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Why Jonathan Lost Second Term Bid, By Yinka Salaam

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan

Encomiums trailed President’s Jonathan’s magnanimity and graciousness in defeat when, even before the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC could declare the final result, he picked up a phone to congratulate the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

By conceding defeat at such very critical point when people’s adrenalin was at a boiling point, many described the action as ‘un-Presidented’ in this clime. The action virtually doused the tension and prevented our dear nation from being plunged into senseless crisis! Through that singular action, he demonstrated that there is no need for post election violence.

It perhaps confirms a proposition that says Jonathan is a gentleman; a perfect one indeed that truly means well for the country; and that those men and women, sycophants who never meant well for the nation except for pecuniary gains, were the ones pushing him beyond bounds and making him commit those past excesses.

A friend of mine in his write up addressed Jonathan like this: You are like a very beautiful house in the midst of thick slum and filth and squalor… The ‘weeds’ around you starved you of ideas and nourishment and chocked you of course! I salute your strong will to refuse to sacrifice the nation on the altar of greed bred by wrong counsel.

I congratulate you for standing on the side of honour. I congratulate you for allowing and making our votes count. I congratulate you for doing what is right. Posterity will never forget this… Some analysts also assert that President Jonathan’s action necessarily confers on Nigeria a true leader in Africa, by setting a big precedence that will for decades make him raise up his shoulder as a president who has restored honour and dignity to the country.

However, I feel neither the euphoria of Buhari’s victory nor the joy of Jonathan’s display of maturity should make us forget quickly those factors that made Jonathan lose the most coveted seat in the land. It is only those who are blinded by religious bigotry, ethnic chauvinism, tribal prejudice and those whose weak morality have caused to submit to corruption and have given up on the hope of rebirth of a new Nigeria that cannot and will not see anything wrong in Jonathan’s attitude to governance. Jonathan took us centuries back, exploiting our weak underbellies and cleavages of religious and ethnic divides.

It is therefore not surprising that unlike where we were in 2011, the voting pattern simply reflected a serious gap in those divides. I was taken aback when, hours after conceding defeat to Gen. Buhari, President Jonathan in a national broadcast addressed Nigeria in these words: ‘’For the past 16 years, we have steered the country away from ethnic and regional politics. We created a Pan-Nigerian political party and brought home to our people the realities of economic development and social transformation.’’ But a critical look at the legacies of Jonathan presidency practically depicts the opposite.

*Jonathan made frantic effort to divide Nigerians into North and South. By ignoring several pleas to fight Boko Haram which virtually destroyed the North, naturally earned him the hatred of the people of the region. He simply got it wrong when he abandoned the Chibok girls and many other victims of Boko Haram to their fate and struggled to make Nigerians believe that the same Northerners who are the direct recipients of the crucibles of Boko Haram are the real sponsors of the terrorist group.

Jonathan only agreed to give the real fight to the insurgents when it was obvious the debacles of Boko Haram which he had hoped to use to his advantage will ultimately be his major undoing in coasting home the election victory.

When this failed, he made effort to polarized Nigerians on religious and ethnic lines, just as he did to Nollywood actors and actresses. He proclaimed: Osinbajo is my problem, visiting practically all Christian leaders and leading Churches across the federation. Except for the resolve of well meaning Nigerians who refused to be polarised, going by pre-election campaign of bitterness, his congratulatory message to GMB would have been completely useless. Impunity is the second damaging reason that caused the President’s failure in the election contest. While he professes to be a gentleman, acts of impunity that characterised his government were probably worse than those recorded in some military regimes. In Jonathan’s administration, nineteen (19) was less  than sixteen (16). Our President did not just acknowledge and support Jonah Jang, the unpopular Chairman of the Governors Forum, he accorded the honours he did not deserve at national events. This enraged the governors, including his kinsman, Governor Rotimi Amaechi who happened to be the chairman of the popular group. Jonathan kept criminal silence when similar impunity was committed in Ekiti where seven (7) legislatures impeached nineteen (19). He also refused to move in when a judge was assaulted and proceedings disrupted. All these annoyed the lawyers, intellectuals and men of goodwill. Impunity it was that made PDP lose five governors in a sweep, yet they refused to blink an eye. They brushed it aside saying, being the biggest political party in Africa, the impact of their leaving won’t be felt. It made party loyalists to leave en masse in Kogi, Ondo and Akwa Ibom among many other states. The same impunity made him reject court verdict that asked Olagunsoye Oyinlola to be reinstated as the National Secretary of the party. Oyinlola was the only remnant of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s legacy in the PDP and retaining Oyinlola would probably have kept the former President in the party.

