Jonathan, What Kind of President?

By E.Terfa Ula-Lisa, Esq.

Like most things Nigeria, the transition from elections to mandate may be attended by a lack of thought and a lack of preparation post inauguration. We are in the day after wins at the polls of President Goodluck Ebele Ezikiwe Jonathan. In the throng of lobbies for Ministerial positions and campaigns for zonal representation and pay-back regarding electioneering, one must also give thought to what happens to Nigeria now that the elections are won and lost. What should be the first steps of GEJ on his own as the Chief Executive? Question from the cynical would be, is he not currently the Chief Executive? Yes he is President, as one reluctantly allowed completion of the remainder of Yar Adua's mandate. He needed the assent or Mandate of the Nigerian people in election as the head of the team acquiring political chips to freely act. Now, he has it. What does he intend to do with it?

Casting a long last look backwards in regard to his immediate past performance, one may be tempted to excuse some of the failings of his governance in Nigeria as a child of circumstance. The personality of this President has been given much press as that of a humble, amiable person out to win friends and to please all within his party. He succeeded Umaru Yar 'Adua after nimbly staving off the Northern cabal of hangers-on in the corridors of power at Aso Rock to ascend to the constitutional powers given him as a legal successor-in-title. In the circumstance, many of Jonathan's failings were covered under the excuse that he had to spend useful time, resource and energy fighting off entrenched interests out to oppose his governance in the name of the PDP zoning arrangement. President Jonathan's current national mandate puts all that to rest; we need look to the future, now.

Transition committee

Although the President is incumbent, he will do well to set a new plan of action if he wants a change of direction and success. He will need to think fresh and think hard; in this he cannot wing it; it must be a deliberate thought process to bring about a certain plan of action, like he would do if starting a new company or school. In trying to invent a successful government to produce a stellar marketable product (performance) he will have to ask himself; what he want to achieve in four years, and who can help him achieve such? He needs his own Brain Trust, a group of not only smart but professional persons he can willfully trust to deliver. Not Obasanjo, Not Danjuma, Not Babangida, and certainly, Not Atiku! He will need scout for his contemporaries or those younger, with sharp intellects and who are not tied to the old bureaucracy; young smart, educated and world-wise Nigerians to man this team of the future. Why younger, because Nigerians are really tired of the old rethreads who have failed us time and again! The electorate had through their votes parted ways with the past; and now, is the time to look for new champions of the future who we submit, abound in their numbers within and outside Nigeria.

A New Foundation for the Future

One expects that the newly elected President would have learned all the lessons he needs of the past from his associations with members of the Presidential Advisory Committee and former President Obasanjo. If however, President Jonathan wishes to carve a successful niche for himself, he must not only forget about the old political gladiators, he must also distance himself from them, I mean, deny them all access to the Presidency, as in, retire them for good. Part of the reason Nigeria has failed to rise up is because it has been crippled by the weight of the bungling past and their chief architects. Obasanjo for instance, had 8 continuous years and near limitless monies to show-case his brilliance. He failed in the one index he trumped out to the world, electricity. To learn from the past is not to repeat the mistakes of the past which if one phrase is sought to describe might be ‘indiscriminate application of policy'.

Law and Order Government

If the one magic bullet is sought as the corner stone which will make GEJ's Government secure and inured from failure in our democracy would be if he would choose to be a government of law and Order. All who have done business with the Nigerian Government would attest that almost all government systems and procedures have been corrupted from the ground up. It is not for a lack of checks or laws to punish the perpetrators, but a complicity of the politicians and a lack of will-power to apply the extant laws in their full rigor to discourage infringement. Nigeria needs to strengthen its Law Enforcement institutions. The reason the EFCC was much received and lauded by ordinary citizens is because all saw the extant rot as well as efforts at tackling it. So needed are reforms in the Police Force, with special units, if not a whole new Agency to handle terrorism and counter-insurgency as well as preparing the Courts and judiciary for their new roles in a fast evolving world of new sets of crimes. Why will this be the magic bullet? Because if the institutions are built and allowed a free hand to function without political interference, all, inclusive of the politicians, under pain of punishment for infractions, are more likely to give quality service to their fatherland.

