Jonathan & The Need For GOATs

Adebayo Kareem

In 1806 when William Wyndham Grenville was appointed the Prime Minister of England, the Napoleonic war was still raging in Europe with England fully engaged in it. Wyndham felt that given the national emergency in England at the time, his government needed all capable hands on decks for national service and that he needed to form the strongest government possible. His government of Ministry of All Talents conceptualized the idea that sometimes in the life of a nation; when a nation is at a political and economic crossroad, the incumbent government must form a National Unity Government that seeks to utilize all the available talents in that country irrespective of the political or ideological bent of those talents. Since then many governments all over the world have, at one time or another and with varying degrees of success, formed Government of all Talents {GOATs}.

Few will disagree that Nigeria is at such crossroad today. The 2011 Presidential Elections have come and gone and whatever spin is put on the outcome, the simple fact is that the country is as fragmented as ever with the country finely balanced on ‘us versus them' mentality. President Goodluck Jonathan is already expressing the right utterances with his claim that the elections had thrown up no losers, but winners, when he stated in Abuja that:

‘We witnessed some skirmishes in parts of the country. It is really regrettable…We will make sure that in the next four years; issues like this will not lead to riot. We assure Nigerians we will carry everyone along; we will run an open government where all Nigerians will play a key role irrespective of party affiliations'

However, having talked the talk, he also needs to walk the walk by taking actions that are capable of healing the wounds of those that feel aggrieved and at the same time fulfill the hopes placed in him by those over 22 million Nigerians who voted for him.

The first thing President GEJ must do is to ensure that it is no longer business as usual in the business of governing the country. He now has a personal national mandate and he must use it ruthlessly to the benefit of the Nigerian people. He must start by forming a truly National Government of all Talents. Key portfolios must be given to Nigerians with demonstrable expertise in those fields who are capable of making meaningful and real impacts to the Nigerian people. This should not be too difficult since Nigerians are amongst the most knowledgeable in the world with expertise in all areas of human endeavours. It must not matter whether those Nigerians are from the North or South; PDP or ACN {or non-partisan}; President GEJ must seek out those Nigerians wherever they are and put them in positions of responsibility and give them the freedom to perform. Non-performing Ministers must be shifted and shunted away- the country has wasted enough time already and no longer has the time for deadwoods.

In the area of policy formulation, it is a matter for President Jonathan and his team to decide on their priorities. However it seems to this writer that if this government can restructure, reform and deliver on the power sector, it will have set the country inexorably on the path to economic boom and development. A 24/7 electricity supply will lead to substantial increased in productivity, which in turn will lead to more job creation, leading to reduction in crimes. Indeed, the positive domino effect of efficient and effective power sector is so well known that there is no point harping on it in this piece.

Another area which this government will do well to attend to is in the fight against corruption. In his brilliant and sadly enduring work on Nigeria, Achebe in ‘The Trouble With Nigeria' states that:

‘Corruption in Nigeria has passed the alarming and entered the fatal stage; and Nigeria will die if we keep pretending that she is only slightly indisposed…Nigerians are corrupt because the system under which they live today makes corruption easy and profitable; they will cease to be corrupt when corruption is made difficult and inconvenient…'

It is one of the sacred duties of this government to make life unbearable for corrupt people hell-bent on appropriating our Commonwealth to their private pockets. In the last four years, the fight against corruption has gradually and progressively lost its sheen. We find ourselves in a national embarrassing situation of once having a Chief Law Officer who aided and abetted crimes and very high judicial officials being openly accused of corruption. It is a national tragedy that the United Kingdom and the international communities are actively seeking out looters of Nigeria's treasuries and bringing them to justice whilst we pay lip service to the matter. The Criminal Justice System that allows James Ibori to be discharged and acquitted of charges against him given the monumental fraud he perpetrated whilst in office is in need of serious overhauling. The fight against corruption must therefore be reinvigorated and all the relevant agencies headed by individuals of exemplary anti-corruption pedigrees.

Finally this government ought to give serious thought to changing the current ‘Winner Takes All' approach to our political system. Whilst Liberal Democracy remains the fairest and most equitable form of government available, it seems to me plainly unreasonable to import wholesale to Nigeria, democratic practice which has taken the Americans about two hundred years to perfect. In the Presidential elections, President Jonathan got 58.89% of the actual votes cast. That admittedly is a very high percentage in any democracy. However should he discountenance the fact that about 42% of the people did not vote for him? What should he do about it? We should have honest and open discussions about the type of Federation we want; a decision should be made on whether we should devolve more power to the States and Local Governments and make the Central Government less powerful and thus less attractive. We should have an honest discussion about whether ‘one man one vote, winner takes all', as currently practiced is the most suitable for us. In my opinion, it is not. Dr Mahathir Mohammed, the former Malaysian Prime Minister recently in England regaled his audience in the British House of Commons of how he resisted the imposition of British-type one man one vote on his country at independence. His argument was that given the fact that the ethnic Malays constitute about 80% of the Malaysian population, and given that democracy is a game of number, any such system will inevitably lead to ethnic Malays perpetually controlling all facets of Malaysian politics and would exclude the minority Chinese and Indian Malaysian communities. To safeguard this, his Government decided to implement a policy of having race-based political parties, one each for the ethnic Malay, Chinese and the Indians. Each of these parties was then given representation in the National Unity Government. The fact that Malaysia remains a study in stable politics and economic buoyancy is a testimony to the vision of Dr Mohammed. We should therefore sit down and have a debate on what type of arrangement we want; not minding the corrosive corruption that characterized the Babangida regime, his Option A4 voting system` and limiting political parties to only 2 are legacies worthy of perpetuation. On the 5 May this year, the British people will vote on a referendum on whether they want the Alternative Voting formula or not. If the British people, with their hundreds years of democratic tradition can continuously fine-tune it to meet the demands of contemporary time, there is no reason why we in Nigeria could not do the same. The time to do so is now.

Adebayo Kareem

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