Despite having the PDP Exco in his ‘pocket’, Jonathan remained so jittery of rivalry within the party. He would not even allow anyone to obtain registration form, much more contesting presidential primaries with him. Hence, the President’s inability to breed healthy rivalry within the party created internal wrangling and mutual distrusts that further weakened the party and its structures. As these were unfolding, the ‘Jonathanians’ readily offered an alibi: ‘Jonathan is not bad, it is his advisers that are guiding him wrongly’. But it takes you to be intelligent to recognise intelligent suggestion just as it takes you to be bad to accept a bad idea. Impunity in print and broadcast media was quite insulting to Nigerians’ mentality. PDP failed to present the facts to the public and allow them to make their choices. They rather resorted to broadcasting blatant lies and damaging propaganda. Nigerians became infuriated and protestingly made a statement to the colluding media: they could decipher truths from falsehood without needless propaganda. Corruption is another big issue. In many instances, Jonathan issued red cards to those who cried foul when stealing was being committed and gave the thief a pat on the shoulder. After all, ‘Stealing is not Corruption’. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi vs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the initial N49 billion unremitted money and Diezani Alison-Madueke vs Faruk Lawan in the N1.3 trillion oil subsidy scam readily comes to mind at this juncture.

Without expatiating, Nigeria will not forget in a hurry a retinue of unresolved corrupt cases, among which are: the corruption in the army, missing $20 billion of oil revenue with no concrete and rational explanation provided; petroleum and kerosene subsidy rip-off and mystery that shrouds fixing of pump prices of fuel despite global reduction in the price of crude; 15 million dollars money laundering case involving shady arms deal with a faceless Israeli company; billions of Naira stolen in police pension fund fraud and other pension funds, Immigration job scam involving the wife of the Senate President, with the over N6 billion collected from desperate applicants.

We also have over N250 million Stella Oduah BMW car scandal for which PDP tried to reward her with nomination for a senatorial seat; Diezani Alison-Madueke’s multi billion Naira fraud relating to the purchase and servicing of NNPC aircraft; billions of naira lost through fraudulent import waiver, unprecedented cases of oil theft by the militants, perpetual power outage and the grandiose corruption that has trailed the sale of PHCN with dubious N750 monthly meter maintenance charge. This also involved depletion of foreign reserve almost to ground zero. Even when the presidency tried to paper over many corruption cases, about one trillion Naira lavished on the presidential campaign become so manifest to all those who have eyes to see. Jonathan never showed he had a heart to fight corruption as he surrounds himself with corrupt people.

The President political naivety is another major contributory factor. He was never an astute politician. The same fate that unexpectedly bestowed on him power in many situations made it difficult for him to go back to either formal or informal political schooling; hence the woeful political performances. This reflected in many of his political moves and gambles which he had to reverse. Unsuccessful attempt to change UNILAG to MAULAG is a case in point and banning and unbanning within forty eight (48) hours, the national football teams from international competitions, when faced with FIFA sanctions is another one. This portrayed him as a man who lacks focus, tactical moves and strategic planning.

The question that I often ask those who amuse themselves with this delusive assumption is: If Jonathan is weak, how come he was able to successfully remove the strong man of Ota, an astute General of Generals, former President Obasanjo as the Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees without looking back? How was he able to pursue the heavy weights like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Abubakar Kawu-Baraje, Senator Bukola Saraki and the rest of the New PDP members? And how did he get to kill the presidential ambition of a political big wig like Sule Lamido. Jonathan’s political naivety led him to orchestrate a head-on-collision with his beneficiary, General Olusegun Obasanjo and made him appoint Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, earlier sacked by Obasanjo as Coordinating Minister of Economy over financial geniuses like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Olusegun Aganga.

