By Kayode Katefe
This, of course is the twilight of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and this writer reckons it is appropriate time to appraise his administration since there only remain just a little over two months before it expires.
It is widely accepted that observance of human rights is one of the major hallmarks of a liberal democracy and thus the yardsticks for assessing the outgoing government’s performance may not be far from human rights issues.
There are both positive and negative developments palpably standing out as markers of President Jonathan’s administration. Whether the positives outweigh the negatives or vice-versa is a matter of perception, but whatever the case is, his government which was widely embraced by the electorate in 2011 was no longer popular at the end of first term in 2015, making people to prefer a change which they ultimately procured with their votes.
To start with, upon ascension to office on May 29, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan boldly declared that he would respect the rule of law and observe human rights. “Has the President lived up to his promise on the important issue?
A number of events have happened in the course of the four years that would make the question difficult to answer. Simply put there are both numerous cases of observances and flouting of human rights.
The following are some of the “Kudos” and “Sins” of incumbent president’s administration. The list does not pretend to be exhaustive of either category, though.
On the positive side, Jonathan’s government obeyed the court orders nullifying elections of some governors and replacing them with the candidates of opposition parties. Ekiti and Osun State are cases in point. Furthermore, President Jonathan signed some revolutionary bills into laws for the betterment of the country.
These include Freedom of Information Act, Minimum Wage Act and Evidence Act. That was not all. He also granted independence to the National Human Rights Commission by signing into law an enabling amendment bill. This is in addition to reformation of the National Industrial Court, through constitutional amendment.
This presidential assent to these bills may appear not important until it is realised that it is “a mere presidential assent” that frustrated the FOI bill from becoming a law as far back as 2007. Other achievements also include the novel establishment of Almajiri schooling scheme in the North and the YouWin project for youth empowerment.
President Jonathan famously capped all these achievement by conceding to electoral defeat when he lost the March 28 presidential election. He said he would not allow personal ambition to stand in the way of Nigerian unity. This singular statesman conduct had fetched him accolades across the globe as he being held up as shining example for African leaders.
On the negative side, the President’s increment of the fuel pump price imposed on January 1, 2012, were construed as callous and a measure to further impoverish them.
But the more perplexing aspects were wanton killing of some demonstrators during the ensuing protest and the deployment of soldiers to intimidate the “rioters.” A young man, Ademola Aderinto Daramola, was allegedly shot by a Divisional Police Officer (DPO), CSP Olusegun Fabunmi at Ogba area in Lagos during the protest. This was seen as a kind of throwback to the era of military oppression.
Another blot in the linen of this administration is the way it handled the CJN/Justice Ayo Salami saga. Many Nigerians were of the opinion that the matter, despite its delicate nature, was politicised.
Many people also believed that failure to curb the menace of Boko Haram insurgency was attributable to weakness on the part of the president. Even those who were reluctant to make such attribution were nonetheless perplexed by what they perceived to be the President’s rather lukewarm attitude.
Remember the incident when law enforcement agents tear-gassed some of those protesting the kidnap of Chibok Girls?
The same perceived non-indifference to value of human lives had earlier been protested when the administration obstinately posted corps members (on one-year mandatory service to fatherland) to troubled areas during 2011 general elections despite protests by parent, guardians and other stakeholders.
Ten of the corpers were brutally killed while the repentant Federal Government compensated each of the 10 families with N5 million. Another real human rights issue was the Federal Government crackdown on the Baga community in which over 185 people were alleged to have been killed and over 2000 houses destroyed.
How about the Rivers State anarchy where the government of Mr. Rotimi Amaechi was grossly undermined. Is it not shameful that the legitimate authority of a democratically elected state government could be so wantonly desecrated while the whole of Nigeria purports to be under a democracy?
The controversial state pardon granted by the Council of State, presided over by the President to some convicted politicians, especially, the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, was also seen by many as an official endorsement of corruption.
What about the arrest and subsequent trial of four journalists, Chinyere Fred-Adebulugbe, Chuks Ohuegbe, Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe, all from Leadership newspaper, on alleged offence that they refused to disclose their source of information?
This is not to talk of dearth of the basics like food, healthcare, housing, clothing and gainful employment which people had expected earnestly as dividends of democracy.
Surely there has been an ironic mixture of positives and negatives from this government.
Ketefe may be followed on twitter @Ketesco
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