Of Jonathan, Politics And Love For Nigeria: A Post Mortem

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More than two years after former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan left office, his person and tenure have continued to occupy the front seat in the nation’s political discourse, especially as the politics of 2019 has started. ANDREW ESSIEN writes. 

Former President, Goodluck Jonathan, undoubtedly will go down the Nigerian political history as one of the most discussed, talked about, taught and researched about personality since the nation’s return to democracy.

Depending on whichever side of the political pendulum a person looks at, it is not easy not to both admire and question Despite being celebrated, not only in Nigeria, for conceding defeat which not only set an important precedence in the African continent where leaders are more often than not plagued with the sit-tight syndrome, the new wind of democratic change that was blowing through the region essentially entered a new phase.

However, he has arguably, at least in Nigeria, become one of the most criticized for the actions and inactions of his administration; criticisms that seem not to be abating as they continue to dog him years after he left power.

From the level of corruption within the period to the level of insecurity, from the alleged handling of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East to the embarrassing Chibok episode that saw to the kidnap of over 200 school girls; the unprecedented level of oil bunkering to the brazen theft of the nation’s patrimony, many had predicted that the nation was headed for self destruction.

However, analysts have posited that save for the single act of agreeing to step down against the advice of his closest allies, the narrative may have been totally different from what it is today and for that, they say Jonathan deserves commendations.

Some schools of thought still wonder, however, as to whether the issues that the Jonathan’s administration is still being tackled would have been handled differently even as they question some of the persons that have, two years after, found the voice to heap varying degrees of criticisms on a man who has long left the corridors of power.

Some aver that what had happened in the past administration and indeed others before the Jonathan administration, should serve as a “stitch-in-time” for successive governments just as they wonder if the actors in the current administration have, themselves, not soiled their hands in the same mud which they throw at the past.

Interestingly, some revelations into what transpired during the Jonathan presidency was made public by principal actors in that government penultimate Thursday in the nation’s capital.

Three men who arguably had front row seats in the unfolding political drama of the time, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi who was a minister in the cabinet, Senate President Bukola Saraki who was a Senator at the time and the governor of Borno, a state which served as the epicentre in the fight against Boko Haram.

The event, some analysts posit, served as an avenue where the former president was thoroughly criticized for right or wrong reasons as all sides told their own perspective of their encounter with Jonathan at a close or distant range.

This position has also been punctured by others who opine that it is only at this kind of fora that things that were hitherto hidden under the “romp of the fowl, will see the light of day”

Saraki, in trying to put a finger to what may have been the greatest factor to Jonathan’s fall from power said he (Jonathan) was not prepared for the position he eventually occupied even though he added that the former president was not desperate for power.

Governor Shettima will, however, go much deeper in revelation to say that what led to the fall of Jonathan’s government was purely the display of bad judgment on teething national issues.

Shettima also slammed the proponents of  restructuring, saying that what the country needed at this time was conscientious leadership on the part of the political class.

He also went on to reveal that save advice of the then Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke and the Minister of Special Duties,Tanimu Turaki, his days in government would have been over as he was already pencilled for removal by the former president.

Both men dropped the bomb at the unveiling of the book, “On a Platter of Gold – How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria”, written by an ex-Minister of Youths and Sports in the Jonathan administration and current spokesman of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi in Abuja.”

In giving his own testimony, Saraki said: “I like to share one or two things that will probably summarise the former President Jonathan. I remember when I was then a senator and I came across this issue of fuel subsidy and the way the country was losing close to about N1.3 trillion. In the history of this country, I don’t think of any singular kind of level of corruption as huge as that. I had a motion already, I wanted to present on the floor of the Senate. I felt as a member of the ruling party  at that time, it was only proper I discussed it with the President (first) maybe some action could be taken so I stepped down the motion. I booked an appointment to see Mr. President, I went with my paper, I started with the background of how people brought in petroleum products.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, in the past, people used to get award letters from NNPC to bring in PMS, DPK, and make 10, 20 per cent profit.’  I said. ‘Sir, they’ve taken it to another level, now, they get an order to bring in products. They don’t want to make 10, 20 per cent any more. They will get an offer to bring in a cargo of 20,000 litres but they will bring in 5,000 to be stamped for 20,000 and instead of making ten per cent, they make 10 times the amount. I was telling the President thinking the President would get very agitated, but he said, ‘Senator Saraki, you know this oil business is very oily.’

