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Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s ‘Worst’ President Turned Best Ex-President

Goodluck Jonathan had a choice in the 2015 election; the Mugabe or Nkurinziza option was open to him, but he chose the path of civility and statesmanship by bowing to the will of his countrymen. He famously declared that “my ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian”. He kept to his word and Nigeria was pulled from the precipice of imminent implosion. His role as ex-president is very inspiring and exemplary, which has greatly stabilised the polity amidst various agitations, particularly in the Niger Delta. He politely turned down the role of opposition leader by declining the chairmanship of the PDP BoT. Instead he is giving full support to his successor to succeed. Even in the face of provocation and harassment, Jonathan as a statesman has maintained a cordial relationship with Buhari and channels his views directly to him without going public like a politician.

Few men in the history of any nation are as privileged and fortunate, as former president Goodluck Jonathan, to have held every important position of authority and power, consecutively for sixteen unbroken years. First elected in 1999 as deputy governor, then governor in 2005, later as vice president in 2007 and finally in 2010 as president and commander in chief of the armed forces, of the Nigerian federation. Reputed to be amiable, simple and meek; his steady rise to power has been attributed more to divine providence and sheer luck, as his first name implies, than any track record of proven competence and capacity at statecraft.

Born on Nov 20, 1957 in the riverine community of Otuoke in Bayelsa State, to Ijaw parents, Goodluck Jonathan is no doubt Nigeria’s greatest personal beneficiary of the Fourth Republic. Expectedly, no literature is exhaustive and there is no consensus of opinion yet about his stewardship as president between May 6th, 2010 and May 29th 2015, because it maybe is too early to fully appraise his tenure barely 14 months after he left office. But one thing is certain, Nigerians rejected him at the 2015 general elections and elected the candidate of the then opposition APC, Muhammadu Buhari as president. The 2015 general election was historic because in a rare precedence in Africa, unheard off in Nigeria, an incumbent president lost an election.

However, Jonathan’s loss of election and PDP’S fall from power after sixteen years was long time coming. The beginning of the end for the PDP started with the predicted and eventual death of former President Umar Musa Yar’Adua on May 5th 2010 after a battle with terminal illness. Events emanating from the long medical vacation of Yar’Adua and his inability or unwillingness to hand over the mantle of powers to Goodluck, his vice, even in acting capacity, created quite some political tension in the country. Members of the Yar’Adua administration’s kitchen cabinet, the “cabal”, in which Jonathan was an outsider, were running the country by proxy, because Chief Kaase Aondoaka, the attorney general proclaimed that the president could rule from anywhere, including his sick bed.

But in a rare show of unity, the country rose to the occasion and with one voice urged the then President Yar’Adua to toe the path of honour (Olusegun Obasanjo) and constitutionality (Muhammadu Buhari), by handing over to his vice (the Save Nigeria Group) while unable to discharge his functions as head of state. Through the ingenious “doctrine of necessity”, the National Assembly of the federation mandated Goodluck Jonathan to act as president in the absence of the substantive president and commander in chief. The nation heaved a sigh of relief and normalcy was restored. This event further endeared Goodluck Jonathan to Nigerians, with an attendant goodwill because he was perceived as maligned and marginalised in the scheme of things in the Yar’Adua presidency.

Once he assumed full powers as president, it wasn’t long before another Goodluck Jonathan was unveiled. Nigerians mistook his timidity and naiveté for simplicity; for he barely understood Nigeria and Nigerians and remained an outsider in the power equation throughout his tenure. Beneath the calm and innocent look of his was a man driven by high ambitions and the quest for power; he moved swiftly to consolidate his hold on power and prepared for his eventual election as president. His gentle manners and politeness effectively concealed a very vindictive fellow who rarely forgives political adversaries; he quickly moved against all his opponents and stumbling block to power, beginning with AGF Aondaoaka, whom he redeployed from the justice ministry to special duties and the sacking of the then PDP chairman Vincent Ogbulafor, whose sin was in prematurely declaring an embargo on a Southern candidacy for the presidency, because the North had not run its course. This was without first seeking the opinion of the president, a Southerner, who was set to run for the presidency in clear violation of the zoning arrangement.

