President Goodluck Jonathan has cleverly kept mum whether or not he would seek re-election in 2015 while everybody (either for or against), is busy touting him. Of course, it gives him leeway later if he chooses. The report paints a stark picture of reversed appeal his administration once enjoyed. Some say all is not lost if he can get it right in roughly a year and half left to the end of his administration. EDEGBE ODEMWINGIE captures the ‘shoeless’ president.

By Edegbe Odemwingie

“I am Goodluck Jonathan. I never thought I would be where I am today. I had no shoes, no school bag; I carried my books in my hands to school. I have no enemies to fight. I was not born rich. I am Goodluck Jonathan. If I can make it, you can make it.”

President Jonathan declared in what was perhaps, his most riveting campaign message in the lead-up to the 2011 presidential election in which he defeated his closest challenger, former head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari to occupy Aso Rock.

According to a pundits, these simple words from Jonathan, born in Otueke in Bayelsa State to a fishing family, echo the several challenges the 56-year-old president has had to contend with. Again, not necessarily the fact, he “had no shoes and sometimes trekked to school” but also, that statement painted a poignant reference to his tortuous walk to the presidency in the heady days of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s illness. The former president would later die, paving the way for the inauguration of Jonathan as Nigeria’s president on May 6, 2010.

Clearly, that popular, frenzied and somewhat widespread acceptance has escaped Jonathan. \In August 2012, Jonathan claimed he is the world’s most criticised president. He also vows to become the most praised before he leaves office. Again, that leaves open the question of whether he plans to make good that pledge by 2015 or 2019.

But staying with the “most criticised” claim, why won’t Jonathan be criticised? A quick reminder may be. Depending on who is talking, some allude to the volume of goofs and policy somersaults attributed to him and his administration. Others say his likelihood to misfire can only be described as legendary. The polite critic would say he was not ready for the presidency. Jonathan began learning the ropes once he got elected, some say.

Adding salt to injury, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s scathing “Before It Is Too Late” letter dated December 2, 2013, chronicled Jonathan’s reported failings in tackling endemic corruption which Obasanjo says “stinks” all around Jonathan and his government.

Obasanjo’s allegations, Jonathan said in a December 20 reply coincided with other “vicious releases” from the Speaker of the House of Representatives who spoke of his “body language” encouraging corruption. Again, another letter written to him by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi alleging that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), within a period of 19 months did not remit the sum of $49.8 billion to the federation account, was according to Jonathan also deliberately leaked to the public. He tagged Sanusi’s allegations “spurious”.

Meanwhile, there is a section, (his supporters and sympathizers mostly) that point to well articulated conspiracies that the “northern establishment” which after losing out in the 2011 ballots resorted to make the country ungovernable and in essence, make Jonathan look bad – enter Boko Haram.

Controversies Dateline
World Cup 2010

In 2010 after the senior Nigerian male football team (aka Super Eagles) failed to progress beyond the group stage at FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Jonathan hastily declared a two-year ban on the country’s national football team from all international competitions. FIFA, the world football governing body, objected and stated that it would expel Nigeria from world football if the government interfered. Subsequently, President Jonathan bowed to pressure and lifted the ban.

Removal Of Fuel Subsidy

On December 31, 2011, the 2012 fiscal year’s budget removed any provisions for fuel subsidy. According to a poll carried out by the Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE-Nigeria), 80 per cent of Nigerians opposed the plan to remove fuel subsidy.

On January 1, 2012, the Jonathan administration announced the start of a controversial plan to end fuel subsidies, sparking angry protests nationwide.

Many prominent Nigerians spoke out against the removal of fuel subsidy by the Jonathan administration.

A former military head of state, who once held sway as minister for petroleum & natural resources, General Buhari, urged President Jonathan not to remove fuel subsidy and to tackle corruption. Former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida tagged the action ill-timed.

To follow, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) warned that the country would face multiple strikes. The country’s unions followed up with strikes that were matched with civil protests from January 9-13, 2012. Protesters and groups called for President Jonathan’s resignation over the removal of fuel subsidies. After five days of national protests and strikes, on January 16, Jonathan announced that the pump price of petroleum would be 97 Naira per litre.

2010 Independence Day Bombing

During his South African magistrate court trial on May 2, 2012, convicted Henry Okah (born 1965) the assumed Nigerian guerrilla leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), a title he denies, came out and insisted that President Jonathan and his aides organised the October 1, 2010 independence day bomb attacks in Abuja in a desperate political strategy to demonise political opponents, including the former military President General Ibrahim Babangida, and to win popular sympathy ahead of the 2011 elections.

