No Accolade for Mr. Jonathan Please!, by Abdulrafiu Lawal


Some Nigerians have continued to advocate for Goodluck Jonathan to be nominated for the Mo Ibrahim prize and the Nobel Peace prize for conceding defeat in the just concluded Presidential elections. There is nothing spectacular about what Jonathan did that calls for celebration. In every election, there is always a winner and a loser. Conceding defeat is therefore a rational thing for anyone in any civilised society to do. In the case of Jonathan, he had no option than to concede defeat because he tried other options to discredit the polls, which however did not scale through. Nigerians remember the Orubebe/Jega story and the sacking of former Inspector General Suleiman Abba, of recent, for not helping him rig the elections. These groups of Nigerians embarking on this advocacy for President Jonathan are entitled to their opinion as provided by the Nigerian constitution.

The Mo Ibrahim award is granted to exceptional leaders who have engaged in lifting people out of poverty and paving way for sustainable and equitable prosperity, and who have left office three years prior to the award. The Norwegian Nobel prize, on the other hand, awarded since 1901, lists outstanding contribution to peace as the yardstick for nomination. Going through the website of the two organisations, I do not see where President Jonathan fits in.

For us to decide whether Jonathan deserves an award, it is important to take a historical excursion into his six-year sojourn at the helm of affairs. Many will recall how Nigerians fought for the implementation of the doctrine of necessity when it was apparent that the Late Yar’Adua could no longer pilot the affairs of the nation and also for the manner in which the “cabal” treated him. Shortly after this, Jonathan shared the excess crude account to the governors in the country so as to allow him contest for a fresh term in 2011. Next, he fired Vincent Ogbulafor as National Chairman of his party for insisting there was a one term pact. Then he sought to amend the constitution for a six year single term, which he claimed he would not be a beneficiary. Nigerians were too smart for him, as it was dead on arrival at the National Assembly. I believe the Late Dora Akunyili will be turning in her grave now seeing what has become of the Jonathan presidency that she fought for.

At the party level, he brought in Bamanga Tukur who had lost touch with modern day political realities as National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Tukur rubbished the little that was left of internal democracy within the party and gave state governors the party machinery to run. Most of the founding fathers of the party were either chased or frustrated out of the party. The climax was an implosion with five governors leaving in one fell swoop and all he could do was watch like a man lost in thought.

Jonathan went a step further by refusing to declare his assets publicly and added salt to injury by saying “stealing is not corruption”. What then is corruption? How can a leader fight corruption when he does not see stealing public funds as a crime? It is not surprising that he shares a similar line of thinking with some of his brothers from the Niger Delta who see the bunkering of oil as a morally right. The International Energy Agency (IEA) in its 2012-2013 report says the Federal Government and oil companies were losing $7 billion annually to oil theft. Asari Dokubo once told Nigerians that people of Niger delta should not be prosecuted for vandalising oil pipelines. He said “how can someone steal his own thing?” President Jonathan never uttered a word against the legalisation of theft by his ‘boys’.

In April 2014, like an adult who missed the freedom to dance as a child, Jonathan went to Kano to dance at his party’s rally barely twenty four hours after 200 people were killed in the Nyanya bomb blast in Abuja. Can Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) now compare him to Barack Obama who in November 2012 suspended presidential campaigns to join one of his staunchest critic, New Jersey governor, Republican Chris Christie to comfort residents devastated by Storm Sandy? The answer is obvious.

This same Jonathan turned a blind eye as Boko Haram carried out genocide in the North East for six years, apologies to former governor Murtala Nyako. He insulted Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state on national television for saying Nigeria was not winning the war against Boko Haram. Jonathan also turned Nigerian soldiers to “women and children” who take cover when they see enemy fire. He took six years to realise that the military hardware needed to crush Boko had to be ordered and customised. It also took the visit of seventeen year old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai before Jonathan met the parents of the Chibok girls. What a slap on Nigeria’s image!

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo offered to help, but Jonathan snubbed him and later referred to him as a “motor park elder statesman.” Like a bad student of history that he is, he failed to realise that one cannot be deceived by people and at the same time be deceiving himself. Obasanjo’s flaws as a human being aside, he is an institution in Africa today. This is a man who almost lost his manhood in the Nigerian civil war; escaped death by whiskers in prison over a phantom coup; came back to rule this country; and encouraged his son in the army to fight against Boko Haram. One should never throw away the baby with the bathwater. If he does not like Obasanjo, what about his message. “Baba Iyabo”, as he is fondly called, is not someone looking for money to buy a house in Dubai, designer perfumes or shoes, but a person who strongly believes in Nigeria as an indivisible entity. All the clowns around asking him to insult Obasanjo have suddenly lost their voice. He may have forgotten that Atiku Abubakar with his formidable political machinery and financial war chest was badly bruised for taking the same path. A popular Yoruba proverb says that anyone who witnessed the rage of thunder will never join others to insult the god of fire.

Jonathan is leaving Aso Rock as the most “mocked and humiliated” Nigerian president. He lost an opportunity to be one of Nigeria’s greatest leaders, and probably if there is anything like reincarnation he will be guided by patriotism rather than selfish interest if given the opportunity again.

Looking at the PriceWaterHousecoopers report on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), one can see why the economy looks like a farmland ravaged by locusts; 60 million Nigerians are living below poverty line and standards lowered so much that “E or F” have become pass mark. The 199 page report states that out of the total sale receipts (2012-2013) for crude oil of $69.34 billion, NNPC remitted $50.81 billion, and $18.53 billion was unaccounted for. What I find worrisome is that things have gone bad in this country that it is not only our infrastructure that has collapsed, but also standards for assessing our leaders. Mediocrity has become a central part of our system. I see anyone who calls Jonathan a hero as an “E or F” student in school. Or how would one describe a student who performed below average as a good student? If we reward Jonathan, then we are setting the pace to reward poor performance.

Jonathan is the biggest beneficiary of Nigeria’s democracy and constitution, rising through the system from deputy governor, governor, vice-president and president; but he abdicated his responsibility as the Commander In-Chief. He destroyed the Nigerian Governors Forum through the infamous 16 is greater than 19 arithmetic, which he is a product of. In the last four years, Nigerians have had their hearts in their mouth as they worship in mosque and churches. He took the country to the brink of another civil war by promoting ethnic and religious division. His inglorious tenure need to be confined to the dustbin of history for Nigerians to move forward.

Former United States president, George Bush is today being avoided like a ‘leprous finger’ by both Republicans and Democrats for lying to the people and leading the country to two of the most expensive wars in history. The aftermath of Iraq and Afghan wars are hanging on the American economy today like a bad dream that will not go away for years to come. While Bill Clinton is given several assignments on behalf of the country, can anyone pinpoint an event where Bush has been asked to present a paper since leaving office?

Why should ours be different?

After six years of the Jonathan presidency, Nigeria is today like an old car, with worn out tyres, broken head lamps, non-functional brake, no shock absorber with an inebriated driver. His government cannot pinpoint a single tangible achievement in six years. Nigerians have realised that they made a mistake by giving the job of a pilot to a roadside barber. It will take about two years for Muhammadu Buhari to get the country running again. What Buhari will be taking over in the next few weeks is ‘carcass’ in the form of a massively depleted foreign reserve, a huge debt profile, and a battered image in the international community. Even the gales of appointments by Jonathan are landmines laced on the path of Buhari to create “bad blood” for the incoming administration. Perhaps, the Mo Ibrahim and Nobel Peace award panels may have a new category for mediocre and charlatans, then Jonathan will surely qualify for this award.