Jonathan, Yar’Adua and Buhari By Soyombo Opeyemi



Those whose palm-kernels were cracked for them by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble.” – Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart

By the close of the year 2008, it was only the naive, sycophant or inane optimist that did not see the writing on the wall – Yar’Adua’s health would be his Achilles’ heel. Then in the Daily Independent, I wrote a piece entitled, YAR’ADUA: TIME TO RETURN HOME. Below are excerpts from the article.

“Fortunately, Yar’Adua has an alter ego in the Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. He is equally cool-headed and unassuming. When Jonathan was the Deputy Governor in Bayelsa, he skillfully resisted pressures to supplant his governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was in police net in the United Kingdom on charges of money laundering. In a country where political perfidy is an art, Jonathan’s conduct was exceptional.

In spite of the health challenge of the President, that constantly sees him out of the country, there is no evidence linking the Vice President to sponsoring fifth columnists against his boss. Again, that is uncommon in a nation where opportunism is a political culture. Goodluck Jonathan is very much like Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. (However, on transparency and accountability, as a former governor, I must confess that I do not know anything about Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.)

“Yar’Adua did not dream of becoming the President of Nigeria when he was in power in Katsina State. The presidency was placed on his laps on a platter of gold. Yar’Adua is a humble man but now, resigning from such an exalted position, no doubt, demands extra humility.

“Even the best army in warfront sometimes beats a retreat. It is not a sign of weakness or capitulation. He who fights and runs away only leaves to fight another day. President Yar’Adua has made a name for himself. He has demystified governance and made due process a cardinal principle although there is still a long way to go. His voluntary resignation will only add another feather to his cap. History will record him as the finest leader that ever governed Nigeria in its 48 years of nationhood.”

Unfortunately, Yar’Adua did not heed my advice. History has again come full circle. The current President, Goodluck Jonathan, seems to have found himself in an analogous situation. This time not about health issues but the palpable prospect of losing the March 28 presidential poll. With the bloc votes of the North, overwhelming majority in the West and some battle-grounds in the East and South-south, Retired General Muhammadu Buhari may only be a few days away from becoming the President-elect.

Am I then suggesting that Jonathan should throw in the towel and resign as President? No. This is an electoral contest and under normal circumstances, Jonathan should fight till the end. But is President Jonathan actually a competitor or gladiator in the 2015 presidential race? This is the crux of the matter. The way and manner the PDP-led Federal Government has been conducting itself in the race for the presidency tends towards a zero-sum goal – It’s either we win or everybody loses! The abuse of institutions like the military, the police; threats to sack or sabotage institutions like INEC and its key officers; creating an imaginary medical condition for an opposition candidate that has no such history; tacit  support of armed ethnic groups and militia to perpetrate violence under the guise of supporting the president; the pollution of public space by  Femi Fani-Kayode; the general heating up of the polity in a bid to win the presidential poll at all cost, among others, are conduct clearly beyond the pale. This surely is not the Jonathan that I wrote about in 2008. What exactly has gone wrong?

I have had cause to blame or even curse History. And some people asked ‘Why’. I often argue that the man (History) is unconscionably wicked for permitting no one to learn from him. We have had several leaders in this country and outside Nigeria who stood on the very threshold of history but blew up once-in-a-life-time opportunity.

The opportunity to conduct the freest and fairest election; the chance to hand over power peacefully; the opportunity to return the country to full-blown democracy; the chance to write one’s name in gold and become a global icon by losing gallantly in a keenly contested but peaceful free and fair election. Why is history so wicked?

Like I wrote about Yar’Adua in 2008, President Jonathan never dreamt of becoming the Governor of Bayelsa let alone occupying the posts of the Vice President, Acting President and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What again does anyone want from Fate? Indeed, he may go down in the history of Nigeria as the only one that had such favour of God to occupy such offices in quick succession.

And you attained these heights virtually on the platter of gold. What are the lessons of life?

“Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” asks the Holy Book. We all often talk about the vicissitudes of life. We say life is full of ups and downs. You cannot have all the ‘ups’ without any ‘downs’. No way.  And we are religious in this country. There is no Scripture that says you will always have everything in life going on fine for you. That is not God!

You have always won, now if you lose just once, what is the big deal about that? Is that not itself the lesson of life? Even Buhari contested election three times and lost and he is a former Head of State. That is just life; the Almighty teaches us a lot of lessons through the vicissitudes of life. You win some, you lose some, but in the end you become a better person.

President Goodluck Jonathan should seize this opportunity by the forelock. He should immediately douse the current high political temperature. He knows what to do to achieve that.  “If I lose, I will return to my home town; the presidency is not my birthright,” the President was recently quoted to have said.

That is assuring, but even reassuring is the need to calm the polity from being heated to the boiling point through concrete actions. Jonathan stands once again on the threshold of history. He can write his name in gold and become a global icon, sought out by international bodies like the United Nations.