Two-term Presidential Democracy is a beautiful and interesting idea of government in its fundamental assumptions and considerations. It has been established upon some rational thought in hope to sustain the values of democracy itself and to engender a climate for good governance. Because democracy is generally centered on the people, elections become a part and parcel of the system, where people, periodically, come to terms on who they want to lead or not to lead them.
2015 is here and the elections are in February (just some days away). We have got an interesting case at hand in this country and for me, the question is: should we re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan or should we hire another president? My answer is simple and clear. I say we hire a new president.
I will share in a moment the reasons behind my position after we examine some foundational tenets of two- term presidential democracy, which happens to be what we practice in Nigeria. This will help build-up to establishing my position.
Some of the rational thinking embraced by democrats for the support of a two-term presidency are as follows:
First, democracy is about the government of, for and by the people (utterly people centric). The right of the people to vie for election from time to time and also to exercise their power to elect their own government is simply to protect the people’s democratic right to a government of and by themselves. If there ever be a government elected of and by the people, who happens not to govern for the people, then the same people reserve the right to vote out such a government or vote for another to carry out government in the best interest of the people. This is a form of check on the government. A government can misgovern, but then, the people can decide to vote it out. As such, ideally, first-terms are periods of evaluation upon which the government’s re-election should be based. Therefore the idea that a government would have to seek re-election for a second-term becomes a sort of incentive that should propel performance in the first-term. Also, you want to guard against and prevent anti-democratic traps like a monarchical or life- presidency situation by ensuring one person does not politically polarize the country for life. The last point I will mention here is that you want to give room for a dynamic transition of government. Because life itself is dynamic and transitory so government has to be.
Situate this in Nigeria and you’ll conclude that the 2015 Nigeria general election is another test on the viability of our two-term presidential democracy.
Back to why I’m positioned and support that we hire a new president: it is simply because our democratic system gives us the opportunity to change a non-performing government. I don’t belong to any political party today but my frustration about how Nigeria has been governed dwells at two levels. First is at the Presidential Ticket level and second is at political party level.
At the presidential ticket level, Nigeria gave the mandate to President Jonathan in 2011. I was also a supporter of the Jonathan/Sambo ticket in 2011. The logic behind my support was simple; Jonathan emerged without the partisan realpolitik of the PDP. By this I mean, being the vice-president, a relatively insignificant position in Nigerian politics at the time, he (Jonathan) didn’t have to do much but just get nominated by the front-man, which was late President Yar’Adua. Vice-presidents are only constitutionally relevant to replace the president. The extent of their good to the government was the full prerogative of the president and you really don’t have to be a heavy weight politician to be nominated.
My imagination like most Nigerians was that this gentleman (Jonathan) had a clean slate on which he could really transform the country. He would be less susceptible to any arm-twisting by many trade-offs typical of the political process of securing a presidential ticket if he was to push himself forward from ground-zero. I thought, at least his providential ascension would grant him a good deal of insulation from many political interests that could force-his-hand.
More so, at the sentimental level, we all witnessed a quintessential common-man rise to power in what seemed to be a divine orchestration. The “I had no shoes” story of Jonathan resonated with millions of Nigerians; he seemed an embodiment of a political messiah. This was very okay for many people. The process upon which he emerged even engendered more sympathy towards his person as the country witnessed Yar’Adua’s cabal covet his chances of acting as president. Even when the dying president’s health was in serious doubt, he stayed gentlemanly throughout the entire process until the Senate invoked “the doctrine of necessity” and ultimately, Nigerians gave him a full mandate at the 2011 elections. We believed, we hoped, we trusted and then we stood with him. Jonathan promised transformation, “a breath of fresh air”, he actually promised a lot enough to catalogue.
Five years have happened to Nigeria since we elected Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to preside over government. It’s time to renew that mandate. Yes! It’s time all the principles and tenets of two-term presidential democracy come to play. We have reached a point of either choosing to continue with this government or change it. But I’m not in any doubt we have to change this government.
I rather change because I have the democratic right to vote out a government that doesn’t work for me after I hired it with my vote. In all fairness, I’m sure President Goodluck Jonathan can say the good things he has done for this country. But he has to be fair to over 100 million citizens of Nigeria that are still in poverty. His (Jonathan) government has not had any meaningful positive bearing on their livelihood. Democratic government is of the people, for the people and by the people. The government led by Dr. Jonathan has been of the people and by the people at 2011 elections, but for five years it has never shown up for the people. And that’s why we, the people will vote him out.
I ask some serious questions that we have to answer faithfully for ourselves and for our country, Nigeria. Do you think Jonathan will do the expectations of the people in a second-term? Is it when there’s no more significant incentive to concede to the will of the people we are expecting him to do the needful? Everyone observes that democratic leaders tend to be complacent in their second-terms because of the mindset that they are not returning anyway. Do you honestly think that Jonathan even has any incentive to perform if re- elected? I have answered these questions faithfully to myself and for my country and I have come to a firm conclusion without second-guessing to vote for change. I have now lost hope in Jonathan’s presidency and I am hopeless like many Nigerians that continuity in this direction will yield significant positive results. The only hope there can be is to change this government and hope.
The beauty of the ingenious two-term presidential system we practice grants us the power and periodical opportunity to hope again. If we discover there isn’t hope in a new government, we will also vote it out again after four years. But to stick to the status-quo is to accept everything that is careless, reckless, insensitive and poor about this government for another four years; it’s hopeless. As we seize another opportunity to decide on the future of our country, posterity bestows upon us a duty to elect the personnel that will carry out government in the interest of the general public and President Jonathan has clearly shown that’s not his forte.