“I was stunned and taken aback. But in a way, that was Jonathan. In a sad way, that was who he is.  And the second encounter I will recollect was the day I decided I was going to contest to be President. I felt that I didn’t want Jonathan to hear it as news; I booked an appointment to go and see him. I didn’t know what I was thinking that day.

The Senate President added “ I went to the Villa he said, ‘come in, come in, how can I help you? I looked at the President of a third world country and said Mr. President I came to tell you that I am going to be contesting for your seat. Jonathan looked at me and said, ‘oh, okay, good luck, good luck.’

“If it were any other person may be I would not have left the Villa but that again sums up Goodluck Jonathan. I think it is we Nigerians that produced the kind of leaders we get. No matter what you say about him, I don’t think he was someone who was desperate for power. He was not someone that was prepared for leadership. I keep on saying we all know the right things but we don’t do it. We find ourselves sometimes blaming individuals; blaming others than ourselves.”

Shettima took it up several notches higher than that of Saraki, taking a swipe at the former president saying, “I dare to say that sheer display of bad governance, lack of political sagacity and will power squandered the enormous goodwill he commanded and subsequently he got voted out of the office.

“Within the short time of his ascendency, to paraphrase the author of the book, he went from a man who controlled the populace to the clueless; from the most-followed president on Facebook in the word to the most-cursed president.

“Dr Jonathan’s political profile rose within a short time and fell in a spectacular manner to the poor handling of the most important issues affecting Nigeria at the time such as the fuel subsidy scandal, the Boko Haram insurgency and the general feeling of insecurity particularly with the abduction of the Chibok school girls, the crisis in the then ruling party the PDP left much to be desired and brought his image down in an alarming rate and perfected the imagination of Nigerians real or imagined even beyond our shores that he was insensitive to the plight and suffering of most of the people.

“Thus, his honeymoon with Nigerians was quickly forgotten and culminated in the unprecedented defeat of a sitting president by an opposition candidate in Nigeria. Although his manner of conceding defeat earned him a lot of praise and hero status, even his most ardent supporters knew he should have ended in a much better circumstances.

“It gives beyond reasonable doubt that the leadership of President Jonathan represents a turbulent period in our national life, has and will continue to shape group good or bad the fortunes of our country.

“The lesson for the political class therefore is that we must at all times place the national interest above all other considerations and must work assiduously towards building a national conscience.”

The governor added that “Sadly, Borno was the epicentre of the crisis that engulfed the Jonathan administration. This is the second book I am reading on the Jonathan saga. I think President Jonathan is essentially a decent person, an unsophisticated country politician caught up in the vortex of power politics in Nigeria.

“When the Chibok girls saga started, they made the president to believe that there was no abduction; that the Chibok girls were kidnapped by the governor of Borno State ostensibly to embarrass the Jonathan administration and he believed that line of story.

“I was in Chibok, my wife was in Chibok and there was a global outcry on the issue but Jonathan was in a world of his own created by the clowns and also the misfits around him.”

He said “I wasn’t invited to Abuja until nearly three weeks later and even when I was invited to Abuja, I was quite thrilled that at last I was getting the attention of my leader. I was asked to come along with the Commissioner of Police, the Divisional Police Officer in Chibok, the Commissioner of Education, the Military Commander in Chibok and the Director of DSS in Borno.

“We were all ushered into the Villa. Sadly, when the president came in, he was still in that mood. He started threatening the school principal that she should tell them where the girls were. ‘Principal, you must tell me where the girls are. Commissioner of Police, you have to tell me’.

“He immediately ordered for the arrest of the principal, the DPO, Commissioner of Police and the Director of DSS, that they must produce the girls. In this very unfortunate saga, MD Abubakar, the then IGP arrested them, took them to the Force Headquarters and informed them; ‘Lady and gentlemen, I cannot hurt you because I am a man of conscience.

“I will let you go based on self-recognition.’ And they were released to go back to their duty posts but I was shocked, I was quite taken aback because I thought solutions were going to be found to a very serious national challenge, instead, the president was still of the mindset that those girls were not abducted and that goes to show the quality of leadership in this country.

“Incidentally, the Brigade Commander in Chibok, was an Ijaw man, one Capt. Godknows. And because they know the president is such a very unsophisticated simpleton, he is such an honest man, they knew that if they had brought in the man, they would have gotten him confused. So, they deliberately refused to bring the Brigade Commander in Chibok and that made the president to lose a true perspective on the issues. But we have to give it to him, that by conceding defeat, he saved the nation from the precipice.

