President Goodluck Jonathan complained recently, while speaking at the opening ceremony of the 52nd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Abuja, penultimate Monday, that his administration was being unduly and unfairly criticized.
According to him, all the problems of collapsed road and rail infrastructure, epileptic electricity supply, and abject poverty often cited as the root causes of the Boko Haram insurgence and terrorism, are being uncharitably heaped on the doorsteps of his government as if the problems never existed before his assumption of office; and as if he had deliberately orchestrated and exacerbated them.
He nevertheless reiterated the commitment of his administration to dealing decisively with the daunting problems of poverty, infrastructure deficit, and insecurity and repositioning the country to attain its potentialities and emerge as a developed nation.
The president, however, indicated that his administration had benefitted so far from the criticisms, stressing that they enabled the government to refocus and re-strategize in order to deliver his transformation agenda.
By implication, Jonathan, in spite of his complaints, accepted that the criticisms against him and members of his team were not entirely without merit. In truth, some of the criticisms of the Jonathan government are misplaced, often calculated as a distraction; such as the accusation that he is drunk most of the time, that he is slow to action and is not able to deal squarely with the nation’s security challenges, that his administration is slow in delivering service to Nigerians, or that his regime is not transforming anything at all.
Whereas opposition political parties and members of the public should criticize responsibly and constructively, it is, however, not the place of President Jonathan to turn a habitual complainant against his critics.
The job of constructive political opposition and social criticism is to ensure that the state and its actors are eternally conscious of their deeds or misdeeds; and to compel better performance. As the president has, perhaps, inadvertently acknowledged, the criticism of his administration has helped him reshape governance and justify his current mandate and, possibly, his continued stay in office. Without criticisms, leaders are often goaded by sycophants and political jobbers to complacency; and to erroneously believe that all is well; while the social structure, the economy and infrastructure rot in grave decay. Once elected, leaders should expect all manner of criticisms.
The job of the leader is to deliver quality service to the people and prove his critics wrong. It is not unlikely that some of the president’s critics want his efforts in the power sector, agriculture, rail and road infrastructure, etc., to fail; so they could take advantage of the failure to sack him and his party in the next general elections.
It is thus incumbent on the President and his entire team to work hard and convince Nigerians that they committed no error of judgement in entrusting them with power; and that government’s efforts in such critical sectors as earlier mentioned are in the right direction.
Democracy can only be described as robust when in addition to delivering free and fair processes of voting leaders into office, the people are allowed unfettered freedom to express themselves, while the government, as much as possible, accepts criticisms in good faith, especially when constructive, to assist it in getting its bearing right.
Experts, for instance, have consensually posited that constructive criticism helps in identifying those who truly loves a leader and assists in drawing the leader closer to the true ‘world’ of ordinary citizens as against the false impressions of sycophants.
Such criticisms open new perspectives to the leader, make a better person of him and trigger positive actions to the mutual benefit of the leader and the people. Classical socialist criticisms of the capitalist state structure and its mode of social production, for instance, have aided the consolidation of capitalism.
In response to classical socialist criticisms, capitalist governments evolved tax regimes that target the profits of large corporations which they redistribute in the form of welfare packages to assuage the destitution and anger of the working class and the underprivileged.
That way, well organized capitalist societies have seriously eroded the capacity of the socialist parties to capture political power. Jonathan may mean well for the country and Nigerians, yet we think he needs a great quantum of criticism to remain on track and perform.