President Jonathan inherited an economy where the crude oil price began to soar to unprecedented heights. The price has fluctuated near and above US$100 per barrel since February 2011 to August 2014. This means, as a nation, we earned more value from crude oil than ever before in the history of our nation. Sadly, we sight claims and counter claims of mismanagement, theft, squander and misappropriation of public funds. The government even agrees to losing revenues daily of about 400,000 barrels of oil due to illegal bunkering, vandalism and production shut-in. Impunity reigns supreme as we see no serious action to give a meaningful report to the public on these matter. Today, we are seeing an unprecedented drop in petrol dollar earnings; I
don’t see this government doing more with less. I suspect all pronouncement of the government on how it hopes to manage the situation because it has ever been reputable for paying lip service to its duties.
Many allegations of corruption on government officials fly in the dailies and we witness blatant passive reactions to these. So much scandal on corruption that it is almost seen as normalcy when headlines of news agencies carry billions of dollar figures on corruption allegations. It is so precarious that a former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, who is also reputable for engendering large scale corruption in Nigeria during his military tenure, caled his cohorts at that time saints if they were to be compared to this government. As a matter of fact, the president even finds it hard in his own language to differentiate between stealing and corruption. I’m utterly afraid of this government because Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has shown time and time again that he presides over a government that is simply not willing to confront corruption resolutely. From the look of things do you think President Jonathan even in another term will fight corruption just because he has started promising to fight corruption in his campaign for re-election? Well, you can’t be entirely sure though, but you can take an educated guess.
This stance of the government has put our economy on a free fall. It doesn’t matter how much we earn as a nation, it doesn’t even matter what they say our GDP is, as long as the inequality gap is not breached, we will never taste the dividends of democracy. Again, it doesn’t matter how much the increase in megawatts the country has gained in this government, as long as you don’t have electric power supply, then it counts for nothing. Nigerians don’t even want an 11, 7 or 5 point agenda. All we want is one-point power agenda. Fix power in the smartest innovative and effective way and see how it bears on the life of every Nigerian. And to be frank, I won’t bet on the approach and politricks of this government to fix power within another four years.
After several calls on the president since the abduction of over 200 girls in a school in Chibok, he has only found it important to visit Maiduguri after 9 months. What message do you pass to the people with that sort of disposition? The people are angry at this type of decorum that forsakes the poor and down trodden. The president won’t go there at the heat of things but he’ll make efforts when it’s close to elections in February. Whether that’s a right judgment or not, you will forgive those that bear that feel that way easier than you will forgive the president for his poor handling of such a dire situation.
One can observe countless faults in this government. If you allow a thorough evaluation, you would write a serial. It’s even harder to determine what the president stands for, what he is strong on and what his boundaries are. But Nigerians won’t crucify him, even though Doyin Okupe, one of his Senior Special Assistants has likened him to Jesus Christ – they will only not vote him again.
Voting President Jonathan out will be the most important message Nigerians will send to politicians and political parties – that power truly belongs to the people. At every point in time Nigeria has been dissatisfied about a government they voted into power, it had always been the military that was forced to change the government in what eventually turns out to be worse. This time the people can do it and the elections in February will show. Like the US, Japan and India came to a point in their history where they had to vote out the same government they voted in for not performing, the time for Nigeria has come.
As a matter of fact, Jonathan is not the alpha neither is he the omega of Nigeria’s problems. And this brings me to the second level at which my frustration about how Nigeria is governed dwells – the political party level. In as much as I personally advocate a change of government based on the fact that for five already, the government has failed the people, continuing with the same political party that has had the chance at the federal level for 16 years has to be also questioned. So far, the ruling party, PDP has produced three presidents for Nigeria. On the graph of performance, the line has moved from top to bottom in succession of presidents. In our recent democratic history, the popularity of the president has only been this low when President Obasanjo attempted a third-term bid. In fact, President Goodluck’s current popularity is at the lowest as it manifests in how his politics divides opinion and loyalty within his own party.
And here’s my frustration: 16 years of time in any generation is a great time to see landmark attainments through. When you cut through the clutters and get down to the common man on the street in Nigeria, the only landmark attainment that has had a significant bearing on lives at the bottom is the telecommunication revolution, saw through by the Obasanjo administration. Any other attainment that anyone can classify as major either has no significant bearing on lives of the general masses or has been marred by corruption over time. By “significant bearing on lives at the bottom” I mean, If it is correct that we have over 100 million Nigerians in poverty, then any policy that doesn’t affect at least 10 million (10%) poor Nigerians positively is not significant by any margin.
Before giving him the mandate in 2011, we loved the persona and carriage of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Perhaps he was in the right political party at the wrong position at the right time. “Right political party” because it is evident the PDP is capable of bearing good fruits as seen in some of its achievements (at least one can’t totally take all away from the PDP). And “Wrong position at the right time” because if one imagines it was Donald Duke or one of those excellent PDP governors in the South-south that was nominated as Yar’Adua’s running mate, our situation may have just been totally different. In any case, it is the PDP that produced Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan. I’ll recommend we try another political party at the federal government, at least for another 8 years. This is not necessarily because the opposition is better, but more because this sort of competition is excellent for our democracy. The notion that an opposing political party is capable of swaying votes and changing the government is healthy for democracy and development. All parties will have to be at their best and the country will surely be better for it as we have seen from examples in other leading democracies.
Adedeji Adeyemi Political Analyst and Convener, Organising For Change email@example.com
B.Sc. Political Science (Redeemer’s University, Nigeria) M.A. International Relations (University of Birmingham, UK). [myad]