It led him to appoint spoilers like Dr Doyin Okupe as his Senior Special Assistance on Public Affairs, picked Femi Fani-Kayode as Director of Publicity of his presidential campaign and made a drug baron, wanted by Interpol as the Chairman, Organisation and Mobilisation Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in South-West. When Sanusi was sacked prematurely, the Central Bank Governor described Jonathan as a gentle man whose major weakness is that he surrounded himself with many incompetent aides he trust so much. From the interface of Sanusi and Okonjo Iweala, from the altercation between her and Prof Charles Soludo; and from what has become of Nigeria’s economy, it is obvious that Madam Ngozi is not the best hand to manage Nigeria’s economy at this time. Some of the aides and supporters that contributed to his political downfall are: Edwin Clark, Godsday Orubebe, Doyin Okupe, Reuben Abati, Femi Fan-Kayode, Government Tompolo, Asari Dokubo among others. Of course, one cannot afford to forget the destructive utterances of the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan. The damage caused by her collective insult on the entire Northern region was so devastating that it did not only almost erase the remnants of sympathy Jonathan had in the North, it also led to the final collapse of PDP, reducing it to a regional party.

Incompetent handling of the attendant crisis arising from this led to rumoured resignation of Adamu Muazu, the party Chairman and his complete absence from the glare of the public during the election. It is surprising therefore that our President could utter a statement like the one below in his speech to Nigerians after congratulating Buhari. ‘’Through patriotism and diligence, we have built the biggest and most patriotic party in Nigerian history. We must stand together as a party and look to the future with renewed optimism.’’

If Jonathan truly inherited ‘the biggest and most patriotic party’ in 2009, he definitely destroyed it, left the emasculated carcass for the founding members to rebuild and completely reduced it to a sectional party. As I was putting this piece together, I realized that the British Broadcasting Corporation highlighted five reasons why GEJ lost election as: Harder-to-rig Election, Boko Haram & Insecurity, United Opposition & Crumbling PDP, Economy and Time for change. I however find the third one the most interesting and the most powerful of all. Nigerians’ resilience has practically made them grown thick skin to so many maladies, but the strangest among them that has never occurred in the country is a united opposition in the face of a crumbling ruling party. Jonathan’s irritating attitude and inordinate ambition blindfolded him to all voices of reasoning from the founding fathers of the party. He estranged himself from Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar, distanced himself from Ibrahim Babangida, had it rough with Bamanga Tukur and refused to adhere to caution from Sule Lamido as well as the current Chairman of the party, Adamu Muazu; relying solely on the unflinching support from the party leaders from South Eastern region whose vituperations also contributed to his fall.

While all these were unfolding, the opposition was waxing stronger. Unlike the PDP, they jettisoned mostly, the babasope (Baba has spoken) politics, unite their ranks and came out with a comprehensive blue print that is sellable in the political campaign market. They marshaled an array of sound, intelligent, intellectuals, tested and trusted professionals from all walks of life and unleashed on the Nigeria’s political landscape, arguably the most organized campaign ever in the nation’s political sojourn since independence. Rather than do same, PDP kept arming the forgotten militias and resented touts across the country. While the APC was busy selling its agenda to the populace, PDP concerned itself with pointless pursuit of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s Cambrdge/West Africa School Certificate. When APC was criss-crossing the nation with massive show-casing of what it has accomplished in states under its control and proving what it could further achieve, the ruling party busied itself with churning out scandalous documentaries that were filled with orchestrated lies and manipulated facts. As the APC was pledging Eldorado for the electorates, PDP and the President’s kinsmen were promising mayhem and disaster to the nation’s economy should Jonathan lose election. When the opposition was perfecting its election strategies that could sway the yet undecided voters in the wee hours of the poll, the erstwhile largest political party in Africa was rejecting anything that could prevent rigging just as it dollarised the entire land with Jonathan’s election largesse. And as members of the ruling party had the hectic time wishing the opposition presidential aspirant dead, the APC kept exposing their antics.

While APC supporters were projecting the image of the party and its presidential candidate on social media, they say elections are not won on Facebook or Twitter. While GMB was winning many online polls, they claim that APC hired those who voted or manipulated the online result in their favour. It is therefore expedient to congratulate Nigerians once again as well as the Heroes of Change. They include but not limited to: ACN, CPC, New PDP, part of APGA, and ANPP; Mr Integrity, Gen Muhammad Buhari who has shown “no hope lost” attitude since 1999; the Nigerian populace – home & abroad who became valuable ambassadors of Change with their iron-cast resolve; Special appreciation also goes to millions of Nigeria youths who selflessly exhausted millions of megabytes on social media platforms and of course Prof Attahiru Jega who displayed unalloyed patriotism and engineered a paradigm shift in Nigeria’s electoral process! President Jonathan has indeed done his best, but his best is certainly not good enough for the Nigerians. GMB and APC, please beware!

Salaam writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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