Posted by Frisky Larr | 23 November 2014 | 3,647 times
These days, there is one argument that is persistently heard when a section of Nigerians attempt to explain why the President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is largely perceived as having under-performed during his four-year tenure that is running out in a few months. This negative perception is so aggravated in some quarters that some disgruntled sharp-tongued commentators simply rephrased his name in some social media outlets to read “GoodluckEbola JoNothing” while a now deceased Facebook commentator of blessed memory once described him as “Emir El-Retard-eenJonathan”. These abuses underscoring the frustration of several hobby commentators often end up amusing the President’s opponents while it is generally taken with utmost contempt by his admirers, who cannot understand why people are taking the freedom of expression to the extent of ridiculing the country’s own President.
These days, we hear the argument that hardly anyone could have done better than this President under the atmosphere of genocidal and coercive insurgency that the northern political elite has subjected the country to. It is indeed no secret that some northern leaders, in the run-up to the last Presidential election in 2010, vowed to make Nigeria ungovernable if Dr. Goodluck Jonathan insisted on becoming President, while the northern tenure under the zoning arrangement was cut short by the untimely death of the former President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
In fact, the rapid pace at which events have happened within the tenure of this presidency renders the chronicling of events almost impossible. Yet a fairly alert mind should be able to reflect on some events that unfurled within the past three and a half years of Dr. Jonathan’s Presidency.
It started on a very bad note when the President – in reaction to the deeply-rooted chaos in the Nigeria Football Federation (Nigeria’s governing soccer body) that saw the national team end up with a shameful performance in South Africa 2010 – disbanded the national team, dissolved the Federation and suspended international outings for two years. FIFA raised its voice a few days later and the President chickened out immediately. He had not done his homework properly and did not consult with the proper experts for advice before hastily announcing actions beyond the reach of his powers against FIFA. Boko Haram had not yet thrown a single stone, not even from a catapult.
Shortly afterwards, signs began to emerge that Boko Haram was stepping up its campaign of violence by striking at soft targets and taking scores of innocent lives. If anything, these initial actions signaled the need to address the issue head-on and as a matter of utmost priority. The President reacted and took the matter very seriously. He plunged himself into the politics of reaching out to those he thought mattered most and distancing himself from those he thought mattered less. The choice was his and his alone. He appeased them with some power-sharing arrangements, when he thought the people mattered most and offered them and their cronies, lofty government appointments. In return, he was repeatedly assured that the menace would be over not later than six months into the future. He took it all with deep satisfaction and took to assuring Nigerians with dates by which the menace of Boko Haram would be confined to the trash can of history.
In his confidence and complacency, he turned his attention to another front. Without the requisite deep-thought, analysis of pros and cons and the need to take the bull by the horn, he lied and had his ministers lie repeatedly to Nigerians that he had no plans to remove fuel subsidy. Then on January 01, 2012 he gave Nigerians the demonic New Year’s gift of subsidy removal against all wise warnings of risking a revolution if he did. The President unwittingly responded that he was ready for a revolution. He was not taken hostage by Boko Haram at the time. Inspired by the widely reported Arab Spring, traditionally fearful Nigerians took to the streets and the President escaped a full-scale revolution by the whiskers at the cost of a few innocent lives.
In the meantime, Boko Haram’s insurgency was turning nasty and showing early signs of insurgent sophistication. His predecessor and mentor Olusegun Obasanjo offered himself for mediation – a task none of those people he appeased took upon themselves. He ended up ridiculing the former President and having his paid agents rain abuses on the old man with jeers and scorns. The choice was his.
Flashback to the subsidy protest: The nationwide uproar beamed the flashlight on the filth in the oil sector and all its attendant evils. The intelligent option of creating self-sufficiency in refining crude oil and discontinuing the regime of importing refined fuel was the final settlement that killed the nationwide semi-revolution. Investments were to be made in fixing old refineries and building new ones. A memorandum of understanding was even reached with Chinese engineering companies at the initial stage. We had no report that resources had to be withdrawn from the project to facilitate the fight against Boko Haram. No. Yet, the whole project died a quiet death while the regime of fuel importation continues unabated to the benefit of corrupt importers, whom no one dares to question. Not because Boko Haram stops anyone at gunpoint! The President is simply held hostage by the corrupt power of the capital.
The speed at which the sins of people who try to expose the scale of thievery in the oil sector are exposed underscores the excellence of President Jonathan’s government when he chooses to expose thieves. Half of the energy invested in nabbing the lawmaker Farouk Lawan’s acceptance of bribe to kill a part of his investigations on subsidy thieves was never invested in catching any of the oil thieves indicted. Yet Boko Haram did not incite this ineptitude. The mole planted in Ribadu’s committee was never planted in any NNPC body to track corrupt officers.
Bursting the Nigeria Governors’ Forum with undemocratic means had nothing to do with Boko Haram. Having the President’s wife meddle in the politics of Rivers State and attempting to have five lawmakers rule over 27 others in the Rivers State House of Assembly had nothing to do with Boko Haram.
The President’s only flagship project of success – the reactivation of the railway line from Lagos to Kano – was not disrupted by Boko Haram even though Kano is at the heart of Boko Haram’s operation. Yet Boko Haram is blamed for making governance difficult for the President? Boko Haram did not force the President to grant a national pardon to former Governor Alamieyeseigha, who has been officially adjudged corrupt and declared an international fugitive. Today this former Governor wields far more political influence in Jonathan’s Nigeria than the cleanest of all public figures. Boko Haram did not incite the President to make lords of militant touts in the Niger Delta nor has Boko Haram stopped the arrest and public prosecution of powerful brains behind illegal oil refineries all over the Niger Delta region. Even Co-President Asari Dokubo declares openly that President Jonathan will “not dare” (repeat: “not dare”) to refuse running for re-election. “Else he can’t come back home na! E no fit!” No single comment was issued by the President to rebuke the young, exuberant slime ball. Did Boko Haram ask the President to grant that much power to a thug?