Office of Aso-Rock Counsel

President Jonathan will need to have a formal structure and a clearing house for all the legal policies and restructuring and lobbying for legal vehicles required to achieve this new law-based society. While we have the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice (AGF) as a cabinet position, from experience the AGF is torn between his institutional leadership and the day to day nitty-gritty of the Presidential system which makes him ineffective because he is often overwhelmed with daily political details and often overlooks the institutional duties. In creating his office of Aso Rock Counsel in the Presidency, President Jonathan would have within Aso Rock a suite of Law Officers to clear the minutiae of the legal tweaking needed in a Presidential Democracy. The President's counsel will be the go-to man to liaise with the President and the AGF in regard to laws, legal policy, and have oversight in regard to Compliance issues and lobby with the National Assembly to make laws and move the system faster and more effective.

Retooling for a Modern Justice System

The reason Nigeria has been one huge failure is not a lack of laws, but a lack of an effective system of law enforcement and the lack of a will to do right according to the laws. The Nigerian political system for the time being is almost solely dependant on the one source of income, the Federation Account. The reason money is often misappropriated, diverted or stolen out-rightly by politicians and bureaucrats is because of the flaws in our justice system which these persons know and exploit to get away with their felonies and the society is worse off for it. To close these loopholes, the President will need to examine all past Justice System Government White-Papers to implement the findings as well as make some immediate capital expenditure in our court systems as follows:

  • Electricity (Generators for the time being) for all Court premises
  • Central well equipped and computerized Law Libraries in all states of the Federation for the Judges and Officers of the Court
  • Full Computerization of the Legal Process with lawyers required to file process online
  • Appointment of more Judges
  • Building of at least 6 Modern Prisons on a PPP basis to house the new throng of criminals who would want to test the system.

Rebuilding Ethics through Legal Compliance

Being voted in overwhelmingly, one recognizes that the President would have sought for support from all and sundry manner of politicians some of who were crooks under indictment from the EFCC or other such bodies. The President does himself no favor in interfering with the investigation or trial of any of his supporters or even political associates if he wants to achieve any credible progress within his short tenure and it would be foolhardy to seek to apply the power of nolli prosequi even as payment as done in past governments. This is simply because Nigerians now are vocal on the net, on the airways, in public places et al, demanding for transparency and accountability in government to them. To seek to go ‘business as usual will be to court the kind of uprising as has been witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt Libya and on-going in the Middle East. If however, the Law Enforcement organs are re-tooled and allowed to function as any democratic society should, it would be a deterrent on political jobbers who strut the corridors of power and who use their influence to divert the peoples' resources to build their private kingdoms. If President Jonathan does just this act of moral re-armament, he would have steered the ship of state from collusion with the sticky ice-berg on the horizon.

Re-organize Law Enforcement

Currently we have the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the EFCC, ICPC, CCB, SSS, NCS, DMI as some of the foremost Nigerian Law Enforcement and Security out-fits. The biggest threat to our democracy is wanton political as well as financial corruption. So unless we retrofit our laws and law enforcement agencies to tackle the menace, we have no chance as a nation. Monies will be budgeted, as has been done over the years past, but the projects will not be successfully implemented because some ‘bigman', politician or civil servant in collusion with some portfolio company stole all or most of the monies for projects without any consequence. Add to the mix, the new terrorist trend in the north and Niger Delta and every sign of a failed state is present. Law Enforcement takes not only the political will but creation of the environment by a determined regime providing the resources and freedom of the select professionals to work unhindered while being supervised with regards to standards and best practices to areas of need. In the US, the FBI, for instance, in assessment of priority reportedly moved agents away from Bank robbery and criminal investigations to create other priority areas of Counter terrorism, Intelligence Analysts, Cyber and Intelligence Agents. They moved with the exigency of the times to meet the need. The need for Nigeria now, even reluctantly reinforced by all multi-lateral agencies is the minimization of corruption in our democratic system. That is not done by speeches long on promises but short on implementation. It will help to make promotion and monetary incentives to Law Officers for the investigation and proper arraignment of the rogues up to sentencing also as a basis for success. It pays to know that there will be eager officers willing to enforce the cliché; ‘You commit a crime, you do the time.'