The Presidency of cours,e denied the allegations of terrorism leveled against President Jonathan. A media statement was issued on May 2, 2012, acknowledging the accusations from Okah. The statement went on to say that: “The Presidency categorically affirms that these allegations are false in their entirety and without any factual foundation.” The Presidency also expressed no interest in commenting further for the time being, but plans to “make a full representation on the matter to the court when the trial opens.”

January 21 2013, a South African court convicted Okah of 13 charges of terrorism, including bombings that killed 12 people in Abuja on October 1, 2010. Throughout the trial he maintained his innocence citing the trial was a result of his refusal to support Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan’s statements. In a curious reversal, Okah claimed the October 1st Independence Day attacks were executed by leaders from Northern Nigeria.

Renaming University Of Lagos

In May 2012, President Jonathan changed the name of the University of Lagos, renaming it the Moshood Abiola University in honour of the late MKO Abiola. The action drew attention from critics — among them were pro-Abiola advocates and parties involved with the university. Some critics cited that the President did not submit an appropriate bill to the legislature for the change; that the University’s brand name should not be tampered with.

The UNILAG Alumni Association commented that although they do not have prejudice against MKO Abiola, they were concerned “that neither the Governing Council nor the University Senate nor any other stakeholder was consulted before the change was announced.” Bola Tinubu congratulated Jonathan for taking action, but urged him to “do it right”, adding that “we must be careful not to localise or sectionalise MKO”. The President has attempted to regularise the renaming of the school by submitting a bill for an amendment of the University’s establishing law to the legislature.

Security Challenges

On August 26, 2011, after the UN building in Abuja was bombed by Boko Haram, Jonathan announced that it was not merely an attack on Nigeria, but on the international community. He told reporters that “we would work together with the UN and other world leaders to ensure that terrorism is brought under control.”

In response to MEND’s attack on an oil pipeline on February 4, 2012 in Bayelsa, the Senate President David Mark stated that the security situation in the country is “intolerable”.

On May 14, 2013, Jonathan declared state of emergency in three north-eastern Nigerian states, Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa to curtail the activities of Boko Haram. Although initially offering amnesty, by June 2013 he ordered for 20-year jail terms for anyone found to be in support of Boko Haram.

Jonathan’s critics insist he was not decisive early enough in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency which has affected most parts of the country’s north.

Rivers Crisis

The crisis at the Rivers State House of Assembly on July 9, 2013 was the expression of deep-rooted political crisis occasioned by the alleged highhandedness of Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi and the perceived undue interference with the political and security structure of the state by President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife Patience and the National Hierarchy of the People’s Democratic Party, a Senate report considered and adopted at plenary declared in July.

The Senate in its report called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Abubakar to “immediately” redeploy the Rivers state Police Commissioner, Mr Joseph Mbu since according to federal lawmakers “his relationship with the Governor has broken down irretrievably” – Mbu has been fingered severally by the Amaechi camp as a hatchet man in the lingering Rivers crisis.

Jonathan denies having a hand in the crisis

Crisis had engulfed the Rivers House of Assembly when five out of 32 members attempted to impeach the Speaker, Otelemaba Amachree. The confusion that followed led to violence among the state lawmakers with videos of the violence circulated on social media

The Senate report’s findings and observations stated that Amaechi’s insistence to run for second term as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) did not go down well with PDP and the presidency.

Destination 2015

Officially, the race for who occupies Aso Rock after the 2015 presidential elections has began at least with the registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – a merger of a cocktail of major Nigerian opposition political parties. Recently, the camps of the Ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the APC traded words on the legitimacy of President Goodluck Jonathan’s touted 2015 re-election ambition.

For the records, Jonathan for now cleverly keeps mum about re-election while everybody else is busy touting him. Of course, it gives him leeway later if he chooses.

Trade Of Words

Despite rotational debates that have dominated who becomes president as prelude to the 2015 general election, Jonathan’s supporters insist that he has a constitutional right to seek re-election come 2015.

Well, APC’s Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande thinks differently. Akande recently cautioned Jonathan on his touted 2015 ambition, claiming the president is seeking a ‘third term’ in office. He dismissed Jonathan as an “unserious-minded president” who runs a “kindergarten presidency”.

“He (Jonathan) takes national issues with levity. All he is concerned about is his third term ambition. He has reduced the totality of Nigeria to kindergarten governance. Jonathan today is the most powerful President in the world. He has all the powers arrogated to him and he’s still asking for more”, the APC Chairman fired while fielding questions from journalists on the state of the nation in his Ila-Orangun country home, Osun State.

