Ever since he left the Aso Rock Villa in the middle of the year 2015 after suffering a crushing defeat in the presidential poll of the same year, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) has continued to appear in the news -- most of the times for scandalous reasons. Yes, he conceded defeat graciously, becoming the first incumbent president to have been so soundly routed electorally and one that magnanimously accepted his fate without much ado. The GEJ presidential failure was foretold long before he was given the political shellacking by the then opposition (now the ruling) All Progressives Congress (APC). Jonathan, to be fair, remains a very good fellow but such modesty, virtue and meekness do not necessarily define great leadership.
Since he stepped down gracefully on May 29, 2015, we have been hearing tales upon tales bordering on executive heist (some mind-boggling and others criminally unpatriotic), and fiscal scandals involving his wife, Patience, relatives and cronies. We have been treated to Diezanigate and Dasukigate, the two awful 'gates' that would ordinarily win a Grammy Award in the event of a Nollywoodian exploitation of the riveting drama and theatrics behind the billions of Dollars Diezani Alison-Madueke and Sambo Dasuki looted from the national treasury.
We have been following the travails or "persecution" of the ex-First Lady, Mama Peace, as she is locked in a judicial battle of her life over the assets or bank accounts seized or frozen by the EFCC, bank accounts containing millions of Dollars -- some of which were opened with the names and addresses of ghosts or stewards! Patience Jonathan never worked and earned any salary to the million Dollar tune yet she was shamelessly crying foul over the seizure of the money she stole that belonged to the Nigerian people! Nigeria, of course, is a land of wonders, a special clime where politicians and their wives or relatives and friends could make money without signing contracts or working anywhere.
We have heard from those who should know better having worked or interacted with Jonathan at close quarters during his five years in the saddle how good and harmless he was. But others have equally painted the grim picture of a man without balls, an unsophisticated politician unwilling to hurt anyone for fear of the unknown; a President humbled by both romantic instincts, a la Bill Clinton, and inability to take full charge at moments of truth. Jonathan, himself, had told us about his poor upbringing in Otuoke and how he trekked down kilometers to school; how he had no good shoes to wear and how he read his books with candlelight at night! He was indeed a president quite like no other in the checkered political history of Nigeria.
Recently, the APC Spokesman and former Minister of Youth and Sports under Jonathan, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, eleased and presented a book he wrote titled "On a Platter of Gold- How Jonathan won and lost Nigeria,” detailing the highs and lows of the GEJ presidency. We shall limit our interest to two interesting areas the book dealt with: his gross incompetence and the amatory power-play involving the two notorious women that served him as Ministers. The author made it clear unapologetically that Jonathan was never suitable for the complex executive task he was given to execute. The demanding job was far greater than what he would have handled.
We hold that Jonathan would have performed far better as a councilor in Otuoke or a Local Government Area Chairman in Bayelsa state than taking up residence in Abuja as the Head of State. But he could be forgiven for whatever he did right or wrong or never did at all. He never manifested any inordinate ambition for power nor coveted any position, big or small. He never dreamt of one day becoming a Governor or President or any other executive position in-between. He would have preferred to have been left alone in the Ivory Tower as a lecturer in zoology than being saddled with the thankless job of leading millions of angry and hungry people struggling hard to make money daily by hook or by crook.
Alas Olusegun Obasanjo single-handedly made Jonathan happen on the national stage after the Yar'Adua tragedy. Obasanjo imposed a clueless Shehu Shagari on Nigeria decades ago and did the same thing with Yar'Adua and subsequently with the emergence of GEJ. The Aremu or Ota could conveniently claim to 'love' Nigeria more than the rest of us but his presidential stewardship and the nasty politics of succession he played would suggest that patriotism was always a victim at the end of the day. Exhibiting traits of omnipotence and omniscience the retired General had always craved for the spotlight remaining the godfather or as GEJ put it recently: "the boss of bosses." But his legacy is tainted with the Shagari and Jonathan disasters in our national political life.
Here was a president from the minority ethnic group who was constitutionally bestowed with awesome power as the Commander-In-Chief but who chiefly commanded poorly. The Boko Haram insurgency up north rattled GEJ to the point of powerlessness. We saw the fugitive unrepentant chief terrorist, Abubakar Shekau, releasing video images of himself surrounded by armored tanks and AK-47-wielding mad men taunting Jonathan, seizing towns and villages and openly defying the state in a show of territorial conquest. We had seen corruption sky-rocket to a dreadful level that bore every sign of executive connivance if not criminal collusion. We had deprecated a dangerous situation where glorified criminals were left at liberty to inflict more economic damage to a rotten system.
