonathan and
Buhari were not fantastic
choices, even though their
political parties as well as the
mainstream media and social
media engaged in outlandish
exaggeration to win the
election. Each of the two
candidates had some strengths
and deficiencies, and each
voter preferred one candidate
based on perception and
conviction.

The reason for the nostalgia
for Jonathan is not because
he will do miracles if he were
to return. It is because the
electorate has experienced the
performance of Buhari and is
disappointed. Hunger or job
loss knows no ethnicity,
religion or political party. The
reaction of the Sokoto crowd
should be a wake-up call to
Buhari. Inflation Buhari met in
May last year at less than 10
percent stood at 18.3 per cent
in October. A bag of rice
which sold at N8,000 in May
last year now sells at over
N23,000. A dollar which
exchanged in the parallel
market at about N230 in May
last year now exchanges for
about N470.

Without any rise in the people’s
earnings, the prices of all
goods and services have risen
by between 100 and 200 per
cent. Sadly, there is no sign
that this destabilising rise is
about to stop. With the
continuous depreciation in the
value of the naira, it is obvious
that there could be an
increase in the pump price of
petrol any moment from now,
because the bulk of the petrol
we use is imported with
dollars. Many of those who
were earning salaries have lost
their jobs with the mass sack
that has been happening in the
banks and other organisations.

The state of the economy and
non-availability of dollars have
made many companies to close
shop or leave Nigeria. This
month, Erisco Foods Limited
shut down and relocated to
China, citing an unfavourable
operating climate which had
escalated operational costs in
recent months. That caused
1,500 people to lose their jobs.

In addition to all these,
Nigerians see inertia in
governance. Simple decisions
seem to take an eternity to
make. At first, it seemed as if
the six months it took Buhari
to appoint his ministers was
just a one-off teething
trouble, but events have shown
that it is his style. Nigeria’s
ambassador to the United
States, Prof Ade Adefuye,
died on August 27, 2015. Over
a year after, he has not been
replaced. Nigeria’s Permanent
Representative to the United
Nations, Prof Joy Ogwu, left
office many months ago. She
has not been replaced. Mr
James Ocholi, who was the
Minister of State for Labour,
died in an accident on March
6, 2016. He has not been
replaced. Since last year when
Prof Attahiru Jega and many
commissioners retired from
the Independent National
Electoral Commission, many
positions have not been filled.
Last month, it was reported
that as many as 29 states did
not have resident electoral
commissioners.

The two areas Buhari projects
as his trump cards are
security and anti-corruption
fight. After a rise in Boko
Haram’s attacks from when
Buhari took over, there was a
lull some months ago. It was a
sign that the security agencies
were recording successes in
the fight against Boko Haram.
It was comforting. The
security agencies and the
government stated that Boko
Haram had been “degraded”.

But it seemed hasty. In recent
weeks, the extremist group
seems to be trying to prove
that that it has not been
defeated. This has led to many
attacks which caused the loss
of lives of many civilians and
soldiers, including senior
officers. It shows the security
forces still have much work in
their hands.

The activities of Fulani
herdsmen and kidnappers are
also worrisome, and there is no
sign that they are being tamed.

On the issue of the anti-
corruption fight, there have
been accusations of a selective
fight meant to subdue and
silence opponents to the
government. But the angle that
seems glaring is that the anti-
corruption fight is not
institutionalised and
systematic. It looks like
something that has no tap
roots and will wither once
Buhari leaves office. On the
roads, in the offices, and at
different national points of
entry or exit, officials of
different government agencies
still brazenly demand bribes.
They do so because they know
that nobody is coming after
them.

One sign that shows that a
country abhors corruption is
the use of agent provocateurs
and underground agents. They
pose as people who need
services or they pose as people
who are ready to commit a
crime. If anybody demands a
bribe from them or wants to
join them in the crime, they
play along, recording
conversations and collecting
evidences that will implicate
the offenders. Once the bribe
is collected, their colleagues
come in and make arrest.

What it does is that it puts
everybody at alert. Hardened
offenders will still find ways
to collect bribes but others
will stop for fear that they do
not know who is real and who
wants to ensnare them. But
because many people have
noticed that there is no depth
in the anti-corruption fight,
corruption still goes on in a
blatant manner.

Buhari came to power last
year with so much goodwill.
Expectations were high. He
was seen as the leader that
would change the culture of
impunity, corruption,
indiscipline, poverty,
flamboyance, injustice,
tribalism, nepotism, mediocrity,
waste, and other vices going on
in Nigeria. But his action and
inaction show that he seems
overwhelmed.

Except for those who defend whatever
Buhari does because of
political, ethnic or religious
loyalty, there is discontent in
the land because of the
continuous slide into hard
times as well as a lack of
clear-cut plan to turn things
around. That was why the
Sokoto crowd asked for
Jonathan’s return. Buhari
should find a way of reversing
this descent and give Nigerians
something to cheer about.

— Twitter @BrandAzuka

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