In a rare rebuke, Aso Rock warned Akande to “respect his age” and advised him and the APC against defaming the person of the president and the office he occupies as there were laws prohibiting against such. Also, Jonathan says he is eligible to run for 2015 presidency – remember incumbents hardly lose elections in Nigeria.

“If this is the winning strategy of the APC,  Chief Akande has every reason to panic because the issue of eligibility for election into the office of the President has been settled by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999,  as amended  which provides as follows; 137. (1) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if -

(b) he has been elected to such office at any two previous elections.

“Chief Bisi Akande has every right to embark on a flight of fancy about the APC beating the PDP in the 2015 general elections, but he does no justice to his age and status when he resorts to propagating falsehood, willfully insulting the President of his country, impugning his integrity and desecrating the very office which his party wishes to take over in 2015 by fair or foul means.” A statement by presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati said.

Point Of Law

The 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that any Nigerian who has not been elected to the office of President two times previously, among other qualifications, is eligible to contest for the presidency. President Jonathan has been ‘elected’ only once.

The constitution guarantees two terms of four years each for president and governor. If the president contests and wins in 2015 and spends another four years in office he will be spending a total of nine years in office altogether. This is as against two terms of four years each envisaged under the constitution.

Recall Jonathan spent one year completing the tenure of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from 2010 to 2011. Nigeria indeed wait whether there is an issue with the foregoing. For now, it is over to INEC and the court to decide.

Message To Jonathan

Omar Ndanusa, a Civil Servant in Lagos captures the mixed feeling cum widespread angst and disappointment that has come to characterise the Jonathan administration.

His words: I couldn’t be prouder of him (Jonathan) when he got power. But he refuses to find his own way. He allows sycophants some from the north to ill-advise him and he refuses to see his tenure as a legacy. I am not sure he really thinks this is his opportunity to leave his mark on our history.

On this talk of distraction from a politically-fueled Boko Haram-led insurgency, he said; ‘if you know your enemy and what your enemy plans for you, what will you do? Boko Haram isn’t new! It has been there since 2002. Difference? Others before him won’t take the rubbish! He knew what to do from day one. He was told how to do it. He didn’t. Befriending Ali Modu Sherrif (former Borno Governor) was a big mistake. It still is. So many lives were lost because he didn’t act when he should. Give your enemy an inch, he takes hectares.

“I realise he is just a simple man who just wants peace but being Commander-in-Chief took him by surprise. He chose sacred cows over innocent lives. That is the very bitter truth. I really wished him well because I felt, for the first time we had a president to be proud of. But he has been anything but presidential on important issues. A grown man cannot afford to blame other people for his failures in life. That is the motto you and I live by. Why should I give him a pass and blame distractions and other people for his non-performance.

“It is incredibly painful that places like Maiduguri (Borno), Potiskum (Yobe) etc are warzones now. Those people are very peaceful and accommodating. Don’t take my word for it, ask people. How did we get here? The north will probably never recover from this.

“I have nothing against Jonathan, but he failed me as my Commander-in-Chief. The educated northern youth wanted Jonathan but we feel he allows a few people push him around to the detriment of the masses. If we sense he is his own man, I assure you we will back him like we want to.

“We (northerners) are not converts of Buhari because none has monopoly of contests. Nigeria is bigger than any one of us and it belongs to us all, so why should any person or locality or tribe or region claim monopoly of leadership?

“We live in an era where the masses know we can get better deals from our leaders than this self-indulgent, self-enrichment extravaganza we have now. There is a lot of poverty in this country and Nigerians shouldn’t be expected to continue suffering and smiling.

“I believe it is not Jonathan’s fault things are this bad. It took decades to get here, but he seems uninterested in changing anything. Yar ‘Adua tried by turning his back on his benefactors. He is the one in charge now so he can’t blame anyone else. Tell Jonathan he has a year and half to turn our lives round or he is off too.

Hope Or Despair?

As a parting shot, the president’s ascendancy sure would make a splendid tale if such individual (Jonathan that is) with that challenging childhood is the one who helps put meals on the table of countless impoverished families and banish the many other ills that assail the nation.

With the myriad of challenges the country currently grapples with including the Boko Haram scourge, a weak power sector, a feuding ruling party and a so-called northern conspiracy, these are indeed perilous times.

SOURCE: leadership newspaper


Show more