All these attributes and more were to shape the form and structure of his presidency. His nomination of Mohammed Namadi Sambo, the then governor of Kaduna as his vice president was his first political misstep. This action was interpreted as deliberate under the influence of a strong Christian lobby, whose lifelong interest was in having a Christian governor in Kaduna. This perception was further entrenched by Jonathan’s inability to act decisively during the Jos mayhem, which many blamed on the discriminatory policies against Hausa-Fulani Muslims by the then governor Jonah Jang, a Christian and close ally of the president. Pastor Ayo Oristejiafor, the very radical CAN president actually assumed the role of Jonathan’s spokesman and defender with such zeal and combativeness that irritated many rational minds. Jonathan elevated religiosity to a state affair. He routinely toured churches and often delivered political sermons from the pulpit, which was interpreted as trying to get the support of the Christian community by appealing to their religious sentiments. Members of Jonathan’s native ethnic Ijaw in a clear misjudgment of events leading to the emergence of their son assumed the ownership of the president of the whole federation, forgetting that his rise to power was made possible by all Nigerians, from North and South; Muslim and Christian. They verbally assaulted anybody they perceived as opposed to their son. Genuine and constructive criticisms were met with hostility and outright abuse and invectives. Nobody was spared in this inquisition as it was their turn to “chop”, since others have had their turns. With this mindset, corruption blossomed and Jonathan’s disposition appeared favourable to this ugly trend. Therefore, the Jonathan presidency was narrowed along religious and ethnic lines and was perceived to be sectional, leading to the build up of widespread resentment against him. Jonathan’s sectionalism unfortunately casted a shadow of doubt on the sincerity of the motives behind his numerous policies. Even his remarkably modest economic achievements were under-appreciated because of his political incorrectness.

Matters were further compounded when, against wise counsel, Goodluck Jonathan expressed interest to run for a fresh term of office in 2011 against the established zoning agreement within the ruling PDP. The zoning and rotation of offices and positions of state arrangement in the PDP was put in place to ensure equitable distribution of resources to all parts of the Nigerian federation. It however quickly degenerated into the equitable sharing of loot by thieving political elites from every part of Nigeria. Jonathan did not properly and skillfully negotiate his way to power. He got the PDP nomination through blackmail, threats and brazen dishonesty, which left a bitter taste in the mouth of most Northerners. Jonathan and his supporters, drawn from mainly his ethnic group, region and religious group, made nonsense of the concept of zoning and declared it undemocratic and unconstitutional. This brazen violation further altered the sharing of resources or loot by skewing it in favour of Jonathan’s section of the country. With a compromised opposition (ACN/ANPP) and a weak and sectional opposition (CPC), Goodluck Jonathan got easily elected. His election polarised the country along the North/South divide. Known or unknown to Jonathan, the political class across the North was only going to support him for one term of four years only. Therefore, when he made attempts to get re-elected in 2015, he was roundly defeated by a coalition of power brokers from across the country who formed the APC. By the end of his tenure, a majority of Nigerians held the belief that Goodluck Jonathan was the worst president in the history of Nigeria.

Once he lost his re-election bid, we again saw a different Jonathan. We saw a man who rose from the ashes of defeat, dusted up himself, accepted his fate by promptly conceding defeat and putting across that historic phone call to his opponent, Muhammadu Buhari, congratulating him, to the relief of his countrymen and the delight of the international community, who had been experiencing concerns over an oncoming implosion.

With this first step, Jonathan began a giant leap from his perception as Nigeria’s worst president ever to Nigeria’s best ex-president. He quickly followed up this gesture by organising the most comprehensive and seamless transition process ever seen in our country. Jonathan’s greatest achievement was in losing an election which he supervised as an incumbent, because that historic event has certified our democracy as fully grown and mature. A loss for Jonathan has become a massive gain for Nigeria. Nigerians are now confident in the electoral system having been emboldened by their ousting of an incumbent through the ballot. To Jonathan’s credit, he appointed a man of proven integrity and capacity, Attahiru Jega; a scholar of international repute as the chairman of INEC. An appointment that was based on merit and not on sectionalism, Jega’s performance was unparalleled in our electoral history. All the innovations and reforms carried out by Jega were made possible by the financial and moral support of Jonathan, thereby transforming Nigeria’s democratic experiment to a proven theory – one in which power truly belongs to the people.

Goodluck Jonathan had a choice in the 2015 election; the Mugabe or Nkurinziza option was open to him, but he chose the path of civility and statesmanship by bowing to the will of his countrymen. He famously declared that “my ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian”. He kept to his word and Nigeria was pulled from the precipice of imminent implosion. His role as ex-president is very inspiring and exemplary, which has greatly stabilised the polity amidst various agitations, particularly in the Niger Delta. He politely turned down the role of opposition leader by declining the chairmanship of the PDP BoT. Instead he is giving full support to his successor to succeed. Even in the face of provocation and harassment, Jonathan as a statesman has maintained a cordial relationship with Buhari and channels his views directly to him without going public like a politician.

 

Source: Thewhistler.ng

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