Thinking About Mr. President By Timi Frank

jonaWhat is President Goodluck Jonathan going to write in his handover notes? Will he talk about why he refused to sack the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in spite of the monumental allegations of corruption against her? Will he talk about why he decided to name the Minister of Finance, Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy (CME), thereby usurping the role of the Vice President who is the statutory head of the Economic Team and thereby making other ministers subservient to her?

I marvel at where Mr President has found sudden gusto and blast of energy during this twilight days in office; I am referring to the recent gale of firing and hiring. His saying, “I am still in charge till May 29”, inspection of half completed projects, snippets of advice to the incoming President on projects that deserve priority, and ordering the release of a doctored forensic audit report, apparently to assuage the President-elect who said $20billion is too huge to let go of just like that. It is a pity that it took electoral thrashing for Mr President to realise at long last that he ought to have rightly exercised the authority inherent in his office. Is this the same President who denied that $20billion was missing? Is this the President who said stealing is not corruption?

I wonder how it feels to prematurely leave office. Hajiya Amina Sambo has said she will head to school after life in the Villa. We are yet to hear from Mama Peace. Will Jonathan return to the classroom, not as a student, but as a master to avail our upcoming generation of his experience in politics? Or will he globe-trot to preach the wonderment of accepting defeat during likely international speaking engagements? We look forward with earnest desire to see the path he will decide to tread after his stint on the most exalted seat in the land.

It is unfortunate that those who told Jonathan that he cannot be defeated are today helping him to write and fine tune his record of stewardship. His appointees that worked for his downfall would sooner or later fail to pick his calls nor return them. The first thing they will forget is his birthday. They will not remember to send him the usual well-wishes. Such is the way of men. My only hope is that apart from emerging victorious, Buhari will be his own man. Let the fate of Jonathan remain a lesson for President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB). I hope that GMB’s actions from May 29 will not be based on the popular or appraisal of sycophants but on the rightness of each course because according to Martin Luther King Jr., “Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But Conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.” It is today apparent that the outgoing administration preferred the expedient and popular above the right dictated by conscience.

For Jonathan and members of his outgoing team, these are certainly not the best of times. The defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has turned the pompous men of the party into political orphans. Those who used to fawn over Mr President with avalanche of unworkable ideas are fast diminishing. Many have switched allegiance to the Buhari and the party of change – The All Progressives Congress (APC). Those who promised to change their names if Mr President did not win re-election have not done so. Some who said they would proceed on self-exile are still around. Those who vowed to make war should the President be defeated have since pledged their allegiance to the incoming administration. One even said he cannot simply die because Jonathan was defeated. Today, the convoy of political jobbers who daily surrounded and practically imprisoned Mr President have sought a diversion from Aso Rock to Defence House. There, they hope to ingratiate themselves with the President-elect in return for unearned bread and butter. However, nobody is fooled by their gross act of disloyalty.

On my part, I did my utmost to warn Mr President of the likelihood of defeat should he fail to assert himself and be the President he was elected to be. Instead of taking heed to my open advice, some of his advisers who needed advice themselves told him to scoff at them. Not only that, either him or some of his overzealous aides made sure I was put under severe security surveillance. It is unfortunate that what I got for alerting my brother and President to potential land mines on his way were threats, harassments and intimidation. But I remained undaunted.

I still think that if Mr President had for once listened to my advice, perhaps he would not be in the state of quagmire he is today – going into premature retirement as the first sitting president to be defeated by an opposition party in this country. So many predictions and vows of PDP henchmen have not come to pass and I wonder how long we still have to wait in expectation. The party that vowed to rule for the “next 100 years” is now unabashedly saying it will make a comeback in 2019 after a paltry 16 years.

Mr. President could not have been more correct when he said during a farewell thanksgiving church service held in his honour at the Church of the Advent in Abuja, that certain hard decisions come with equivalent cost. “If you take certain decisions, you should know that people close to you will even abandon you at some point. I tell people that more of my so-called friends will disappear,” Jonathan told the worshippers. Too bad! But I can wager that what the outgoing President has seen is only a tip of the iceberg. For the first time perhaps, the President is seeing men like men. Those who sang: “Hosanna” for him yesterday now chorus “crucify him.” Some would soon take up pages in the newspapers to ‘tell the world who Jonathan really is.’ Let him not be deceived when the PDP hierarchy say they only have issues with some of his aides. Soon they will come for him. The glib talk about his confidants is a devious decoy to ultimately get at him. The good thing is that Mama Peace has vowed never to leave nor forsake him on account of his soon to be unveiled new status as former President, which is enviable by any measure. I also want to commend Mr President for already thinking of how to carry on post presidential villa. I hear he has expressed his willingness to join the likes of Yakubu Gowon and Ernest Shonekan to work for peace. I believe he is on the right track.

Even though most of my unsolicited advice in the past fell on deaf ears, I still want to tell Mr President not to entertain fears of likely persecution. I don’t think that will happen. I think his earlier posture of saying “I am ready for probe” is better. After all, he will soon be able to personally attest to the wonders of his Transformation Agenda when he commences his new phase of life outside the Villa. My only prayer is that he will not need to expend part of his meagre severance package on buying diesel to run his generators should the Electricity Distribution Company neglect to favour his new abode with power supply from the over ‘10,000 megawatts’ of electricity generated during his six-year presidency. One thing is sure; Professor Chinedu Nebo would not be available to accuse saboteurs of being responsible for the inability of the Generation Companies (Gencos) and Distribution Companies (Discos) to evacuate the megawatts into the national grid. I think Nebo should be considering a well-deserved sabbatical after his inability to cast out the “demons” in the power sector, in spite of his spirited (or is it spiritual?) crusade.

I also hope he will always fly his private jet to the village because that is the only way of escaping the tyranny of the well paved East-West road ‘constructed’ by his administration. I just hope his drivers would be cunning enough to drive outside Abuja to buy fuel at N120 per litre instead of queuing interminably at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) retail outlet at the Central Business District (CBD) Abuja and thereby delay his royal movements. I don’t think this will happen. I hope that the CME or one in her very similitude will not approach him to say the new government ought to pay all his entitlements and continuous benefits promptly because “Nigeria is not broke.” ‘The N882billion now being borrowed to pay salaries and settle contractual obligations monthly is just a short term measure to enhance cash flow but will fizzle out as soon as the marvellous economic diversification under the present administration begins to yield dividends.’ The preceding words are mine but you will not be too far from the personality I have mimicked if you know the author of the following quotation: “Under this administration, we began the work of truly diversifying the economy and the proof of that is that much of the growth in these past few years that has come to the country has come not from the oil sector but actually from non-oil sectors like agriculture, telecommunications, manufacturing and the creative industries. The fact that oil prices fell by 50 per cent makes it very difficult in terms of cash flow, but Nigeria is asset rich and that is why when people say the country is broke, I say no…”

“…I really think with the growth of the country based on non-oil sectors, we ought to see the fall in oil prices as an opportunity to further the diversification that has started under this administration.”

It is also my hope that there will be enough cassava bread to serve breakfast when the few ‘loyal’ friends that are yet to find new outlets for their services come calling. Well, I pray the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina would not be too preoccupied with his expected presidential duties at the African Development Bank (AfDB) in order to find time to blame the nation’s master bakers of sabotaging the cassava bread supply chain to the royal house.