KEY predecessors of President Goodluck Jonathan in office, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo; and ex-dictators, retired Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, and Abdusalami Abubakar (retd.), as well as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, on Wednesday shunned the Democracy Day event of the Federal Government.
While all former heads of government were reportedly invited to the event where Jonathan rendered an account of his mid-term performance, only Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.) and Chief Ernest Shonekan attended.
Gowon ruled as military head of state between 1966 and 1976; Shagari from 1979 to 1983; while Shonekan spent barely 99 days in office as head of the Interim National Government foisted on the country by Babangida after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election won by the late businessman, MKO Abiola.
Rather than be in Abuja, Obasanjo chose to attend the First Jigawa State Investment Forum in Dutse, where he showered praises on Governor Sule Lamido for being a brilliant performer in whom he (Obasanjo) was well pleased to have helped to office.
“You can help someone to find a job but you can’t help the person to do the job. In this case, we found a job for Sule Lamido and Sule Lamido was ready, willing, able and competent to do the job,” he reportedly said at the event.
Obasanjo is believed to have facilitated the coming of Jonathan to the Presidency in 2007 but the two have reportedly become estranged.
Buhari, now one of the arrowheads of the coalition to unseat the Peoples Democratic Party in 2015 and the Jonathan administration, had in recent past exchanged hot words on the state of the nation.
Babangida contested the PDP Presidential ticket with Jonathan in 2011 and he is generally seen not as a fan of the administration.
Tambuwal was represented at the event by his deputy, Emeka Ihedioha, who gave no reason for the Speaker’s absence.
Analysts on Wednesday believed that attendance and non-attendance at the Democracy Day celebration was “all part of the 2015 politics.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan, while presenting his scorecard for his second year in office, asked Nigerians who are fond of criticising his government to ensure they first develop their marking scheme before assessing his administration.
Before the President formally presented the report of his two years in office, Vice- President Namadi Sambo; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim; Minister of National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman; and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had taken turns to present the achievements of the administration in all sectors for the past two years.
“I plead with those who want to write and assess us to prepare marking scheme, compare us with previous governments and so on and so forth. Develop your marking scheme and mark us,” Jonathan said.
Jonathan said while assessing his government, he had discovered that a number of comments of his critics were “based on heartbeats and not any visible criteria.”
“A number of comments about the performance of this administration are based on the heartbeat of people,” he said.
He specifically referred to an assessment done by an unnamed newspaper which scored the Minister of National Planning and the Minister of Trade and Investment an average in terms of performance.
Jonathan said contrary to that assessment, the performances of the two ministers remained the best among the three ministers that had so far been in charge of those ministries under his leadership.
On the Ministry of Trade and Investment, the President said because of the hard work of Dr. Olusegun Aganga, foreign investors had been investing heavily in the country despite the security challenges facing the nation and that until Usman came on board, the Ministry of National Planning had remained relatively not in existence.
Sambo had earlier in his welcome remarks said all members of the Jonathan administration were united in their aspiration to transform Nigeria to a nation that would be respected worldwide.
He said the Democracy Day was not all about a public holiday but a day to look inwards and give account of stewardship, adding that was why the administration was using the opportunity to give account of its actions to the nation that gave them the mandate to serve.
Sambo urged all Nigerians to join hands to build a nation that would fulfil the promise of the past and work for the good of the present and the future generation.
He said constitutional and moral burdens were on all of them in government to uphold democratic tenets.
He said, “To whom much is given, much is expected. We are grateful to the nation for the mandate we received from the freest and fairest election in recent time. The transformation agenda is decided on those things that should be done to reposition the country. In the last two years, we have pursued a resolute course to widen the political space.
“Our public institutions are being rebuilt. The National Assembly is very vibrant, the judiciary is truly independent. There is a general onsensus that democracy and government in Nigeria are getting better. We have laid a foundation of change in the last two years.
“In the face of unprecedented security challenges, the challenges call for caution from all of us. Nobody should make political capital on the issue. We seek your support and honest counsel in the areas we can improve upon. A bright future beckons on this land and its people. We assure generations unborn of a nation that will meet their needs.”
Anyim said the mid-term report presented by the President provided verifiable achievements of his administration.
He said the administration had protected the rights of citizens and the rule of law in its two years of existence.
He scored the administration high in the expansion of civic space, entrenchment of checks and balances, sanitisation of electoral process, federal character in appointments and anti-corruption fight, among others.
Okonjo-Iweala, on her part, said the administration’s transformation agenda had been tailored towards addressing some of the nation’s problems, including insufficient jobs, rising debt, high recurrent expenditure and falling reserves, among others.
She said in its two years, the administration had made the economy strong, exchange rate stable, and reduced inflation to 9.1 per cent from 12.4 per cent in May 2011.
The minister said the Federal Government had started retiring its past debts and changed waiver and tariff policies from focusing on individuals alone to the entire sector.
She added that the government hired 50 forensic auditors to probe the fraud in the fuel subsidy regime, adding that sanity had so far been restored to the system.
She said following the audit, N14bn had been recovered out of the N234bn diverted funds while oil marketers had been reduced to 32, making it easier for government to monitor them.
“The contributory pension scheme is sound and it is being reformed to prevent fraud. Nigeria’s credit rating has improved. International investors are investing more in Nigeria. Our banks are strong and the stock market is also strong with stock exchange index rising to 71 per cent,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala said the administration had done well in the areas of rail rehabilitation, inland ports construction and the overhauling of airports.
The Founder/President, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Rev. Jesse Jackson, observed that leadership was not just about winning elections but about transforming the people.
He urged Nigeria to continue to deepen its democracy because the nation mattered to the international community.
He urged Nigerian leaders and followers to dream big about the nation, saying their resources must unite and not divide them.
“Nigeria must deepen democracy. Nigeria matters. In peacekeeping around the world, Nigeria matters. Dream, keep dreaming big. Dream Nigeria. Dream of one Nigeria,” he said.
Others who attended included wife of the President, Patience; wife of the Vice- President, Amina; former Chief of General Staff, Gen. Oladipo Diya (retd.); President of the Senate, David Mark; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mariam Mukhtar; and Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu.
Others were the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Tony Anenih; the party’s national chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur; former CJN, Justice Alfa Begore (retd.); elder statesman, Chief J.P. Clark; members of the National Assembly, former state governors, including Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Segun Oni (Ekiti); and members of the Federal Executive Council, among others.