Opinion: The Many ‘Sins’ Of President Goodluck Jonathan

by Abraham Ogbodo

The APC camp is unrelenting. It has decided that come rain or shine, the 72-year old ex-general must make Aso Rock on May 29. A certificate or something that approximates that has been shown to put paid to debates on whether or not the party’s flag bearer in the February 14 presidential election is educated to a level of becoming Nigeria’s president.

In effect, all things being equal, it has been agreed that Buhari is good enough in all measurements to preside over Nigeria, the most populous and biggest economy in Africa, otherwise known as Giant of Africa in the 21st century. There is little more to add. Some people are saying it is in order to try a school certificate holder or school certificate attempted and a grand old man since the PhD holder and the young man that has been running for six good years has performed below installed capacity.

Jonathan himself is the cause of these wild speculations. There is a saying in Yoruba that the hawk will lose its essence if it fails to catch chicken. And as essential as salt is, it will become white sand if it loses its taste. What I am saying is that power, especially in this part of the world, is created to be exercised not to be incubated. Maybe the narrative would have changed significantly if Jonathan had tried to come out as a Nigerian head of state, something in the mould of Olusegun Obasanjo. His gentility and attempt to be democratic when he should be rough and dictatorial have not helped him at all.

Even his best weapon – the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) – in this political war of attrition was not put to effective use. He has lost the purpose for which former President Obasanjo created the EFCC. If the commission had been appropriately applied, his arch-rival in next month’s presidential election, General Mohammadu Buhari would have been probably running around trying to clear himself of alleged misappropriation of N26billion of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) under him. He would not have the time and presence of mind to jump from one state capital to another campaigning to unseat Jonathan as president.

Under Obasanjo, no Aminu Tambuwal would have come from nowhere to become the House Speaker against the supreme will of Baba. He would have asked for the head of the little rascal to be brought to him on a platter of wood and he would pay the cost even if it meant sinking the National Assembly under the weight of Ghana-Must-Go bags. That is the way of politics in Nigeria and everywhere too. The end has a way of justifying the means almost always.

But Jonathan is a gentleman. He allows the means to condition the end. He has said so many times that his ambition to remain President is not worth any bloody fight. That was why after months of sustained pummeling, Tambuwal so easily moved to the opposition to continue the onslaught against Jonathan and the PDP. The President has maintained the infuriating stance that nothing, including his political survival is worth a good fight. Tambuwal is still the House Speaker in spite of President Jonathan. I do not know of any other democracy in the world where the minority party produces the leadership of the legislature.

Also, when a certain Mallam El Rufai was chased out of town under President Umaru Shehu Yar’Adua, Jonathan came fully on board to relax the conditions for his return. Now the hunted Mallam has completed a full circle and among the pack of ruthless hounds hunting Jonathan with a real threat of making a meal of him on February 14. This is the way the gentle crumbles in Nigerian politics. I can say for sure that the dirty game of politics does not have a dirtier and more brutal outlook than it has in Nigeria. And until something snaps to create a new template, its players must attend the Baba Olusegun Obasanjo School of Politics as a pre-condition.

In effect, Jonathan needs another PhD from the OBJ academy to do good business in the Nigerian political environment. Roughness is the subjective factor in the power calculus. Without it, other factors cannot add up to tilt the scales. It is not enough to be knowledgeable, urbane, visionary, passionate and all of the attributes that constitute a virtuous scale. When all of these are assured, an effective player must exchange a certain percentage, say 50, of his milk stock for bile to sharpen the Machiavellian instincts needed on the field of play.

Jonathan has consistently missed this point and it is almost too late to return to it. For now, he can only pray that since the universe is on the side of truth and justice, things should happen in a manner on February 14 to set the bad records straight. And the record is that the APC which is loaded with rough necks and rabble rousers, from Lagos to Sokoto and from Maiduguri to Port Harcourt, saw early enough this unusual desire of Jonathan to be the only good man in Sodom and Gomorrah and capitalized on same to make life very uncomfortable for the Bayelsa born President.

It would seem that while Goodluck Jonathan was lost in cloud seven conceptualising a new Nigeria where politics would be played without rough tackles, the opposition only carefully processed the playing field and returned with the verdict that the rules could not be changed in 2015 and whoever that was attempting to rework the rules should be tagged clueless and a weakling who must be changed going forward.

Nothing was done to straighten issues when this scenario of a weakling was being created and foisted. It was condoned instead in the false hope of building a new political order. For instance, is it not truly a mark of weakness for a Nigerian President to declare a state of emergency in any part of the federation without dismantling the existing regional political structures to make for freer federal access to contain such emergency? Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa did not spare the regional government in 1964 when he imposed emergency rule in the former Western Region. And when Obasanjo did his in Plateau and Ekiti States, both governors were sacked.

But Jonathan imposed emergency rule in the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa without sacking the governors. It is counting against him because these same governors are part of the crowd causing him sleeplessness. What he would have done to show strength and sleep well was to sack the three state governments and begin immediately a military air campaign to level all the cities, towns and villages with the faintest presence of Boko Haram. That is how to become a strong leader with a lot of clues in Nigeria. Obasanjo did so in Odi in Bayelsa State and Zaki Biam, the birth place of former Chief of Army Staff, Major General Victor Malu. Baba is today adjudged a strong leader with a lot of initiatives to contain trouble.

Even Yar’Adua who was sick had enough strength to send the Air Force to level Okerenkoko in Delta State when some militants killed just one Nigerian soldier. Therefore, to think always of the collateral consequences of a narrow interest action and refuse to act to create the much-needed impression of strength is not good politics. Now, the opposition has managed to convert the gentility of Jonathan to docility and it is asking that he be replaced with Buhari so that the presidency can regain its characteristic rigidity and brutality.

The message is sinking because the Nigerian crowd is like the Roman Mob that listens to both prose and poetry and acts on the last impulse. Buhari is the last impulse. Anyhow, it will amount to a change if Buhari wins the presidential election. This seems all that the APC wants from the ongoing process – just change for the sake of change. The nature of the change has not been properly interrogated because Buhari the change agent being taunted shall flunk big time on all indices if brought under scrutiny. He is being protected and guided by sheer propaganda to the presidency.

This is the danger in the Buhari choice. By all measurements, he neither possesses the mental infrastructure nor the temperament to manage a modern state. He is just a piece of mirage defined as reality largely by the inability of President Jonathan to act decisively. Like all mirages, he shall evaporate upon arrival.


Abraham Ogbodo is an editor at The Guardian newspapers. 

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

Leave a Comment