A peek into the making of the Bill Clinton years –before and during his Presidency- where we get to read about the struggles of candidate Clinton in his campaign, the days leading to his swearing-in and the numbers of battles he had to fight on several fronts to uphold his campaign promises to the people –deficit reduction and economy the most important ones- gave me the idea of what a successful presidency is made up of.
Right from when he discussed his intentions to run with Hillary -his wife, in their Little Rock mansion’s guest house on a morning in late August 1991 to when he finally defeated incumbent President, George Bush; he had a plan and a mission. He wanted the people to feature at the center of his presidency. He wanted to redefine the economy –which realistically was the major point of the 1992 US elections- seeking the right brains out to help transform his abstract thoughts on the economy and the people into feasible plans that will be implemented in stages, with the future of America his major endgame.
I read with enthusiasm the conversations between Clinton and the then prospective, 44 year old, Vice Presidential candidate, Senator Albert Gore Jnr who had just released his book, Earth in the Balance, which had diagnosed -and prescribed solutions to- the world’s long-term ecological problems. The date was June 30, 1992 and the meeting was a reversal of an earlier meeting in 1987 when Al Gore had sought the endorsement of Governor Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential candidacy which was eventually won by Michael Dukakis. There were several things discussed and Clinton fell in love with the candidness, persistence and openness displayed by Gore that he told his advisers afterwards that he was going to select him.
Clinton was probed for deep reasons on why he thought Gore was a good fit for him and the more he answered, the more they demanded an even deeper reason. So, finally Paul Begala, one of the consultants on the campaign asked one more time, “why Gore?” Clinton’s reply tells you why he is admired the world over. He replied, “I could die, that’s why”. Clinton, widely reputed as a policy junkie at the time, was extremely knowledgeable and focused, putting pressure on his team to ascribe realistic numbers to his promises during his campaigns (after he had won). He released a plan called “Putting People First” while still a candidate, where it noted on the second page: “The only resource that’s really rooted in a nation−and the ultimate source of all its wealth−is its people.” That was the thrust of Clinton’s candidacy and he made sure he repeated that at every opportunity for those working with him to understand why he ran for the presidency.
I’ll understand if you are getting impatient with the history lecture. I am sorry; I am always fascinated by Clinton’s story. A Washington outsider from little Arkansas who was viewed as a populist, ran against the Democratic Party elites in 1992, delivering a personal message to the people, the struggling working- and middle-class voters who he hinged his campaign on, that his presidency would be about them and their economic security, and he won. He reminds me of a certain Goodluck Jonathan, a man from the minority, who had cried that he “had no shoes”, while growing up and at such, he belongs to the gang of the ordinary Nigerian who wakes up every day with hope as his only friend.
He campaigned with vigour around the country, telling those who cared to listen that if elected, his presidency will be about the people and their everyday struggle. He painted vivid and imaginary pictures on why he fit the bill. He sponsored songs and sound-bites that painted him as a departure from the status quo, giving us lessons in the abundance of fresh air that he possessed, and was ready to unleash on the nation for a new era that will define a new Nigeria, policed by a transformation agenda that has gone through several remodeling since then.
It made sense to some people. But those who saw beyond the façade and the “I had no shoes” rhetoric asked genuine questions about his ability –citing the activities of the few months that he had acted in that capacity as a reference- and he consistently, during the campaign showed why he did not merit –even- a ministerial position. Jonathan, in one of his first acts as president of Nigeria, had invited a certain Sambo for discussions on the vacant vice presidential post. His major criteria, other than someone who wouldn’t try to upset the cart, are still unknown. Here was a Governor who mistook awarding a contract for delivering tangibles that can benefit those he claimed to govern in Kaduna.
I know it is hard to compare the readiness and intelligence of a Clinton to Jonathan, but it is highly embarrassing that in 1992, Clinton ran with a specific promise and he broke the issues down for the American people while 19 years after, in 2011, we found ourselves up Jonathan’s creek without a paddle, with no commitment to evolving a better Nigeria. Jonathan vaguely promised us transformation. He promised to deal with several issues without really giving any specifics and the people –who thought being meek, “PhD’d” and dull-faced translated to understanding the complexities of governing a country- thronged in their numbers to vote in the first president who is different from the rest.
How has he fared on his promises? He promised to crush Boko-Haram, and after he had toyed with several options, settled on appeasing them with amnesty. When they declined, he belatedly declared a state of emergency in three states but the massacres are increasing with the casualties getting higher with each strike. The overall illiteracy rate is 66% with 10 million –out of 30 million- children of primary school age not in school. Unemployment rate, according to official figures, stands at an uncomplimentary 23.9% (the highest in recent years) with the World Bank questioning Jonathan’s official GDP figures showing growth but with a contrasting effect on poverty reduction. Yet, those figures hide the grim reality on ground. Over 40% of graduates churned out by our tertiary institutions lack jobs and those living below poverty line account for more than 62% of the population according to World Bank.
The Human Development Report 2013 released by UNDP ranked Nigeria 153 out of 186 on the Human Development Index where the criteria for calculation is based on income, school enrollment, access to healthcare, security, life expectancy, mortality rate etc. shows that there is no tangible appreciation in our condition and new numbers are actually painting a worse picture than earlier accounted. PMS costs an arm and a leg these days because he arbitrarily yanked subsidy off on January 1, 2012 without any concrete plan to cushion its effect on the people. Expecting Jonathan to come good on Power, which is at less than 4,000 megawatts, is just beating a dead horse, it’ll never happen. Our major roads are nothing to write home about despite the government’s incessant promises. He misses situations right under his nose and we expect him to understand what we earnestly desire?
To add salt to our injury, the president had scored himself high -despite his glaring ineptitude- during his mid-term report, telling us to develop our own yardstick for measuring his administration’s work if we object, because according to him, he has performed creditably well. He touted corruption as an area where he has turned water into wine. Jonathan must be off his base to even suggest that and clearly he wouldn’t know the difference if the truth fell off the hundredth floor and landed on his head.
And in a twist that shows he is clearly deluded, he keeps playing possum with 2015. You will all agree with me that a combination of this lying, lazy, deluded and deceitful presidency with the PDP in 2015 spells doom for the future of this country, it is time to get our acts together! For those who feel Nigeria’s problem didn’t start with him, I have this for you: It didn’t start with Clinton either. Clinton inherited an economy almost in recession and a people morally dejected but he dedicated his presidency to making the people smile (even as a greenhorn in Washington). Now, let’s rate Jonathan on his promises and delivery, tell me if he has done anything remotely reasonable to deserve a “third term”.