We heard the then President, in an exhibition of unpardonable irresponsibility, telling a flabbergasted nation that stealing did not amount to corruption! We had shuddered at how a man entrusted with power to lead us aright democratically could have descended to the low level of a cassave-bread-eating and fish pepper-soup-drinking clown all out to wreck a vibrant economy and consequently, albeit unwittingly, rock the national boat. Collectively we had heaved a huge sigh of relief upon learning way back in 2015 that the Bayelsa-born jester had been trounced silly in a keenly-contested election -- one for which billions of Dollars was invested by the then ruling Peoples Democratic (nay Destructive) Party.
The former Aviation Minister (now a do-nothing say-nothing Senator) Stella Oduah, sacked by GEJ over a bullet-proof Mercedes acquisition scandal, had told Mallam Abdullahi that the embattled former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke (a confirmed GEJ mistress) had worked very hard behind the scenes to see her ousted from her position following the car purchase scandal. She claimed that Diezani could not withstand another woman coming closer to Jonathan! Talk of jealousy of the adulterers! We knew all along that GEJ was into the 'skirt runs' but Oduah's allegation went a step further to confirm what we had been saying about the connubial presidency Jonathan ran, one that involved more than Patience, Diezani and Stella.
Jonathan was saying the other day that Nigerians (including northerners!) were urging him to try to wrestle power back from President Buhari in 2019. Though he claimed that he had no more political ambition having retired from partisan politics it would have been interesting indeed to see Jonathan back as a PDP candidate in the coming poll. That would have given us another insight into how his mind presently works after the 2015 spectacular failure to retain power as an incumbent. Alas, he had wisely elected to lie low refusing to throw his Ijaw hat into the ring for a mortal electoral combat come 2019.
Bolaji Abdullahi was right by suggesting that power was thrown at GEJ on a platter of gold but he messed it up big time. It was like dressing up a pig in suit and expecting the dirty animal not to go a-swimming in the gutter. Or asking a homeless jobless thug to sign as a guarantor of a bank credit facility for one. Iron sharpens iron! Jonathan leading Nigeria was a misnomer that should never have been allowed to happen in the first place. But with Babacracy running at full swing no force could have dared challenge the Solomonic wisdom or decision of Baba as regards who succeeded him or who should not. If in doubt ask Atiku Abubakar how his ambition was killed even before he made his first move towards realizing a long dream of ruling Nigeria.
Jonathan is an angry man right now! He could decide to fight dirty on the street if he meets either Mallam Abdullahi or Governor Kashim Shettima one on one: The statement his spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, released few days ago was both combative and undiplomatic brimming with unusual invectives. He said he performed 'miracles' as President listing his 'landmark' achievements to include power generation, Ebola epidemic control and encouraging more Nigerians to go farming. He boasted about his electoral and agricultural reforms, Guinea worm and polio eradication programs and conducive economic environment that led to Nigeria overtaking South Africa as Africa's number one economy!
He took exception to the declaration made by the Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, during the book presentation in Abuja. Shettima had alleged that Jonathan had sought desperately to remove him in power because he believed he masterminded the Chibok girls' abduction. Again, Shettima rated Obasanjo higher in terms of management of competent men and resources. Apart from tackling hard Shettima GEJ described the book as "sore grapes, full of lies and gossips". He said it was "pointless devoting our time towards making a case by case response to all its ridiculous allegations". The jury is out; we hope Jonathan himself or Reuben Abati would soon write their own books so that we can hear from the horse's mouth.
Dismantling the Jonathan legacy (for whatever it is worth) is an easy task by audio, video or literature. It is as easy and simple as telling a tale about the late Ugandan Idi Amin as a cannibalistic demon or the late Zairean Mobutu as a demented kleptocrat. Or better still the late Togolese Eyadema as a mass murderer. Or closer home the late Sani Abacha as a locust on a pillaging mission. Or even an Obasanjo as a vindictive notorious failed third-termer.
For us, therefore, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan's presidential legacy has already been defined and dismantled by what we know thus far. What is not known (yet) is no longer important or necessary for a definitive conclusion to be reached. Jonathan was good and lucky in Aso Rock but that was not a good qualification for statesmanship.
SOC Okenwa can be reached at [email protected].