By Augustine Adah and Ifeoma Ononye Lagos
President Goodluck Jonathan on May 17, at a special thanks-giving church service to end his tenure as president of the country, held in Abuja, pleaded for forgiveness from those he had offended through his policies. Said he: “We have certainly done things in a way that probably we wouldn’t have done, but we didn’t do them deliberately. For those we have offended, it was not deliberate, but due to circumstances of the office. So we also plead that those people should forgive, as we think we did our best.”
In the People’s Court
Expectedly, the president’s apology drew reactions from stakeholders. While some regarded the apology as unnecessary, others noted that to err is human; to forgive, divine.
For example, Lt. Col. Silas Jack (retd), said that there is a limit to how he can forgive the outgoing president because he failed to address the case of his premature retirement. He explained that many aides and ministers in Jonathan’s administration frustrated all his efforts at getting justice. There is a limit to how I can forgive Jonathan’s ministers and aides who refused to treat my case through the period of this administration. He said that he can only forgive partially and not fully. Jack who worked at training and Doctrine Command of the Army was retired about 14 years ago and all his efforts to get justice has not yielded result.
But the former governor of Old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, has described the demand for forgiveness as normal and in consonance with every religious belief. “What the President has requested for is nothing unusual because it is human to forgive. He further stated that forgiving him for what he has done in the past or failed to do does not make Nigerians to forget some of the things he has done or failed to do.”
Similarly, a member of Lagos State House of Assembly representing Ikorodu Constituency 1, Hon. SOB Agunbiade described the plead for forgiveness by Mr. President as normal. “My brother, politics apart, you cannot administer over 100 people and you will not offend them, either genuinely or out misconception, I think it is humane and a trait of leadership for you to reach out and accept responsibility for everything you have done,” he said.
He further stated that it is normal for a leader completion of tenure to ask for forgiveness both the things that were done in the best interest of the people or those which does not work for their interest. “Both those policies that people objected to and those that people agreed to at the end of the tenure you can now ask for forgiveness. According to Agunbiade it is not uncommon for somebody to be in power for even a year without offending some people. However, some of the things that were done unlawfully must not be overlooked. “But the fact that you say forgive me does not mean that you would commit heinous crime or anything unlawful and they would over look it,” he said.
Contrary to people’s expectation, the outgoing government on January 1, 2012, increased the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly called petrol from N65 to N125 per litre. The protests that greeted the increase was beyond the expectations of the government. Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and members of opposition parties almost ground the economy for days.
Nigerians gathered at strategic locations across the country in protest to demand the reversal of the increment. The protest gave birth to Freedom Park in Lagos and other major cities like Kano and Abuja. The protests almost degenerated into violence and some people lost their lives. Apart from the rejection of the increment many Nigerians described the timing which came on the New Year day when many people have travelled for the yuletide as morally wrong. The protests forced the government to reduce the pump price of Petrol to N97 per litre.
Another controversial decision by Jonathan that was equally greeted with protests and denunciations was the attempted renaming of the University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University, without consultation with the stakeholders and without going through due constitutional procedure. By renaming a 50-year-old institution and a national treasure in highly controversial circumstances, Jonathan threw mud at the honour he sought to bestow on Abiola, who, indeed, is worthy of honour. Equally inconsiderate was the timing of the botched UNILAG name change. Jonathan chose to do it at a time when the university was embarking on two major events, namely, the burial of its deceased Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Adetokunbo Sofoluwe, and the celebration of the institution’s 50th anniversary. Nothing could be more insensitive than throwing the university community into commotion at such times. In addition, Jonathan’s decision to pardon the former governor of Bayelsa State Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who was accused of money laundering and escaped to the country in order avoid trial has attracted several reactions and posed a question mark on the commitment of the Jonathan’s government to fight corruption. Jonathan served as Deputy Governor under the administration of Alamieyeseigha.
Government’s unfulfilled promises
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had in 2010 unfolded plans to build three new refineries of different capacities. The refineries are to be sited in Kogi, Lagos and Bayelsa states. The NNPC Group Executive Director, Engineering and Technology, Mr. Billy Agha, who stood in then for the Group Managing Director in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, had said 7,000 job opportunities would be created by the Greenfield Refinery that would be built in the state by the corporation in partnership with the China State Construction Engineering Corporation.
Again in 2012, at the height of the fuel subsidy protests, the Federal Government said it would build three refineries. The then Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onolememen, who spoke to douse the tension associated with the protests, said: “I want Nigerians to know that when these new refineries are completed, we will be a net exporter of petroleum products and prices will begin to come down, just as we are witnessing in the telecommunications sector with the GSM regime.