“There was a time he wanted to remove me at all cost. In the Federal Executive Council, they were all speaking in the same tone that this Borno governor must be removed for embarrassing the government; that I was the problem. Two Nigerians stood out.

“He sought the opinion of Mohammed Adoke Bello, the then Attorney-General. Adoke told him that ‘Mr President, you have no power to remove even an elected councillor’. Then he sought the opinion of another Senior Advocate of Nigeria in his team, the Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki. And Turaki also told him that ‘Mr President, you have no power to remove a sitting governor’. And that was how the matter died.

“If you look at Obasanjo; hate him or love him, you have to respect Obasanjo for not only believing in the Nigerian project but by surrounding himself with men of quality. If you mention Obasanjo, the names that literally come to mind are those of Oby Ezekwesili, Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu, Nasir el-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Bukola Saraki and other quality Nigerians who had the capacity to add value to the system.

“And Obasanjo, take it or leave it, among those people, the only Yoruba person among them was Femi Otedola and he was not even deep in the power circuit. But when you think of President Jonathan with all due respect, he surrounded himself with an assorted crop of religious bigots, tribal kindred and all sorts of reactionary elements.

“And because he is such an honest man, recently, he confided in Sen. Ben Bruce that his major undoing was his poor relationship with the Borno governor. That is GEJ for you. We are wishing him the best of luck in his retirement years. He can redeem himself by serving God and humanity, by serving Africa. We are wishing him all the best.”

Blasting proponents of restructuring he added, “On a final note, it is on our enlightened self as elite to make Nigeria work because if 30 million Nigerians should knock on the doors of Europe, it will cause reverberations around the world. People are talking about artificial intelligence, other nations are talking about nano technology or robotics engineering but unfortunately, the topical issue in Nigeria is restructuring; restructuring my foot. To hell with restructuring. Let us improve on governance, let us work for the people, invest in education, and create jobs for our people.”

Expectedly, reactions have begun to trail the governor’s testimony and assessment by Governor Shettima and others as the ex-President Jonathan replied Gov. Shettima on the Chibok girls, just as he dismissed Abdullahi’s book as “sore grapes, full of lies, gossip.”

The media adviser to former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Mr.Ikechukwu Eze, responded saying the statement were “parochial and jaundiced”

In a statement issued on Friday, Jonathan’s spokesman strongly debunked the allegations of poor governance and highlighted Jonathan’s key achievements which he said were yet to be matched.

He further challenged the Shettima to come clean over the roles he played in the kidnap of the Chibok school girls, stressing that it goes beyond the dismissive claim that “Jonathan thought I kidnapped Chibok girls.”

The statement said: “He should be able to tell us if it was Jonathan’s poor choices that led the governor to expose students of Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok to avoidable danger, in total disregard of a Federal Government directive to the governors in the three states most affected by Boko Haram to relocate their students writing the West African School Certificate Examinations to safe zones.”

The statement further disclaimed the book entitled “On a Platter of Gold- How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria” written by Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, as sore grapes full of lies and gossip.

On the book, the former president said “we have watched for some time as some outrageous fabrications are extracted from its pages day after day by the media.  When the publication of the book, with an ominous title was first mooted, we knew it would be full of bile and sour grapes.  We didn’t expect truth, sincerity and accuracy of narration, given that the author who was sacked from his ministerial position by the subject of the book, is now the spokesman for the ruling APC.

“We will therefore like to dissociate former President Jonathan from the book’s salacious contents, with all the obvious distortions, lies and exaggerations.  Its pages are populated with gossip, politically influenced newspaper articles, uncoordinated raw data and unproven claims. Sadly, the author did not help matters, as there was no rigorous in-depth investigations towards establishing the veracity of  the allegations the book contained.

“For instance, it is ridiculous for the author to have claimed that the President was forced to sack a certain minister by another cabinet member when the obvious truth known to all key members of the administration was that the President acted based on the recommendation of an internal committee that investigated the matter. This, unfortunately, is the kind of baseless claims and narratives that run through the entire book and it would be pointless devoting our time towards making a case by case response to all its ridiculous allegations.”

This will certainly not be the last. It must however be a learning curve in our nation’s history. The present crop of leaders must also know that a day of reckoning will come and soon too.

Even after they get a second term, they will have to leave office and testimonies about their stewardship will have to be debated in the courts of public opinion for good or bad.

Indeed, judging by the mood of the country, 2019 will be a shocker to many as “judgment” will be handed down to the chagrin of the political class, to which there will be gnashing of teeth.