By Ajong Mbapndah L
In the abrasive cut throat world of Nigerian politics, the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan was a fairy tale. Few saw him coming and few thought he could do what he did by conceding elections to Buhari in the high risk elections of 2015.
What many thought unthinkable in Nigerian politics happened and a sitting President conceded to his opposition challenger and victor. It is hard to fathom what motivated Jonathan to do what he did .Did he read the hand writing on the wall that Nigerians and the world had turned against him? Was it the disgruntlement that his aides including those who professed to be core loyalist were busy serving their own interests and not those of Nigeria? What about the high stakes meetings with John Kerry,Kofi Annan and former President Abdusalami Aboubarkar?
No matter the reasons, the concession call turned out to be Jonathan’s finest hour. For all the short comings he had , history will always remember him as that Nigerian leader who lost power and handed over without a fight.
Out of office, Jonathan has cultivated the image of a statesman. He led the Commonwealth observer mission to elections in Tanzania, he has received awards across the globe, and hosted by several influential global organizations. As the international community respects him, in Nigeria, the reality is very different with the unraveling of endless tales of corruption by party and government officials who served under him.
He may not have been directly linked to any of the corrupt deals exposed ,but with the number of close associates facing music from the corruption watchdog EFCC, one wonders if it may not be a matter of time before Mr Jonathan is quizzed himself.
From the tales of gargantuan sleaze surrounding former Petroleum Minister Diezani, to disturbing fallouts from Dasukigate, one is torn between pity and disdain for Mr. Jonathan’s administration. Disdain that such corrupt practices took place under his watch. Disdain that the military was notoriously corrupt at a time Boko Haram was wreaking havoc on citizens and the image of Nigeria, disdain that President Jonathan visibly did little to sanction the corruption that invaded the highest echelons of his administration. Maybe he tried in his own ways and methods to fight corruption , but the impact was not felt by Nigerians.
On the other hand was this affable man, Goodluck Jonathan, even aware of all that was going on around him? In a March 2015 interview with the Guardian, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka warn of very sinister forces in control of President Jonathan.
For a full five days, Jonathan did not know Morocco had withdrawn its Ambassador until I told him so, Soyinka said concerning a spat between the two countries.
“Here is a situation where a president did not even know that a foreign country, a friendly country, had withdrawn its ambassador from Nigeria. I was the one who told him. He jumped up as if his seat was on fire. I couldn’t believe it … He was not aware that for about five days the media had been absolutely hysterical with this embarrassing situation between the two. It was that very night that he made a public statement about it for the first time,’ Mr Soyinka said in the interview.
For a campaign that seem to spend more time questioning the educational certificates of then challenger Buhari instead of telling Nigerians what incumbent Jonathan had done, it is mind boggling to hear how funds were distributed to top party officials for assignments which were probably never done or not done to completion.
The buck stops with the President and ultimately he is responsible for which way the fortunes of the country sways. There are things that the Jonathan Administration did that he did not get enough credit for. Agriculture Minister Adesina did a great job and this probably contributed to his election as the AFDB President that he is today. When ebola hit Africa, Nigeria was left unscathed. There is no telling what it could have done to a country with the size and population of Nigeria. In sports, under Jonathan, the Super Eagles of Nigeria won a nations cup, something that has eluded them for more than a decade. Some of the policies been pursued by the Buhari administration have transitioned or been offshots of the Jonathan administration.
It is equally under the Jonathan administration that the Nigerian army which has in the past restored sanity to countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, was severely taken to task by Boko Haram. It is under him that the chibok girls went missing. No telling if the figures on corruption are padded or not, but clearly something was not right at all.
In the face of the cacophony and inability to rein in his team, Mr Jonathan did himself and Nigeria a big favor instead of contesting for the outcome of elections or out rightly rigging them as is done in other countries. For that he does deserves credit and respect.
Following a prolonged stay in Ivory Coast, there is word around that Jonathan may have gone on exile or making plans to. Though he has debunked such claims, it will do Nigeria and Africa a big disservice if Goodluck Jonathan is maltreated, or subtly forced to seek abode out of the country whose democratic impetus he helped to uplift.
Buttressing his credentials as a Statesman, Jonathan has maintain strong reserve on the leadership and actions of his successor. It may be prudent for the administration to tread with caution when dealing with him. If Buhari was to probe past administrations, will it not be tantamount to a witch hunt if he limits it only to the administration of Goodluck Jonathan? Will it not set a precedence for the next administration to probe his own? Will the fear of such probes not be an added incentive for leaders to use hook and crook to remain in power? This may be the case not just in Nigeria but across the continent.
The tales of corruption will remain mind boggling, it was unconscionable that while millions of Nigerians languish in poverty a few fed fat , that money meant for the upkeep of the military lined the pockets of a few is pathetic to say the least .Perhaps those who were pushing Jonathan to postpone elections or talking of an interim government probably knew what was at stake for them. That he took his aides by surprise with his concession speaks volumes. As disappointed as people maybe with his stewardship, that Jonathan lost , conceded elections and congratulated his rival is a sign of political maturity that Nigerians should always respect and build on. That is a luxury fellow Africans still dream of in their own countries. If you doubt this, ask folks from Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, or Uganda.