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Nigeria-President Jonathan and “Fresh air”:Averting a Crisis of Expectations

The 2011 presidential election was a typical Nigerian election,at least in one respect:it was not fought on the basis of any discernible manifesto.In developed democracies,manifestos are key factors in any political contest.Political candidates woo the electorate by publicly declaring the principles and intentions underpinning their candidacy.The electorate responds by choosing the candidates whose manifestos promise the greatest good to the greatest number of people.In contrast,in Nigeria,people prefer candidates for reasons of tribe,zone or religion.People never choose a candidate because of the candidate’s credentials or track record,no.It is always about what tribe,zone,godfather or religion the candidate represents.Every vote is a “balancing-act”,designed to redress zonal,tribal or other  “marginalization”;never about the candidate’s ability to perform in office.

President Goodluck Jonathan won the 2011 presidential election,because many voters wanted an end to the perceived “born-to-rule” mentality of Northern elites or to redress the perceived marginalization of the south in the rulership stakes of the country.I consider the 2011 presidential election a referendum on zoning,and my vote for president Jonathan was a vote against zoning.Zoning is the insidious idea,on the altar of which competence is sacrificed,which facilitates the “peaceful”  rotation political power between Northern and Southern elites.It seeks to bring some sort of “order” to the process of robbing the country blind,the preferred occupation of Nigerian elites.Zoning cuts across all the political parties.It was no coincidence,that of the four major parties,three produced Northerners as their flag-bearers.That tells you there was an understanding among the elites,to “return” power to the North.Thankfully,the masses were having none that,as dramatically demonstrated by South-west voters who rejected the ACN candidate,in favour of Jonathan,thereby reversing the pattern of the parliamentary elections,held a  week earlier.

In all this,there was very little consideration given to what programs president Jonathan had in store for the Nigerian people.You would struggle to find a Jonathan supporter,who voted for him because he was enthused by his proposed programs for the country.Apart from the legend,”i-want-fresh-air-in-Nigeria”,there is really no program of action that one can point to.And for any president,manifestos are important.Massively so.A program of action,with clearly defined items to be executed within strict time-lines,is necessary for the any president to succeed.The president needs such a road-map to motivate not only himself,but his entire team.One of the reasons Nigerian presidents/governors  have always performed poorly,can be attributed to the absence of a program against which,they can judge their progress.A president should have such a program that commits him to certain projects within a certain period,such that the progress made on these projects would act as a proxy,for the progress made by the administration.

Manifestos are also important because they provide the public with a yard-stick against which the president can be judged,realistically.Some may imagine that in the absence of a manifesto,the president gets a free-pass.Wrong.The president still gets judged,only this time,unrealistically.This is where the “crisis of expectation” comes in.The absence of manifestos does not translate into absence of expectation.When there are manifestos,expectations are anchored to the promises made in those manifestos.When there are no manifestos,expectations become “fantastical”: expectations are now unreasonable,unrealistic and in the realm of fantasy.When a party does not govern on the basis of a manifesto,it creates opportunity for members of the public to write their own.Different interest-groups will write different conflicting manifestos to suit their agenda.The inflation of expectations could lead to a crisis.Nigeria has never had a “crisis of expectation”,in this regard.And that is because Nigerians have never really felt betrayed by their presidents.

Nigerians never felt let down by their past  presidents,because they never believed the presidents were their “servants”.Nigerians always felt their presidents were imposed on them.From Shehu Shagari to Umaru Yaradua.As such Nigerians never believed that those guys owed them.Nigerians did not expect much from them,and therefore could not be disappointed by them.It is very different with president Jonathan.For the first time,Nigerians really believe that they,through their votes,put the president in office.And they expect payback.Nigerians,who,as religious people,have discerned God’s hand in Jonathan’s rise to power,expect God’s candidate to perform “miracles”.Otherwise,the president could quickly learn that there is a very thin line between adulation and villification.Infact they are different sides of the same coin.To meet the people’s expectations,the president has to work harder than any president in our history.He can start by publicly declaring a program of action,by which he can benchmark himself,and the public can judge him,realistically.”Fresh air”,being nebulous by nature,tends not to lend itself to definibility.It needs to be ossified,into a measurable road-map.The hard work should start now.Good luck,Mr president.You will need it.


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