“That is my message to Nigerians. Let us support the government. Let us join hands with the government because it cannot and will not take any decision with the aim of punishing fellow Nigerians. It is impossible. So, Nigerians should have this at the back of their minds.
“The one in Lagos is with the capacity of 200,000 barrels per day, while the ones in Kogi and Bayelsa have the capacity to produce 100,000 barrels per day.”
The people of south-east would not be happy that the President could not fulfill his promise to construct the second Niger bridge in Onitsha, Anambra State. President Jonathan had promised to build the second Niger Bridge and conducted the foundation laying ceremony sometimes last year. However, observers believed that the project was not more than a political gimmick as nothing has seems to happen after the foundation laying ceremony.
The Ndigbo are also not happy that the promise made to reconstruct Enugu-Onitsha federal road and some other federal roads in the state by the outgoing president have not been fulfilled. A presidential candidate of National Conscience Party (NCP) in the last presidential election, Engr. Martin Onovo, told Sunday Independent that the much published construction of 2nd Niger Bridge was a hoax because nothing was done apart from the widely foundation laying ceremony. “Nothing has happened since they said the President went there to lay the foundation.”
Controversial political analyst, writer, and singer, Etcetera, insisted that Nigerians did not need his apologies. He explained that there would be a long list of issues that President Jonathan want Nigerians to forgive him for but that he cannot point to a particular one he apologized for on television. And so there is still confusion on what he is apologizing for. He, therefore, said that all Nigerians want from President Jonathan is for him to take responsibility for all his government’s actions.
He continued: “He should also tell us which out of the numerous crimes that was committed by his government he is begging for? Is it his failure to tackle corruption or the failure to improve the infrastructure of the country? Or is it for the number of souls that was lost to bad roads during his six years in office? Is it the uncountable citizens killed by Boko Haram and insecurity of lives and properties?”
Doubts Over Apology
Other citizens want to know to what extent Jonathan wants Nigerians to forgive him and what kind of forgiveness he is asking for? Should Nigerians part the president on the back because he asked for forgiveness and sweep all the misappropriation and corruption of his government under the carpet?
Regardless, there are citizens who have viewed the President’s apology as expression of humility. Former Anambra State governorship aspirant and industrialist, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, said that he had a different and deeper insight into the president’s apology. He said that Jonathan meant well for Nigeria and did his very best as a person for the good of this country and that His apology should not be seen as admission of failure or weakness.
His words: “Mr. President’s apology to Nigerians should be well received. His apology again is an expression of his humanity and humility. The President will be judged more from his intentions than his actions. He meant well for Nigeria, and he did his very best as a person for the good of this country. His apology should not be seen as admission of failure or weakness. He is wisely taking responsibility as the head of government for some of the failures of his administration.”
Obidigbo further explained that some arms of the President’s government performed poorly despite all the frivolous claims of great successes and achievements. He noted that Nigeria being voted as the fastest growing economy in Africa is a sham.
Hear him: “This administration produced several billionaires, and increased ownership of private jets. The importation of very expensive items also doubled or even tripled. Probably these deceived the foreigners into believing that the economy was growing. Massive jobs were being created over the radio, television and print media. Inflation has been brought down to single digit, in the air. Foreign direct investments were flowing into Nigeria. CBN, BOI etc were pumping billions of Naira and dollars into the economy. It is all mirage. It is mere wishful thinking.
“The gulf between the rich and poor has never been this wide. Industries were closing down by the day, because of the ever increasing costs of production and the massive corruption that allows all sorts of imported goods flowing freely into the country.”
“Those who are responsible for the management of the economy, at National and state levels, and those who are responsible for checkmating the massive corruption in the country are actually those who should apologise to Nigerians for their failures and deceits. The president, though indirectly culpable, would be exonerated because he meant well. His choice of economic and security managers may have resulted to our inability to achieve the desired economic end results.”
However, Dr. Tirus Adeniyi Ale, founder of LG Rhythm, said that president Jonathan would be remembered as a man who refused to wield totalitarian power unlike other African leaders. “Be that as it may, Goodluck Jonathan would still be seen and remembered as a man who refused to wield totalitarian powers.”
He stated that GEJ’s decisions as regards sacking and appointments of notable officers have revealed so much of his regrets of many things he discovered he had left undone.
“His humility of heart has made it possible to come out publicly and atone for his failures. By and large, his spirit needs it and the murdered and injured spirits of Nigerians who suffered in the course of his mis-rule deserve to be apologised to.”
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