The Niger Delta insurgency did not stop Olusegun Obasanjo from negotiating away Nigeria’s foreign debt. It did not stop him from pushing through with GSM, with NAFDAC and the installation of the EFCC even if its operations were more one-sided than otherwise. It did not stop him from building six power stations that would have been operational today if he had more time at his disposal. And I am not alone in the belief that an Obasanjo third term would have done Nigeria far more good than this disastrous Jonathan term has done. Obasanjo did not submit to militants who undermined him publicly like Asari Dokubo does Jonathan today. Obasanjo confronted as many powerful forces as he could and they joined hands to give him a fight. Without prejudice to those areas in which President Obasanjo also had his failures, these powers it were that successfully carved out the perpetual evil image for the old man with which many people associate him today in a convenient bandwagon effect.
On the contrary, President Jonathan shied away from confronting any force that is opposed to the interest of the state except those that challenge his personal ambitions. Today, his apologists are unfortunately in a desperate search of a scapegoat for the resultant dismal failure. First it was Boko Haram. But we know today that the President did not take on the background forces to nip the tragedy in the bud and tolerated, if not partially participated in propping up a version of Boko Haram. Now, they blame the Americans for failing to sell weapons to defeat Boko Haram. We now know however that the Americans only refused to sell attack helicopters that can easily be bought from Russia and scores of other sources.
Now, they are engaged in shadow-boxing over political defections. But high level defection from one party to the other is nothing new in the Nigerian democratic tradition. The overriding precedent case played out in 2007 when the Supreme Court of Nigeria validated the defection of a sitting Vice President from the ruling party to an opposing party. I am one of many Nigerians who thought – in the face of logical considerations at the time – that the Supreme Court Judges may have either been standing too tall on the high grade of intoxication or were simply drowned in their conspiracy to teach the overbearing Olusegun Obasanjo a very serious lesson. Whichever way it was, they did a serious disservice to the nascent democracy that is now hanging on the system as an albatross. The logic was simple. If for any reason then, Olusegun Obasanjo died as President, his Vice President, who was elected with and handpicked by him as a candidate of the PDP, would automatically have become the new President from another party, whose programme the electorate knew nothing about and did not vote for. It was the second highest office in the land.
The lesson there was clear. Whether or not the judgment was passed under the influence of intoxicants or emotions, and no matter how wrong the judgment was, it had definitely been passed and cannot be overturned. It is the law of the land until the constitution is explicitly amended to reflect another unmistakable reality. It therefore goes that the fact of being elected on the platform of one party should and does not automatically translate into the loss of an office upon defection to another party. It was the case with Governor Isa Yuguda, who defected from the ANPP to the PDP, Olusegun Mimiko, who defected from the Labor Party to the PDP, Governor Rochas Okorocha, who defected from APGA to the APC, as well as Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who left the PDP for the APC.
I therefore wonder aloud, why President Jonathan simply refuses to accept his fate in the spirit of political sportsmanship each time a leading politician defects from his party even in these dying minutes of his presidency. The futile persecution of Governor Rotimi Amaechi does not seem to have shown the President the limits of his impunity. The same scenario is now being replayed against Aminu Tambuwal, Speaker of the House of Representatives. The botched amateurism of the Rivers State House of Assembly ended in dangerous bloodshed. It did not teach Jonathan any lesson. He sought to trick the House of Representative to reconvene under the guise of extending some worthless state of emergency only toattempt to stage-manage the impeachment of the Speaker. Now that this too has failed, efforts are said to be underway to arrest the speaker. I will dare to ask how Boko Haram has influenced this show of impunitywhich shows the President as constantly being petty, unintelligentand often failing to do the right thing at the right time.
But Nigeria will never be the colossal failure that it is today, if people do not routinely set the wrong agenda and priority every step of the way. Today, rather than focusing on the illegal and impugned invasion of the premises of the House of Representatives by armed policemen who would jump into the bush for safety at the shout of armed robbers, and soldiers who run away from Boko Haram, Nigerians are hurling stones at lawmakers who scaled the fence to frustrate the planned second illegality of impeachment. This should ordinarily have been a point at which the fact of the Nigerian legislature being populated by celebrated and high-profile thugs ought to have occupied the back seat in the face of the more urgent issue of presidential impunity.
The threat by the opposition APC to form a parallel government if the presidential election is rigged is now the cry of brutal defiance by an opposition that smells a rat in the President’s extreme desperation to retain the presidency. The recipe is clear. Insurgency is already on course in the North. A brutally aggrieved opposition will render escalation an easy task. The Niger Deltans – I assume – are ready as well. Obasanjo once cried out and warned of an army being built by the President with an arsenal of lethal weapons. Is 2015 the watershed to ending the amalgamation?
Of course, Nigeria is made what it is today with the immense help of hungry and willfully collaborative praise-singers, who give incompetent politicians like President Jonathan the leverage that they need to survive and drain the stability of national interests. After all, these are the same people who conjure the fairy tale of grand performance by the President that no one else sees but they alone! It simply remains to be seen where Jonathan thinks he will be taking Nigeria and how he will end as a person and page in the history of a now dejected Nigeria.
•Frisky Larr (M. A.), a Radio/Television Journalist/Communication Scientist Govt.-accredited Translator/Interpreter of the English Language, writs from Germany. Larr, whose photo appears alongside this piece, can be reached via FriskyLarr@aol.com
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