The Greatness of Jonathan By Sabella Abidde
Right from his years as the deputy governor, and later as the governor of his home state of Bayelsa, Goodluck Jonathan was considered by many to be weak, naive and indecisive. His status was such that not many thought highly of him. And even when he showed up at the national stage, not many paid him meaningful attention. But like so many others, I failed to see his heart. We failed to see the sort of man he really is.
Today, I am reminded of Williams Shakespeare’s instructive word: “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” Essentially, no one can fully know what’s in the mind of another merely by observing their body and facial expression, personality, or disposition. Humans are complicated. This President, it turns out, is a complicated human being — more complicated than we’d imagined.
Yes, he is not urbane. Not sophisticated. And it is also true that he has the tendency to butcher spoken words. He butchers his words, perhaps because he appears to suffer stage fright; or because he is uncomfortable speaking in public. Whether he is sitting or standing, you see the words tumble out of his mouth. Overall, you get the feeling that there is a disconnect between his thought and his words. This adds to his reputation as a bungler.
However, as we approach 2014 — and enroute to the 2015 presidential election — a new image of the President is emerging: Jonathan may not be as clueless as his critics and opponents think. In fact, he may not be naïve at all! Could it be that his public persona, all these years, has been geared towards deceiving and outwitting those who underrate him? In the last couple of months, for example, he’s been able to withstand many crises and all the while standing firm like Mount Kilimanjaro.
For months on end, this President has been besting and outmanoeuvring his opponents. He’s done so, on the one hand, by deception and by arm-twisting and cajoling or bullying those who resist him. Another reason why he’s been able to stay afloat and survive is by the effective use of inducements. This style of his, which is not unique in politics, is referred to as Survival Strategy.
And so I submit to you that this style of his — barring extrajudicial activities such as military coup, popular revolt, impeachment or assassination — is likely to return him to power in 2015. I cannot imagine a circumstance under which Jonathan will willingly abstain from the Peoples Democratic Party presidential primary. Not even the combined resources of Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo, Theophilus Danjuma, and the All Progressives Congress’ Bola Tinubu will derail him. In addition, there is a lot to be said for incumbency and billions of dollars in war chest.
President Jonathan seems to have a very good grasp of power insofar as messing with and or inducing his critics and opponents is concerned. He freely gives contracts. And his three dozen or so committees are avenues for sharing power and money. In the popular Nigerian idiom, he is not “chopping alone.” And he does not travel alone. Wherever he goes, he takes with him dozens of people. Take his trip to the United Nations for example, or his current Pilgrimage to Israel. He has a way of making others feel important and welcome. He makes them feel entitled. There is another idiom: The elite are “benefitting, being empowered.”
A critical look at the post-1999 Nigerian political setting reveals four major characteristics.
First, there is a shortage of noble ideas and principles; hence a market where politicians are easily bought and sold. Second, it is a place where personal gains, i.e. money and contracts and political appointments are of the utmost importance — not brilliance, integrity, fidelity to noble causes, or service to country. There is no shame here. No scruples. No right or wrong. No abominations.
Here, participants are not shy in revealing their crudeness and savagery. In fact, they thrive on them. They boast about them. They wear these primeval features like a badge of honour. If Sodom and Gomorrah ever existed, the Nigerian political landscape would be the closest resemblance. Fourth, the nation’s political scene is like a sewer that cannot be drained or filtered; a place where impenitent sins, aberrations, and perversions are shared currencies. Many who join politics do not think of it as service to country or a privilege — but as a means to riches.
And then there are the critics and commentators who come to the public to complain, but are open to inducements. Seeing that most critics and pundits will fall for the smallest bowl of goat meat or the popular Isi ewu delicacy, Jonathan keeps delivering goat meat and assorted meats. Right, left and centre — pillars and stumbling blocks are falling; mountains are moving; streams and rivers are changing course. Jonathan’s traps are everywhere. The mighty are being seduced like cheap harlots on the streets of Lagos and Benin.
Jonathan has gone a step further: He’s been able to convince several leaders in the western world that he is the best friend they’ve got by essentially telling and demonstrating that “I can and will look after your interest.” Slavers, colonisers, imperialists and neo-imperialists basically agreed with him because they generally prefer the devil they can control.
And of course, there is the opposition. Collectively, it is as if the opposition parties do not exit. When they are not fighting amongst themselves, they allow the ruling party to define them. At other times – other than recognisable names like Muhammadu Buhari and Babatunde Fashola — one cannot tell the differences between the parties. Jonathan seems to understand this and is taking advantage of the disarray and foolishness within.
And finally, President Jonathan seems to know how the Nigerian public thinks. This is a public made up of people who go to bed with no electricity, no water, no food, no security, and no goodnight rest. They awake to no water, no light, no food, and no security. Yet, many see Jonathan as the better of the lot. And even those with contrary opinion of Jonathan go about their business believing God will intervene in the affairs of the nation. It is sad!
Jonathan may be outsmarting and outmanoeuvring his opponents, but a Jonathan Presidency, beyond 2015, would be a calamity, not just for Nigeria, but for the world.
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