Jonathan: Why Break The Golden Silence? By Tonnie Iredia

In most developed societies each country’s national agenda is usual set by the media through effective publicity of issues which they think society should know and think about. In Nigeria however, everything is politicized, thereby making it possible for politicians to set our nation’s agenda. Hence national development has been slow because what the average Nigerian politician sees as deserving to be a nation’s agenda are usually cosmetic matters which concern his personal interest.

That seems to explain why discussions about an annual budget which in other countries centre on growth, development, employment etc, while ours begin and end with a missing budget which when found is bedeviled by executive and legislature disagreements. Somehow the week just ended was a good one for Nigeria as one of its foremost political reporters; Segun Adeniyi released a new book, “Against the run of play.” Through it, Adeniyi reopened vital issues that were hitherto swept under the carpet: issues that would in future help put in perspective many public activities that no one understood earlier.

One of the issues concerns the saying that “in politics, there are no permanent friends, but permanent interests.” From comments credited to former President Goodluck Jonathan, it seems the former President is yet to come to terms with the settled nature of the saying. When Adamu Mu’azu left office as Bauchi State Governor, he was indicted for embezzling millions of naira; he was later alleged to be in exile when a judicial commission of enquiry convicted him and a government white paper consequently banned him from holding any public office for 10 years.

Interestingly within the so-called period of ban, Mu’azu was appointed by President Jonathan as chairman of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA before he was nominated again by the President and cleared by the Senate as Chairman of the Pension Commission after which he surfaced as Chairman of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).

Muazu had thus been greatly compensated for whatever he did for Jonathan in the past or what he was being lobbied to do for Jonathan’s second term ambition. If as the former President now says he was betrayed by Muazu, we dare say it is allowed in politics and it is only the naïve that such would surprise.

Put differently, if Muazu made a promise which he did not fulfil, it is not a big deal because it is not in the character of Nigerian politicians to keep any promise. Indeed, they don’t even accept the existence of such a promise; hence former President Obasanjo needed to forget his pain that he pacified the North to let Jonathan remain as President after serving the balance of the Yar’ Adua ticket.

Jonathan did not remember what Obasanjo did and no other person was willing to press the issue. Although former Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu openly hit the nail on its head in an interview with a Kaduna-based radio station, Liberty FM in 2013 where he alleged that Jonathan signed a pact not to seek election for more than one term, neither Aliyu nor any other eyewitness was able or willing to provide material evidence that such a promise was ever made.

Another point in contention is Jonathan’s allegation that Professor Attahiru Jega, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) disappointed him. The issue here is not just that it is too late to question Jega’s sincerity; the unfortunate impression being created is that when Jonathan appointed Jega, he expected the man though a referee to show partisan loyalty.

If so, why did Jonathan tell the nation then that he did not know Jega from Adam? If Jega’s offence was that he refused to be part of the plot to scuttle the election through postponement, the accusation is unfair because the time table for the Presidential election was strangely released more than a year before the contest. Besides, many Nigerians were suspicious of the opposition of the ruling PDP to electoral reforms when it was the government party that initially released funds for the project. In any case following the world-wide commendation which Jega’s INEC got for a job well done, any allegation of wrong doing does not arise at this point.

Even if the 2015 Presidential election was not perfect, no one would hastily join the previous government in condemning Jega whenever the gimmicks of the then ruling party are recalled. One of the legacies of the Jonathan government would remain the introduction of the use of security to scuttle election. The postponement of the election and the reckless monetization of campaigns by the PDP especially in the South west did not do the nation any good.

During the last Edo governorship election, the technique was borrowed and used by those in the corridors of power to manipulate the exercise. It should be on record therefore that whether it was the 2015 Presidential election or the Edo governorship election of 2016, the postponement was foisted on the electoral body the obnoxious strategy was introduced during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan

The former President may have had his strong points and challenges but it would be difficult not to criticise him on two other issues namely: a) the fight against insurgency and the anti-corruption war. To start with the PDP government never convinced anybody that its response time to the Chibok tragedy made any sense. It is indeed, obvious that the fight against insurgency was fitful as the military leaders were all in their cozy offices in Abuja, hundreds of kilometers from the war zone.

Why would, people not believe the un-refuted allegation that during the Osun Governorship election, the military deployed 75,000 of its operatives to secure the election while only 30,000 men were left to fight Boko Haram. As for the anti-corruption war, it was with joy that some of us learnt form Jonathan that former American President Obama mobilized public opinion against his administration for describing corruption, Nigeria’s greatest dilemma, as a perception.

Many Nigerian leaders including those who ruled in uniform hardly voluntarily left office, Jonathan did and got applauded for that, for any other thing he is saying now, we suggest to him that silence can be golden.